Sunday assorted links

1. “Belgium was the worst-hit country per capita in Europe. They did systematic testing for #SARSCoV2 in long-term care facilities, just reported…o symptoms were reported in 6,244 *(74.8%)* of 8,343 people who tested positive”  Link here.

2. Scott Sumner on Joseph Conrad.

3. “On a per-capita basis, of the European majors only Germany has done better than the US in death rate”  Link here.

4. The WHO was (and is) wrong about the virus being airborne (NYT).  A remarkable story about an unfathomable error of great import.

5. Georgia Tech professors revolt over reopening.

6. Why the German anti-vaccine movement is robust.

7. Colonizing the sun?


#1 Belgium as is well known has been counting all nursing homes deaths as due to Covid-19, that’s why their count us higher. Divide by two.

Most countries undercounted to make them look better. Multiply by two.

That's a 3 month old article without any follow up on whether those early counts were accurate

You're also wildly misstating it since it doesn't say they were counting all nursing home deaths as covid. Every hard hit country was using suspected deaths in mid April since few had enough tests. Excess death analysis confirms Belgium was in hit very hard.

The divide by two comment is not from me but not the Belgium chair of the Covid-19 scientific committee.
I still think that it has to do with the reporting. Belgium excess deaths peaked at less than 100% of baseline , the UK was at 109 % and Spain ~ 100 %. Italy peaked at 2.5 x
Belgium Covid-19 matches its excess deaths reporting but the UK doesn't .
For example UK week 16 : excess deaths 12895, Covid Deaths 5770. So I don’t think the comparisons with the other European countries are fair.
and here

excess deaths in most countries the last 3 months have been 1/3 higher than official COVID deaths. Remember that is excess deaths- normally when you cancel elective procedures in the hospital system the death rate goes DOWN initially-not up. Most likely we are under reporting the deaths due to COVID to date. Eventually, the death rate due to delayed care will kick in and we will have added deaths from that as well (plus the effects of the economic disruption leading to more deaths-the fun doesn't stop).

No, it's the only country that has been reporting honestly and erring on the safe side of that.

Any numbers that don't take excess death into account are useless. Belgium is basically the only one where that doesn't change the numbers.

the excess death metric is a gray area. anybody who pretends to certain they know what it means is f.o.s.

It is very hard to measure the effects of Covid on excess deaths and the effects of the response to Covid. After all when you cancel surgeries, there will be people who develop complications who otherwise would not and a fraction of them will die. Did they die from Covid because they were already sick? Or did they die because the surgery to fix their cancer was delayed and they developed an opportunistic infection? And of course there are the issues of giving millions of people obligation free cash payments and then limiting their outlets. AUD patients are being hard hit and every metric I have seen suggest that binge drinking is way up.

Excess deaths, at best, establishes an upper limit.

Frankly though, if you have to get down into the weeds of counting this stuff, it suggests that all responses are within spitting distance of each other. With an exponential process, like infection spread, significant improvements in viral control do not show up as even mere halvings of death rates. They show up an order of magnitude lower.

Taiwan, South Korea, New Zeeland, Australia, Japan ... yeah they may have had actually superior responses outside of the error bars after running a few months of exponential growth. But even a sustained 4% random difference in spread rates would give rise to a 350% difference in mortality by now.

In the future? Maybe if some places never get things under control. But it looks increasingly likely to me that Europe just burned through its stock of high risk patients quickly while the US is doing the long slow burn.

"But even a sustained 4% random difference in spread rates would give rise to a 350% difference in mortality by now."

But the difference between South Korea and Japan with the US/Western Europe is 50 fold - far higher than 350%.

South Korea either had an advantage we aren't fully aware of (population not as susceptible, either through biology or cultural behavior) or they got lucky/good and managed to squash every single early outbreak.

You shouldn't draw too much of a conclusion from the outlier cases.

Regardless of the death rates, this is surely evidence of risk that asymptomatic people can pose and justifies the recommendation to maintain distance and wear a mask in public.

#3 is right, but anyone who has been paying even the smallest amount of attention knew that.

so . . . roughly 4% of the public?

#3's quoted comment is only a partial reading of that graph, which itself simplifies a complex reality. Indeed, the US itself is very heterogeneous, and it is misleading to aggregate New York with California, for example. It would be better not to to publicize tendentious reports, for which twitter is notorious.

Sure, but the point is even more amplified by looking at states. Here are the 12 states (incl DC) whose deaths per capita exceed the US average in descending order: NJ, NY, CT, MA, RI, DC, LA, MI, IL, MD, PA, DE. (FL and TX are far down the list, btw.) One will note that 9 of the 12 are in the Northeast Corridor between MA and DC.

Whatever the "complex reality" is, it's not about US problems due to premature re-openings and lax restrictions in Red states. It's primarily about the Northeast Corridor plus a smattering of other states (LA,MI,IL). I'm not blaming the Blue state nature of these states --- CA seems to be doing ok --- so the problem could just be regional/geographic. But, the data does not fit a story about Red states being too lax.

At the same time, Red states had more opportunity to observe the Northeast Corridor and adjust attitudes, beliefs, and policy accordingly. And the story on Red states has just begun. They had a lot of time to think about de Blasio, and they have a lot of time yet to catch up to the Northeast. While the story is still developing, I'm wary of drawing conclusions from snapshot statistics.

Treatments have improved too.

The Very Smart and Serious People here didn't know that.

