Simulator: Wuhan virus meets Whittier, Alaska

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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.”

Screenshot of the animated graphic at The Washington Post.

The simulator graphic is explained at this Washington Post link.

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.

9 COMMENTS

  1. You start you piece with: “The Washington Post has modeled the isolated town of Whittier, Alaska to demonstrate how outbreaks spread through a community.

    But the Post article said: “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.”

    The Post simulation was not of Whittier, Alaska but of a town “about the size of Whittier.”

    • And yet, they have, indeed, modeled the town of Whittier. They say so. Either concurrently or as a dartboard decision.

      • I guess that’s why they removed the ” — about the size of Whittier, Alaska —” from the article.

          • Wasn’t when I wrote last. So I will conceed my error. Still, they do NOT say they modeled Whittier. Let’s agree to disagree.

  2. Might be interesting to see what happens when “simulitis” meets “dammitol”, a naturally occurring antidote found among productive people who don’t rely on government or never-Trump, Bezos-news media to survive.

    • Thanks Morrigan! This made me laugh! Sometimes I’ve been worrying about how things are turning out… but then I take my daily dose of ‘dammitol’ and feel so much better!

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