Month: April 2020
Pop music has become less popular during the pandemic.
With millions stuck at home due to coronavirus shelter-in-place orders and searching for entertainment, data suggest that new releases by major pop artists are drawing fewer listeners than normal. Instead, streaming metrics show, listeners are tuning in to old favorites from the likes of Bob Marley, Dixie Chicks and Bill Withers—the singer of “Lean On Me,” who died last month.
Several factors are denting pop-music listening. Major artists are delaying album releases, and workers ordered to stay home aren’t commuting, cutting into time spent listening to radio, analysts say, adding that news is drawing more interest for those who do tune in. And without live concerts or performances on talk shows, music labels’ promotional machines are less powerful…
On Spotify, the largest streaming service by subscriptions, cumulative streams of the top 200 U.S. songs have fallen in recent weeks—tumbling 28% from the week ending March 12 to the week ending April 16 to the low point for the year so far. The drop-off is especially pronounced, given that those weeks saw new album releases from major streaming artists including J Balvin, the Weeknd, Childish Gambino and Dua Lipa. Meanwhile, catalog music—songs more than 18 months old—has been on the rise and hit a high for the year in the week ended April 9, accounting for 63% of total audio streams, up from 60% the week ended March 12, according to Nielsen/MRC.
“We are seeing something of a shift towards comfort music,” says Midia Research analyst Mark Mulligan.
Most of epidemiological models applied for COVID-19 do not consider heterogeneity in infectiousness and impact of superspreaders, despite the broad viral loading distributions amongst COVID-19 positive people (1-1 000 000 per mL). Also, mass group testing is not used regardless to existing shortage of tests. I propose new strategy for early detection of superspreaders with reasonable number of RT-PCR tests, which can dramatically mitigate development COVID-19 pandemic and even turn it endemic. Methods I used stochastic social-epidemiological SEIAR model, where S-suspected, E-exposed, I-infectious, A-admitted (confirmed COVID-19 positive, who are admitted to hospital or completely isolated), R-recovered. The model was applied to real COVID-19 dynamics in London, Moscow and New York City. Findings Viral loading data measured by RT-PCR were fitted by broad log-normal distribution, which governed high importance of superspreaders. The proposed full scale model of a metropolis shows that top 10% spreaders (100+ higher viral loading than median infector) transmit 45% of new cases. Rapid isolation of superspreaders leads to 4-8 fold mitigation of pandemic depending on applied quarantine strength and amount of currently infected people. High viral loading allows efficient group matrix pool testing of population focused on detection of the superspreaders requiring remarkably small amount of tests. Interpretation The model and new testing strategy may prevent thousand or millions COVID-19 deaths requiring just about 5000 daily RT-PCR test for big 12 million city such as Moscow.
Speculative, but I believe this is the future of our war against Covid-19.
The paper is by
In the worldwide race for a vaccine to stop the coronavirus, the laboratory sprinting fastest is at Oxford University.
Most other teams have had to start with small clinical trials of a few hundred participants to demonstrate safety. But scientists at the university’s Jenner Institute had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations — including one last year against an earlier coronavirus — were harmless to humans. That has enabled them to leap ahead and schedule tests of their new coronavirus vaccine involving more than 6,000 people by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
The Oxford scientists now say that with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective.
Here is more from the NYT. I do not have a personal opinion on the specifics of this development, but it seems worth passing along.
1. “We also looked Iceland-scale mass population testing (i.e. 0.7% of population per day). Such testing would be very helpful for monitoring the epidemic, but unsurprisingly it had a negligible impact on reducing transmission, because cases would be detected too late (if at all)”, link here.
4. “A model assuming continuous evolution of reproduction rates through imitation errors predicts fertility to fall below replacement levels if death rates are sufficiently low. This can potentially explain the very low preferred family sizes in Western Europe.”
