1,328 thoughts on “Open Thread 149.25

  1. baconbits9

    Huge market news: Federal Reserve unloaded with a large rate cut and massive QE program and Market futures hit limit down and tripped breakers (5% down) within 15 mins of opening.

    1. AG

      I wonder if these actions to prop up the market only incentivising further selling because every time it goes back up, that’s an opportunity to profit on the next decline (“buy low, wait for an injection, sell relatively high”). There’s zero incentive for people to buy after the market’s shot back up from an injection. Rather than taking such drastic actions to make the market swing back up, shouldn’t the government be aiming for simply a stabilisation at the lower level, so that increases in the stock market come from genuine growth?

  2. JayT

    As of March 1st, the US had 70 confirmed cases*, Spain had 76, France had 100, and Germany had 117. Now, two weeks later, The US has 60 deaths, Spain has 291, France has 91, and Germany only has 11.

    What is Spain doing so wrong that they are so far ahead in deaths? What is Germany doing so right?

    * I’m guessing the US probably had a lot more than the reported number due to the testing issues.

    1. Douglas Knight

      One theory I’ve heard is that Southern Europe has multigenerational families, whereas Northern Europe has nuclear families and nursing homes, making it easier to quarantine the elderly.

    2. John Schilling

      * I’m guessing the US probably had a lot more than the reported number due to the testing issues.

      So did Spain, and all the rest. To varying degrees that will make the sort of comparison you are trying to do, almost impossibly complicated. But the idea that every nation other than the United States has tested every possibly-infected person and that their reported case count is the total number of infections, is almost certainly way off.

      1. JayT

        Obviously the number of cases is always going to be higher than the actual confirmed numbers, but I was under the impression that the US had particularly bad issues with testing compared to other countries. Did these countries have similar issues?

        1. 10240

          As of March 14, the rate of positive tests in the US was 16% (3155
          out of 19744), in Italy it was 19% (21157 out of 109170), in South Korea it was 3% (8162 out of 268212). A lower rate should correspond to more extensive testing, and thus (presumably) a bigger percentage of the cases diagnosed.

  3. alchemy29

    Devil’s advocate position that I do not hold, but I suspect is part of some people’s indifference to COVID, but is too taboo to say out loud.

    Would it be so bad to let the pandemic run its natural course? More that other respiratory illness, it targets very old very sick people with low life expectancies, who don’t work. There is an issue with running out of hospital beds and ventilators, but it would not be a first in history to ration them – after all ventilators didn’t always exist.

    1. The Nybbler

      There’s already conspiracy theories and dark humor about this being a way to solve social security and pension issues. Would it be so bad? Certainly less bad than the Spanish Flu. The world would survive; the modern economy would survive. I expect there would be long-term negative mental health effects, though.

        1. The Nybbler

          The Spanish Flu coincided with WWI; it also had a higher mortality rate and it killed young adults. And still the economies of the powers which did not lose WWI survived (the Great Depression certainly was not due to the Spanish Flu).

          1. Douglas Knight

            What do you mean by that and how do you know?

            Many people claim that the GD was an outgrowth of WWI, but not in ways that the Spanish Flu would contribute.

          2. baconbits9

            One issue that contributed to the GD was the massive productivity loss by the generation that was decimated in WW1 and during the influenza outbreak.

          3. abystander

            The productivity of the roaring 20’s was high. Why would the loss of young adults suddenly affect the economy in the 30’s and not 20’s?

      1. cassander

        to kill enough people to make a serious difference in pension issue, it would have to be worse than the spanish flu. And remember, the pension crisis isn’t really so much about current pensioners as it is about the boomers coming up. Knocking off everyone over 80 (which in the US is still 12 million people) doesn’t actually change the math that much.

          1. abystander

            I’d expect the amount gains from paying a smaller amount of annuities is greater than the loss of paying death benefits a few years early

          2. baconbits9

            The problem is paying out a large number of death benefits at the same time which requires liquidating assets and we are currently in an environment where you don’t want to be liquidating assets. If you have 5 years worth of deaths in year 1 during a crash you are losing out on

            1. The annuity payments
            2. The compounding interest on the payouts that would have been averaged over the next 5 years
            3. Taking a lower price on your assets that you have to sell.

            Lehman didn’t go bankrupt because they people stopped paying their mortgages, they went under because they couldn’t raise capital to ride out the decline in housing prices that reduced the value of their collateral .

          3. abystander

            I’d expect the number of 80 year olds who actually have life insurance is small relative to the numbers collecting annuities. Assuming they have 10 year government bonds rather than equities against their contracts the insurance companies aren’t suffering that much loss from loss of assets.

            If they have bonds from cruise ship operators then they’re screwed.
            And I was thinking of diversified insurance companies. There are companies that specialize in life insurance for the elderly for estate planing so they are hurting although I would think that they would have some reinsurance since an epidemic affecting the elderly was not a farfetched notion.

          4. acymetric

            I would think that they would have some reinsurance since an epidemic affecting the elderly was not a farfetched notion.

            I do not trust any industry to do what anyone would think they probably should do in the interest of financial prudence, at the expense of yesterday/today’s bottom line, generally.

    2. A1987dM

      > is too taboo to say out loud

      (But still not too taboo to be the position of the UK government apparently <gd&r>)

      > Would it be so bad to let the pandemic run its natural course?

      What do you mean by “so bad”? Almost definitely not Black Death bad, most likely not WW2 bad either, but very possibly Spanish Flu bad.

      > it targets very old very sick people with low life expectancies

      It mostly kills very old very sick people, because we have enough ICUs. But among people who only survive thanks to ICUs there are plenty of 60-year-olds, 50-year-olds, even some 40-year-olds. If we run out of ICUs, lots of people will die who would otherwise live (and work) several decades longer.

  4. A1987dM

    The growth rate of COVID-19 in western countries (about +25%/day i.e. +0.1 dB/day) seems optimized for us to approximate extrapolations in our head (e.g. one doubling in about 3 days, one fivefold increase in about 7 days, one order-of-magnitude increase in about 10 days).

