Streetwise Professor

April 18, 2020

Burn Down the Lockdowns

Filed under: Uncategorized — cpirrong @ 3:30 pm

The Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Due to an extremely exaggerated threat to life, our liberty and ability to pursue happiness are under grave threat from lockdowns and other severe impositions on civil liberties.

I have been a lockdown skeptic from very early in their imposition in the US. As more data regarding the virus, and the economic and social impact of responses to the virus come in, I am becoming a lockdown radical: burn them down before they burn us down.

Insofar as the impact on “life” part of the life, liberty, pursuit of happiness trilogy is concerned:

  • Daily evidence arrives demonstrating that the infection fatality ratio (IFR) of covid-19 is of the same order of magnitude as influenza, and not an order of magnitude higher, as initial estimates (propagated by the execrable WHO, among others equally execrable) suggested.
  • This is due to the evidence that the virus is much more prevalent than suggested by the case numbers alone (numbers which are wildly misleading as I have been saying for weeks). This reflects the fact that most of those infected are asymptomatic. The most revealing data points in this regard are systematic testing of the crews of the US aircraft carrier Roosevelt and the French aircraft carrier de Gaulle. Other semi-random samples provide supporting evidence, as does a systematic study in Santa Clara County, CA–a study conducted by eminent scientists at Stanford.
  • Unlike the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919, which is repeatedly (and tiresomely) trotted out as a precedent for the Wuhan Flu of 2020, the current virus is not a major health threat to the young. And by “young,” I am flexible in my definition: anyone under 70. In contrast, in the Spanish Flu outbreak, people in their 20s died in their millions.
  • The epidemiological models that were the basis for lockdown policies have proved wildly exaggerated.
  • Honest epidemiologists” acknowledge that lockdowns merely kick the can down the road until they are relaxed, and that due to the delay in achieving herd immunity, total fatalities are likely to be higher as a result of doing so. Viruses gonna virus. We can pay them now, or we can pay them later. It is hubristic to think that humans have much power over the relentless progress of pathogens.
  • But, but, but . . . we need to flatten the curve to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, right? Er, not even in hotspots like New York have ICU resources operated at capacity. Further, as I noted in an earlier post, capacity is a choice not a fate: in NY and the UK and elsewhere, capacity has expanded rapidly. Overwhelming of the health care system has proved to be another chimera.
  • Case in point: ventilators. The Great Ventilator Shortage has rapidly transformed into the Great Ventilator Glut: even NY acknowledges it has way too many. (Some weeks ago I was thinking that I wished there was a ventilator futures contract that I could short. That bet would have paid off handsomely.) (To which I would add that the clinical benefits of intubation/ventilation are dubious for most patients, at best.)
  • There is clearly evidence of excess deaths–this has been a notably deadly outbreak, though not as yet more deadly than some extreme flu outbreaks such as 2017-2018 (which we weathered without shutting down the world). However, the variation in excess death rates across countries is virtually identical, regardless of policies that they have adopted, or the timing thereof.
  • Excess deaths have peaked, and are trending downwards. Again, pretty much everywhere and at the same time regardless of policies adopted.
  • In the US, and in some hard-hit countries (e.g., Italy), there are substantial variations in the severity of the outbreak. New York City has less than 1/3 the population of Texas, and 1/4 the population of California, but has experienced multiples of cases and deaths over these larger jurisdictions. In Italy, south of Florence covid-19 has had a minor impact. These variations suggest that local factors (e.g., pollution, population density) have a first order impact on the effects of an outbreak. This further suggests that one-size-fits-all policies make little sense.

I could go on. For a useful summary of additional facts, I suggest this. I could suggest more such resources, if you are interested.

Insofar as the economic and social impacts are concerned, it’s hardly necessary to go into detail. The consensus now is that the economic collapse will exceed that of the Great Depression: the only question is whether the collapse will endure as long–which, since the collapse was created by policy, will be the result of policy (which does not make me optimistic). (The Great Depression in the US was “Great” not so much because of the severity of the initial decline–1920/1921 was as severe–but for its duration. Monetary and other policy errors caused the extended misery. Will we repeat them?)

Insofar as liberty is concerned, just look around. People arrested for surfing, FFS. Police departments declaring that protest is a “non-essential activity.”