8. Vaccine update.
9. Solving for the equilibrium: “Some of the millions of British workers furloughed during the coronavirus lockdown will be encouraged to take a second job picking fruit and vegetables, the government has said. Giving the daily COVID-19 briefing, Environment Secretary George Eustice said only a third of the migrant workers who normally picked fruit and vegetables were currently in the country.”
11. Which retailers generate the most physical interactions? (Big, internationally known chains) Might the same be true for restaurants?
12. “The scenario of one million Covid-19 deaths is similar in scale to the decades-long HIV/AIDS and opioid-overdose epidemics but considerably smaller than the Spanish Flu of 1918. Unlike HIV/AIDS and opioid epidemics, the Covid-19 deaths will be concentrated in months rather than spread out over decades.” Link here.
Many people claim that commodification, transforming a good or activity into a commodity bought and sold on a market, corrupts that good or activity. As Michael Sandel puts it:
Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them. That’s because markets don’t only allocate goods; they express and promote certain attitudes toward the goods being exchanged.
But few people have tested this idea which is why I loved Stephen Clowney’s Does Commodification Corrupt? Lessons from Paintings and Prostitutes. Clowney does something simple. He interviews art appraisers and male escorts, people who live with commodification, and asks them about art and sex. In short he uses the “lived experiences of those affected by commodification” to test whether commodification corrupts.
Does appraising art, for example, reduce the appraiser’s appreciation for art the way working in a pork factory might reduce a worker’s appetite for bacon?
Scott Altman, a legal scholar who has studied commodification, perfectly captures the standard market skeptic position: “[s]omeone who spends all day estimating the value of art might eventually have difficulty appreciating art in any way other than as worth a certain amount.”
What does Clowney find?
Of the twenty assessors interviewed for this study, not one reported that market work disfigured their ability to enjoy the emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic qualities of artistic masterworks. In fact, most appraisers insisted they can easily and completely compartmentalize their professional duties from their private encounters with art. This finding challenges the panicked rhetoric of many anti-commodification theorists who continue to insist that commerce diminishes the meaning of sacred things. Contrary to the predictions of market skeptics, the appraisers in this study spoke with joyful enthusiasm about their experiences viewing exceptional works of art. Even the most senior appraisers—those who have monetized thousands and thousands of objects—remain passionate consumers of art in their personal lives.
…Jane C.H. Jacob, an appraiser with thirty-five years of experience, explained, “[the appraisal work] does not corrode my enjoyment at all. I never get tired of looking at art. Never bored. I love art more now than I did 20 years ago.” She continued, “[f]or me, the joy is being able to experience it and inspect it. Listen, I don’t love art because of the price, but because of the way I respond to it. When I see [Monet’s] Water Lilies I never don’t get excited. A tear comes to my eye.”
In fact “a majority of the assessors stated that ascribing values to art actually increased their admiration for paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other creative work.”
But how could that be so? Given the widely reported dangers of commodification, how could non-instrumental values blossom in the hard soil of the marketplace? Anti-commodification scholars, it seems, have failed to appreciate that market work is a powerful educational agent that breaks the stale cake of ignorance, turns apathy into understanding, and nurtures new insights about the sacred. Imagine, for example, an appraiser confronted with attaching value to Mary Cassatt’s painting, Young Mother Sewing. Anyone attempting to price such an object must, at the outset, become well-versed in the artist’s career, the provenance of the work, and the ethos of the larger impressionist movement. Then, the appraiser must probe to explain whether the painting is a “good, better, or best” example of Cassatt’s work.
… Arch-anti-commodificationist Elizabeth Anderson even suggests that those who engage in ranking and valuation of art are “philistines, snobs, and prigs, precisely those least open to a free exploration and development of their aesthetic sensibilities.” But that is quite wrong. Commodification does not render these artworks flat and fungible. And it is not carried out by Philistines. Just the opposite. Putting an accurate price on sacred objects demands education, rigorous training, and cultivation of the eye. Appraisers must understand the objects on an intimate level in order to properly evaluate their quality and make suitable comparisons between seemingly disparate works. Such knowledge only enhances appreciation for the way that creative work can exhilarate, sooth, baffle, enlighten, and uplift.