    Also, the Italian prime-minister decrees remind me of Uriel from UNSONG during the Long March.

  5. silver_swift

    With all the talk about closing schools, is there a reliable source about how much COVID-19 is transmitted by children?

    I understand children are much less at risk of dying/getting serious complications from the virus, but I’m hearing wildly different stories about how much they play a role as transmission vectors.

  6. Toby Bartels

    Hi, I haven’t posted in a while, and I hope that people are still reading this open thread, because I need an answer fast, and this is the best place that I know to get a good one.

    My parents, age 70, live in Lincoln NE (population 285 thousand, no reported cases of Covid-19 yet, 17 reported cases in the State, schools just closed and are preparing to go online). They pretty much run a bridge club, most of whose members are in their 70s but generally in good health. The club has an event planned for tonight (March 15 Sunday), at which 26 people are expected to show up and sit at card tables in close proximity, moving from table to table over the course of the evening. There will be hand sanitizer available at the tables.

    Question: Should they cancel the event?

    Please give reasons for your answer as if you’re trying to convince a stubborn Boomer (but not a Trump-supporter). You may assume that your audience is mathematically literate. If you know any data on age-related risks that controls for other risk factors, then that would be a big bonus. (Because since heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are all risk factors for Covid-19, and since they’re also all more prevalent among older people, maybe age alone is not much of a risk factor all.)

    1. Cariyaga

      Don’t argue for your parents’ sake. Argue for their friends’ — even if they get off scot free, do they really want to risk getting one of their bridge club friends sick?

    2. DavidFriedman

      Since almost nobody has been tested, we don’t know how many carriers there are in Lincoln, only that nobody has come down with a sufficiently serious case to be recognized as such. Given the incubation period, that means, roughly, that there were no more than three or four people infected as of a week ago, so probably fewer than a dozen now. That suggests that the probability that any particular person living in the city is infected is under about 1/20,000. With 26 people showing up, the chance that at least one of them has the virus is under about 1/1000, the chance that any particular person attending will die as a result under 1/10,000, given mortality rates for the elderly and supposing a high probability of getting the virus if someone there has it.

      To that one should add the additional risk of transmission to others. If the party is held, the chance that one of the 26 will get it is under 26/1000 (again assuming a high probability of transmission). One more person having it now will result in several more people getting it over the next few weeks — I haven’t followed the discussion of transmission risks well enough to say more than that.

      So that gives something vaguely around .1 infections as an upper bound on the expected value of additional infections due to holding the party, something around 1/400 as an upper bound on the number of deaths among those attending to be expected due to holding the party. That’s a very back of the envelope calculation, and probably someone here who has followed the evidence more closely can do better.

      I should probably add that I cancelled the final two talks in my speaking tour of Europe a few days ago and flew back to the U.S., as some evidence of my subjective probability that the threat is real — I’m 75.

      Part of the reason that I did so — my younger son had been trying to persuade me to cancel for some days by then — was that I remembered my past discussion of the difference between fluid intelligence and crystalized intelligence. The former figures out the solution to a problem, the latter relies on the solution figured out in the past. One effect of aging is to make one put more weight on crystalized intelligence. I was forming my judgement on my past experience of dealing with risks, which did not include any plague this serious, so might well be reaching an incorrect conclusion.

      The same might be true for your parents and their friends, for the same reason.

      1. Toby Bartels

        Yeah, I’ve seen those. In theory, I could estimate the danger of age alone by using the data there and looking up the correlations between age and the other listed risk factors. But I was hoping that this had already been done (or that we even had direct numbers).

    3. actinide meta

      If you care about other people, your math should take into account that there will probably be many, many cases causally “downstream” from each current case. I back of the envelope calculate that getting the virus today may cause around 10 *deaths* later in the epidemic. So if you are not selfish you will cancel anything that is not absolutely essential.

    4. Deiseach

      We are now in the phase of community transmission. Relevant authorities have asked us to practice social distancing. “No reported cases here yet” is not the same thing as “no cases here yet”. Since it’s impossible to know who has been in contact with someone infected, or in contact with someone who has been in contact with someone infected, it is more prudent to cancel public gatherings.

      If there are cases of COVID-19 in your state, then the virus is present and is going to spread. Better safe than sorry is always a good rule.

    5. Toby Bartels

      I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the game went on last night as planned. The good news is that my parents won’t be attending any more large games. The bad news is that there are still going to be more large games, at least one tonight. Although it’s mostly the same population every time.

        1. Douglas Knight

          Do you think that you made a difference, either to the timing of the closing, or the timing of your parents’ withdrawal?

          1. Toby Bartels

            Hard to say. Very roughly, I’d say about 50% chance that my influence stopped them from going to the game on Monday and an expected value of about 0.5 day earlier that the club closed due to their withdrawal (so 0.25 day due to my influence). And only 10% probability that they even had a game scheduled for Tuesday. So in the end, a 2.5% probability that I stopped a bridge game.

            I’ll let you estimate the effects of that if you want; also look at David Friedman’s calculations upthread. (But keep in mind that most of the people who met on Monday and would have possibly met on Tuesday already met on Sunday.)

    1. Edward Scizorhands

      I agree with the part that we can never flatten the curve enough. Someone in here made a similar point.

      But he seems to be arguing we need to re-contain the virus. That is impossible. The heck? That’s never happening.

      When I read the start, I assumed he was going to argue for the UK system, of “let’s get the herd immunity over with.”

      1. Cheese

        “When I read the start, I assumed he was going to argue for the UK system, of “let’s get the herd immunity over with.””

        The UK has made moves to abandon that I think.

        Which is correct IMO. That strategy requires you to have very good handle on how many cases you have and how quickly they are spreading. You miss community spread or you miss the ‘tipping point’ (where the number of cases reaches a point where your ‘severe case’ numbers tip over your ICU capacity) and you’re fucked.

