Fun fact: Both South Korea and the U.S. reported their first case of COVID-19 on the same day: January 20. The present-day outcomes are so different that it’s worth understanding what they did (or didn’t), and where our approach, provincial and national, fits in.
The answers are long and complicated and will be discussed and argued for centuries, but it can all be distilled down to one brief and accurate summary: South Korea did a lot; the United States did not.
One thing South Korea did was test the hell out of this thing, as far and wide as they could. They developed and administered thousands of tests almost instantly — like a week — and were quick to isolate those that tested positive. The U.S.… didn’t. They stuck their heads in the sand for a bit, called it no big deal, and did little except stop incoming flights from China… but as far as I know, the COVID-19 virus is not a member of any particular frequent-flyer club. It doesn’t care what airline it flies, nor where the flight originated. Once it’s on the plane and headed somewhere, it’s landing and it’s sticking around.
It was initially thought that community transmission wasn’t a concern… the U.S. thought it, we in Canada (and here in B.C) thought the same; we will find cases, we will isolate them, the cases will resolve and it shouldn’t be a big deal. The risk to you and me is low. A month ago, there were only 7 cases in BC, and all of them could be traced to close contact.
South Korea’s initial jump of cases had a lot to do with their prolific testing, but what comes after is what’s worth noting. Their impressive flattening of their curve has everything to do with their reaction… isolate. And when it became apparent that community transmission was indeed happening, that’s the only reasonable course of action: Social/Physical distancing.
Since our testing hasn’t reached everyone, and since we don’t yet have antibody tests that would tell us who’s already had it, the only reasonable course of action is to pretend everyone has it, and act accordingly. Indeed, the way to think about it isn’t to assume everyone has it… and keep away. It’s to assume you have it, and take every precaution not to pass it along to anyone else.
We are being warned to expect a jump in numbers in the coming days, due to the difference between incubation times and how long it’s been since the directives were brought in. We may see a sharp increase in cases in the coming days… incubation period of 14 days minus 10 days of distancing equals 4 days where we were all potentially wandering around infecting each other. And as those infections kick in, the numbers will rise… possibly quite sharply.
It’s after that period of time that we should start seeing some real effects of what we’ve all collectively been doing. That black South Korea line is what we want. That blue American line, not so much.
On that note, and again, too early to tell… but here in B.C., our growth is, for now, linear. Good news… for now.