See also Tyler’s classic In Praise of Commercial Culture on these points.
What about sex?
In a sprawling literature, commentators have argued that exchanging sex for money “commodif[ies] sexuality,” degrades intimacy, “impedes human flourishing,” and foments attitudes that undermine the sacredness of the body. In short: market skeptics believe that prostitution corrupts the meaning of sex.
Clowney interviewed male escorts because he argues that the market in male escorts is freer and more developed. Male escorts, for example, are less likely to be abused by the police or pimps. Some will question that choice but for the purposes of the commodification theory it should still be the case that commodification degrades sex for the male escorts. Does it?
…the escorts I interviewed insisted that selling physical intimacy did not corrupt their understanding of sex. While the physical demands of the job often left the interviewees feeling exhausted, each of the prostitutes revealed that they continued to experience the loving (and joyfully profane) virtues of the sexual act. Indeed, a majority of escorts confided that their market work positively impacted their private lives—commercial sex honed their sexual skills, boosted their confidence, and deepened their understanding of other men.
… For these men, sex remained a joyful and cherished activity, even after years of selling their bodies.… A strong majority of the escorts reported that engaging in commercial sexual activities actually improved the quality of their private lives and their appreciation for sacred things.Just as appraisal work revealed new insights about the creative process, prostitution taught the interviewees about the complexity of desire, gave them a deeper understanding of the sexual act, and enhanced their ability to satisfy a private partner.
… Thus, far from turning sex into a flat and interchangeable commodity, market work deepened the escorts’ understanding of physical intimacy. Sex work instilled the importance of honest communication between partners, revealed that men have many different (and often colorful) needs, and showed that not all fantasies can be met by working off the same script. On these points, the market is an exacting teacher.
Clowney’s paper is a highly original, major new work in the commodification literature and contains much more of interest. Read the whole thing.
According to CNA, Tay is accused of leaving his home in Choa Chu Kang between 11:30am and 12pm, half an hour before his quarantine ended.
He thus breached his quarantine order by leaving his home to go to his neighbourhood shopping mall for breakfast without getting the permission of the Director of Medical Services, said the MOH release.
The day prior, Thursday, Apr. 23, 34-year-old Alan Tham was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment for breaching his Stay-Home Notice (SHN) to eat bak kut teh.
To be clear, I am fine with Singapore doing this, but it hard to imagine the United States enforcing quarantine with the same vigor. And on the other side, I might risk prison for laksa, but for bak kut teh?
For the pointer I thank Tuvshinzaya. and Jeet Heer asks:
I have to confess I’m becoming more pessimistic since I don’t see much signs that most countries outside Asia & the Pacific are developing the testing-tracing-isolation capabilities needed. Am I wrong about this?
An email from an anonymous MR reader, I will apply no further indentation:
“I’m flying non-stop today from SFO to IAD, and I thought you might be interested in reading this, because I haven’t seen anything similar since the start of covid maybe.
– Highway to SFO had more police presence than usual.
– I took a morning flight out of the airport, and driving though the airport roads to get to the right terminal felt quite eerie. Perhaps only saw one or two cars the whole time until we got to the terminal, and even then, I didn’t see more than three cars in front of each terminal dropping off passengers.
– I saw maybe 20 people (including employees) total in the terminal pre-TSA check. Only two travelers were not wearing masks, and none wore gloves. Every employee was wearing a mask, and almost all, if not all, were wearing gloves. None of them
– 6 feet apart reminder stickers are everywhere, including on seats.
– TSA forced distancing during security check, though not if you were traveling with other people.
– All TSA employees were wearing masks and nitrile gloves.
– Electric walkways were shut off to “conserve energy”
– I saw about 150 people (travelers, airport employees, airline employees and shop employees) on my way to the gate from security check. I’d say 5-7% weren’t wearing masks. Of the three pilots I saw, none were wearing masks or gloves.
