Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cost of Delay to express COVID-19 urgency to act

In learning how different countries are handling the COVID-19 pandemic, what is clear is that each are acting with varying levels of urgency. The level of urgency indicates how quickly a country acted to protect its citizens. Those that are acting with greater urgency and quality care, are saving more of their citizens. Those acting slowly and inconsistently have introduced a cost that translates to a loss of life.  I call this the cost of delaying health practices in light of the virus or cost of delay. 
What specifically is this cost of delay (CoD)?  Taking a page from blackswamfarming.com, the concept of Cost of Delay (CoD) is a way of communicating the impact of time on the outcome of we hope to achieve. In other words, for every period of time (e.g., a week or month), if we do not deliver value, there is an impact. Where CoD is typically used for financial considerations, I have turned it on its head for life and death considerations. 
What does this mean in terms of today’s COVID-19 pandemic? In a simple scenario, imagine that value is applying lockdown practices which includes stay-at-home orders, personal protective equipment (PPE), and social distancing. The positive impact of applying the lockdown practices is saving human lives.  The cost of not applying the lockdown practices is lost lives. As illustrated in the graphic below, for every week that we do not apply social lockdown practices, a number of humans die. 
Adding real numbers to the mix, this concept becomes much more tangible. Imagine if 40,000 people died over a period of 8 weeks.  For every week you fail to get lockdown practices in place, 5000 lives are lost (e.g., 40,000 divided by 8 = 5000).  This is real and substantial.  If another week goes by and lockdown practices are not yet implemented, then another 5000 people die.  The lives lost helps you understand the urgency in implementing the lockdown practices. The above illustration is an urgency profile where the benefits are consistent and long lived.  

The reality for COVID-19 is that it is an urgency profile is relatively short-lived which is represented by a steep curve up and then a steep curve down.  This means the longer we wait to implement lockdown, the greater the cost to human life and the less it can benefit the people. Current estimates in the US indicate that two-thirds of the casualties could have been saved if action to protect Americans just 2-weeks earlier like social distancing orders would have occurred. Below is an illustration of an urgency profile that is short-life affected peak.  


For more information on cost of delay, consider visiting Cost of Delay section of Black Swan Farming site. There you will also find various urgency profiles.

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