Much like they didn't know that Wuhan Flu deaths in the US have been declining for 10 weeks straight and are down 92% from their daily peak.

Odd, because they watch and read all the news. One would think they are well-informed.

Also, there was a steep decline in homicides in the U.S. between September 2001 and October 2001. Yet, the October 2001 data did not lead to a widespread sentiment that there was no risk of terrorism.


-1, apples to oranges comparison.

The Death rate from Covid19 has been on a decline for months in the US.

Well here's another way of saying the same thing: the US has a higher per capita death rate than all other countries in the world except Belgium, UK, Spain, Italy, Sweden and France (and San Marino and Andorra).

I would also point out that the number of new cases (approx 100 000 in US in last two days, approx 1100 in UK, approx 450 in Italy, for example) means the US has more room for growth in this area than other major European countries.

that is what pretty much anybody who has taken a graduate level course
in virology would expect/predict . that's inherent in the nature of a viral pandemic.

It's irrelevant, because the number is going to be climbing shortly.

3. is wrong because the proper comparison for the US is the EU. So drop the UK, add back Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria etc. and the US looks pretty bad.

Why would that be the proper comparison?

The EU had no trans-national policy response. It instituted border controls between its members. And it certainly does not have anywhere near the cross border traffic of US states let the cultural affinities.

Frankly the parts of the US that look most like EU have so far done far worse the rest of the US. So I will again stand by my statement that the US will be around middle of the pack when the dust settles.

Which pack? At the beginning of this, according to some rankings, the US had the best public health system in the world. Be that as it may, the US is the strongest country for medical research, medical science and technology, and probably medical care (at least at the top end). Innovative vaccines will probably be developed in the US. And it is financially strong. So why, in your view, will it be in the middle of the pack? That would be to fail miserably. I sincerely ask, What has caused the US to go so wrong. My view, as you have seen before, is basically that no one cares about reality in the US -- not our "reality" show president, not our public health social justice warriors, not our thriving image-and-symbols industry (the media, Hollywood, TV, the news, etc.), not the wholly dissociated stock market, not the universities. There is still scientific research. But it could be way better. I don't know.

Reality is seen, rarely heard. Yet culturally and economically, the U.S. confers increasing status and money on those who manage to be heard. Decision-makers, generally, win their role by "commanding a room" or with similar skills.

You get what you pay for.

We need the Soviets to come back and, through fear, instill a sense of seriousness in our population and institutions.

Well for a start there is genetics. Covid attacks the ACE-2 protein. There is substantial genetic variance in this protein, most concentrated among those of Sub-Saharan African descent. To the old eyeball test it looks there might be some way in which these varieties make it more likely for Covid to have serious complications.

In that case we should expect to see worse cases in places with substantial African descent populations.

We also lack the legal authorities that Europe can play with. For all his blustering, President Trump cannot enact the policies of Macron or even Johnson, let alone Merkel.

Air conditioning also appears as though it may play a role. Europe, rarely has to deal with the heat (let alone the heat and humidity) of the US. It has been noticeable for years that the US uses substantially more air conditioning in both public and private.

Then there is the giant elephant in the room. The US starts from a less healthy baseline. The vast majority of fatalities occur in those with comorbidities, even among the young. Obesity and diabetes both seem to play an outsized role. Among the major developed nations, the US is far ahead of the pack on these. For health matched populations the US appears to do significantly better, but that has not yet been formally assessed. When you start a half lap behind, being in the middle of the pack means something actually did work a lot better.

Last I checked, the US death rate from Covid is substantially better for non-metabolic syndrome patients. Last I checked, the US death is substantially better for metabolic syndrome patients. Yet by having more of the latter to start with the overall rate is comparable. Simpson's paradox plays quite strongly in all American Healthcare.

Merkel certainly has no more, and quite likely less, power to enact policies in the public health realm than Trump. Alex had a post here about German federalism in this regard, while Tyler wrote a Bloomberg column.

+1, the success of Germany is no responsibility of Merkel.

Or no consequence, rather.

“ The EU had no trans-national policy response. It instituted border controls between its members.”. That is the point of the comparison. The US is “too big to succeed”. Success seems to correlate with size. The US should have been much faster to decentralize the response and close state borders. The ability to do that has made the EU much more successful than the US, Brazil or Russia.

Would love to see some work on how much spread occurred by people leaving New York. I don’t think it was huge, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was middling, and when things can grow exponentially...

I feel like not quarantining New York was a mistake. Pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic means that, like Taleb wrote, you need to be willing to isolate entire neighborhoods. Thinking this will just some how disappear is just lazy. Reading the stories about the housing estate in Melbourne with interest.

Well it should have been the entire region, not just New York. But yes some quarantine probably would have substantially slowed the spread. And I seen many stories on New Yorker's fleeing the city from Covid19, it seems likely that this population was sicker than the population of the area they fled to.

Has the USA ever closed state borders?


"In 1900, the U.S. Supreme Court had the chance to address the legality of these actions when Louisiana accused neighboring Texas of using yellow fever as a pretext to close its borders when in truth the rules were intended to protect local businesses from competition. The justices dismissed the case on other grounds, and have not touched the subject since."

Re Georgia Tech...In the legal world, you look at risk and the cost to mitigate the risk when it is foreseeable. Here, wearing a cloth mask is very inexpensive and easy to do. I really don’t understand why people are not wearing masks when the benefits to both parties are high and the cost is low.

