Category Archives: Science

Love Donald, By All Means, But Why DIE FOR THE GUY?!

COVID-19, Democrats, Donald Trump, Healthcare, Reason, Republicans, Science

One wonders if there is a difference in COVID infection rates between Trump opponents and his supporters.

The Economist: “…a third of Americans who had voted for Mr Trump said they thought covid-19 was either a minor problem nationwide or not a problem at all. A recent Gallup poll showed that 94% of Democrats say they always or very often wear a mask when outside their homes compared with 46% of Republicans (and 68% of independents).”

… evidence suggests that younger adults are behind the latest surge in the virus. In Floridathe median age of covid-19 patients has dropped from 65 to near 40. Third, there is usually a lag of several weeks between a patient contracting the illness and when the patient’s death is reported to state authorities. Fourth, doctors seem to have become better at treating severe cases of covid-19, reducing the death rate even for those who must be hospitalised.

Given the rise in cases, however, it seems unlikely that the death rate will remain stagnant for much longer. Deaths for patients infected weeks ago will probably start to pile up. Some morgues in Arizona and Texas are running out of capacity and are already seeking refrigerated trucks, just as those in New York City did months ago. Uncontrolled community transmission among young people is likely to result in a spread in nursing homes, where a large share of fatalities occurs among the more vulnerable elderly. Should hospital capacity become strained, as appears to be the case in Houston, the quality of care could deteriorate and result in increased deaths as well.

Denial has not proved to be a particularly effective virus-suppression strategy. When polled by YouGov last week, a third of Americans who had voted for Mr Trump said they thought covid-19 was either a minor problem nationwide or not a problem at all. A recent Gallup poll showed that 94% of Democrats say they always or very often wear a mask when outside their homes compared with 46% of Republicans (and 68% of independents). To many voters, worry about the virus transmuted into coded disapproval of the president; mask-wearing is seen as a talisman of deranged coastal liberalism.

MORE: Covid deaths v cases:America is in the midst of an extraordinary surge of covid-19. Will the gap between cases and deaths persist?

*Image courtesy the Economist

I’m No Lockdown Fan, BUT Matt Labash Won The Day On The Science

COVID-19, Ethics, Iraq, Logic, Republicans, Science

All the points and math covered by Matt Labash, below, are discussed in my home, but never shared on larger platforms. There is no point. Rightists (check) are expected to follow the Republican party-line and say anything to back The Leader. Unsuited to obedience, this writer didn’t think like a Republican on Iraq, fatalities and invasion. And I won’t do it with COVID.

On March 5, I wrote “Unmasking Statist, Socialist Propaganda About ‘Face Masks’”. This was a full month before the CDC and WHO (so-called experts) reversed their asinine illogic on so basic a prophylactic measure as a mask. This negligence cost thousands of lives.

Imagine if my column, predictive for 20 years, was in the WaPo, instead of the lick-spittle establishment piffle currently littering that and other op-ed pages.

As young men died like flies for nothing in Iraq, the Republican establishment celebrated “mission accomplished.” None of its followers in the media mentioned the obscene loss of life. Anyone who did, suffered a fate equivalent to being cancelled and de-platformed today.

Thus, Matt Labash, whom I appreciate, is wasting his time.

From “The big debate: is lockdown wrong? May 26, 2020“:

* “the US has lost 100,000 people in roughly two months. (That number will rise again as soon as I’m done typing this sentence.)”

* “‘no more deadly than a bad bout of the seasonal flu.’ Not in our parts. Our very worst flu season of the last decade was 2017-18, which resulted in 61,000 deaths. And it took an entire flu-year to kill that many people.”

“In April of this year alone, COVID was responsible for 58,705 deaths. So we essentially had the equivalent of the worst flu year in recent history, in just one month. So far this month, with just two-thirds of it passed, we’ve had 37,829 more deaths. And that’s just as of this writing, something I will likely say a lot, because the death knell keeps ringing. (Remember when I said 95,058 people had died several hours ago? Now we’re up to 96,354.) Ask any doctor who has treated it, and that’s the meanest sonofabitch ‘flu’ they’ve ever seen. And they’re not usually worried about dying themselves when treating the common flu. They’re scared to death of COVID-19.”

These aren’t my numbers. These are the numbers.

*”America’s leading killer, according to the CDC, is heart disease. Or at least it was heart disease. It’s responsible for one out of every four deaths. Good for around 647,000 deaths a year. In just one month, as previously stated, the coronavirus killed 58,705 people. Heart disease, on average, kills 53,916 people per month. So this virus that none of us knew existed six months ago, is now killing more people in our country per month than does our reigning champion killer, heart disease. And heart disease, unlike COVID-19, isn’t contagious. No matter how you slice it, no matter how bad the unemployment rate is, no matter how many other unintended consequences result from the lockdowns (all of which we can debate, but plenty of which I concede straightaway), that’s a lot of dead people.”