Take the crackdowns on outdoor activities. What evidence whatsoever is there that such activities pose risk of spread of the virus? So as not to keep you in suspense, let me answer: none. Ditto gyms or restaurants. The biggest risk? Close and extended contact with an infected individual. So by all means keep everyone locked down at home, except for occasional forays to say, buy food. From people.

This economic collapse will cost lives. Many of them. It will cost futures. The futures of young people with their lives ahead of them.

We are constantly hectored by those who claim to be acting on the basis of SCIENCE. I note that many of those hectoring are clearly utterly incapable of discussing intelligently any scientific topic. Self-selection–those who are capable of doing actual science have far better things to do than become politicians or bureaucrats–is one major explanation of this.

But those who scream SCIENCE the loudest are little more than Wizards of Oz, trying to intimidate us little Dorothies, and warning us not to look at the little man behind the curtain. Men plural (and women) actually–the modelers with the risible models, the if-it-bleeds-it-leads journalists repeating bullshit data that they do not comprehend, and the politicians aping both.

Some countries are starting to relent. Germany, for example. Trump and some governors have laid out plans to ease the lockdowns, but these plans are timorous and built on the same faulty foundations as the lockdowns themselves.

Consider Texas, where Governor Abbot will open state parks and permit stores to reopen–but only if they offer curbside service. (Can I get a curbside haircut? How does that work, exactly? Tough luck for barbers, I guess.)

Schools will remain closed, even though (a) children are not vulnerable, (b) other countries have either not closed schools, or have reopened them, and (c) exposing children is the most effective way of building herd immunity which is key to suppressing the virus in the longer term.

Here’s an interesting tidbit:

The governor’s second executive order focuses on Texas’ medical staff affected by limitations placed on surgical procedures. The order eases restrictions on surgeries starting April 22. The goal of this order is to allow doctors to diagnose patients without an exception. The governor specifically used diagnostic tests for cancer as an example.

So cancer screening and surgeries have been stopped. That hasn’t cost any lives, surely.

Abbott’s “plan,” like Trump’s (largely irrelevant one because it’s governors and hick and hack local mayors and judges and police chiefs whose decisions really matter) is based on widespread testing. Testing has become a mantra, a totem.

As a practical matter, the availability of tests will be a binding constraint for the foreseeable future. The UK, as an example, promised tens-of-thousands of tests–and has been able to deliver only a fraction of those. Availability of tests in the US has grown only slowly. If setting us free depends on availability of tests, we shall remain in bondage for a very long time to come.

And what is the purpose of the testing? I keep reading “test, track, and isolate” like some kind of mantra. But for a disease that is potentially spread by casual contact (unlike, AIDS or venereal disease) tracking contacts is utterly futile. “Who were you in contact with Mr./Ms. Positive?” “I was on the Blue Line” or “I was on the Metro.” Yeah, that sure helps. A necessary (but not sufficient!) condition for test, track, and isolate to work to control a ubiquitous pathogen is that the testing be almost as ubiquitous. But that just runs into the constraints mentioned earlier, i.e., if testing is a necessary condition to participate in civil life, we are not going to be able to participate in civil life for a long time to come.

Some proposals regarding testing–namely, the requirement of a certificate of immunity to obtain full civil rights–are positively Orwellian, not to mention almost certainly unconstitutional. (And I surely hope that Orwellian is a strict subset of unconstitutional, though I am having my doubts.)

Based on these quavering, tentative proposals to relax constraints, Lockdown Nation ain’t ending anytime soon.

And Trump and Abbott and a few others are quite the aggressive ones. Leftist governors in particular–Gulag Gavin in California, Coonman in Virginia, Governor Ratched in Michigan, and their confreres in places like Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin–give every indication that they quite like the way things are going, thank you.

Why is this? Not to go all Freudian, but this is overdetermined. A big part of it is the let no crisis go to waste mentality, combined with a will to power. The virus has proved to be the perfect Trojan Horse to justify outrage after outrage against liberty, and to seize control over the daily lives of citizens in ways that they only dreamed about before.

