I stumbled upon some really good news tonight. I checked, it wasn’t in any of the cable news headlines, or even in any of the newspapers (as of tonight). BD/BioMedomics announced the launch of a rapid results serological coronavirus test. These tests give us sight into what we couldn’t see.
Currently we use PCR tests, which look for the genetic makeup of the coronavirus. It can only see active cases, it can’t see if someone had previously had it and recovered. These serological tests look for antibodies – which are indicators of previously recovered infection, or later stages current infection.
Considering 50% of those infected may be asymptomatic (a random sample test in Iceland showed 50% who tested positive with Coronavirus displayed no symptoms), and considering we weren’t even performing substantial PCR testing until early March – we have no idea how long this virus has been spreading, and how many people have already been infected and recovered. This dramatically impacts mortality rates, hospitalization rates – and how many people are left for the virus to target.
We have only been seeing the skewed severe cases – the ones at the hospitals, the ones prioritized to receive a test. All of our “numbers” are based on confirmed cases, selection-biased from the onset because we had to prioritize the available tests to where most needed. Models are only as good as the inputs.
The up to 50% of infected that might be invisibly unreported – that seems like quite the blind spot. Even for a model. Yet, none of the news outlets appear to be covering this news tonight. The news doesn’t tell you what to think, they simply tell you what to think about.
On my daily walk today the quiet didn’t seem as eerie anymore, I guess it’s becoming normal now. With the streets so silent my eyes kept crawling up the building sides searching for something to stop on. I’d never noticed all the decorative intricacies and architectural easter-eggs patiently waiting to be noticed, just above us.
The cacophony of a midtown street isn’t very forgiving, there’s usually not a lot of spare time to gaze up into the artifact-strewn landscape above. Today though, there was all the time I wanted. The stillness is eerie, but it’s also allowed me to get to know pieces of the city I would have never known before.
Admiring the building ornaments I’d never stopped to notice before, I couldn’t help but wonder how old they were? What had they seen over their years of watching over these streets?
What smiling handshakes had they witnessed, how many tears had they heard? Depressions, boys going off to war, some of the men returning home. Civil rights, social revolutions, ticker-tape parades…pandemics?
They wouldn’t tell me. Their silence encouraged my imagination. But before too long, my escape into day dreaming was reeled back in by the realization of the harrowing moment we currently find ourselves in.
There was something comforting in the way these frozen observers were watching us, just as they’d watched so many of this city’s chapters as they unfolded before. Reminders of what those before us made it through, and we’ll make it through this too.
They also reminded me that in any situation, no matter how dark, there’s always beauty. We just have to remember to look for it.