        That, plus we don’t really have a good handle on how immunity works post-exposure. FWIW I think that the reports of re-infection in China and Japan are significantly more likely to be testing issues than legitimate prospects.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Have they given up already? It was just announced today.

          Let me state: I do not know their way is better. But I worry that all countries are adopting one pattern not because it’s best, but because no one wants to risk deviating from that one pattern. The “No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft” of pandemic planning.

          How long do you think we will need to keep the country on lockdown?

          1. Cheese

            Perhaps i’m wrong there, I apologise. I think it’s a bad call in terms of strategy. They’re right when they say it’s going to run through a lot of the population but limiting spread is really hard. I find arguing strategy weird though – conatinment and mitigation go hand in hand.

            “How long do you think we will need to keep the country on lockdown?”

            I don’t really know to be honest. What is lockdown? Is it full Quarantine for everyone ala Hubei, or limiting gatherings, working from home and quarantining anyone with symptoms?

            From my perspective the single biggest issue is ICU capacity. Beds, ventilators and (not-sick) qualified staff to run them. Time is absolutely key in ramping that up. I don’t expect most western countries to be able to pull a Hubei, but going all out now gives you that time.

    2. Cheese

      Nothing to debunk IMO.

      There’s not really a point to that beyond, ‘the US is already fucked’. Which is completely true, I think the numbers coming out indicate you guys have had unchecked community spread for a while now. The fact there’s still testing issues in some states is just ridiculous. If those premises are true then I don’t think there’s any way for the US to keep the curve below the conceivable ICU (permanent and temporary) capacity.

      That said, the title is completely wrong and possibly editorialised. Flattening the curve is going to be necessary at every step of this. Containment, mitigation, every conceivable strategy should be geared towards that.

      1. eric23

        No, the US is not “already fucked”. It’s not too late. Daegu, South Korea has about 6000 cases, that’s proportionate to 770000 cases in the US. And they got their outbreak under control (new cases per day now are down over 90% from the peak) by widespread isolation and testing. The US could do the same if it had the political will…

        1. Ketil

          South Korea has about 6000 cases, that’s proportionate to 770000 cases in the US.

          SK have tested more that 200 000 people, and are keeping close watch of their populace, in particular potentially infected people. What is being done in the US? The number of deaths is similar (62 in US vs 75 in SK), but growing faster in the US.

          Or just check the graphs here: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ and https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/south-korea

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          This might be a tangent, but I’ve been seeing it a lot and I’m not sure the best way to compare countries.

          Is the proper way to compare countries by raw number or by proportions?

          I think 1 person in a community of 100 being a carrier is a much safer scenario than 100 in a community of 10,000. Bigger communities have bigger network effects.

          I see some people online using raw counts, others using proportions.

      2. Deiseach

        The fact there’s still testing issues in some states is just ridiculous.

        Drive-through testing? Seems to be happening here. Is the limiting factor “getting enough kits, and kits we’re sure are reliable” out? I know there was some almighty cock-up with the FDA and testing in the USA, but I also see the point of not letting sixty-dozen different test kits be used when you don’t have a common standard for “will this one actually detect the virus or not, and how many false positives/negatives for this particular test?” because crappy testing kits that falsely tell people “nah, you’re fine!” are going to make the transmission rates even worse than they already might be.

        1. DavidFriedman

          Drive through testing appears to be happening here as well. Judging by the information we got from a local provider, you interact with someone online to determine if you are likely to have the disease and, if you are, do a drive through test.

    3. Nick

      Nostalgebraist critiqued it in a tumblr post. Key point is that the math is wrong because he’s using a Gaussian instead of an exponential curve.

      ETA: Caveat lector: I don’t have the math chops to say who is right. I’m just forwarding the argument along.

      1. Kindly

        The tumblr post isn’t actually constructive criticism; it says that the Gaussian is bad, but doesn’t say how bad it is.

        I think the shape of the curve doesn’t matter. The best case for the “flattening the curve” argument is a completely unrealistic flat curve in which we take the projected 180 million cases, and say that we’re going to see a constant number of them a day until they’ve all gotten sick. This is going to give us the smallest number possible for how wide the “flattened” curve needs to be, because any other shape is wasting some hospital space at the beginning before we have that many cases every day.

        If we have 170000 ventilators, and each one is in use for 4 weeks, then we can only handle about 6000 new critical cases a day, or about 100000 (0.1 million) new cases total a day. If there’s going to be 180 million cases, then that’s going to require flattening the curve to at least 1800 days (5 years). This is already bad.

        If we assume that the curve has any kind of peak shape, whether Gaussian, sigmoid, exponential, or whatever, then it looks more like a triangle than like a flat line. A triangle has half the area of a rectangle, which means 10 years instead of 5 years.

        So yeah, the “over a decade” thing in the Medium post sounds about right.

        Of course, we can hope to combine flattening the curve with coming with a vaccine, improving hospital capacity, or hoping that the summer fixes everything. If all that this strategy is intended to do is stall for time until one of these things helps, then it’s much more plausible.

        1. Loriot

          “Flattening the curve” is just a pithy slogan. Obviously, slowing the spread is also intended to reduce the number of total cases through a number of mechanisms. But “stalling for time” doesn’t sound as inspiring.

        2. gbdub

          That’s very sensitive to exactly what percentage of patients require ICU care, which seems still uncertain.

          Once you start talking years, it’s safe to assume a treatment or vaccine will be effective.

          1. The Nybbler

            Once you start talking years, it’s safe to assume a treatment or vaccine will be effective.

            No, it isn’t. We don’t have either for the common cold, for instance.

          2. gbdub

            Because the “common cold” is many (at least 200) viruses and isn’t serious enough to bother with much of an effort to cure.

            This is much more serious, but so far single strain. I think worst case it ends up like the flu, which has enough strains that vaccines are only partially effective, but we know it pretty well and have a decent treatment protocol.

