Living with Contagious Uncertainty - Coronavirus

In the midst of Seattle’s CoV-19 outbreak, biochemist Ben McFarland provides a daily log of feelings, adaptations, and discovery.


A beautiful piece; wonderfully written. Encouraging, comforting, and thought-provoking. :raised_hands:t2:


Yes - it is good to read this, and help me continue to calibrate my own attitude toward the most rational and compassionate attitudes which must lie somewhere in that vast range between “it’ll all blow over just like any flu eventually does” … and “bring on panic” (the latter of which is always pretty stupid, even if there really was something to panic about.)

In any case, do the scientists hovering here have advice about what sorts of web information is dependable and credible for us to be checking up on? I know I could browse the web for myself on this, but given all the misinformation that tends to attract public “clickage”, I would rather trust to the advice of scientists here about who to listen to.

One of my questions: Is it known yet whether there can be some “safe” subset of a population that is now “post-Covid 19”? I.e. If you were one of the ones who got it and recovered, does that mean you have no worries whatsoever? Or could you still be spreading it to other people even weeks after you’re fully recovered? Given what Dr. McFarland shares here, it sounds significantly more serious than any flu - so that is good to know. Also, if these things mutate that rapidly, then I guess nobody is ever “beyond” getting it since new strains would always be circulating. But I’m still interested in hearing what the local experts here continue to think about all this.


Mervin, Thanks! I find two sources reliable: and, but even they require interpretation: especially in cases where testing has been infrequent. I talked about how I use some of the numbers in this video ( but the short version is I think this disease is 10X “worse” than seasonal flu, especially for the elderly, and I think these take about a month (or 40 days) to subside, although I don’t know if we’re at the beginning or middle of that month in Seattle. I trust my friends at BioLogos and early on Joel Duff wrote this long piece that got me thinking about this in the first place: … he might even be around this forum at times although I forgot how to tag him! The nice things about knowing Christians in science is that we are all in different fields and yet our shared faith gives grounds for extra trust (in humans with limited knowledge of course). Hope this helps and that we all can find that balance. Yours, Ben


As for your specific questions, we should have more answers soon. I’ve seen that the virus can be detected for weeks after infection shedding off the person, but I’ve also seen that those don’t appear infectious, which is what would really matter. I seem to see 5 or 6 days as the incubation period, which is on the long end, and that it’s 2X as contagious as seasonal flu, which is bad but not unprecedented. My ray of hope is that children are not suffering from it (though they may be infected with it). The age curve seems reliable. Basically, raw numbers are reliable if they’ve been measured and reported adequately, but interpretation of those numbers … that’s where I get to the point that I simply don’t trust most interpreters right now.


This is a good time to be reminded that the most frequent mandate in the Bible is “Don’t be afraid” or one of its several variations – “Be anxious for nothing”, “Fret not”, … Father is in control.

Correspondingly, and repetitively copied and pasted :slightly_smiling_face::

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…

It’s not our perfect love! It is our Father’s, and he only does what is good for both him and us. The most frequent mandate in the Bible is “Don’t be afraid” or one of its several variations: “Be anxious for nothing”, “Fret not”, etc. So whenever I catch myself being anxious about ANYTHING, I can go crawl up on Father’s lap even when court is in session in the throne room, so to speak, and his strong arms will comfort me and shield me.


Like this: @Joel_Duff :slight_smile:

If you just like following the numbers, this site is updated in real time and has great charts and graphs:

My favorite page on that site is this one which tracks the cases by country, but lets you see new cases, critical/serious cases, recoveries, and cases per million, which helps put things into perspective. There is also a summary of major world news bulletins at the bottom:

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That is what the Johns Hopkins study that just started being reported on today confirms.

A new study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that the median incubation period for SARS-CoV-2—the new coronavirus that causes the respiratory illness COVID-19—is 5.1 days.

This median time from exposure to onset of symptoms suggests that the 14-day quarantine period used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for individuals with likely exposure to the coronavirus is a reasonable amount of time to monitor individuals for development of the disease.