Another part is a refusal to admit error. These policies were justified on the basis of apocalyptic–and hysterical–predictions from models that have proved to be utterly unreliable. What politician is willing to play Emily Litella, and say “Nevermind”? None, to a first approximation. So now they warn us about the “second wave.” Which will occur inevitably whenever the lockdowns are relaxed if the theory of the lockdowns (“flatten the curve”) is correct in the first place.

The question now is how much longer will Americans who are watching their livelihoods and futures disappear put up with this. Although I see glimmers of hope, they are only glimmers. The deference to authority, no matter how demonstrably incompetent, opportunistic, or corrupt, appears to be very deeply ingrained indeed. Depressing.

What we need are policies that target the most vulnerable (especially the elderly), and vary with local conditions. Instead, we have indiscriminate approaches that have created immense harm to our livelihoods and liberties, with little demonstrable public health benefit in return. It’s time to rise up and speak out against the petty tyrants who wreak havoc and and add insult to injury by insisting that they are doing it for our own good.

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32 Comments »

  1. The fact of the matter is that is far too early in this crisis to know the correct course of action. There are still far too many unknowns. If you want to persuade some red States to lift their lock-downs then go ahead. It will serve as a useful guide for the rest of us.

    Comment by David Mercer — April 18, 2020 @ 5:03 pm

  2. Amen. The Santa Clara study, USS Teddy Roosevelt, and the S curves becoming apparent in the case data all say we are in the second half of the epidemic where herd immunity is kicking in. It may or may not exceed the hong kong flu of 1968/1969 in deaths – but the politicians are sure going to try to count every case they can pretend might have been CCP virus to justify their overreaction.

    Furthermore, our liberties were won at a tremendous cost in blood. And now the majority has meekly accepted a system where the local Mandarins can shut down Churches (or just as bad, require them to worship in a government approved way). Businesses, protests, both public and private schools, family gatherings, even elections are being shut down or modified at the tyrants’ whims.

    I have seen a meme floating around that says something to the effect that prior generations were called to war, all we are called to do is stay at home and watch netflix.

    I say, those prior generations would be ashamed of us for being such cowards and surrendering our freedom after they defended freedom gloriously and at great cost.

    On the economic front, I find the low level of concern about the fact that we are entering a depression very naive. My late grandfather was born just before the great depression began, and I remember the stories he told about that time. (The family was poor to begin with). I suppose the poor will not be living in a dirt floored garage this time around, but still, a depression is a life altering, or even life shortening experience, especially for the poor.

    Did everyone else’s grandparents not tell what it was like? Or do all the chattering classes come from well-to-do backgrounds where their grandparents were not as poor as my grandfather? I guess I already knew that the history of revolutions and wars following depressions (i.e. europe in the 1930s) is not taught in the public schools very much except as a flimsy excuse for socialism, but I had hoped that more cultural memories would have survived within families. At least I am starting this depression in an ‘essential’ upper-middle class career. Others are not so well off.

    I hope Governor Abbott really takes the fetters off soon. I am going to have to see if I can drive to Austin next time there is a protest and help him see that Texans want freedom.

    Oh, and just imagine if the Mandarins ever get serious about “saving” us from climate change. That will make this look like a walk in the park.

    Comment by Jack — April 18, 2020 @ 9:30 pm

  3. It terms of lost freedoms, I did find this very amusing….

    https://twitter.com/WatchMaga/status/1248726115780145152?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1248726115780145152&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Flawofmarkets.com%2F

    Comment by David Moore — April 19, 2020 @ 4:15 am

  4. Just to hammer down on that nail a little more:
    Let’s look at pure mortality in France and Switzerland.
    France sees, to date this year, +5000 fatalities (not to say it’s covid19, could be any cause). https://www.insee.fr/fr/information/4470857 (in French)
    Switzerland is perfectly within seasonal ranges (I compiled data directly from Swiss Statistik Bundesamt). Visual: https://imgur.com/gallery/MwDe5gE

    Granted, confinement measures must have played a role in “flattening the curve” but we hardly see an explosion in mortality.

