The Washington Post has modeled the isolated town of Whittier, Alaska to demonstrate how outbreaks spread through a community.
In the explanation of the animated graphic, the dots represent people bouncing against others as they go about their business, how they infect one another with the fictitious illness called “simulitis,” and how a population recovers, while the infection leaks into a adjacent population.
“We will call our fake disease simulitis. It spreads even more easily than covid-19: whenever a healthy person comes into contact with a sick person, the healthy person becomes sick, too,” the story reads.
“Our simulation town is small — about the size of Whittier, Alaska — so simulitis was able to spread quickly across the entire population. In a country like the United States, with its 330 million people, the curve could steepen for a long time before it started to slow.”
Not realized by The Washington Post writer, perhaps, is that more than half of the people in Whittier live in one building, Begich Tower, where social distancing is more theoretical than in most small towns, where people are typically spread out.
But also, 40 percent of the people in Whittier leave town for the winter, returning in April for the tourism season. This means people returning to Whittier in April might be unaware they are bringing in the coronavirus, as models predict it will be still spreading rapidly throughout the general population in April.
On the upside for a town like Whittier, it’s a young town. While 14 percent of the residents are under the age of 18, less than 7 percent of the population is above the age of 65. Those over the age of 60 are at greater risk for health consequences from the COVID-19 virus, while young people are experiencing it mildly, if they have no underlying health risks.