But a cloth mask works only if you believe the who is correct in the spread caused only by large droplets.

If you believe the critics of the WHO position that it is very fine particles, the N95 masks are not sufficient to completely protect against spread.

Do you agree with the WHO?

Or is the WHO wrong? And thus the Georgia Tech faculty are correct opening plans are inadequate....

Watch out for "only" and "it is." These phenomena are not binary. Although the WHO seems to be a phenomenon that is infected with binarism.

Eitherway, they still help reduce infections...

Presumably protection that offers some significant protection yet less than 100% protection can still be valuable. Especially if one is looking not just at individual risk but taking more of a public-health PoV by considering the resulting R-value.

Which perhaps is part of the problem: public health often balances public benefits against restricting individual freedom, thus producing inevitable conflicts. Given that public health pits the coercive power of government against each individual's wish to perform an individual risk-vs-benefit analysis, public health measures are sure to generate conflicts. Even if the public risks and benefits could be precisely calculated, which is rarely the case.

As for whether the virus can be transmitted by aerosols, this inevitably involves the fluid dynamics of air in spaces in which people are moving about, fans are blowing and sucking, doors are opening (etc.) as well as evaluations of the size and of airborne infectious material. Given the difficulty in obtaining relevant as well as reliable experimental results (and the near-impossibility of accurate simulations), it hardly seems surprising that there is less than full scientific consensus here.

Of course, the public always wants definite answers, and especially positive advice of the "if you do this you (and your older relatives) will be safe."

As for masks, if you've ever worn an N-95 mask you know that they quickly become very uncomfortable and unpleasant to wear. Thus, it's probably just as well that we're all wearing those possibly-effective cheap made-in-China cloth masks (or homemade ones), for even if there were an unlimited supply of N-95 masks I doubt many would be willing to wear them for any length of time.

false assertion-" But a cloth mask works only if you believe the who is correct in the spread caused only by large droplets."

can you spot the flaw in your reasoning ?

It's just a flaw in wording. Take out "you believe."

No, it's also a flaw in understanding. A cloth mask would undoubtedly reduce the spread.

The stats indicate that cloth masks stop 50% of droplets, surgical masks stop 80% and N95 masks stop 95%. Granted, those are generic figures and we don't know what the percentages for actual Covid19 are, but still it's reasonable to conclude that cloth masks are far better than nothing.

Because the signaling costs are high in some social groups. And because wearing a mask forces a re-examination of prior beliefs that may lead to far more costly behavioral changes. Masks are a gateway precaution.

The masks are a diversion. The real question in any contaminating environment it the value derived from spending time in that environment and whether the cost-benefit changes if you can mitigate the risks with mitigation.

So with cloth face coverings, the recommended "masks", they offer virtually no protection to the wearer while logically would block some spittle from the wearer that is a threat to others (assuming they are infective). But cloth face coverings do not filter the close-range, enclosed space aerosols and spending 50 minutes in one place with the aerosols growing from others in the room while at least one person engages in spittle-making activities of projecting their voice, the viral load, if present, cumulatively could become sufficient for spread.

A properly fitted NIOSH approved N95 mask would, in theory, reduce the viral load to only 5% of that in the environment thus increasing the time before the cumulative viral load reached that of the cloth face covering.

So the first question is, is the value of what is being offered high enough to overcome the risks necessary to achieve it? Do masks change this calculation and if so which level of protection.

Obviously, supplied air masks would be the safest, if not full one positive pressurized suits. But only if the supplied air was from a certified source that decontaminated the air as they produced it, since the virus is everywhere...if we are to believe the "experts".

I like the spacesuits idea

false assertion- "since the virus is everywhere...if we are to believe the "experts"."

Starting to understand Sweden’s numbers.

where did the experts say the virus was "everywhere"

Masks are not a diversion. Masks are one of the few ways many people can do anything to influence their likelihood of spreading the virus to others.

"So with cloth face coverings, the recommended "masks", they offer virtually no protection to the wearer"

That's just wrong. The evidence indicates they block 50% of particles at close range vs 80% of a surgical mask. Viral load seems to matter. So blocking 50% will matter a great deal.

would anybody else be willing to voluntarily stop using the stupid sociology buzzwords signaling, nudging, triggered, divisive, unsafe, safe space & snowflake for the duration of the current viral pandemic?

Requiring students to wear masks combines with pooled testing and increasing building airflow (it;s an engineering school :)) should alleviate faculty concerns.

nah, only eliminating tenure will.

A cloth mask allows me to enter indoor public spaces without offending people or breaking the law.

Anyone who thinks that a cloth mask will keep me from getting COVID-19 is delusional. It may reduce the risk on the margin.

Basically probably true, but only our Chinese friends, inscrutable as they are, have figured out how to make masks that work and profitably distribute them worldwide on a permanent basis. In friendly cooperation, that is, with the Americans who no doubt invented the technology.

Expecting masks to provide total protection is totally delusional. There is a lot to be said, though, for how they slow down your breath and keep it closer to you. Notice how glasses fog up when you wear one. Your breath is escaping for sure--otherwise, the glasses wouldn't fog up. Still, its velocity and travel distance are reduced--as shown by the same fogging of the glasses. Not failsafe by any measure, and someone within a few feet is probably still in danger if you're infected. Still, masks probably make everyone safer than otherwise. Who knows how much, but they are no doubt a tool with little downside, except minor discomfort. Imagine not wearing one turning out to be wrong.

