The Coronavirus Pandemic and Control Groups

Hello readers,

I hope you are all doing well as we continue to endure the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been a difficult time for many of us. People we know may have become ill, and others may have lost their sources of income. Here in Kansas City, and in many other parts of the country, we are currently under shelter-in-place laws that have essentially shutdown businesses and public spaces. These are unprecedented times, and we all want nothing more than to resume our lives as normal, and as fast as possible.

In the meantime, we may finally have the opportunity to study and make headway against the virus with a few cases that could somewhat serve as control groups. What is interesting about these groups, is that they could be tremendously helpful in determining how the virus functions under various conditions and the true likelihood that it can spread from person to person.

Unlike in places like New York City, where there is no true way to manage or measure just how many people come into contact with the virus, these are groups that we can observe with confirmed numbers at the outset. We can use these fixed numbers to then calculate important factors involving the virus. I.E. the severity of the disease by observing the number of mild cases and severe cases, significant symptoms, percentage of fatalities and cases of permanent harm.

With accurate data, we can make better policy decisions to deal with the virus.

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Diamond Cruise Ship

Now known as the “Coronavirus Cruise,” this ship suffered one of the earliest known widespread cases of COVID-19 outside of mainland China in late January 2020. With nearly 4,000 passengers aboard the ship, the virus infected around 800 passengers over the course of a few weeks while docked off the coast of California, 107 of which were American.

This widely reported incident has become a major case of study for researchers, who have now determined that nearly half of all infected passengers were asymptomatic at the time of their diagnosis.

Marion Correction Institute

This case is interesting, if only to illustrates how a tiny virus originating in China could find its way to a landlocked facility located in the American Midwest in a matter of months. With nearly 2,000 confirmed cases, a shocking 78% of prisoners in this facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Unlike the Diamond Princess where passengers boarded and disembarked at locations all over the world, this population has remained fixed in a defined area for long periods of time. Researchers may be able to use this case to gain insight into how the virus spreads in closed spaces and help them understand what makes it so contagious.

South Dakota Smithfield Plant

In another example of how the virus can quickly spread in self-contained environments, this meat processing plant has confirmed 238 cases of coronavirus. This particular facility produces about 5% of the entire nation’s pork supply, but as of now, reports indicate that 2,200 workers at 48 different meat packing facilities have been infected, representing 1/3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. At this rate, we may be facing a severe shortage of common meat products, as many of these plants have been forced to close temporarily.

Here, we again see the potential for this virus to spread to remote areas with very little international travel. And with the high infection rate at these plants, researchers may be able to learn valuable clues about the nature of this virus and COVID-19.

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With the sheer number of variables present in typical cities and towns, it can be difficult to gather accurate information about the nature of this virus and its spread. We need a stabilized environment to assess the reality of the dangers we are facing, and the cases mentioned above may be the closest examples of control groups that we have had thus far. It will be interesting to see what we can gather through studying them closely.

In the meantime, I wish you all the best and hope that you and your loved ones continue to remain safe.


~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

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