          3. The Nybbler

            We have no vaccines for any coronavirus. There is nothing like a guarantee we can get one within a year. We could get one which works as well as measles vaccine. We could get one which works as poorly as flu vaccine. Or we could get nothing at all, or a vaccine that results in your death when challenged (e.g. through this mechanism — though this is in mice)

      2. The Nybbler

        The shape of the curve doesn’t matter, to first order. The relevant variables are the _total_ number of infections requiring ICU beds (or ventilators, whichever is the limiting resource) before herd immunity is achieved, and the length of stay in the ICU (or time on ventilator) prior to recovery or death. This gives you the length of time you have to impose sufficient restrictions to “flatten the curve”.

        Edit: ninja’ed by @Kindly.

      3. Evan Þ

        We’re all assuming the number of ventilators is constant. How long do they take to make? How fast can we get more?

        (On the other hand, what I’m actually hoping for here is a vaccine sometime next year.)

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          We’re all assuming the number of ventilators is constant. How long do they take to make? How fast can we get more?

          That’s a great question that no government or hospital owners seem to be answering.

          1. Tarpitz

            The British government is negotiating with manufacturers in other sectors (cars etc.) to switch their production lines over to making ventilators and crash-retraining medical staff from other specialisms. They also expect to requisition hotels for use as hospitals. I imagine other countries are looking at similar measures, but I’ve yet to see any actual numbers for what can be expected when.

        2. Evan Þ

          Okay, I partially answered my own question: it is happening. “A number of companies around the globe” currently make ventilators and are ramping up production. That’s good. But, they’re understandably facing large orders from around the globe. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any stats yet on how much production will be ramped up; hopefully we can replicate the production feats of WWII.

        3. Kaitian

          They are making more, but you also need trained personnel to run them. One nurse can’t manage 20 people on ventilators even if there are more ventilators. (This is a simplification, obviously no patient will be treated by only one nurse all the time).

          Number of ventilators is a problem, but increasing that number doesn’t solve the “hospital overload” problem.

          1. theredsheep

            First year respiratory therapy student here, and you’d be surprised. I haven’t learned much about vents yet, but I do know they’re usually everyone’s toughest subject. I’ll be learning about them over the summer, assuming this doesn’t screw up my schooling.

            You really do want RTs, not nurses, running those things. Nurses don’t know when and why to adjust the settings, they don’t know what PEEP is, they aren’t trained to do arterial blood gas draws (which are deeply invasive and can cause nerve damage if you do them wrong), and I’ve heard stories about doctors screwing up vent management, let alone nurses (typically by obsessing over blood CO2, when it’s pH that matters).

            There’s a fair amount of maintenance involved, of both the patients and the machines, and I would be pretty nervous about trusting my loved one to a tired ER nurse trying to ride herd on twenty machines she barely knows how to use. All the nurses are used to leaving the lung stuff to us.

    4. Douglas Knight

      He’s too optimistic, because he ignores the need for ICU beds for any use other than COVID. But if ventilators are the limiting factor, at least generic hospital beds will be available for other purposes.

      If you could really dampen it that much, just a little more and you could snuff it out. Also, if you can delay the peak by a year, then you can vaccinate.

    5. Douglas Knight

      Hypothesis: “Flatten the curve” took off because it allows people to participate without 1. signaling they care what happens to them. 2. think things will get bad or 3. think bad things are preventable. — Elizabeth

      1. Guy in TN

        I’m having trouble parsing that sentence. Is the “1.” supposed to be before the word “without”, or does the “without” apply to 1, 2, and 3?

    6. John Schilling

      “Flattening the curve” is simplistic and basically wrong. Bach’s rebuttal is itself simplistic, and at best less wrong. Both Bach and the curve-flatteners are making the same false assumption, that the number of people who will ultimately be infected is constant, and that all we are doing is changing the timing. Bach, and most of the curve-flatteners, seem to be using the basic 1-(1/R0) model for herd immunity; if R0 is 2.0, half the population is infected, if it’s only 1.5, 33% of the population, R0=2.5 infects 60% of the population, and so forth.

      There are some problems with that model and its assumption of a homogeneous population, but the bigger problem is that R0 is not fixed. Indeed, everything we are doing, privately and publicly, is to reduce R0. In the baseline case, let’s say(*) R0=2.0, the average carrier is infectious over a period of maybe two weeks and infects two people over that time. One infection per week per carrier until they’re dead or quarantined or recovered. For the “flatten the curve” model to work at constant R0, we’d have to reduce the infection rate to one per month but also somehow keep the carriers contagious for two months each. That would keep R0 at 2.0, keep the total infections at 50% of the population, but spread them over a period four times greater. And, as Bach notes, still swamp the ICUs.

      But nobody’s doing that. I’m not sure how we even could do that. Carriers are still going to be infectious for about two weeks. If the hand washing and social distancing and travel restrictions and institutional closures and whatnot reduce the infection rate to one per month per carrier, that means the effective R0 goes to 0.5 and the simple 1-(1/R0) model goes to -100% of the population infected. Slightly less simplistically, the actively-infected population peaks at maybe a factor of two greater than it was when we crossed below R0 = 1.0, and then declines exponentially, being halved every two weeks.

      Keep that up long enough, and the infected population goes to zero and COVID-19 is extinct (except in bats in Wuhan or whatever). More realistically, we keep it up until the actively infected population is small enough and the availability of test kits is large enough that we can have public health authorities do contact tracing, testing, and quarantine can keep R0 below 1.0 even as the broad isolation measures are rolled back.

      That, is the goal. Not a “flattening” of the curve while being resigned to the same total number of infections, but turning the curve into an exponential decay and keeping the infection total small.

      Being a month or two late on starting, means having to suffer maybe an order of magnitude more infections and deaths than we would have if we’d been on the ball, and it means needing a month or two more of the broad community isolation measures before we can turn it over to the local public-health authorities for mopping up. And quitting prematurely, would also mean more infections on the rebound spike and an ultimately more disruptive second wave of isolation to bring it under control. But it’s still potentially a very big win, with much much less than half the population ever being infected at the end of it.