    Comment by Tarik — April 19, 2020 @ 4:40 am

  5. This is where we’re at now, disgusting,

    https://twitter.com/gtconway3d/status/1251712703229505536?s=21

    Comment by The Pilot — April 19, 2020 @ 7:33 am

  6. In the UK our reaction has been alarmingly supine. Based on a dodgy model by a team that had form for overestimating SARS; MERS; Swine flu and Foot and Mouth by orders of magnitude, the government did a U turn and locked down, to the delight and approval of 91% of the population.
    Now the question that is being asked: Can the lock down be ended in the face of disapproval by the people?
    Truly shameful.

    Comment by philip — April 19, 2020 @ 7:34 am

  7. @philip I guess that’s one interpretation. It may be instead be something to do with people being content to work with the Govt given the protections of the furlough scheme etc. I guess people also aren’t so keen on catching this disease, weirdly enough.

    Regarding the Imperial study, how much “better” would it have been had we ignored their recommendation and not locked down? Things aren’t exactly fine and dandy here even with the lock-down, what with our c.100% excess all-cause morbidity.

    Your final question really isn’t being asked by Govt or anyone fit & healthy aged under 50, which is the bulk of our working population.

    Comment by David Mercer — April 19, 2020 @ 11:45 am

  8. Why on earth weaken your argument by leaning on that shoddy advertising flyer, the Declaration of Independence? After all, you have a rather impressive Constitution to refer to. It’s in good nick, having been scarcely used recently.

    As for referring to mathematical modelling as SCIENCE I’ve cautioned against that from the beginning. But I am qualified to do so only by spending half my career writing such models or supervising their writing, and so my opinion can’t possibly carry the same weight as the purported opinions of journalists, and of epidemiologists with records of lousy predictions.

    I wonder whether this ancient Viking is talking sense?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfN2JWifLCY&feature=emb_logo

    Comment by dearieme — April 19, 2020 @ 12:44 pm

  9. @dearieme–Still butt hurt after all these years? 😉

    I’m glad that you have been cautioning against these models. People who do models know their limitations, and do not push them beyond their limitations. Ferguson’s greatest sin is not the model–but for convincing people to take it both seriously and literally. That’s criminal.

    Comment by cpirrong — April 19, 2020 @ 2:27 pm

  10. CP: I was just going to tell DM that constitution grew out of Declaration Of Independence, from original impulse to stake our rights that triggered the whole thing. Yours is better.

    Thank you for the post.
    But I’m really frightened by your assessment of economic situation.

    Comment by Tatyana — April 19, 2020 @ 3:10 pm

  11. @David Mercer.
    I suppose you use “morbidity” to mean “death”. The death rate has been nowhere near an extra 100%, it’s not even 100% for death from respiratory causes. It’s within a couple of standard deviations from the average for the time of year.
    Sure, if people don’t want to go to work, I get it. But the furlough money can’t last for ever.
    I’m expressing my disappointment with my fellow Brits. Very few have stood up and protested the coup by a few unreliable scientists.
    In a poll Brits were asked if they would prefer in old age a year of extra life with good health or two years with bad health. An overwhelming majority opted for two years. I find it hard to understand this choice, unless they defined bad health as having a mother in law.

    Comment by philip — April 19, 2020 @ 4:04 pm

  12. More than 1,000 sailors aboard a French naval aircraft carrier have tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus, of whom some 50 percent have no symptoms at all, French media report.
    https://www.breitbart.com/health/2020/04/19/over-1000-french-sailors-aboard-aircraft-carrier-test-positive-coronavirus/

    Comment by Kim Peyser — April 19, 2020 @ 4:23 pm

  13. @Post 1 Mercer: well, it maybe to too early to decide on the CORRECT course of action, but that hasn’t stopped taking a course of action, has it?

    Comment by The Pilot — April 19, 2020 @ 5:12 pm

  14. @Tatyana–Thanks 😉 Somehow I doubt DM will agree!

    You are welcome for the post. I am frightened by my assessment too. It’s not one I arrive at capriciously. I’ve tried to play devil’s advocate with myself (“it won’t be so bad!”) but I can’t come up with a convincing case.

    Here’s my main concern. We need to distinguish the effects of the virus qua virus, and the policy responses to it. The policy responses so far have been a nightmare. That hardly engenders confidence that policymakers will miraculously become sensible soon.