And the turning out to be wrong is what needs to focused on frequently. The situation is new, and evidence remains short. As such, a high level of confidence about masks or anything else virus-related is generally not warranted. What is warranted is precaution, especially when it's cheap and easy.

Reducing risk on the margin is what it's all about. A 10% reduction in infection due to masks can have a massive effect on a compounding exponential growth. If 9 people get infected instead of 10, then in five more generations of spread, instead of a million infected people you would have 531,000. If the mask is 50% effective, after five more generations you woild only have 59,000 people infected instead of a million.

In an exponential growth scenario, small changes that compound can result in huge changes in the end.

Exactly, and I'd toss in a corollary: Exponential error. In a power-law situation, small errors can have exponentially impactful unexpected consequences. And the possibility of error, in this case, is itself compounded by the novelty. Which means that the proper response to the situation is less about predicting and arguing over specific possible outcomes and more about positioning yourself for a range of outcomes, some terrible, some maybe not.

#3: It seems a little harsh to call Poland not a major. They do have 38 million people.

Btw are US deaths finally up yet? Or still staying down? (As NYT put it, 2 days ago: Inflection point was mid-June, previous curve comparison suggested US deaths matched case curve by about 11 days ( Albeit this curve comparison in practice based primarily on data from badly mishandled not fit for purpose NYC response...

Still on track for slowly declining deaths. Looking at Worldometers the last week still seems to be lower on average than the previous week.

Average number of Covid-19 deaths a day:

May 16 to May 22......1,400
May 23 to May 29......1,000
May 30 to Jun 5.............940
Jun 6 to Jun 12...............770
Jun 13 to Jun 19.............660
Jun 20 to Jun 26.............600
Jun 27 to Jul 3................490

+1, for actually bringing the relevant statistics to the discussion

It is harsh but a standard view in Europe. Also Poland is far below Spain or Italy in GDP. Only in area is Poland above two of the five "majors", the UK and Italy.

(In 2016, there was thus summit hosted by Merkel joining Obama and the chief of states of the "major" countries of EU: France, Germany, UK, Italy, Spain -- not Poland. And I recall the absence of Poland was discussed here already)

It is a painful attempt to make the US look better by massaging the data. Cutting out half the EU, and adding the UK is a joke. The “populist” Central European nations have managed the crisis better than almost any non-Asian nations but that doesn’t fit the narrative of the American left (“but populists are incompetent!”) or the American right (“lockdowns are bad! Masks are bad”).

The UK isn't in Europe? Did they actually physically move?

I don't understand why after three months people are still saying some country "have managed the crisis better" as if all populations are mostly the same. Why does every single Asian country have *far* lower deaths per capita than North America and Europe?

Are you hypothesizing a strong role for genetics? If so, why are Australia and New Zealand in the East Asian and not Northern European neighborhood when it comes to mortality rates? And why is the mortality rate in Wuhan city 400 per million.

Geography and the flow of people across borders combined with the timing of social distancing probably tells a more accurate story. Some combination of luck and policy seems to have kept SARS-CoV-2 from rapidly infecting a critical mass of people by March almost everywhere in the Asia Pacific region except for Wuhan city itself.

The obvious answer seems to be masks and avoiding large public gatherings. Most of Asia immediately adopted those practices. So did the Czech Republic - and they are also doing well.

"Masks/shelter in place order are ineffective" != "Populists are bad at responding".

Former are a reasonable pair of scientific contentions. Did falls in R0 really reliably follow lockdown? Quite a bit of mobility and infection curve evidence suggests not really. Do masks really reduce outdoor transmission? Quite a bit of evidence suggests outdoor transmission between strangers passing each other may barely exist to begin with. To be clear I think these are not solved, particularly the latter.

"Populists are bad at responding" is simply political wishful thinking directly refuted by evidence (akin to if the right were to wish that Communists responded uniformly or predominantly poorly, and went on saying so even when they didn't). Something dreamed up by the "meritocrats" of developed world to try and justify their positions.

re #3:
Most Americans believe some form of "we're the only mature economy that can't mount an effective response to a pandemic ".

Probably even Tyler and Alex with their high GREs.

Generally, comments including words like"only" should be carefully considered before posting a a possible straw-man argument.

except that "strawman" only "mature ... blah blah" argument is the stated position of the newwoketimes, cnn
& the washingtonpissed.cons.
if the major media is pushing that narrative it is not correct to misdefine it as a strawman

The US response has been and continues to be not only a huge disappointment to Americans and the whole rest of the world, but continues to be a disaster, having killed many old people, and now going after largely younger people, with unknown consequences. It does appear that most developed economies have a better handle on the pandemic than does the US. What is true, and what makes the US an outlier with respect to developed economies (but not with respect to countries like Mexico and Brazil), is that many people -- public health personnel, the administration, Trump, many state governors, protesters, social justice warriors -- never had a grasp that something real was happening. They still don't.

There are really two Americas. There is the northeast, centered around New York, which had a disastrous response with deaths per capita several times that of any other country. And you have the rest of the US, which has performed much closer to the nations usually described as having an excellent response.

But for some reason, it's Republicans that get blamed when the numbers for the US as a whole don't look good.

