Six Degrees of Covid 19

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kevin-bacon.jpg

There is a parlor game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  The idea is to connect one actor with another actor via movies they have been in and other actors who have appeared in those movies.  The game is named after Kevin Bacon, because he has been in so many movies with so many other actors that you should be able to link him to any actor within six moves.  For example, if I wanted to connect Kevin Bacon to Ricard Dreyfuss, I could start off, Kevin Bacon was in Footloose with John Lithgow.  John Lithgow was in the World According to Garp with Robin Williams.  Robin Williams was in Good Morning Vietnam with Forest Whitaker, and Forest Whitaker was in Mr. Holland’s opus with Richard Dreyfuss.  For over a year now scientists have been playing a version of this game called Six Degrees of Covid 19.

There are two basic things to think about in any disease, the contagion rate and the mortality rate.  The contagion rate is important to scientist who are trying to trace a source of an infection.  They will try to find out who was in contact with their patient.  So, they might find out that their patient shared an elevator ride with an infected person, who, in turn, picked up the infection by sharing a subway car with an infected person, who may have picked up the infection at a movie theatre, where they sat by an infected person.  The mortality rate is the percentage of people who die from the disease.  So, heart disease is not infectious.  You could spend all day in a cardiologist’s office and not have to worry about picking up heart disease.  However, the mortality rate may be high.  If you have heart disease, it could easily kill you.  The Common Cold, on the other hand, has a high contagion rate, but a low mortality rate.

So, let’s say that the Covid 19 virus has a contagion rate of 2.  That means that everyone who gets infected will probably spread it to two others.  So, you start with one, who infects two others, who infect 4 others, who infect 8 others, who infect 16 others, etc. until one day 130,341,697 people worldwide have been infected.  The good news is that the contagion rate can be controlled.  You are less likely to spread it to two people if you wear a mask and maintain social distancing.  Others are less likely to be infected if they wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and get immunized.  If you are infected by a disease with a contagion rate of 2, but half the population is inoculated against the disease, it is likely that you will only spread it to 1 other person.  If 85% of the population has been inoculated, then it is likely that an infected person will not spread the disease to anyone.  This is the meaning of “herd immunity.”  This is why wearing masks, social distancing, and inoculation are so very important in containing a pandemic.

Worldwide, the Covid 19 virus has killed 2,839,884 people, which is about 2% of those infected.  As better treatments become available, more people are surviving, but basically, for every 100 people who are infected today, 98 will show no symptoms or have mild symptoms from which they will recover with treatment.  However, for every 100 people who are infected, one will require intensive care to keep them alive, and one will definitely go to the cemetery.  Two percent of the people who are infected will face a life-threatening emergency.

A recent study published in Scientific American stated that 2% of Americans in a certain age range (I’m not telling which) believe that the Earth is not round but flat.  So, if I asked everyone in this age group a very easy question like, “What is the shape of the Earth?” a shocking 2% would get it wrong.  So, imagine if I said that I was going to ask you a very simple question, and if you got it right, I would give you a cookie, but if you got it wrong you would die.  Then I asked you a very simple question like, “What is the name of the President of the United States?”  Anyone who said Joe Biden would get a cookie.  Unfortunately, not everyone would wind up with a cookie, though.  Hard as it may be to believe, 2% would probably get this simple question wrong.  It is similar to Covid 19, except without the cookies.  If you are exposed to the virus, 98% of you will live, but 2% will die or wind up requiring life-saving medical intervention.  Do you want to take that bet?  Especially, when you don’t even have the possibility of winning a cookie.  Getting a Covid 19 vaccination won’t get you a cookie, but it will put you in the 98% group, and reduce the chances of you spreading the disease to others.

So, please wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.  You certainly don’t want to be responsible for giving Covid 19 to Kevin Bacon.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,