* “As for co-morbidities? Two of the three leading co-morbidities named in COVID-designated deaths are obesity and hypertension. That’s right: fat people with high blood pressure. Guess what? That describes half of America. Almost literally. Nearly 40 percent of Americans are considered clinically obese. And about 46 percent of adults have high blood pressure. Probably more, now that at least one out of every five adults are currently unemployed.

As for COVID being an old person’s disease, ask your own fine Prime Minister [Boris Johnson]  (who I’m actually a big fan of) about that. It nearly killed him. And he’s 55, not 85. With no known underlying conditions, unless randiness and dipsomania count.”

*”The Asian Flu pandemic of 1957-58 is thought to have killed 70,00-116,000 Americans. COVID-19 is already long past 70,000, and since it’s now at 98,750 deaths and counting — still dispatching well over 1,000 people a day on most days — it will likely surpass the Asian Flu’s upper estimate within about two weeks, probably sooner. And it’s made short work of that many people in roughly two months, keeping in mind that the US had only just reached its 1,000th death mark on March 25.”

* “Another big boner was the White House’s decision to scotch its own reopening guidelines, because Emperor Stable Genius preferred a rosier model than the gloomy predictions of epidemiologists. According to the Washington Post, he preferred a model hatched by adviser Kevin Hassett, an economist by trade, who predicted ‘deaths dropping precipitously in May, and essentially going to zero by May 15.’ Someone ought to point out to Kev that we’re running well behind schedule.

“As for free’n’easy Sweden, invoked nearly as often as DeSantis’s Florida for its miracle curative COVID powers (hate to be a turd in the punchbowl, but just a few days ago, Florida saw its highest number of new daily cases since April 17) , the mythology doesn’t hold up. While Sweden’s population is less than twice that of its Scandinavian neighbors, Finland and Norway, it has seen 13 times more deaths than Finland, and 17 times more than Norway. Perhaps Sweden was relying on Kev’s model, too.”

* Spain and Italy both test at a higher per capita rate than we do. Yet Spain’s death toll among diagnosed cases is 10.1 percent. Italy’s is 14.2 percent. And while I respect your skeptical (or sceptical) propensity to ask some tough questions, I wouldn’t rest easy if I were you, either. The UK’s current death rate among identified cases is a whopping 14.1 percent.

Again, any honest accounting of what has or hasn’t been worth doing should also factor in the unfortunate realities you highlight — from deaths of desperation to the financial ruin caused by businesses being required to shut down. These are not small concerns.

However, I’ve found it difficult, when sparring with skeptic combatants, to get an honest accounting out of them when clocking just how lethal the virus that precipitated the lockdowns is. There is some very hard denial going on in that camp.”

“Are all those in the let-‘er-rip school really OK with 14 out of 100 people who are diagnosed with COVID dying from it? Or would they pretend that’s not dangerously deadly? Seems a lot higher chance than getting struck by lightning.

If that’s the conclusion they’re coming to, they might have already developed something like emotional herd immunity.”

*For a little historical context, this not-very-deadly, slightly-more-robust-equivalent-of-the-flu, as many of you skeptics have it, has now come just 16,000 or so deaths shy of the entire American death toll in World War One. If the current clip holds, we’ll easily lap that by early to mid-June. At least World War One took a good year-and-a-half to wreak that kind of havoc (since America didn’t enter the war until 1917). But COVID-19 will have done it in a little over two months. Still…nothing to see here, folks! Don’t believe your lying eyes, believe the seroprevalence projections!”

*”Virology 101 tenets — which nine out of 10 or so epidemiologists seem to concur with — dictate that if you keep uninfected people away from infected people, there are fewer infections. This was widely practiced during Spanish Flu a century ago, it’s not a new concept. It is also known as ‘common sense.’ Fewer infections mean fewer deaths.”

From “The big debate: is lockdown wrong? May 26, 2020.”

* Lockdown Courtesy Spectator, USA

UPDATED (5/19): COVID-FREE COUNTRIES Closed Their Countries

COVID-19, Government, IMMIGRATION, Nationhood, Science

Aside from being utterly First World in their scientific approach to COVID control, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan are almost COVID free because of the tightest border closures possible, down to a “halt to international tourism” in New Zealand. Even backpackers and seasonal workers have been kept out.

South Korea quarantines all travelers:

They are tested on arrival and, if negative, can travel widely on the condition that they answer when called by health workers and diligently record any symptoms in an app. Taiwan is permitting some business visitors, too, subject to quarantine rules.

