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Breaking this virus down primarily into a chart of colours

Dear Sir,

So now we need to start talking about what happens when we begin to relax our shelter-in-place rules.

This will means a lot more discussion about why we can and cannot do certain things and who we are trying to protect — and restrict — and why.

The tensions around personal versus public harm, health and benefits will be central to all this. That discussion can get confusing if the nuances of transmission, infection, immunity, asymptomatic virus shedding and the like are mixed in.

An easy way to “shorthand” the health part of the discussion is what I call the “Covid Colour Chart”:

• We are all born Blue.

• Older folk and those with underlying immune or pulmonary disease are at high risk; they are Darker Blue. Generally, the young and healthy are Lighter Blue. There is no clear dividing line; what makes you Darker or Lighter Blue is personal to you.

• Infection with the virus turns us Yellow. Many — some say more than half — of Yellow people never even know they are sick, even though they are very contagious.

• Once we recover from the infection, we are left ... Green.

• You, and everyone around you, are one of these three colours.

• You and everyone else will eventually have to get Green, either by contact with a Yellow person and getting sick, or by getting vaccinated. Sadly, about 20 per cent of the Dark Blues will actually die from Covid-19 if they catch it from a Yellow person.

To keep from losing too many Dark Blues, we need to know who is Yellow and keep the Yellows and Dark Blues apart. If we cannot test fully, then we cannot know who is Yellow — remember they may have no symptoms. So, without widespread available testing the only thing we can do is stop all mixing; full lockdown.

This is where we are now.

Viral Testing (The Yellow Test) can tell us who is Yellow — even if they feel just fine.

Serological Testing (The Green Test) can tell us who is already Green.

For once, smaller is better; Bermuda can get to a place where we can test everyone for Covid-19 (the Viral test or Yellow Test) and for immunity (the Antibody/Serological Test or Green Test).

The Yellow Test results will be known within 24 hours; the Green Test result in a matter of minutes.

Once you do that:

• Yellows segregate for two weeks — until they are fully Green and cannot infect others

• Greens can do what they like,

• Blues have to be protected until a vaccine comes along — Dark Blues more so than Light Blues.

In terms of how we move forward after testing, this framework will need that Greens be identifiable when they congregate and move about since they will be able to safely do so while we Blues — and certainly we who become Yellow — will not.

We may be heading to a place where:

• Greens will have a “pass” that allows them relatively unrestricted movement; to ride the bus, go to work, go shopping, eat at restaurants, congregate in groups, have other public contact, etc.

• Light Blues may get temporary passes valid only for a week or so after their last test or only for less risky activity.

• Dark Blues may just not be able to do all these things except, perhaps, on special days or times reserved for them: Sunday senior supermarket shopping, Monday senior restaurant night, 7am to 9am Blue shopping at general stores and government offices and banks etc. Other restrictions may apply: boarding through the rear door of buses and sitting in segregated seats in the rear, waiting outside premises until being allowed in small numbers, etc.

• Yellows will be allowed to stay “at home” after testing only if they have no Dark Blues in the household, and perhaps not even then. Any Blues in the household will have to be treated as Yellows as well. Yellows with Dark Blue members in their household may have to go to official quarantine centres until they turn Green (think the Chinese “fever clinics”).

Right now, one of the most critical benefits of widespread testing is that once we can do it, the new contact apps being developed by Google/Apple will be able to warn any Blues that they have recently interacted with someone who may later be tested Yellow.

These apps don't tell anyone who the Yellow person was or where anyone was. What they do is give a random number to every other phone; that phone remembers the number for 14 days.

If I get a test, for whatever reason, and get a Yellow diagnosis and may have been that way for, say, five days, then the app would look back at all those numbers that I interacted with in that time and send them a secure, anonymous text message saying that I may have been exposed and should seek testing.

No one ever knows who their contacts were or where their notifications come from.

This could be the difference between normal and lockdown. This could be the way out of this crisis.

This could be a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to inviting visitors back to the “Safest Place Out There” ...

Trouble is, without widespread testing, this is beyond our reach.



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Published April 22, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 22, 2020 at 8:50 am)

Breaking this virus down primarily into a chart of colours

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