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Letter: COVID spread far from ‘exponential’

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Our governor recently made reference to the “exponential increase” in the number of New Mexico COVID-19 cases. As a mathematician, I must protest that even as alarming as the numbers may be, this is a mischaracterization.

Plagues did indeed produce exponential increases in cases during the Middle Ages, when virtually nothing was known about biology or medical science. But true exponential increase occurs only when nothing is being done to inhibit the spread of the disease. In our own time, with all the social precautions and medical response, that is scarcely the situation.

With true exponential increase as it was able to happen during bygone times, you could rather easily have the number of cases double every day, for example. If that sort of thing were happening now, a single case could have led to the entire population of the United States becoming infected in a little less than a month.

Obviously nothing like that has occurred.

The medical and social effects of COVID-19 are bad enough without our elected political leaders’ making it sound as if we were living in the Eleventh Century.

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Donald R. Burleson
Roswell