I started reading this New York Times op-ed by epidemiologists Dillon C. Adam and Benjamin J. Cowling on “superspreading” with some excitement, thinking it might be an important contribution to understanding. I was disappointed.
The phenomenon of “superspreaders”, individuals more likely to infect others, has been recognized for some time and has been described in the context of COVID-19 since it’s been known that the virus was spread person-to-person. To save you the trouble of reading the op-ed 20% of cases account for 80% of transmission. There’s also a survey of the literature.
Here’s the most valuable paragraph in the piece:
We are not aware of any study having been published that identifies individual characteristics that might account for an infected person’s degree of infectiousness or could otherwise help predict who may be a superspreader.
and here’s their conclusion:
The epidemic’s growth can be controlled effectively with tactics far less disruptive, socially and economically, than the extended lockdowns or other extreme forms of social distancing that much of the world has experienced over the past few months.
Forget about maintaining — or, if infections resurge, resuming — sweeping measures designed to stem the virus’s spread in all forms. Just focus on stopping the superspreading.
Okay, I’ll bite. How? As they pointed out there are no known characteristics that can account for degree of infectiousness. That’s just about as helpful as pointing out that you can end crime by stopping criminals.