Reports the Economist on the luxury and gift of “contemplating life beyond the virus.” Yes, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan have got the governance the US and certainly the UK lack.

In New Zealand, a country of 5m people, new cases have been in the single digits for most of the past week. Australia reported just seven new infections on April 23rd. That puts the pair in the very small group of countries that seem to have vanquished covid-19, including South Korea and, barring a fresh wave of infections from a recent outbreak on a naval vessel, Taiwan. …

[The] strictest border controls [have been implemented]. At present, almost all foreigners are barred from entering New Zealand, while returning citizens are placed in quarantine for 14 days in monitored hotels. Arrivals have slowed to a trickle: on April 22nd not a single person entered the country.

Ports are tightly controlled, too. Stevedores at Auckland’s work in small, isolated teams, each with their own toilet, to reduce the risk of an infection spreading widely. The crews of arriving ships are not allowed to disembark and can interact with only three port workers, who are distinguished by pink high-visibility vests, not to mention face masks.

The government’s economic models assume New Zealand will have to stay closed to foreigners for a year. But some doubt it is feasible, or worthwhile, to keep the borders sealed. Steven Joyce, a former finance minister, says eliminating the virus is “pie in the sky”. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, says that although elimination is desirable, “We’re pretty doubtful that could be maintained for the long term given the incredible border measures you would need to have.”

 

MORE. “What next for countries that are nearly covid-free? Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan contemplate life beyond the virus

UPDATE (5/19):

Nate Silver’s Pandemic Observations As ‘Sharp’ As His Prediction About Trump’s Election

Argument, COVID-19, Intelligence, Republicans, Science, THE ELITES

Nate Silver, a statistician, is a mediocre mind.

In this “glorious commonwealth of morons”—H. L. Mencken’s description, not mine—there are many minds even more mediocre than Silver’s, who hype and highlight his banal observations. In the context of the coronavirus, I imagine this is motivated by their own pandemic politics.

But first, to Mr. Silver’s political prognostications during Donald Trump’s election campaign. As  chronicled in my June 29 book, The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed:

… whether they’re missing the Trump phenom or the casus belli for war in Iraq—America’s deeply stupid, self-anointed cognoscenti recognize truth only once card-carrying members arrive at it independently, grasp and broadcast it, sometimes years too late. Not so the marginalized writers of America. Not in 2012, but in 2002 did we pinpoint the wrongness of the Iraq War. And not in 2016, but on July 19, 2015—when this chronicle began—did some of us, not fortuitously, finger Trump as “a candidate to ‘kick the crap out of all the politicians’” and “send the system’s sycophants scattering.” (August 14, 2015). His appeal, as this writer has contended since late in 2015, transcended left and right, at the time.

Conversely, vaunted statistician Nate Silver ‘calculated that Trump’s support was “about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.”

No wonder Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University properly downgraded wonder boy Silver’s intellectual prowess. His prose, ventured Cowen, was a sprawl that “evinces a greater affiliation to rigor with data analysis than to rigor with philosophy of science or, for that matter, rigor with rhetoric,” wrote the good teacher, adding that to him, the Silver columns are “tweener” pieces, “too superficial for smart and informed readers, yet on topics which are too abstruse for the more casual readers.”

(MORE in “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed”.)

Now, Nate, that national treasure, is back. This time, he is constructing a straw argument on Fox News, to say nothing of wading into coronavirus politics. I thought he was an objective numbers man?

Nate states the obvious, saying that, “By focusing on coronavirus case counts, the media … makes the numbers look superficially worse … [since]… increases in testing [are what] have led to more cases being diagnosed.”

D’oh! And so obviously true. Does Nate really need to state the obvious? I guess so. (Meanwhile, Silver calls out others for their “boringly conventional positions in … political punditry.”)

The more fundamental point is this: Certainly in the U.S, the coronavirus case count is less significant than the death count: rates and absolute numbers. (Which is why, presumably, Ron Unz highlighted mortality in “The Government Employee Who May Have Saved a Million American Lives.“)

America’s case count, moreover, is scandalously inaccurate. According to the Economist:

Throughout April the number of daily tests has averaged around 150,000, with the share of positive tests staying around 20%. That suggests America is testing only people who are probably infected (in Taiwan, for instance, one in every 132 tests is positive), which in turn suggests that many mild or asymptomatic cases are going undetected. America may have 15 to 20 times more actual infected people than confirmed cases.

That more people are infected is a double-edged sword: More people infected means more people infecting other, but also, we hope, more population-level immunity.

A much more meaningful and reliable number is mortality, death rates and absolute numbers. Right now, the latter stands at 80,037. RIP.

@ The Unz Review.