Why Social Distancing Matters: Stealth Spreading of Coronavirus

Overheard at the Anthem Community Center gym just a few days prior to the recent school closings and other social-distancing pleas from local, state and federal officials: “I hear it’s like the flu. We’re young. We don’t have to worry about it.” 

That middle-aged individual and many younger people, should they contract COVID-19, would be more likely than seniors to experience mild symptoms or not even know they have the disease. And that is one reason why this coronavirus presents such a risk.

A study March 16 in the journal Science found that for every known case of COVID-19, five to 10 others go undiagnosed, but these individuals cause “stealth transmission” of the disease. One person with no symptoms can, as a so-called “super spreader,” infect dozens of others, past epidemics have shown. Scientists say this is happening with the coronavirus.


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Older people don’t fare as well.

While the exact death rate of COVID-19 won’t be known until more cases can be analyzed, early indications are not encouraging. The death rate for seasonal flu is about 0.1 percent. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says COVID-19 may be 10 times deadlier.

While no single study can yet determine the precise effects, a study of cases in Italy, published March 17 by the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals some sobering death rates:

Under 30: 0
30-39: 0.3%
40-49: 0.4%
50-59: 1.0%
60-69: 3.5%
70-79: 12.5%
80-89: 19.7%
>90: 22.7%
Total: 7.2%

That’s why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health officials, are encouraging the public to stay home as much as possible, avoid large, crowded gatherings, and keep 6 feet away from others as much as possible. For the young, the risk of illness and even death are real. For their parents and grandparents, it is stark.

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Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.

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