      “Flattening the curve”, aside from not really working, promises so much less than that.

      * All numbers arbitrary, within the plausible range but chosen mostly to simplify the math.

      1. eric23

        Exactly.

        China has contained the outbreak, not by “flattening” 500 million cases over an extended time, but by controlling the exponential growth so that there have been only 80000 cases total.

        Similarly South Korea, with 10000 cases rather than a “flattening” of 25 million cases.

    7. gbdub

      “Flatten the curve until herd immunity is achieved” isn’t possible. But you really only need to slow things down until either a vaccine or treatment is available, or the virus turns out to be seasonal and Peters out over the summer.

      1. Theodoric

        If it’s seasonal, that means it comes back in winter/fall. Can we really make a regular thing out of basically shutting down our economy and civic life?

    8. Purplehermann

      The main point, that flattening the curve alone isn’t realistically enough by itself seems right.

      That said, there may be some value to it.

      1. Every case (that needed medical support) recovered before support hits capacity is another life saved.

      2. If the volunteer/paid infectees are all age 18-35 and healthy (very low risk of death, and generally more likely to spread the virus than other demographics I think)
      a government could infect groups as large as or larger than half the available medical support every week very safely.
      More aggressively, take the 6% number seriously, and every two weeks infect 16 times the current available support. This would boost 2b.
      The infected would obviously need to be under quarantine.

      2a. This could save thousands (really depends on how much support is available, but multiplying the amount of time medical support is working close to capacity is multiplying lives saved) of lives if containment doesn’t work out.

      2b. This would boost ‘partial herd immunity’ levels very quickly, by taking younger more energetic people out of circulation immediately and returning them with an immunity (we sure hope….).

      If this is combined with intense containment measures for vulnerable people (to keep them safe) and partial quarantines on the rest of the country I could see this having a huge effect.

      The only real reason not to do this imo is that we don’t know what long term damage might result from the disease, there are recovered cases who lost some lung function.

    9. baconbits9

      My guess is that the dotted grey line of ‘capacity’ is wildly misleading as well, and I suspect it should slope down and to the right.

      1. Kindly

        Or the reverse, assuming there are any plans at all in the works to expand our ability to deal with severe cases.

        1. baconbits9

          There is a convincing amount of evidence showing how productivity drops as people get fatigued. As we are hitting the ‘max’ that our system can handle the most valuable people will be getting exhausted (and sick), there will be more mistakes made, it will take longer to cure and discharge patients and there will be more crises going on in the hospitals, maintenance will suffer leading to malfunctions which will be under reported.

          In 18 months (random guess) capacity might actually rise as you get a handle on it due to the expansion of services, but absent a quick, effective and mass produced vaccine it is unlikely that the other plans are going to be expansive in the short term enough to overcome the natural degradation of people’s abilities.

  7. Well...

    An OT or two ago I mentioned a problem with a leak from the tank of my kids’ bathroom toilet. Someone suggested I use the “drop of food color” test to see where the leak was. Another person (or maybe that same person, I can’t remember) suggested it might be a crack in the overflow pipe or that the dual flush system’s blue dome gasket might not be sealing correctly.

    Well, I tried the food color test today. It was both helpful and mesmerizingly beautiful. I performed it twice, once on each side of the tank. I was able to diagnose two places where there seemed to be a leak: one in the seal of the dome gasket, and one in the actual gasket of the flush valve. (What do they call that? A shank gasket or something?)

    I removed the tank, removed the flush valve, seated the dome gasket perfectly because I had the flush valve out and in my hands were I could look at the seal from all angles, then replaced the flush valve gasket and put everything back together.

    My toilet is now leak free. Thanks to everyone for your help!

    By the way, I rubbed a bit of vaseline on the flush valve gasket, as well as on the rubber washers under the tank bolts. I’ve read elsewhere (i.e. on the instruction manual for my inflatable pool’s filtration system) that vaseline helps gaskets seal and maybe prevents corrosion too. If this was a grave misstep I hope someone will “pipe up” to let me know.

    1. The Nybbler

      Vaseline can damage rubber seals (if they are butyl or silicone rubber; OK for nitrile, but I don’t know how you can tell). Silicone grease intended for plumbing can be used for that purpose instead. Also sometimes you can use grease for that and it’ll work for a little bit and then start leaking again.

  8. EchoChaos

    What are the measures of success when dealing with a pandemic? Obviously Italy feels like a failure right now, possibly France.

    But especially in the USA, what result would make people (especially Trump’s opponents) say that a good job was done versus a bad job overall? Lots of people here have said that Trump has been wanting and not doing a good job, along with some specific (and accurate) mistakes that have been made.

    Obviously in any response there will be mistakes, but at what point would you say “The USA did it right”? A lower death rate than China? Lower than Italy? France, the UK?

    Or getting to China’s death rate while losing less of our GDP than they will?

    I am curious what “success” means to people here. I’d love specific numbers, if possible.

    If your answer is “I’m too partisan to admit Trump (failed/succeeded)” then that’s interesting too, I suppose.

    1. Loriot

      Are you talking about a hypothetical alternate timeline? Because that ship has sailed in the one we’re living in now. The best Trump can do now is stop adding fuel to the fire.

      Speaking hypothetically, an outcome like Singapore’s seems like a pretty decent success metric. I don’t think there’s anything Trump could have done that would have gotten praise from his opponents, but he could have avoided an awful lot of criticism if he hadn’t screwed things up so badly.

      1. EchoChaos

        Are you saying we already are/are going to be substantially worse than Western Europe, or just that Trump’s initial reaction was bad enough that even if we do much better that won’t be sufficient because we should’ve done even better than that?

    2. brad

      If we end up looking like SK in terms of number of infections and deaths per capita.

