Should You Be Worried About the New COVID Strains?
However, another aspect of these new variants should make you very worried indeed: they’re much more infectious. Unfortunately, the implications of their infectiousness has received little news coverage.
Are the New Strains Really More Infectious?
Researchers describe the UK strain as anywhere from 56% to 70% more infectious, and the South African strain even more infectious.The new UK variant quickly came to dominate the old strain of COVID in Southeast England, going from less than 1% of all tested samples at the start of November to over two-thirds by mid-December.
Only the UK and South Africa have seen a major spike. The UK’s numbers doubled over two weeks from 240 on December 10 to 506 on December 24; South Africa’s case numbers similarly doubled in that period from 86 to 182. Given no policy changes or other viable explanations, the new COVID variants are almost certainly to blame.
Why We Ignore Slow-Moving Train Wrecks
We suffer from the tendency to focus on the short term, and minimize the importance of longer-term outcomes. Known as hyperbolic discounting, this cognitive bias causes us to underestimate the eventual impacts of clear trends, such as a more infectious strain of COVID.
The Implications of Much Higher Infectiousness
The US has maintained a daily new case count of just over 200,000 from December 10 to December 24. Imagine what happens when this starts shooting up rapidly as the new strains start to overtake the old strains, eventually doubling every two weeks when the new variants become predominant.
Hospital systems in California, Texas, and other states are already overwhelmed. The terrible March outbreak in New York City will seem like a summer shower compared to the upcoming tsunami that will flood our medical systems. Moreover, the surge will undoubtedly cause major supply shortages and hammer industries such as travel and hospitality.
What about government lockdowns? Not likely. The extreme politicization, widespread protests, and severe economic pain from lockdowns make politicians very reluctant to impose the kind of severe lockdown necessary to fight the new strains. Even if some do, mass public noncompliance will make lockdowns ineffective.
What Can You Do?
For yourself as a private citizen and your household, change your plans:
Prepare for months of mass supply chain disruptions by getting non-perishable supplies of consumables, using online sources that won’t empty store shelves for others
Prepare for lack of access to emergency medical care by minimizing risky activities such as skiing or substantial household repairs
Take steps right now to get into strict pandemic lockdown for your household until you all get vaccines
To the extent possible, insist on working from home, or invest in a career transition to permit work from home
Communicate to your friends and family about the new strains and encourage them to take steps to protect themselves until they have vaccines
Protect the more vulnerable, such as by taking extra precautions around friends and family members over 60 or those with illnesses that make them more vulnerable to COVID such as diabetes
Be ready to deal with other people making poor decisions, and take whatever steps you need to address such problems
Prepare psychologically for the tragedy of massive deaths as our hospitals get overwhelmed
As a leader, prepare your team:
Communicate to them about the new strains and encourage them to take the steps above to protect their households
Strongly encourage your employees to take advantage of any mental health resources you offer to prepare for the trauma of mass deaths
Coordinate with your HR on how to compensate for the much higher likely caseload of COVID in your team and burnout due to trauma caused by mass deaths and ensure cross-training for key positions
Transition now to your team working from home as much as possible
Revisit your business continuity plan to prepare for mass disruptions in the Spring and Summer
Prepare for major disruptions to your supply chains and service providers, as well as travel disruptions and event cancellations
By taking all of these steps early, you will have a major competitive advantage, so get ready to use the consequences of this competitive advantage to seize market share from your competitors who fail to prepare
We’re in for a world of pain this Spring and early Summer. It may feel unreal, but that’s simply our cognitive biases telling us that, just like they did early in the pandemic. Don’t be caught off guard, again, by ignoring this warning.
Bio: An internationally-renowned thought leader in emotional and social intelligence, risk management and decision making, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky specializes in helping leaders concerned about resistance to change. He serves as the CEO of the boutique consulting and training company Disaster Avoidance Experts. Its solutions transform resistance to change into commitment by fusing narratives, nudges, and neuroscience.
A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic (Changemakers Books, 2020). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 550 articles and 450 interviews in prominent venues such as USA Today, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Time, Business Insider, Government Executive, Fortune, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fast Company, and elsewhere.
His expertise stems from his background of over 20 years of consulting, coaching, speaking, and training on change management, decision making, and risk management strategy. It also comes from his research background as a behavioral scientist with over 15 years in academia, including 7 as a professor at Ohio State University.
Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for his free Wise Decision Maker Course.