We can think about the current unfolding epidemic as a case at scale of the general systems issues we have been thinking/writing… about for more than a decade. We are part of a multi-national scale natural laboratory on managing a spreading disruption relative to saturating critical points in the response system.
Looking at this analysis from March 10 (attempt at visual analytics of the situation in progress):
The US looks like it will be the contrast for smaller nations that have kept a lid on the epidemic, especially since we are not testing at scale. We will see how much social distancing alone reduce can peaks in hospital/ICU load/overload.
And this is not an episode to be handled and then be done with — but rather a process as a novel virus becomes endemic around the world with a time course of fluctuations, change (the virus itself) and responses as it becomes a part of the diseases of the world.
The anticipation paradox is quite evident as COVID-19 outbreaks start to roll across the world, that is, effective counters require action in advance of the direct experience of the tangible consequences of harm but the ability to engage/mobilize/generate the needed response mechanisms can be limited without tangible harm (US’s inability to get large scale testing going). The delays (slow and stale) only serve to make later responses more disruptive and less effective. Anticipation requires acting that that builds future responsiveness without waiting for definitive information. The current situation highlights that the drivers of how the outbreak unfolds is the risk of saturating and actual saturation of critical points in the response system what are the critical points which will saturate and how does this effect ability to manage impact and reduce consequences. Politically paralyzed environments are particular vulnerable to falling behind the pace of the outbreak.
Discussion with Tom Seager:
Resilience perspectives on pandemics