COVID-19 Reproduction Rate, Explained By A Milwaukee Health Care Leader

May 12, 2020

The reproduction rate for COVID-19 is being discussed more frequently. It's the estimated number of people a confirmed patient infects. 

"If the reproductive number is four, it means one infected individual, on average, can pass the infection onto four other people. If the reproductive number is one, then one infected individual passes the infection on to one other person,” Dr. John Raymond,  Medical College of Wisconsin president and CEO, explained Monday during a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

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Raymond says in early March, the reproduction number in Milwaukee was five. He says it's been at one for the last several weeks due to more social distancing and people staying at home. He calls that a steady state, or equilibrium.

"So, what does that mean as we begin a smart restart of our economy? Quite simply, it means we have to maintain a diligent adherence to social distancing if we want to avoid a surge of cases,” Raymond advised.

He says ideally, the reproductive number for COVID-19 would be less than one, so the pandemic would start to fade away. The BBC recently reported that Germany's infection rate went up as that nation's economic lockdown eased.  

A paper published by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention last year says the reproduction number must be applied and discussed with caution in research and practice, and noted key variables like the differing severity of COVID-19 cases.

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