Report from Louisiana: The Exponential Numbers

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Coronavirus hit close to home this week; my husband and I learned of the death of our friend Ann who fell victim to this virus. One moment alive and well, the next moment she’s gone. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.

Here in Louisiana, we have over 13,000 positive cases and as of yesterday, 477 deaths, and over 1,800 in hospital. Officials are warning that this week will be bad and that everyone should avoid going anywhere at all unless absolutely essential. We are taking that seriously in my house and have only left home twice this week for quick grocery trips. I would love to do curbside pick-up for groceries, but the wait time for your order is two weeks!

Meanwhile, people are practicing social distancing with various degrees of seriousness. One couple I know attended a birthday party at a friend’s home this week, while another person I know met up with her girlfriends in a parking lot to share a bottle of wine and “hang out.” Even the caretakers of LSU mascot Mike the Tiger are taking more careful measures than some people I know.

Some states have already declared this school year officially done, but we are still awaiting that call. Our “stay at home” order extends until the first of May, so it seems highly unlikely that we would have to report back with only three weeks left, yet that call has still not been made.

The border between Louisiana and Texas is closed and checkpoints have been established at the state line. Commercial traffic is allowed to pass freely but everyone else must be screened and fill out paperwork before entering Texas. This is obviously causing travel nightmares.

As we monitor these numbers, these daily death toll reports, be sure to check out Stacy McCain’s post in which he does some pretty interesting analysis of the numbers:

There is an enormous variation in the death rates, with Italy’s rate being about five times higher than the U.S. rate, and the death rate in Washington State, Michigan and Louisiana being more than twice the rate in Florida and Texas. Will these rates change? Maybe, but the fact is that the same virus is having different impacts in different areas, and the “experts” on TV are doing a bad job of explaining this differential, insofar as they are not completely ignoring it. While I don’t claim to be an “expert,” my hunch is that it probably has something to do with viral load at first exposure to the virus. If you attend a two-hour event with dozens of other people, some of whom are infected — or if you’re on a two-hour commercial airline flight, or riding New York City’s subways on a daily basis — then your initial exposure is likely to be a high viral load. On the other hand, a brief encounter with an infected convenience-store clerk will expose you to a lower viral load, and if you do become infected, your case will probably be milder. That’s not an “expert” opinion, just a common-sense interpretation of what some experts are saying, and one which would seem to fit the available data.

This brings me back to my friend that went to a birthday party. What was the exponential exposure?

I’m afraid that a lot of people are not taking all this seriously enough and won’t until it hits too close to home.

Stay safe, friends, and stay home.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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