      I don’t think it is far to compare us to Singapore or China because they non-democratic authoritarian regimes have more tools at their disposal (for better or worse).

      1. Loriot

        No comparison is ever really fair. There isn’t a second USA out there, and we can’t rerun reality to test counterfactuals. That being said, Singapore had both advantages and disadvantages compared to the US. For example, it is much more closely connected to China and a lot more densely populated.

        1. EchoChaos

          Also a lot hotter and more humid, both things that strongly retard spreads of typical coronaviruses.

          I’ll add that for my metric if the US is worse than a major Western European country I will consider that Trump failed this. We have advantages in terms of geography and isolation, and if we end up with more per capita deaths than France/Spain/Italy because of this, we screwed up badly.

        1. Loriot

          For better or worse, Trump will get credit from his supporters for anything good that happens during his term and get blamed by his opponents for anything bad that happens during his term. How much of the blame or credit he deserves in any particular situation is a question that is less relevant and much more difficult to adjudicate.

      2. 10240

        IMO it should be deaths (and irreversible complications) per capita, perhaps in combination with some measure of economic damage. Infections per capita, and case fatality rate, are very dependent on the extent of testing. Of course more extensive testing has tangible benefit, but it should be counted only to the extent it helps decrease the rate of fatalities (and serious complications) per capita.

    3. Lurker

      Actually, as someone who doesn’t like Trump at all, I’ve got to say this:

      Apparently you now have paid sick leave for everybody with corona.
      I figured people continuing to work and avoiding getting tested because they absolutely could not afford miss work would screw over any effort the US made in containing the virus. I did not expect that to get fixed this quickly if at all. So definitely Kudos to Trump there!

      Now the other two major hurdles you have is getting tested in general and figuring out how to deal with the illegal immigrants – because, regardless of your opinion on immigration, people who’re scared of the consequences of getting tested can trip up the best organized, most thought out effort to contain this.

      [In my opinion, your best bet is everyone who might have it gets free testing, everyone who does have it gets free treatment (and minimum pay at least) and quarantine, and nobody asks any questions about immigration status. But immigration policies on an entirely different continent is not exactly my area of expertise, so I probably missed some important bits by a huge margin.]

      My definition of success would be: handled it better than most industrial nations (in people dead, people out of work, school missed, etc)
      My definition of acceptable would be: did about as well as the rest
      My definition of fail would be: did worse

      The problem is, that this is the first time we’re (regardless of continent) really dealing with a situation like this, so I’m not actually hoping for the best, I’m hoping for no overwhelmed hospitals, where doctors don’t have to decide who gets the machine and who has to basically slowly suffocate. I also really, really don’t want to bury anyone I care about. I doubt I’ll get my wish, but I guess this is as good at time to start praying as any.

      1. SamChevre

        I find “define success” challenging, because it seems likely that there’s a trade-off between disruption and eventual death rate – basically closing down schools and non-essential gatherings (as my state has done) will increase the economic disruption, but slow the spread down (hopefully) enough to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and so keep both the number of people who get sick, and the proportion who die, lower.

        1. Lurker

          true. this is one of those situations where “average/acceptable” and “fail” are going to be much easier to identify.

    4. The Nybbler

      Basically that the epidemic is brought under control (R0 << 1) without an inordinate number of deaths, and that most restrictions are lifted (except travel restrictions from areas where things are not under control). “Inordinate” isn’t a great measure, but for a ceiling, if ICU beds are overwhelmed in a major urban area, that’s definitely “inordinate”.

    5. quanta413

      The result is only a small part of how I’d judge whether or not Trump has done a good or bad job. But a very good result at this point would be very few outbreaks where R0 exceeded 1 long enough to infect more than ~.1% of the population on a per-city basis. You’d naturally expect rural areas to do somewhat better already. And if testing keeps going at this slow pace, then I’d have to look at mortality due to pneumonia rather than cases that certainly died due to COVID-19.

      A very bad result for the U.S. would be 300,000 or more deaths due to known cases of COVID-19 deaths or suspicious clusters of pneumonia (on a nationwide basis).

      My belief is that his own personal effect on things is going to matter less to the outcome at this point than a lot of other factors. We could get a very good result, and all it would really mean is that Trump didn’t make any really boneheaded mistakes. And we could get a very bad result even if he did everything perfectly from today on.

      I am curious what “success” means to people here. I’d love specific numbers, if possible.

      If your answer is “I’m too partisan to admit Trump (failed/succeeded)” then that’s interesting too, I suppose.

      What would a failure mean to you?

    6. Plumber

      @EchoChaos >

      “What are the measures of success when dealing with a pandemic?…”

      “…at what point would you say “The USA did it right”? A lower death rate than China? Lower than Italy? France, the UK?”

      Since they’re the nations we share a spoken language with I tend to compare us to Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K., but mostly Canada ’cause neighbor.

      AFAIK, the San Francisco bay area (where I live) has a higher rate of infection than most of the U.S.A., and the world, but given many of our residents family ties with China, and our large port unloading cargo from there that’s not surprising, outside of the bay area California seems to be fairing well, and since our Governor and the President haven’t been the best of friends befoe, but now out Governor has praised the help the Feds have done, plus that Trump closed traffic with China sooner than I imagine a Democrat would I’m cutting Trump slack for his actions. 

      Trump deficit seems to me to be less in actions than as “consoler in chief”, though I have a hard time imagining a President Hillary Clinton doing a better job there (Bill could, as could Obama), I imagine that Biden or Klobucher would seem more trustworthy and authoritative, Buttigieg not as much but more than Trump, Sanders and Warren wouldn’t be more consoling than Trump though Warren would I imagine seem competent, of Presidents in my lifetime I’d judge Obama, Carter and the younger Bush to be best at being “mourner in chief”.

