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Intelligent Mitigation

OK, Milton, what are you talking about now? Is intelligent mitigation some kind of computer-associated algorithm related to artificial intelligence (AI)? No, not exactly.

The COVOD-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives, some with far reaching consequences. Governmental and public health initiatives, e.g., shutdowns, lockdowns, stay-at-home, quarantine, essential workers, unemployment, and the fear of the unknown all caused by an unseen virus have turned our world upside down. Those initial public health controls with their unfortunate economic impact did indeed “flatten the curve.”

The current phase of reopening creates another set of challenges. As we continue to witness additional coronavirus cases locally, and with certain areas of the country experiencing significant increases, the term “second wave” is written and discussed. What exactly does a second wave mean in terms of a pandemic? Many, including this author, believe we haven’t exited the first wave yet.

All of us are aware that an epidemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time. A pandemic is a type of epidemic where the outbreak of the disease occurs over a wide geographic area – the world, in COVID-19’s case — and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. Yes, COVID-19 meets the requirements of a pandemic.

Infectious diseases grow exponentially at the initial stage of the outbreak. If unchecked, the rapid growth of infected patients is likely to overrun most of the health care systems; ask Northern Italy, Spain and certain sections of New York City. Strategies aimed to delay the spread and attempt to contain the virus, including lockdowns, quarantine and restrictions in human mobility, proved to be effective in delaying the sudden, rapid rise in the wave of new cases and flatten the curve (wave). The social, political and economic consequences of containment cannot be understated.

As we are learning, it is hard to predict waves. By monitoring the case counts, one can get a sense of the ongoing infection dynamics in the community.

County and state health departments confirm community spread of COVID-19, some geographic areas of the U.S. more than others. With a few exceptions, containment prevented the over-utilizations of hospital critical care services.

However, in the community, COVID-19 is associated with two forces. The virus left unchecked will continue to spread rapidly through the population. The other force must attempt to blunt the progression of the virus through society.

Mitigation describes a strategy to dramatically separate the virus from people by the so-called “physical separation” of one person who might be infected from others presumed uninfected. Hence, we talk about social distancing, wearing face masks, inside crowd avoidance, frequent hand washing, hand-to- face avoidance, staying home when ill, testing, contact tracing, quarantine when indicated — all methods to interrupt the interaction between the virus and society as a whole.

All of us in the community have a role to play in mitigation. We have a responsibility of make smart decisions about individual behavior with concern for our neighbors, be they across the street or across the country. Did we forget the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

In my opinion we remain in the initial wave. As states reopen, a surge in the number of cases is inevitable. Management of these spikes is imperative. We have to live with virus risks and protect our communities’ most vulnerable. Intelligent “decision making” should interrupt the virus transmission of COVID-19–INTELLIGENT MITIGATION.

Computer-based algorithms can help develop modeling and strategies to tame this pandemic, yet intelligent individual decision making will protect our families, neighbors and communities. Intelligent Mitigation to prevent a “panic-demic.”

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