– A lot more people than usual had paper tickets, which leads me to believe that they were all leaving SF for at least a few weeks, if not a few months (I checked my bag and was given a paper ticket even though I had the QR code on my phone). This is interesting economically given how many people are expected to file for unemployment benefits in SF over the next few weeks, and I know a lot of people who are breaking their leases and going to live with parents or someplace cheap like Nevada or Oregon.
– I boarded a 777-200 via United. I normally fly Southwest, but I think they aren’t doing coast-to-coast flights on weekends for the foreseeable future. I think almost everyone on the plane had their own row. Anyone who was sitting in the aisle was asked to move at least one seat over to allow some distancing while people walk back and forth on the plane.
– All of the flight attendants were wearing masks.
– The usual safety demonstration was conducted, but the flight attendants held up and pointed to the section in the safety card while the pilot was speaking, instead of using the life vest like normal. I suppose it was because the airline didn’t want them to take off their masks to demonstrate blowing into the tube of the life jacket.
– Prepackaged drinks and snacks only. They gave everyone two small water bottles, an additional choice of drink (only water and various juices), and three snacks. (Like I said, I usually fly Southwest and can’t remember the last time I flew United. This particular detail may or may not be relevant ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
– Everyone had the option of a blanket. They normally don’t wash these very often, so I wonder if covid forced them to wash it after every use.
– A lot more
– A few landing strips were blocked, not sure why.
– A lot more cargo ships in the bay (not docked) than what I’m used to seeing, though I could be wrong.”
Reader, when do you expect to take your next plane flight?
A [NY] state guideline says nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus.
And from a formal study:
Twenty-three days after the first positive test result in a resident at this skilled nursing facility, 57 of 89 residents (64%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Ashley Mears is an American writer, sociologist, and former fashion model. She is currently an associate professor of sociology at Boston University. Mears is the author of Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model, and is regularly quoted in media as an academic expert in the culture and economics of fashion.
I am also a big fan of her forthcoming book Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit, which is one of my favorite books of the year.
So what should I ask her? Here is more about Ashley on Google.
7. Russians mimicking famous art works (NYT).
The latest relief bill contains another $320 billion in small business relief and $25 billion for testing. Finally, we get some serious money to actually fight the virus. But as Paul Romer pointed out on twitter, this is less than half of what we spend on soft drinks!!! (Spending on soft drinks is about $65 billion annually). Soda is nice but it is not going to save lives and restart the economy. Despite monumental efforts by BARDA and CEPI we are also not investing enough in capacity for vaccine production so that if and when when a vaccine is available we can roll it out quickly to everyone (an issue I am working on).
The failure to spend on actually fighting the virus with science is mind boggling. It’s a stunning example of our inability to build. By the way, note that this failure has nothing to do with Ezra Klein’s explanation of our failure to build, the filibuster. Are we more politically divided about PCR tests than we are about unemployment insurance? I don’t think so yet we spend on the latter but not the former. The rot is deeper. A failure of imagination and boldness which is an embarrassment to the country that put a man on the moon.
In Launching the Innovation Renaissance I said the US was a welfare/warfare state and no longer an innovation state. The share of R&D in the Federal Budget, for example, has diminished from about 12% at its height in the NASA years to an all time low of about 3% in recent years. We are great at spending on welfare and warfare but all that spending has crowded out spending on innovation and now that is killing us.
The Economist has a full article on this topic, here is one good excerpt:
But the defining feature of the latest innovation revolution is breakneck speed. Companies are being forced to raise their corporate metabolism and overcome “analysis paralysis”, an affliction caused by top managers having pored over the same irrelevant case studies at business school. In a recent briefing consultants at Bain urged companies to throw out old data, test quickly and often, and assume you will be in testing mode for some time to come.
The article is interesting throughout, and here is my earlier post on the rising speed premium in a pandemic world.
Many shoppers have favored fresh and specialty brands over Big Food’s processed products in recent years, while others have opted for cheaper store brands. Now, the world’s largest makers of packaged foods say frozen pizza, pasta sauce, and mac and cheese are rising in favor as consumers in lockdown eat at home.