      Really for this three things are wanted from a President:

      1) Good actions

      2) Inspire trust

      3) Seem compassionate

      Because he closed off China faster than I imagine a rival would’ve I’d say Trump was pretty good on 1., but weak on 2. and 3., but in these days of hostile partisanship I fear a President may only be good on 2. and 3. for at most 60% of the electorate, my hope is a President Biden would inspire less antipathy, but Bush and Obama tried to be “uniters” without much success.

      1. Loriot

        For what it’s worth, I talked to some family today who reported frustration with how complacent people are being in [red county]. It seems that Trumps rhetoric may have lulled people into a false sense of security, in which case #2 is actually negative credit.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          My uncle says swine flu was worse and this is scare tactics.

          Secondary to age, you are going to see a real hit among political belief among who gets walloped by this thing.

        2. sharper13

          One of the potential disconnects on both sides of the partisan divide is that Red State American is likely to have a different experience than Blue State America.

          Blue State is more urban (and hence living closer together) with more planned large gatherings, more universities to interrupt, and it’s also where the majority of the early cases have been.

          Red State is more rural, tends to already have more physical distance between people, and is probably hit hardest by the sports programming on TV being canceled and people hoarding TP from Walmart.

          If you look at the current infection map, it’s focused on the Bay Area, Seattle, NYC, the numbers in Red State areas are already much higher than in Blue States.

          So what may seem like an early over-reaction to one may feel justified to the other.

          1. brad

            We here in the cities just do bullshit jobs while the real work of the country is done on farms, mines, and factories in real America. So I don’t see why red states should be worried about over-reaction, what difference doesn’t it make if those liberal effeminate elites shut down their useless cities. In fact, it should be positive as all those bankers, journalists, government bureaucrats, and Hollywood types don’t have a chance to continue destroying this country.

          2. roflc0ptic

            I’m skeptical of how influential the geographic component is.

            Anecdotally, I live near my girlfriend’s conservative mother. She’s 70, and loves fox news. This woman is absolutely *cavalier* about it. Some direct quotes: “If we can’t vacation internationally, we’ll just drive around the US instead.” “It’s just like the flu.” She and her boyfriend flew to NYC last week, and talked about how they liked the markets in China town.

            I don’t personally know anyone with COVID-19, so all of my knowledge/flavor is from media. So is theirs. I think the disinformation campaign is, for the moment, effective.

    7. Le Maistre Chat

      What are the measures of success when dealing with a pandemic?

      “Lowest mortality per capita in a democracy” is the measure elected officials need to be shooting for. There’s a large luck factor in asymptomatic virus shedding that disadvantaged polities hit earlier and low-density countries like Canada, Oz and to a lesser extent the USA have an advantage (less so if they dawdle on condon sanitaire until announcing a national lockdown like Spain did today). Never mind that: there should be a sense of friendly competition among peers, “We’ll keep you safer than anywhere else.”

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        If we judge them by those kind of results, we are going to get worse and worse restrictions and economic damage.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          I mean, I’m expecting the US to go into national lockdown but only once ICU beds or ventilators are overwhelmed, like Italy. I don’t see your trade-offs in the future, just “near maximum restrictions and economic damage possible in a democracy but only once preventable deaths start.”

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            hls2003 guesstimated $900B of economic damage per month from being locked down. My guesstimate is 80 million people who are at-risk. Can we quickly build something to isolate those 80 million people with a budget of $10,000 per person per month?

            Hell, give me 10K per month and I can guarantee my two elderly parents are safe, which is a 50% savings.

          2. eric23

            The lockdown is going to happen sooner or later. The sooner it happens, the less the impact of the virus AND the lockdown.

    8. fluorocarbon

      But especially in the USA, what result would make people (especially Trump’s opponents) say that a good job was done versus a bad job overall? Lots of people here have said that Trump has been wanting and not doing a good job, along with some specific (and accurate) mistakes that have been made.

      From a Trump opponent: the short answer is that if the US has around the same number of deaths and amount of economic damage as similar countries (UK, Canada, Germany, France, etc.) when this is all over then I’ll say that the Trump administration did an all right job.

      But I think there is a longer and more complicated answer. It’s hard to respond to your question exactly as asked because of the particular way you phrased it: “Trump has been wanting and not doing a good job.” That phrasing has some assumptions baked in. I can offer an analogy:

      Imagine that we’re on a big ship. Before launch the captain decided it wasn’t necessary to load enough life boats for all the passengers. Some people criticize the captain but they’re dismissed by the captain’s supporters. In fact, because there are fewer life boats, the ship is going faster and the journey’s more comfortable. But suddenly the ship hits an iceberg! The ship is sinking! People are rushing to the life boats but there aren’t enough! Now the captain does all he can – let’s even say that he’s a brilliant navigator and is in fact doing better than anyone else would in this situation – but he’s still criticized by his detractors. His supporters say, “how can you criticize him? He’s doing everything right! Can you really say there’s something he’s doing wrong right now?”

      Some things that seem like real life missing life boats to me are tax cuts and aggressive fiscal policy during a boom time, firing the White House pandemic response team, demanding loyalty rather than competence in top-level officials, and the institutional culture created by refusing to take responsibility and deflecting blame for failures. I admit there is a lot of unreasonable criticism of Trump in the media but in my opinion there is a lot of reasonable criticism about this kind of thing. Someone can say, “nobody could predict something like this.” But that’s the entire point! The captain couldn’t predict that particular iceberg. The White House needs to be able to respond to unpredictable things and the president needs to have appointed the right people to federal agencies to deal with whatever the thing is.

      While I think that the iceberg has already been hit I really hope that it hasn’t. Either way we’ll know more a year from now.

      1. AG

        Also, the Trump Administration has consistently fallen short on executing its policies. Executive orders and policy changes are often rushed out and require weeks of clarifications, and as a result, the execution is often botched with lack of resources and training.

        See, for example, the recent travel restrictions actually increasing infection risks:
        https://www.npr.org/2020/03/15/816065950/travelers-greeted-with-hours-long-airport-lines-as-coronavirus-screenings-begin

        So we can’t even give that much credit for what they’re doing now.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          You have people at the top instituting policies which seem reasonable on paper, but they don’t have any experience with or connection to the people implementing them to be told “wait, hold on.”