    Like I said, what made the Great Depression “Great” was a perverse response to the initial collapse. What made that response perverse was that it was extremely interventionist–starting with Hoover (contrary to nearly a century of Democrat-driven conventional wisdom). The current zeigeist is clearly interventionist. Hence my concern.

    Comment by cpirrong — April 19, 2020 @ 6:08 pm

  15. @The Pilot/David Mercer. One can argue about the right response–I lead towards the Swedish model (which the UK had intended to follow, but abandoned in a panic). I have zero doubt that the response followed elsewhere, in the United States in particular, was the wrong response. The costs are extreme, relative to the benefit–and I pointed this out contemporaneously. So the only real question is how much to relax, not whether to do so at all.

    Comment by cpirrong — April 19, 2020 @ 6:10 pm

  16. @Kim–High infection rate (50 percent), low case rate (50 percent of those infected show any symptoms), extremely low severe case rate (2.4 percent of those infected hospitalized, .1 percent in ICU), and zero IFR.

    The infection rate suggest rapid spread. An implication of this is that antibody tests in the general population should indicate ~40x as many people have been infected as tested positive. Preliminary results from several opportunistic samples (Vos, Italy; Santa Clara County; Chelsea, MA homeless; a town in Germany; NYC pregnant women) support this implication. I haven’t seen evidence that rejects it. A further implication is that the lockdowns locked the door after the horse (or the virus) had bolted. A further implication is that herd immunity may not be difficult to achieve, and at little risk of elevated death rates if the vulnerable are protected.

    Results from the USS Roosevelt are similar to those from the de Gaulle.

    Comment by cpirrong — April 19, 2020 @ 6:18 pm

  17. Ferguson has made predictions of doom for two decades. The only difference this time is the whole world seems to have turned from ignoring him, to holding him to be the absolute oracle.

    Why that change has occurred is a most interesting questions.

    Comment by David Moore — April 19, 2020 @ 9:00 pm

  18. @Pilot Any course of action is a course of action, even doing nothing.

    Re Sweden*, I’ve read so many conflicting reports about the situation there its difficult to discern what is going on. Japan has followed a similar path and it was reported yesterday that hospitals in Tokyo were turning away people with Covid symptoms.

    * As one who seems to find humour in every situation (its got me in trouble many a time before, even at a mate’s funeral, although I know he would have approved), it does amuse me to see Sweden and Germany being held up as exemplars by certain elements of the body politic both here in the UK and US.

    Comment by David Mercer — April 20, 2020 @ 3:34 am

  19. I know much of the ire is being directed at various State governors, but do you all think Trump & Pence are on top of this? Personalities & politics aside, Trump in particular does seem to struggle intellectually with this, if his news conferences are anything to go by. I hope to goodness he’s just a figurehead, for your sakes.

    Comment by David Mercer — April 20, 2020 @ 3:54 am

  20. The more data we get, the better we can assess the Situation. In hindsight, no doubt, a lot of our actions will look (very) wrong – obvious.

    For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that there are big issues with the Santa Clara paper (btw. Vo and the German town are NOT represantative, since they are demonstrated hot-spots).
    For the statistically inclined readers:
    https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2020/04/19/fatal-flaws-in-stanford-study-of-coronavirus-prevalence/

    John Hussmann thinks there is heavy ascertainment bias in the study, something which was observed in other such studies across Europe.
    https://twitter.com/hussmanjp/status/1251881485130399745

    It is also necessessary to assess each expert’s track record – like we do with the prominent modellers:
    I read that Prof. Ioannidis from Standford (one of the authors of the Santa Clara study) predicted 10 days ago on CNN that US deaths won’t top 40k, sadly he has been wrong…

    Conclusion:
    I think that it has become a well established fact that about 50 percent of the infected show no Symptoms (this Comes from a cross section of studies across various countries) and that a maximum of 3-5 percent of the Population in non-hot spots have antibodies, i.e. herd immunity is far off. The CFR, under optimal conditions, and for a representative age Distribution Looks to be in the range of 0.5-1 percent.

    Comment by viennacapitalist — April 20, 2020 @ 4:27 am

  21. Oh no, my scorn for the DoI is nothing to do with the state of my arse. I scorn it because it is packed with lies, illogicality, hypocrisy, and question-begging, a document to put in the same bin as some of Karl Marx’s rubbish. The US Constitution, clearly written by better men, is rather impressive. You chaps should use it more.