The analysis suggests that about 97.5% of people who develop symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection will do so within 11.5 days of exposure. The researchers estimated that for every 10,000 individuals quarantined for 14 days, only about 101 would develop symptoms after being released from quarantine.

The findings were published online today in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine .

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Thanks, Ben and Christy …

I’m sure those numbers will go up … probably for all the nations, but especially the U.S. when we start actually testing for it more seriously.

I usually default to the CDC website:

There are no certainties. However, the vast majority of normal, healthy people should acquire protection against the strain of the virus they were infected with. It is still possible for the virus to mutate and re-infect, but I don’t know how likely that is. In fact, I doubt if any of the experts would be able to accurately guess if COVID-19 will evolve in such a way that it can re-infect a significant number of individuals.

The CDC is giving no indication that recovered patients are at significant risk of spreading the virus:


I’m wondering about the economics of “panic stocking” and the ethics of market reaction.

On the one hand, it is easy to condemn price gouging on the part of retailers who suddenly find their cleansing products to be golden and flying off the shelves.

And on the other hand, shouldn’t this market reaction be just the thing to help sober up would-be panic shoppers? If people want to hoard, isn’t it right that they be made to pay a high premium for their indulgence? Yes - this may be a hardship for the innocent shopper who only just needed their usual package of toilet paper for the week, but it is no harder on them than the toilet paper being entirely gone from the shelves courtesy of panicked hoarders. Either way, the innocent, moderate shopper is hurt - so meanwhile why not economically punish the hoarders for their sudden fear-motivated need?

Either way, the corporations always win; and were probably helping to promote the fear in the first place; so there is that. But it does cause me to wonder what I would do as a retailer. Perhaps just limit purchases per customer visit, and at least force panic buyers into less convenient game-playing in order to get around policy? I’m doubting there is ever any pretty solution whenever market equilibrium is poked.

Actually, price gouging is beneficial in that it limits hoarding by bumping the cost, which ultimately helps availability for all as it not only limits hoarders but provides incentive to bring more product to market.


My horticultural society is in the middle of deciding whether to cancel this Monday’s general meeting. The four who have weighed in have been in favor of cancelling.

I’m having misgivings about going to the YMCA. I went wearing a mask and gloves Sunday as I wasn’t certain if I was over the flu I had, and neither the class nor the stationary bike started my cough back up. Then I went again Tuesday without the precautions and was symptom free. Fever’s been down to normal since Sunday. But the morning scene at the Y is definitely a seniors scene and the wife and I decided to skip it this morning. I really hated to but there is just so much uncertainty about how much precaution to take.

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My wife and I will be refraining from going to the gym for now. Possibly going to abstain from church attendance as well.

At the Kroger where I shop, certain hygiene products are limited to only 5 a person.

From Dr. McFarland’s post, this jumped out at me:

In an uncertain world that didn’t make sense, this path of reasoning was a lifeline. So I did what any teacher would do: I passed it on by incorporating it into my class that afternoon (recorded on YouTube).

I changed my lesson because the anxiety on campus was palpable. The students heard about each of these events before I did, and I had even seen some wearing masks. When I showed the students this chain of reasoning, I don’t know if you can hear it in the video, but I felt this in the room: every eye was on me (for once), shoulders visibly relaxed, and hands shot up for questions.

It’s true that reasoning helps us cope with crises such as the CoV-19 outbreak. But even more important is faith combined with reasoning. It’s my guess that Dr. McFarland’s students calmed down during his class because he showed the natural, instinctive leadership that comes from within when one’s trust in God runs deep. Somehow the words that need to be said come out when others need to hear them. The trust passes to others and in turn helps them benefit from the reasoning part of the equation. He would be too humble to say so – or even to think so – but it’s okay for us to see the contribution he’s made.


just posting here to bring this back to the top … since I keep referring to some of the helpful links that were given …

Just saw this interview with Dr. Collins:


And here is another interesting article from the Washington Post (which includes simulations it can run for you … of how the curve can flatten given different “social distancing” responses.)

NPR has been reporting in small businesses struggling, especially those that have been shut down. My partners and I ordered pizza for the staff that have to report–hopefully that will give both an antidepressant and an economic stimulus :slight_smile:


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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