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How Will the COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak End?

Author: Disabled World

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Published: 2020-03-11


Humans have not seen this strain of Coronavirus before, meaning we are not immune to it, making COVID-19 in the case of a pandemic a potential for many millions of infections.

Key Points:

Main Digest

Currently, the World Health Organization reports there are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the globe, and more than 3,400 deaths. And, it is extremely likey that there are many more undetected and unconfirmed Coronavirus cases both in the U.S. and abroad. The slow rollout of diagnostic tests in the U.S. and other countries like Italy and Iran, has caused a major delay in getting COVID-19 diagnostic testing out to labs (due in part to a production error). And, this week, the U.S. federal government is still struggling to produce tests.

Humans have not seen this strain of Coronavirus in the past, meaning we are not immune to this particular strain, which makes it a recipe for many millions of potential infections in the case of a pandemic - (A pandemic means a worldwide outbreak of a disease).

Researchers believe that the virus may have been passed from bats to another animal -- either snakes or pangolins -- and then transmitted to humans. This transmission likely occurred in the open food market in Wuhan, China. In Iran, experts fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases and potentially tens of thousands more have been affected. One journalist suggested the number of cases could actually range from between 500,000 to several million.

One group of the population has thus far escaped with minimal damage from the outbreak of COVID-19 - children. Youth can certainly contract the virus. But few children are among those sick enough to be diagnosed with the coronavirus (Journal of the American Medical Association). It is not clear why children seem to escape the worst effects of COVID-19. But a similar pattern holds for many infectious diseases, such as chickenpox and measles, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), doctors say. One hypothesis is the innate immune response - the early response that is aimed broadly at groups of pathogens - tends to be more active, in children.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 - This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Image Credit: NIAID-RML
Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 - This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Image Credit: NIAID-RML

Most estimates currently put the COVID-19 fatality rate below 3%, and the number of transmissions per person suggests that each person with the new coronavirus could infect between 2 to 4 people without effective containment measures in place. One estimate from a Harvard epidemiologist, Marc Lipsitch1, predicted 40% - 70% of all adults around the world would catch the virus within a year. However, he has since revised that estimate downward and with a greater range, by stating; He now estimates it's "plausible" that 20% - 60% of all adults will catch the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Marc Lipsitch estimated that for every dozen coronavirus cases the U.S. has caught, it may have missed approximately twice as many. If the virus cannot be contained, he went on to say, the only way to get COVID-19 under control is for 50% of people to become immune to it.

SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people. COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways.

COVID-19 Coronavirus: Updates - Warnings - Statistics

What is Meant by Isolation - Quarantine - Social Distancing?
Isolation - Involves the separation of those with confirmed infections from other people, to avoid infecting anyone else. If you can identify everyone who has been infected with the virus and safely isolate them from other humans while they are in treatment, you can stop outbreaks for which there are currently no vaccines or treatments. "Stopping an outbreak really comes down to how good individual public health agencies are at detecting cases, getting them care, putting them into isolation, and how good the people who are infected are at their own hygiene," Nathan Grubaugh2 said in January. (Isolation was the main way the 2003 SARS outbreak was contained.)
Quarantine - Means restricting movement of, and/or isolating, those who may have been exposed to an infection but who are not yet sick. While in quarantine, those who may have been exposed to an infection are asked to remain at their home - or some other place - isolated from other people. Quarantines can target just those individual people who have traveled to affected countries, or can even end up quarantining large numbers of people e.g. a school's entire student body.
Social Distancing
Social Distancing - Refers to a number of various tactics designed to keep people from congregating in large crowds, in an effort to slow, or stop, the transmission of a virus or disease. Basic social distancing criteria aims to keep human beings around six feet apart from one another. "Unlike quarantine and isolation, social distancing will typically apply to whole communities, not just specific individuals," Lindsay Wiley, a health law professor at the Washington College of Law, explained. Social distancing measures can include such items as postponing or canceling mass gatherings like sporting events, concerts, or religious gatherings. It could mean closing schools or encouraging people to work from home (telework).