I guess there must be a higher category, perhaps 'stellar,' for countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, S. Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland. I would include China, except that some commenters would point out what is true, that the whole thing started there, and they covered it up for a month or so. But it has done very well since. There is no reason why the US could not, with its financial and medical resources, have come close to or even matched the responses of the above-listed countries (I am sure I am leaving some out). So the real issue here is not to try to blame one's political enemies, since there is plenty of blame to go around, but rather to ask an urgent question: What the hell is going on with this country???

But it is absurd to judge the success of a policy uniquely by the number of cases and number of deaths due to Covid-19. The cost of that policy, in terms of restriction of freedom, suspension of education, postponement of "non-urgent" medical care, massive reduction of GDP and forced unemployment, and all the deaths this is causing now and will cause in the future, all that cost must be taken into account. We may have different value on this, but for me, those factors are very important (e.g. a young African getting AIDS and dying in ten years because of disruption of supply of condoms is worth as much as a death in a nursing home here) and the US has done much better than France, China, India, the UK for examples. Only Japan has done clearly better.

I notice that you are using a past tense ("has done"). Certainly not true in the present and the foreseeable future. As to "only Japan," you seem to have forgotten Taiwan, Singapore, China (but only a mainland 1.3 billion people, so why mention them?) Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, and more.

You seem to have reading issues. For instance, I mentioned China. And you missed my point entirely.

the u.s. is mounting an effective response to the pandemic.
the people who do disaster management correctly define a "disaster"
as an event that overwhelms the available resources. that is what happens in a disaster and that is what has happened to an extent here.

That's a literal copy / pasta from a facebook friend who takes that position.

He may, in fact, be made of straw. But I didn't strawman him.

has your friend ever taken a graduate level virology course?
our point is that the media reporting on the epidemic is primarily
political and that is not in the interests of the health of Americans

+1, I've seen enough similar comments to think the strawman response was misdirected.

As a boomer I grew up with the message "we" could solve every problem.

The conservatives gained increasing power with Reagan's election and their message that "we" can't solve any problem, and Trump is the person who shouts that the louded, saying "only I can fix everything".

-false assertion numero uno -"As a boomer I grew up with the message "we" could solve "every "problem.
-false assertion- numero dos- "The conservatives gained increasing power with Reagan's election and their message that "we" can't solve "any "problem
we are getting a whiff of an overpriced sociology school

Perhaps the USA isn't a mature economy.

I think the point is that the US did better than many mature economies.

6. the german anti vaccine movement is perhaps not as robust (batshit crazy) as the farrakhan antivaccine movement

But is it more robust than the Misean antivaccine movement?

Or try searching for "vaccines" on Lew Rockwell. Or just watch 2016 Republican debates.

we reckon Farrakhan vaccine conspiracy is more batshit crazy than the miseas institute or the republican debates.

Because he is Black or (allegedly) Muslim?

no. because of this part
"They’re making money now, plotting to give seven billion, five-hundred million people a vaccination.
Dr. Fauci, Bill Gates and Melinda — you want to depopulate the Earth. What the hell gave you that right? Who are you to sit down with your billion to talk about who can live, and who should die?” Farrakhan said.
“That’s why your world is coming to an end quickly, because you have sentenced billions to death, but God is now sentencing you to the death that you are sentencing to others,”

"Because he is Black or (allegedly) Muslim?"

Take your racist comments elsewhere, jerk.

#2 and now Joseph Conrad on my reading list
A. Why oh why do I love lists?
B. How come lists is so appealing?
C. Do you remember 'The Book of Lists'?
I got that book as a teenager, loved it.

See also: Umberto Eco/The Infinity of Lists (Rizzoli, 2009).

Yeah, I blame Sumner for making me download several of Conrad's short stories despite having a ton of other reading I'm trying to get done.

3. USA is larger, more spacious, and growing. Specific states like NY (state) are already above European countries. Florida is heading there, maybe Texas.

Yes. Europe has a population density that is 3.5 times that of the US. They are also older.

And live more closely together, which plays into a culture that spends more time in public spaces.

Deaths per capita:

US .00037
Florida .00018
NY .0012

When do you predict Florida's death rate to surpass New York's?

People comparing NY to the South are leaving out the fact that there now is a much better array of treatment options than even three months ago. Much of the trial & error that got us there happened in the Northeast.

#4 breathing, talking , can generate aerosols. Talking more than normal breathing, and loud talking and singing significantly more than talking softly. The vibrations of the vocal chords , lubricated by saliva ( which contains the virus) will do it.
Masks are protective. Outdoors is better than indoors. Aerosols will contain a lower dose.
In SARS_CoV there was a case of transmission in an apartment complex probably through aerosols.
Proximity to the index case was correlated to severity of disease, indicating dose played a role.

I well remember it. I remember being shocked at the fake cannibalism photo. That and the Peoples Almanac books were basically precursors to the Internet, but so much more mellow and welcoming.

#7 You know, as much as I like the Sun, I think we have much more pressing problems here, on good, old Earth to deal with. Chinese recent aggressive moves against its peaceful neighbours and the escalation of its anti-American propaganda are, to not put too fine a point on it, two sides of the same crooked coin. I think we should start shipping military advisers and military equipment to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and make clear to China that there will be more Munichs and that any further attack against Myanmar, Vietnam, India or the Philippines will be considered an attack on America itself and treated as such.

#5 With professors loudly proclaiming that universities are as relevant in a pandemic as casinos and cruise ships, and that online education is fine because quality doesn't really matter, we may be looking at the end of higher education as we know it.

"... end of higher education as we know it ..."

