For one thing, even if all we do is delay the inevitable, delay is very valuable. Delay spreads cases out over time, preventing a fast-moving pandemic from overwhelming our health-care system — “flattening the curve,” as you’ve heard many times over the past month. And that isn’t the only reason we should prefer infection later to infection now. Delay also allows us to build more capacity to treat and quarantine the infected, and gives us time to figure out what that treatment should look like.
One of the amazing stories of this pandemic has been the collaborations that are going on around the world, through medical journals and Facebook groups and informal communications between scientists. Each day, the people on the front lines of research and treatment pile more information upon the mountain of data we’ve already assembled. But even at Internet speeds, it will take us time to process that mountain into usable chunks.
Already, as more data has emerged, doctors are altering their rules of thumb about critical decisions like when to ventilate patients. We should expect that process to continue, which means that someone infected six months from now will probably have a better chance of recovery than someone infected today.