Nestlé SA NSRGY 3.04% became the latest to detail the trend Friday when it reported stronger organic sales growth for the first quarter driven by Americans stockpiling its DiGiorno pizza, Stouffer’s frozen meals and Hot Pockets sandwiches. Baking brands like Toll House and Carnation also performed well, it said…
Overall, U.S. store sales of soup rose 37%, canned meat climbed 60% and frozen pizza jumped 51% for the week to April 11, according to research firm Nielsen…
“We’ve seen time and time again that big brands tend to do well when people are feeling anxious and under threat,” Chief Executive Alan Jope said. He added that he expects the shift to larger brands to last a couple of years.
I wonder how general this trend is. I have seen data that readers are buying more long classic novels, and I am struck by my anecdotal observations of satellite radio. I am driving much less than before (where is there to go?), but per minute it seems I am more likely to hear “Hey Jude” and “In My Life” on the Beatles channel than in times past. Who wants to go out for their periodic 20-minute jaunt and have to sit through 6:34 of George Harrison’s “It’s All too Much”?
Here is the full WSJ story by Saabira Chaushuri. As for food, I am more inclined to consume items that can be easily shipped and stored, and if need be frozen. That favors meat and beans, and disfavors fresh fruit and bread. Frozen corn is a big winner, as are pickles. The relative durable cauliflower and squash do better than some of the more fragile vegetables, such as leaf spinach. I am not desiring comfort food per se, but I do wish to cook dishes requiring a relatively small number of items (otherwise maybe I can’t get them all), and that does almost by definition overlap with the comfort food category.
3. Podcast with Chris Murray on the IHME model (have not heard it yet).
4. Iceland update, lots of data, useful pictures.
5. A French cluster: “The overall IAR was 25.9% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 22.6-29.4), and the infection fatality rate was 0% (one-sided 97.5% CI = 0-2.1).”
That is the topic of a new paper by Farboodi, Jarosch, and Shimer, published version in here. They favor ” Immediate social distancing that ends only slowly but is not overly restrictive.” Furthermore, they test the model against data from Safegraph and also from Sweden and find that their recommendations do not depend very much on parameter values.
Here is an excerpt from the paper:
…social distancing is never too restrictive. At any point in time, the effective reproduction number for a disease is the expected number of people that an infected person infects. In contrast to the basic reproduction number, it accounts for the current level of social activity and the fraction of people who are susceptible. Importantly, optimal policy keeps the effective reproduction number above the fraction of people who are susceptible,although for a long time only mildly so. That is, social activity is such that, if almost everyone were susceptible to the disease, the disease would grow over time. That means that optimal social activity lets infections grow until the susceptible population is sufficiently small that the number of infected people starts to shrink. As the stock of infected individuals falls,the optimal ratio of the effective reproduction number to the fraction of susceptible people grows until it eventually converges to the basic reproduction number.
To understand why social distancing is never too restrictive, first observe that social activity optimally returns to its pre-pandemic level in the long run, even if a cure is never found. To understand why, suppose to the contrary that social distancing is permanently imposed, suppressing social activity below the first-best (disease-free world) level. That means that a small increase in social activity has a first-order impact on welfare. Of course, there is a cost to increasing social activity: it will lead to an increase in infections. However,since the number of infected people must converge to zero in the long run, by waiting long enough to increase social activity, the number of additional infections can be made arbitrarily small while the benefit from a marginal increase in social activity remains positive.
Recommended, one recurring theme is that people distance a lot of their own accord. That means voluntary self-policing brings many of the benefits of a lockdown. Another lesson is that we should be liberalizing at the margin.
If I have a worry, however, it has to do with the Lucas critique. People make take preliminary warnings very seriously, when they see those warnings are part of a path toward greater strictness. When the same verbal or written message is part of a path toward greater liberalization however…perhaps the momentum and perceived end point really matters?
For the pointer I thank John Alcorn.