As I responded to John Ioannidis’s “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data”: Well, let’s get the data. Let’s set up random samples to figure out how widespread the infection is so that we can estimate more accurately the case fatality rate.
From the Colorado Sun:
A Telluride couple is paying for their entire county’s coronavirus tests. They hope the results will stop the disease everywhere.
The idea is that the data collected in the testing can be used far beyond the box canyon that holds Telluride and broader San Miguel County
PUBLISHED ON MAR 20, 2020 3:00AM MDT
The Colorado Sun — firstname.lastname@example.org
San Miguel County in southwest Colorado through Thursday had no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. But already it has sent a handful of people with severe respiratory ailments to hospitals where they’re receiving critical care for suspected infections.
In response and as a precaution, the county has taken some of the state’s most drastic measures to try to limit the spread of the disease. On Wednesday, the San Miguel County public health department ordered its roughly 8,000 residents to shelter in place until at least April 3.
The problem is the county, which includes the ritzy resort town of Telluride, has had little to no testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Final results from the screening that has been done on just 38 people aren’t yet available, so health officials are essentially flying blind.
(UPDATE: On Friday, the county announced it had received word that a 54-year-old man tested positive for the virus. He is isolation at home and is “recovering well.”)
“We are presuming we have disease,” county spokesman Susan Lilly said. “We just don’t know how widespread it is.”
But two part-time Telluride residents have stepped in to try to solve the testing problem. They’re paying for everyone in the town of about 2,500 — whether they are symptomatic or not — and county to be screened twice in the coming two weeks for coronavirus using a new blood test that’s received preliminary OK from the Food and Drug Administration.
The test was created by their own company, a subsidiary of United Biomedical Inc., and some 15,000 kits will be provided — representing roughly double San Miguel County’s population. Testing will be done in the town first and then expanded out into the county.
“Data is power,” said Mei Mei Hu, who along with her husband, Lou Reese, is making the testing possible.
They spoke to The Colorado Sun on Thursday morning as they were preparing their plane to ship an initial phase of samples — taken from emergency first responders and their family members — to a lab in California to be tested. Results are expected back in a few days — and then once everyone in the town and county is tested a first time, they will then be tested again.
There’s a hope that the data collected can be used far beyond San Miguel County and the one-road-in-one-road-out box canyon that holds Telluride. Hu and Reese believe their endeavor will mark the first time everyone in a U.S. county is tested for the virus. (Participation is voluntary.)
“This will be one of the first times where we screen a whole population,” Hu said. “What you do by testing en masse is you say, ‘What is active outbreak prevalence?’ If you’re positive on antibodies, that means you’ve been exposed to it at some time. If you test again in 14 days and you see that everyone is in the same state, it means that you didn’t have any new infections and you can then begin releasing people.”
Perhaps most significantly: The testing may be able to show how many people in Telluride and San Miguel County are infected with coronavirus but aren’t aware of it. In most cases, the disease results in only mild symptoms. Some people show no symptoms at all.
“In the event that there’s a lot, then I think it really informs the public,” Reese said.
Hu and Reese point to a similar mass testing completed in a town that was at the center of Italy’s outbreak. The experiment in Vo allowed authorities in the town near Venice to completely stop the spread of the illness by taking targeted social distancing measures and ensuring infected people were isolated.
If they are successful in Telluride, they may be able to replicate their model across the U.S.
iSteve commenter O’Really points out:
what’s notable about the test being administered in Telluride is that it is an antibody test, which will tell if you were ever exposed – as opposed to a standard infection swab that only tells if you are sick now
It sounds like this rich couple know what they are doing and intend to do it right. America has lots of talented and/or rich people who can step up and help out.
In other ski news, from Bloomberg:
Vail Emerges as Virus Hotbed for Mexican Skiers Returning Home
By Andrea Navarro
March 19, 2020, 12:58 PM PDT
Jalisco government searching for 400 travelers to U.S. resort
At least three executives contracted virus after going to Vail
The Prince’s maternal line are perhaps the second most glamorous Irish-American Catholic family after the Kennedys. His grandfather Jack Kelly was a bricklayer and amateur rower. He was banned from the 1920 Henley Regatta on the grounds that his trade of bricklaying gave him a muscular advantage over the English gentleman rowers. So instead he went to the 1920 Olympics where he beat the English winner of Henley in a dramatic race by one second. He then mailed his cap to the King of England with the note “Greetings from a bricklayer.”
Prince Albert is an avid skier and his winter had been full of ski-related charity events and meet and greets. Here’s a press release from January:
Welcome to World Snow Day by the Federation Monegasque de ski.
An avid skier, Prince Albert II of Monaco is a greater supporter of children and the next generation. To celebrate his passion the HSH Prince Albert in conjunction with the Federation Monegasque de Ski will be hosting a 2 day World Snow Day event in Isola 2000. …
HSH Prince Albert will be looking to make an appearance. We hope you have a chance to meet him in person.
Who wouldn’t want to be able to say: “On my vacation to the Alps, guess whose hand I shook? The Prince of Monaco: Grace Kelly’s son!”
So far, this has been The Popular People’s Pandemic.