    Comment by dearieme — April 20, 2020 @ 9:16 am

  22. @David Mercer,

    No, Trump’s not on top of it, but neither are most of the “leadership”; followed by a very divided political class which cues just more division in the population. It’s really sad, but I was taught to be a good leader one must be a good follower. How’s anybody gonna follow the clown show in the Versailles on the Potomac. Simple hygiene, wearing masks, protecting the vulnerable would have been a decent compromise.

    My mother is in assisted living in Florida, locked down by state order and very low infection rate in elderly facilities. My state didn’t address the problem and over 50% of the deaths in nursing homes. And, we have a good, respected governor.

    Comment by The Pilot — April 20, 2020 @ 9:40 am

  23. Craig, I agree with you in the broadest terms but would like to register my own applause for “hick and hack local mayors and judges and police chiefs.” Thank God we still have some semblance of a federal system. No doubt, some local authorities will behave like cretins. But, the good policies only become apparent to people when the difference between good and bad is very visible. Differences between towns and counties will make both wisdom and stupidity evident.

    Comment by John L. McCormack — April 20, 2020 @ 1:24 pm

  24. One thing is for sure, there will be another virus coming soon. The wet markets in China are back open and Africans are still trading bushmeat.
    We will need to learn some lessons from this episode. One useful one might be to avoid believing predictions based on a “model” from an information vacuum.
    But I fear that there will be so many trying to cover their arses that the pertinent lessons won’t be learnt.

    Comment by philip — April 20, 2020 @ 2:02 pm

  25. Perfessor- more than understand your concern with intervention. Two glimmers of comfort. Hoover spent a lot of effort on price maintenances vs demand maintenance and the Fed has not shrunk the money supply by 30%. These are only glimmers however. Who knows what demand will look like from even liquid consumers and velocity of M will remain unknown and uncontrollable.

    What we really need now is another piece on the Genius of Putin and the Saudi’s. With MY delivery at -37- a barrel we really should honor these two heroes of the Republic! However miserable our economic management may be, we have these two to light the way forward!

    Typed from my I phone so I am sure there are masses of typos. My apologies in advance.

    Comment by Sotosy1 — April 20, 2020 @ 2:30 pm

  26. The other potential explanation for the extreme measures taken in the U.S.(besides the flawed death and case data) is that China took similarly aggressive actions in January and February. Those actions also deserve investigation and consideration. COVID-19 originated in China. While the precise date it began is not known, probably even by the Chinese, there are reports the virus was spreading in Wuhan as early as November 2019. Early descriptions of the virus by Chinese medical doctors was that “SARS” had reemerged in that country. In retrospect, it seems reasonable, and even likely, that initially the Chinese believed it was dealing with the 2003 version of SARS. At the time, and still, there was suspicion that the new virus originated in the Wuhan meat market where numerous and different species of wild animals were sold – a situation similar to the origin of the 2003-SARS. China may have thought that its failure to close the type of meat markets that led to the first SARS outbreak had led to another and broader epidemic of that same 2003-SARS. China’s response – aggressively enforced lockdowns and quarantines – is entirely consistent with a belief by the government that the 2003-SARS had reemerged and that it was facing an almost unfathomable crisis for itself and the rest of the world.

    The subsequent Chinese strategies to lockdown and quarantine millions of its citizens may be the result of a series of mistakes on the part of the Chinese. First, China failed to implement health researchers’ recommendations to close the animal markets that led to the 2003 SARS outbreak more than a decade earlier. (And it would be fair for governments around the world to demand to know what steps China has now taken and will enforce in the future, since COVID-19 actually could have been a reemergence of the 2003 SARS.) But beyond that, China’s suppression of information about the outbreak early caused delays in identifying the virus and finding that in fact, the virus was not 2003-SARS, but some other, less lethal virus. Within this context, its initial hardline response to the situation may reflect some mistaken alarm that it had unleashed 2003-SARS on the world rather than a sound strategy for dealing with a new, less lethal virus. Now that there is more information, including scientific evidence that COVID-19 has a different genetic structure and a lower mortality rate than the 2003 SARS virus, other governments, including the U.S. should at least consider that information before continuing the similar course of action taken by China. Indeed, the subsequent changes in the Chinese strategy may reflect China’s understanding of updated information.

