We Have the Data – Let’s Act on It

If you have been following along on my personal Facebook page, you know that I have continued to advocate for an all-in approach to COVID-19 here in Maine. A couple days ago, on the graph I generate daily and publish on Facebook, I added the major steps the State has taken to date and then projected out the 14-day incubation period after each of those actions were taken.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 11.12.29 AM

When people ask me why I want an all-in approach, I point to these incubation periods. When the Governor made a Proclamation of Civil Emergency on 15 March, the incubation period stretched to the 29th of March. In other words, anyone infected by the virus who altered their behavior on the 15th because of the civil emergency may still continue to transmit the virus until the 29th.

We then waited until the 19th to determine that we needed more restrictive measures, and an Executive Order was issued to close all dine-in restaurants and bars. People infected by the virus in those bars and restaurants prior to this Order–like the ones who attended St. Patricks Day events–are still capable of transmitting the virus to others today even if they are asymptomatic. They will still be a risk to the community until 1 April.

We then waited again until the 25th to determine that we needed more restrictive measures, and an Executive Order was issued to close public-facing, non-essential businesses. People infected by the virus in these non-essential businesses prior to this Order are still capable of transmitting the virus to others today even if they are asymptomatic. These people will still be a risk to the community until the 7th of April.

I fully expect that more restrictive measures are on the way based on the extant data from other affected places and people’s current behavior here in Maine. I asked someone the other day how they viewed each new more restrictive state-wide measure–if they saw each new measure as an acknowledgement that we had not gone far enough with the last one. The person’s response was “no.” We need, he said, to “adjust as necessary.”

A reporter asked the Governor on the 18th of March if there was any consideration being given to a ‘stay-in-place’ order.” The Governor said “No.” She said “We’re being measured.” While I support the Governor and her work to take care of Maine and Mainers during this crisis, I think the data have shown us since long before Maine started testing for COVID-19 on the 9th of March that the way to “flatten the curve” is to go all-in. If the time to be measured ever existed, it is long-since past.

Just remember that whenever we do decide to go all-in in our response to COVID-19, we’ll only just be starting the clock on a 14-day incubation period.

About Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot is a freelance writer who covers fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Mongabay, Discover Magazine, Ocean Geographic and Coral Magazine. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
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