Good! It's a rip off. It's also a training ground for lunatic, postmodernist terrorists.

Based on the quotes in the article, it doesn't sound like the professors are pushing for online classes.

What they are pushing for is mandatory wearing of masks inside buildings and classrooms, which would seem to be common sense but not the Georgia's higher education commission.

3. Should say "so far." US deaths are now increasing much more than European deaths. Who knows where things will shake out in the end.

Also, deaths are not the only or even the best measure of damage done by the pandemic, especially when you consider that many of the deaths are people in nursing homes who would have died shortly anyway. Having lots of infections creates the potential that some people who are infected will go through a painful, frightening, and expensive disease with possible long-term impacts, creates fear that causes many people to voluntarily refrain from regular social and economic activity, and causes governments to pass policies such as closing of schools and travel bans that are extremely disruptive to ordinary people's lives.

I'd much rather have had a pandemic that is already basically over today, even with nursing home deaths comparable to the worst-hit parts of Europe, then a continuing pandemic with no end in sight but at least we improved at protecting nursing home patients and getting better treatments.

The US death rate has been going down since Apr 20th ( 7 day moving avg) and has never ticked up even a little since Jun 2nd.

Indeed. It may continue to do so or not. I'm a bit doubtful on a large uptick of deaths but let's see.

"Over" is a bit of an overstatement for Europe; consider Spain, which locked down 200,000 in Catalonia yesterday (roughly equivalent to locking down a state of 2 million in the US) and La Marina in Galicia today.

Zaua may have meant cumulative deaths. In the US, they are still accumulating, at a larger rate than in most of the comparison countries, and there is no end in sight until a vaccine arrives, at which time a substantial portion of the US population will find yet another reason to avoid reality. What is wrong with us??

"and there is no end in sight until a vaccine arrives"

That seems fundamentally incorrect. The death rate has been declining steady for weeks now, really more like months.

I think the thread above is talking about deaths/population rather than deaths/cases. I don't think deaths/cases would be a very helpful measure at all; I'd say a country with a tiny number of cases but a high death/cases rate because it happened to have a cluster in a nursing home is doing quite well.

lower deaths per cases might indicate a more effective "response"

#5, I have an idea. Why not cut tuition by 75% and cut professors' salaries by 75% -- then school can resume on line & everyone can stay home forever.

I do think the professors should share in the economic pain of not opening the school. If the local minimum wage workers have to go back to work to pay the bills, why should the elite be protected?

Before we go after the profs, don't you think a massive downsizing of the administration should come first? After all, professors are still needed to teach online, but the vast army of diversity officials, coordinators, directors, and other positions that have bloated colleges since the era of easy student loan money are even less useful than they were, assuming you can have negative usefulness.

How about going back to the administrative size of colleges back in the dark ages? Say, 1985.

4. Why does this blog continue to signal boost the NYT given how biased, activist and unjournalistic they have become (as noted by this blog)?

You wanna cry? Do you need a safe space?

No, but I do appreciate the offer. I think the question is legitimate - why drive customers towards what you have identified as a bad, or at least bad faith actor?

I don't see how this attitude is constructive coming from anyone with internet access. NYT is reporting on a scientific controversy between WHO and 239 scientists who signed an open letter. It quotes a number of people on both sides and, if you want to consult some primary sources, you can surely find some by simply googling the names of the people quoted. Have you identified anything in the article that is wrong or that misrepresents a person's or institution's point of view?

The WHO analysis isn't as goofy as the link next to it: Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Speech to Deliver Divisive Culture War Message

"why drive customers towards what you have identified as a bad, or at least bad faith actor?"

Because otherwise we would have to stop paying attention to the president, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, FOX News, CBS, etc.

"Because otherwise we would have to stop paying attention to the president, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, FOX News, CBS, etc."

Having done exactly this years ago, I can tell you that it has left no great lack in my life. Give it a try.

A Safe Place ---> The Bubble
Highly Recommended

The conclusions you draw are up to you. Personally, my takeaway is that the professional kibitzers have decided who among a group of experts are correct on a subject that said kibitzers likely barely understand.

"Signal boost" is the worst right meme, the exact converse of "platforming"; what we used to call the marketplace of ideas; too much money for Zuck' and pals in filling the marketplace with more profitable rage clicks.

is the newwoketimes.con style guide actually capitalizing black & latino
but not white?
+1 paroxysms of cachinations
its a cultish culty cult cult
who knows cults
James Lindsay knows cults

One feature not mentioned about the curves in #1 is that the big European countries got hit harder initially but are now reporting fewer deaths than the US except for the UK. Their cases are not spiking again either, at least not yet. It's a bit early for anybody to declare victory.

Did we squander a less dire situation? Here in Georgia deaths are still going down, but we now have 1700 hospitalized, as opposed to 1500 when we first reopened. Will the death rate stay low? It is rising in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Also, morbidities may eventually play a major role in measuring the effectiveness of responses.

Oops. The curves mentioned are in #3.

Kill all the vulnerable quickly, and the disease them burns itself out.

Maybe, but in my county we have had total cases during the pandemic double since just June 21. I've heard doctors comment that many patients that are hospitalized stay there for weeks before they either recover or succumb. I'm not totally convinced that a lag may still be looming, especially if the virus eventually finds the vulnerable through the young. Fifty new patients were admitted here just this week in two hospitals serving a population of 150,000. I hope something has changed that has permanently changed the mortality rate (better treatment, weakened virus, etc.), but I know that there are still plenty of vulnerable remaining like my parents and many of their friends.

