There is considerable anxiety about the surge of new cases and new deaths due to COVID-19 here in the U. S. Those are particularly severe in the Upper Midwest, i.e. North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan but isn’t limited to those states—California, Texas, and Florida are seeing surges in new cases as well albeit not as dramatic as in the Upper Midwest. The states that first experienced large numbers of cases back in the spring, e.g. New York, New Jersey, are experiencing surges in new cases although, interestingly, the surges in new deaths in those states don’t appear to be as great as in the Upper Midwest.
It isn’t just the United States. Not only is Europe having its own surge of new cases, South Korea and Japan are as well. At this point Taiwan is not.
My question is why now? I recognize that the popular explanation and that, apparently, relied on by elected officials is that the people in the Upper Midwest have not been taking the prudent steps, i.e. wearing facemasks, social distancing, etc. that might have prevented these surges and, indeed, I suspect that’s part of the reason. But, unless you believe that the Japanese and South Koreans have abandoned the practices that insulated them from the worst effects of the virus in the spring, something else is going on as well.
My own view is informed by the following beliefs:
- Not everyone is equally susceptible to the virus even when exposed to it.
- Not everyone has an equal likelihood of dying if they contract COVID-19.
- The risk factors include age, genetics, pre-existing conditions, behavior and probably some other unappreciated factors.
- Exposure to sunlight mitigates the risks somewhat.
- Interior air circulation mitigates the risks somewhat.
- Previous exposure to related viruses mitigates the risks somewhat.
- Concentration of the virus increases the risks somewhat.
Some of those have evidence to support them, some stand to reason, other are speculative. I cannot disaggregate the relative importance of any of these factors.
Taiwan is in the tropics. That means more sunlight at a different angle at this time of year than is experienced, for example, in the Upper Midwest of the U. S. Heating is rare in homes there and many do not have air conditioning either. Due to its commerce with the mainland many Taiwanese people may have been exposed to viruses related to COVID-19 in the past. In addition most Taiwanese people are Han Chinese and may have genetic predispositions to be less susceptible to the virus. Also wearing facemasks is practically universal.