    Comment by Michelle — April 20, 2020 @ 4:05 pm

  27. @dearieme perhaps you never noticed, I thought you were from the UK, but Jefferson plagiarized John Locke with that key segment…

    It is probably the one good sound bite from the DoI. The constitution isn’t that great either, when it comes to sound bites.

    Comment by JavelinaTex — April 20, 2020 @ 7:54 pm

  28. @viennacapitalist – I too have been reading some critiques of the Stanford study, with similar concerns (selection bias, an unreliable test, the intellectual leap made from the study’s findings to the implied infection rate). I guess we all desperately wanted it to be correct, but we’re going to have to wait some more.

    Regarding the much vaunted herd immunity, the WHO are reporting that only a small percentage of recoverees had antibodies. This disease still has some legs on it.

    Comment by David Mercer — April 21, 2020 @ 7:36 am

  29. While I enjoy reading a well-informed difference in opinion, I find the 1st 2 points really weak. Everyone knew that the fatality rate was much lower than the initially reported 2-3%. This goes back to testing and the whether the Chinese were being forthcoming with their numbers. But even the argument about what the actual rate is (0.1-1.1%) sort of misses the point which is how to find the balance between overloading the hospitals e.g. northern Italy and killing the economy. The 2nd point is just an extrapolation of a largely recognized fact that the disease affects the older population. So to extrapolate from 2 navy ships which had which showed asymptomatic cases of 50% and 60% of the cases ignores the previous example of the Diamond Princess in which that number was only 18%. Last time I checked, the average age was much lower and relative health much higher on naval vessels than on cruise ships. Either way the asymptomatic cases for the population as a whole fall within the 25-50% suggested by your experts.

    It would seem that there are plenty of examples to look to around the world for things that work and those that don’t. I will never understand why public policy in the US is so resistant to that idea e.g. why not take the test originally created in Germany and which seem to be the most effective rather than developing a completely new one especially after having seen how quickly the virus can spread.

    Comment by Kristian Lande — April 21, 2020 @ 10:04 am

  30. @David
    Even without the statistical issues, the Stanford study is not that useful.
    First, the range of people with antibodies given 1-6 percent is too wide to reliably determine a CFR with which to work with, and on herd immunity, even the upper range is way too low.
    In terms of CFR the most reliable data is probably Iceland, which has tested more than 10 percent of their population and it is around 0.5- with about 0.3 percent is f the population infected (a random study in Austria curiously found similar prevalence)
    The antibody story is probably less worrying, I.e it is more likely just an attention grabbing headline- I read it is normal for some people not to show a high level of antibodies after recovery, kind of normal also for other diseases.

    Comment by Viennacapitalist — April 21, 2020 @ 12:45 pm

  31. @David Mercer: I was surprised that nobody had mentioned the fact that the herd immunity is by no means guaranteed at this point. I’m glad to see somebody else pointing this out. The Koreans reported that certain people have been tested clear and then later tested positive, so for the USA to be relying on this as a saviour is about as unscientific as certain lockdown arguments.

    @The entire USA: Calm down… Sure, maybe this policy is the wrong one, but look at it from the point of view of the governors, mayors, et al: They’re (generally) not scientists, and anyway the scientific consensus is obviously not unanimous. So if they order the lockdown, they get the reaction above, but if they refuse to order a lockdown and the virus does turn out to be a disaster, how could they live with themselves? Plus, none of you would hesitate to switch from one high-horse to another to say “why didn’t you do your duty?! You must hate America!”. So they obviously err on the side of caution. This doesn’t mean that they’re busy ripping up the constitution… It’s no wonder the US is so polarized if y’all are all on a hair-trigger to take offence like this.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — April 22, 2020 @ 7:43 am

  32. @HibernoFrog,

    Politicians, being reptilian, would have no problem “living with themselves”; they would, however, have a hard time being re-elected, they’re real fear.

    Comment by The Pilot — April 22, 2020 @ 2:12 pm

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