COVID Day 82: Attenuation – The COVID Crisis Appears to be Ending

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In my March 31 post, titled “Attenuation – Darwin Would Agree,” I wrote

A curious thing about viruses is that they’re not really alive but not really dead either. They are however, smart enough to recognize Darwin was right. Like all Darwinian creatures, viruses seek ways to survive and one way is through attenuation.

Webster defines attenuation as “a) a lessening in amount, force, magnitude, or value, b) a reduction of severity or virulence: a decrease in the pathogenicity of a microorganism or in the severity of a disease.”

To paraphrase, attenuation occurs as a virus weakens over time. For example, the often referenced Spanish Flu is ubiquitously around us today, it just attenuated to the point of being benign so it can survive. If the Spanish Flu kept killing it’s hosts, it too would eventually fade out and the virus is too smart to allow that. The SARS and MERS viral outbreaks, that were much more deadly than COVID, quickly attenuated to the point of being benign.

Since this crisis began experts feared COVID-19 would not attenuate, in fact John Hopkins University predicts a second more deadly wave of COVID will sweep the country starting in September. Experts now predict that recent rioting all but assures this second wave has already started. Built into these doomsday predictions is the constant reminder that the second wave of the Spanish Flu accounted for most of that virus’s 50 million deaths.

In the early 2000’s, I was involved in federal pandemic modeling. Many of the scenarios we modeled and prepared for were as deadly as the Spanish Flu and there was usually a second, and in some cases even a third, wave – but not always. In every scenario we modeled however, the virus always attenuated. My concern back in March was that because COVID was engineered by the Chinese, they may have incorporated a nefarious anti-attenuating component into their strain.

Perhaps we caught a break though and this Chinese bio-weapon is just as poorly engineered as most Chinese made products. A new study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, indicates COVID-19 is weakening at a rapid rate. Dr. Donald Yealy, of UPMC said “Some patterns suggest the potency is diminished.” He has treated over 500 patients and the trend he’s observed is that the severity of patient trauma is lessening, “fewer patients are requiring ventilators to help them breathe.” This statement is backed up in part by the fact that the U.S. has so underutilized their limited supply of ventilators they’ve started giving them away to other countries.

People seem to be contracting the virus less easily and cases appear to be less severe than when the pandemic first began,” Dr. Yealy explained. He even went so far as to say that currently, “the risk of being in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is greater than the risk of testing positive for asymptomatic COVID symptoms.

Let’s hope Dr. Yealy is right. Let’s hope that like most Chinese made products COVID is poorly engineered with a short useful life. Let’s hope the virus continues to weaken to the point that when flu season restarts in September the virus is benign.


  1. Hi Ron, my brother Bob sent me the link to your commentary. I think you have a lot of interesting things to share. Today you said that the Covid crisis seems to be ending. Also you have stated that it will be over mid June, when the daily rate is less that or equal to the historical average flu rate. You have a nice model to support that idea. Just a reminder that the y is a function of all of the x’s. Even the “Lurking x’s as Joiner called them.
    Looking at the NY Times, infection rates as tracked with a 7 day moving average, have indeed been falling, until the past few days. One reason that this may be true is that the lockdown has been effective, but now people are changing their behavior and the rate of spread is going back up.
    You should read the “FiveThirtyEight” column by Nate Silver titled “Coronavirus Case Counts are Meaningless*”. Here is a link:
    Thanks again for your sharing on this. Stay well and stay safe.

    1. Thanks Wencil, we have actually met at NMSU Engineering Council meetings. I too have posted about the data being meaningless because a) medical doctors are corrupting the data and b) unless you test everyone, the rate of infection is meaningless. You should look at my actuarial analysis, as a nation our death rate is down this year overall, which is an interesting finding.

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