Other good practices during any outbreak of viruses or diseases are:

So What May Happen in the Coming Days, Weeks, Months?

Many more cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the U.S. in the coming days - including more instances of community spread. It's highly likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. The worst-case scenario for the outbreak in the U.S. is if there are sudden virtually simultaneous spikes in Coronavirus infections among communities across the country. Such a flood of COVID-19 cases would overwhelm their already inadequate health care system.

The U.S. only has about 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, in contrast South Korea and Japan have more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people - even China has 4.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people. U.S. hospitals are currently - (at the time of writing) - expecting 96 million coronavirus patients and 480,000 dead, even as their President Donald Trump touts his "success" in containing the virus - (

Around 40% of Americans said they were already having trouble paying their bills before COVID-19 hit, and now many of them will be under even more pressure. Much has been said about America's lack of uniform paid sick leave, and huge credit card debt, which means a sizable portion of the population does not have much of an immediate safety net if they aren't at work.

How Long Will Could COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic Last?

This is not something we can put a number or a date on yet, or maybe ever. However Professor McCaw's3 models hold some clues.

He said it was likely COVID-19 would become a permanent, seasonal disease in humans after this initial epidemic phase. "Just as for the 2009 swine flu outbreak, the virus will cause a large initial epidemic, perhaps followed by subsequent waves of infection, and then reduce to low levels," he said. "But it is unlikely to truly disappear, just like seasonal influenza doesn't truly disappear each year. This is different to SARS - which we truly eliminated because we successfully controlled it before it could fully establish itself in the human population."

The Defense Department is making plans to combat the coronavirus, DOD leaders said during a news conference - Photo Credit: U.S. Army.
The Defense Department is making plans to combat the coronavirus, DOD leaders said during a news conference - Photo Credit: U.S. Army.

Best and Worst Scenarios on How COVID-19 Outbreak May End

NOTE: The below items are editorial opinions only.

Scenario 1 - Let it Run Its' Course

There is a chance that the COVID-19 coronavirus will gradually run its course and the world will return mostly to normal by the summer. In this scenario we may see a global financial rebound. However, experts widely expect the U.S. economy will stall to zero - or even turn briefly negative - in coming weeks. When that happens, it would not take much to fully knock it into a recession - which is why there is currently so much panic in the stock markets and trading floors around the world.

Scenario 2 - Developing a Vaccine Cure

A vaccine is developed that can easily be mass produced and shipped world wide. To end this outbreak, for good, we'll need antiviral treatments or a vaccine. Those are supposedly currently being produced, and at record speeds. Researchers are working on new vaccine technologies - like mRNA vaccines that don't use viruses at all in their production process - as well as cutting-edge therapeutic antibodies. However, currently it has been stated it could be more than a year before the both safety and efficacy of these pharmaceuticals are proved. And, the speed with which coronaviruses can mutate also means they can potentially develop resistance to anti-viral treatment methods. In addition, there are still no approved treatments for any of the coronavirus diseases, including the new COVID-19 coronavirus.

Scenario 3 - COVID-19 Becomes an Endemic

Governments' failure to contain COVID-19 means it may be here to stay. The worst scenario is the possibility that COVID-19 continues to spread at a high rate and becomes endemic. Endemic means that are disease or virus continues to regularly infect humans - such as the common cold.


It is still an open question as to whether a treatment or a vaccine for the COVID-19 Coronavirus will be found within a matter of months - or if it will take years to develop. Until then, all that can be done is to continue to closely monitor the global virus and try to stop it spreading even further.

"Without an effective vaccine, I don't know how this ends before millions of infections," - Nathan Grubaugh2.



(1) Marc Lipsitch; Professor of Epidemiology; Department of Epidemiology; Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases -

(2) Nathan Grubaugh, Epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health.

(3) Professor James McCaw, University of Melbourne epidemiologist who is part of the team producing models of the potential pandemic for the Australian Government.

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