+1, this is a good thoughtful post.

#4) "The agency also must consider the needs of all its member nations, including those with limited resources, and make sure its recommendations are tempered by 'availability, feasibility, compliance, resource implications,' she said.

Once again, we see the problem with those that insist on mixing positive with normative. No, one does not need to consider normative questions like, "What measures should we spend our limited resources on?" when considering positive questions like, "What is the risk of virus spread through the air?" Tell people what the risks are and let policymakers make the judgement as to whether addressing those risks are worth the costs given their resources. One does not need to downplay the risks just so that those with limited resources don't feel as bad about the tradeoffs they are making. (Conversely, one should also not exaggerate risks whenever one disagrees with others' normative judgements about how much to spend on alleviating those risks.)

#6 because nothing bad would ever happen to a German citizen.

Same attitude to the potential war with Russia.

Let Americans fight for Europe.

Free riders

5. I suspect this will be common. Why GT now? Because anybody living in Georgia knows that covid is a left-wing conspiracy to defeat Trump. Folks in the South don't care for academics anyway: if they get covid, they likely deserve it. It's not like the governor or the legislature will act in a socially-conscious manner and implement policies to limit the spread of covid on campus. Here's an oddity: restaurants are moving South from big cities in the North to avoid covid, while college professor may well be moving North from places in the South to avoid covid. Coming and going.

Liberty University stayed open this spring, to much criticism. When it turned out that they incurred no new cases, everyone stopped talking about them.

But you cannot resist trolling. "While some other schools locked the doors to dorms after spring break and as the pandemic spread, Falwell said he let 1,500 students return to dorms under strict rules of social distancing. Most returned because they had elderly parents at home they wanted to keep safe, or they didn’t have internet, or they were international students.

They learned online, and eagerly, as the school logged its 100,000th “distance” student. They ordered out as the school restaurants turned to takeout meals.

Still, some, especially in the media, raised alarms that little was being done to prevent infection.

But the state health department conducted two surprise inspections and found everything in order and in compliance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s rules. “All operations appeared to be in compliance with the governor’s emergency order,” said Jim Bowles, a state health manager before critical stories in the New York Times and ProPublica appeared."

-1, None of what you posted contradicted his comment.

4. I don't think this is a good story. It skews what we have long known to create a controversy. We have always known the virus was "airborne." That is how the Korean Church super spreading event was described from day one. That's why it was a vital to get health care workers proper PPE. It is why N95 masks were important from day one.

(It is why N95 masks for everyone would be great right now.)

This story just plays with minor uncertainties, and pumps up big drama around words alike "primarily." What droplet size is "primarily" the size of infection and how long does it stay aloft?

Does anyone know? Does it really matter? Does it change our action plan?

The idea that we should wear masks and limit our indoor interactions with the public has been around for months!

(I have been telling everyone I know for at least a month to shop in the morning, because the virus builds up in the air all day.)

That would be a useful precaution. Do we know how long it stays airborne? If 5 mins, then eh. 5 hours, then sure.


What? For the first few months the message was the virus was spreading via fomites and that masks were potentially worse than not wearing masks.

Anyone with family in China knew it was aerosols. We bought up every N95 and shipped it to family for months while the CDC recs were, in the words of their spokesman:

“We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.”

Lest we forget:

January 21st: Taiwan issues mask guidance for public and bans export
January: CDC says masks are ineffective
February: CDC says to stop buying masks
March: CDC guidance is to not purchase or wear masks
Mid April: CDC guidance is to wear cloth masks

Don’t memory hole this incredible f up

Health officials in Australia also advised against using masks yet only 100 Australians have died of Covid-19.

They didn't advise against masks, they didn't advise for them. A mistake that may have cost literally dozens of lives.

ABC News: "Australians advised not to wear face masks amid coronavirus pandemic"

Wow, that was some bad advice from Paul Kelly. When asked five days ago about masks he responded with waffle. Deadly waffle.

Thanks goodness we're smart enough to evaluate the evidence ourselves.

No one who read last month of the problems at chicken processing plants should be surprised by anything in #4 at all.

#7 Hanson's idea is conceptual, short on details, So far the highest operating temperature electronics ( SIC, diamond) operate below 1000 K. that would put you away from the photosphere, and actually out from the photosphere, to the chromosphere and corona the temperature climbs to close to 10^6 K, 3000 km above the photosphere.
The sun has no solid surface, everything would have to be in orbit.
What would you build there, there is only hydrogen and helium , maybe some lithium ? so material has to be imported
You'd have to protect your robots from high magnetic fields, solar flares, solar prominences. It’s a difficult environment. It seems the main reason is to harvest energy for computation, How would you harvest energy on a massive scale exactly in that environment ?
The energy needed per computation is likely to keep declining further as it has in the past. If we want to decline it to close to KT, it would seem lower temperatures are more advantageous.

The article is border line silly. His response that we can't colonize anywhere yet, so we might as well go Big is a bit absurd.

Yes, we don't have the working hardware to colonize Mars, but we do have the technology to do it. A trillion dollars and we could have a reasonably self sufficient colony on Mars. But it's probably not worth it. So we'll wait for the cost to drop to the point it is worth it to somebody.

