How to Beat COVID-19

Will this be enough? No one knows, because even now there are still a surprisingly large number of fairly basic questions we can’t answer about the coronavirus. We don’t know for sure how transmissible it is. We don’t know how effective social distancing is. We don’t know how many people get infected and never know it. We don’t know how infectious these asymptomatic carriers are. We don’t know if recovering from COVID-19 confers immunity in the future. We don’t know for sure how deadly it is in the absence of any underlying conditions. Even basic statistics on the spread of the virus are pretty questionable—and torturing the data won’t change that. Because of this we should all be fairly humble about how much we think we know and how confident we can be in our prescriptions. We should also strive on both sides not to dismiss hypotheses just because someone on the other side has proposed them.

However, masks and testing—for now, at least—seem to be almost unanimously agreed upon by epidemiologists as ways to rein in the coronavirus after lockdowns have reduced the spread of the virus to small numbers. And they’re both doable: mask wearing requires a PR campaign, and God knows that’s one thing that Donald Trump is good at. Testing is harder, but if Trump appointed a genuinely competent test czar with essentially unlimited power and funding, we could probably do it. It would certainly be a good national goal, even if we didn’t make it.

I’m sort of intrigued by the idea of increasing test throughput by testing groups of people. It’s a simple idea: you take swabs from, say, 10 people, mix them all together, and then run them through the PCR machine. If it comes back negative, the entire group is cleared. Only if you get a positive result do you go back and do individual tests to see who’s infected. On average, about three out of four tests would come back negative, which means you’d run 14 tests for 40 people rather than 40 tests. That triples your throughput even with no increase in testing capacity.

I haven’t heard anyone explain why this wouldn’t work, but there might be a catch. If I hear of one, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, wash your hands, stay home as much as possible, and try to keep your distance from other people. And pray that Trump is somehow shaken into sanity and finally decides to take concrete action instead of fomenting red-state rebellion because he’s mad that the virus isn’t doing what he tells it.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate