1. Genesis (~1 month)
A patient zero or a small cluster of cases are introduced to an area.
People are unaware, and the government does not take initial reports seriously. The disease spreads freely to hundreds—if not thousands—before warnings signs appear.
2. Denial (~2 months)
The calm before the storm. The threat develops. It likely even receives widespread press coverage, but only a fraction of people (early-adopters) are convinced of the risk.
Governments begin to worry, but may not act immediately. No one wants to think they could be vulnerable.
3. Initial Measures and Panic (~2 months)
Multiple hospitalizations across a city, and more reported deaths.
Governments begin with mild restrictions, hoping it will be enough without spooking the citizens or the stock market. It does slow, but not enough. And the 2-week lag means results don’t show soon enough.
Meanwhile people are spooked. Panic buying begins. People start isolating out of precaution. Many remain in high spirits, some even find the initial change of life refreshing.
4. More Cases, More Restrictions (~2 months)
Major hospitals are overwhelmed, people you know may be affected.
Governments take more measures. More stores close. Fewer people believe it is a hoax.
A locality may spend several iterations at this step, gradually adding new restrictions until it begins working, and hospitals finally begin feeling relief.
5. Game Plan for Normal (~2 months)
Laundromats and gyms reopen. We lockdown smarter, not harder. We go “forward” to normal, not back to normal.
When the time comes to open businesses (without overwhelming the hospitals), there needs to be a coordinated effort—whether it involves masks or temperature checks, a limitation on travel, or changing certain businesses—and it needs to be on a global scale.
6. Boredom and Economic Turmoil (~12 months)
Panic lessens, and boredom grows. Perhaps the longest phase, and the most difficult. China and Italy will be the first to go through it.
The infection has not gone away, and life has not gone completely back to normal. People are wearing masks. Senior centers limit visitors. Bars and the cruise industry are unhappy. Life in the East is potentially subject to even greater monitoring and control.
Municipalities fight over control. Rural areas protest state-wide restrictions.
Some places will return too optimistically to normal and cause a second wave or outbreak. This sends them back to Step 4.
7. Vaccine and Fallout (~36 months)
Over a year after China’s first outbreak, a vaccine is developed an an effort begins by the WHO.
Within a year, most developed nations are on board. Within three years, the disease is hitting few nations hard, while most return to a true sense of normal.
But the disease is less deadly than smallpox, so the efforts are not as widespread. And because of the animal reservoirs, SARS-CoV-2 is never fully declared extinct.
The economic fallout also rocks the foundation of capitalism and democracy, and many industries are never quite the same again.