Furthermore, he identifies energy as being the critical resource. That's silly. You could build dozens of nuclear reactors on Mars and not have to worry about a melt down destroying the local biosphere. You could build vast arrays of solar fields on Mars and not worry about the local desert turtles or even cloudy weather. Yes, the solar incidence is lower on Mars (roughly 59% of Earth) but you'd still net just as much as you would on a country such as Germany today.

However, we don't even remotely have the technology to colonize the surface of the Sun. The closest we've come to the Sun is just under 4 million miles away.

It's also not like sci-fi hasn't explored this concept, just not as "the surface" of the sun. The energy limitation is well known, hence the concept of a Dyson Sphere, although a Dyson Net is much more practical (and both require levels of tech we're not at).

4. Economists who take the position that the Fed announcing lower interest rates is contractionary are considered chin-rubbing wise. So what is WHO to do. If WHO says that covid is in the air, folks will not go out to breath the air, but if WHO says nothing about covid in the air, folks are less likely to fear the air and more likely to resume their everyday lives as consumers out in the air. What is WHO to do? Are the economists wise but the WHO is stupid. or are the economists stupid and the WHO is stupid. Who is stupid: the WHO or the WHO critics? Or the economists who are the WHO's who? Who are you kidding when you expect more of the WHO than the economists who are the WHO's who?

#2 - "I figured that Conrad would cheer me up" - huh? Same Joseph Conrad? Interestingly I also recently picked up some old Conrad books and found them relentlessly depressing. I had to force myself to finish Lord Jim. It's OK to have a tragic ending, Shakespeare had a lot of those, but you need some fun stuff SOMEWHERE.

They are depressing in a way. But they're also lacking in anger. His books feel like they're showing the world as it is. I don't think there's any agenda in Joseph Conrad. That's a huge part of his appeal to me. He believes that we as humans can witness events and describe them for what they are, and not have to worry about our views being warped by our ideology, politics, etc.

I should rephrase that, there's anger at the wrongs in the world in Conrad, but not righteousness.

I have no idea about this, but I've been wondering if the Pandemic has made it easier to find and target terrorist leaders.

7. The conclusion that colonizing the sun is most likely seems unlikely. Like many science fiction writers the post writer doesn't follow through on her big idea. Why colonize the sun when you can destroy the sun? This will allow for more heat and more cooling, allowing for greater computation although for a shorter period of time. But is a natural consequence of any situation where discount rates are positive.

"Why colonize the sun when you can destroy the sun?"

Well technically colonizing the sun would be far easier than destroying it. But in the way that: Impossible is easier than Impossible Squared.

"Ever since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun."
-- Montgomery Burns

Colonizing the Sun would be colonizing a continuous nuclear explosion. It really doesn't make any kind of sense.

#1 Covid19 asymptomatic data are hard to come by. A non-peer review paper provided 9 data point. Now I got another one. With only the prev precious 9 data points all the clades show no trends except for the Nextstrain Clade 20A which shows a statistically very significant trend,

PctAsym = +12.08 +0.68*Pct20A; #n=9; Rsq=0.7363; p=0.003077 ** (VSig)

Belgium is dominated by Clade 20A (47%), so Belgium reaffirms the trend. However the killer Clade 20B is muscling in. Strange that BE had a lone full sequenced Clade 19B data in Feb and no more data until Mar. Like California it is most probably that the early clades are 19s. Sweden did full sequencing late and the early data did show clade 19s were dominant before being almost totally replaced by clade 20s from D614G mutation. That shows the weasel words from the SJWonk-ers who claimed that D614G clade is dominant because it was the founder strain rather than it has specifically adapted to Europeans. Sweden Clade 20s 94%, NewYork 90%, Belgium 89%, Singapore 9%, South Korea 0%.

Japan 54%. Too many US soldiers in Japan?? :)

There are roughly 50K US soldiers in Japan versus 25K in South Korea. So that's probably not the reason.

# 4 And typically with no opportunity for comments!

#5: One of the big sticking points seems to be not requiring students to wear masks to class. I humbly suggest that an 18-yo that's not smart enough to wear a mask to class isn't smart enough to attend Georgia Tech and should be immediately expelled.

7 fun. Maybe this response means 23% of respondents are uncommonly good at geometry and know that activity in the asteroid belt is on average closer to the sun than to mars. (just as earth is closer to the sun than to venus)

It's entirely implausible that genetics has no effect. But I will admit surprise that the effect is related to our Neanderthal ancestry.

2. Great post. I especially appreciated that it was mostly not about HoD.

The article on the Sun may be a waste of time, or not.

But what i want to know is why can't we shoot our nuclear waste into the sun. Seems to solve a lot of problems.

"why can't we shoot our nuclear waste into the sun. "

Well there's a litany of reasons.
a) rockets sometimes explode and each of those rockets would be a dirty bomb
b) if you were going to launch them into space any way, the moon is a much cheaper destination
c) space is really big and if you didn't want to pay to send then to the moon it would be trivial to put them into a 1 million year orbit that's cheaper than either the sun or the moon and you could re-use the valuable isotopes in the future if you needed to
d) we can fairly trivially isolate them in the Earth. Yucca mountain was good for 10K years of storage. The mistake there was putting in a state that would elect a future Speaker for the Senate and not making the bribe conditional. Once the bulk of the Federal money had been spent on his constituents Speak Harry Reid had no incentive to avoid closing the Federal Waste repository and sticking other states with the Wast that they had already paid for the Feds to take.

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