Systemic Risk

With the holidays fast approaching, experts are predicting one of the harshest periods yet with respect to COVID-19.  This is probably all the more likely now that there are reports and rumors of vaccines that will probably be viable and probably be available, in the future.  With this new information, people’s defense shields, on the whole, are probably lowering as the holiday season approaches, and this may re-illustrate, or unfortunately illustrate definitively, why COVID-19 is different than the common flu.

It’s not exactly rocket science.  The most dangerous difference between COVID-19 and the common flu is COVID-19 has a far greater potential to jam up the health care system – specifically, our hospitals.

Since a vaccine would obviously reduce infections, we can strip out the issue of vaccination altogether, and simply look at what percentage of people need hospitalization after infection.

For the flu, apparently the rate is 1.05% for the previous season.

For COVID-19, on the other hand, we have seen rates ranging from 6.6% to 20%.  (It’s not even clear if the staggering 9% hospital re-admission rate for COVID-19 is factored into the above calculations.)

Again, this is once you are infected, so a vaccine makes no difference at that point.

COVID-19 puts more infected people in the hospital.  Too many people in the hospital and the system breaks.

The 2020 holidays haven’t even started, and we are already approaching a breaking point.

Finally, although risk to the entire system obviously implies risk to the individual, even a partial stress to the system carries significant additional risk to the individual – due to the highly unpublicized reality that hospitals are already imperfect to begin with – even in the best of times.

This is certainly very real – you do not want to be hospitalized, for any reason, with a hundred other patients who have COVID-19, plus any number of non-COVID-19 patients, plus a staff that’s operating under Apocalypse Now conditions.