      2. BlackboardBinaryBook

        Someone can say, “nobody could predict something like this.”

        They could say that, but they would be wrong. Predicting “something like this” is why Obama created the team Trump disbanded.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          During the transition, Obama’s team ran a tabletop[ for Trump’s team about a flu pandemic starting in Asia and coming into the US. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/trump-inauguration-warning-scenario-pandemic-132797 One of the specific issues was a shortage of ventilators.

          You have to prepare and plan for things like this. The plans never work out right, but it gives you a head start on thinking through some of the problems you will face.

    9. John Schilling

      What are the measures of success when dealing with a pandemic?

      The simplest and least-gameable metrics are number of deaths as a percentage of the affected population, and percent GDP lost to whatever countermeasures are imposed. Ideally, you’d want to do a full QALY calculation on the first part, to cover short- and long-term disability as well as death and expected remaining lifespan of the victims. And on the second part, include non-monetized losses like fewer utils of social interaction, plus debt incurred to forestall this fiscal year’s GDP loss. But all those things are more easily gamed, obscured, and endlessly debated.

      For a first-order comparison, if the United States comes in at fewer deaths per capita and less per capita GDP reduction than the average Western European nation, I’d tentatively count that as a win for the United States. More, and it’s a loss. If it’s fewer deaths but more GDP loss, then we have to start putting a dollar value on human life, which is always distasteful but often nonetheless appropriate. There’s reasonable precedent for using something in the $5-10E6/life range for the life of the average American or Western European; this disease predominantly affects the elderly, so if we’re not doing a full QALY calculation I’d lean towards the low end of that range.

    10. broblawsky

      What does “success” mean to you? How badly does the administration’s response have to go before you deem it a failure? I think it’d be helpful for us to get a reading from you as well.

      1. EchoChaos

        What does “success” mean to you?

        Getting America through the pandemic in a way that neither causes Great Depression 2.0 or a hundred thousand to a million dead.

        How badly does the administration’s response have to go before you deem it a failure?

        As I said elsewhere, if our death rate is higher than the globally connected technocratic countries in Western Europe, I’ll consider Trump a failure. France, Spain, Italy, the UK are sort of my “comparison barometers” for this. If he hits those, he did exactly as well as the technocrats without the disadvantages (to my politics) that technocrats bring.

        If he beats them substantially and gets as low as someplace like Singapore and South Korea that’s a home-run.

        Economically there isn’t a solid way to know if he’s winning until at least next year, unfortunately.

        1. brad

          I realize this is a quibble but Italy and Spain are both significantly poorer and I wouldn’t call either technocratic. If for some reason Asia doesn’t count, Germany and the UK are better comparators than Mediterranean PIIGS.

          1. Clutzy

            They are alright comparisons, but they lack the ethnic and cultural diversity that the US has, which significantly complicates any sort of response that needs social solidarity.

          2. Aapje

            @Clutzy

            14.8% of the German population was an immigrant in 2017 vs 13.6% for the USA. In 2018, it was 14% for the UK.

            This meme of exceptional American diversity is both wrong and tiring.

          3. EchoChaos

            @Clutzy

            There are no perfect comparison. We’re further south and warmer than most first world countries, we’re more rural, we’re more wealthy, we have a different healthcare system, etc.

            @Aapje

            Usually people mean ethnic diversity. The United States has had immigrants for longer, so we have people who are second and third generation immigrants and no longer counted there but are still ethnically distinct from mainline Americans.

            Plus our large African-American population, which is certainly not immigrants, but is indeed quite diverse.

          4. Clutzy

            @Echo

            I don’t think there is any perfect comparison, but typically I pretend Canada added 10% of their population as Brazilians, and estimate from there.

          5. Aapje

            @EchoChaos

            The US used to be known for its ‘melting pot,’ but African-Americans failed to melt, creating semi-parallel societies. The same is true in Germany and the UK for fairly large groups.

            There is a reason why populism is not just popular in the US.

          6. John Schilling

            The US used to be known for its ‘melting pot,’ but African-Americans failed to melt, creating semi-parallel societies.

            Nit: Roughly half of the African-Americans “melted”, once the rest of the US let them. That still leaves a significant demographic chunk of persistent non-melters, of course.

          7. Le Maistre Chat

            Nit: Roughly half of the African-Americans “melted”, once the rest of the US let them. That still leaves a significant demographic chunk of persistent non-melters, of course.

            When Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke were alive, an escaped slave named Olaudah Equiano wrote a book (books were typically funded by subscription; the aforesaid notables were subscribers) about his experiences and their social implications. He recommended interracial marriage as a bulwark against the ethnogenesis of a hostile and still-oppressed new people when slavery was abolished (he himself equivocating between his identity group being the Igbo and English Christians).

    11. Conrad Honcho

      I think assigning blame or thanks to Trump is a fallacy in itself. There’s not much the President can do here. The big things he can do were the travel bans, and he did those. Perhaps he could have been directly involved with whatever SNAFU went on with testing. After that, if it’s going to stop spreading, it’s because my county school board shut down our schools, and the NBA shut down their games, and my employer is letting us work from home, and because people do the social distancing thing and wash their hands. The President doesn’t have anything to do with that stuff. People are turning this into a political thing (on both sides) so they can dunk on the outgroup and I wish they wouldn’t. This is not the time.

      1. baconbits9

        Honestly the travel bans should have been faster and more extensive. Once it was known that there is a substantial dormant period that is the best way forward.

      2. brad

        To a certain extent that’s true because the power here mostly lies with states (which they may have delegated to counties or smaller political units). That said there are significant levers at the federal level–they have exclusive jurisdiction over air travel for example. Then there’s just the bully pulpit. If Trump thought the country should shut down Italy style two weeks ago, he could have said so. Maybe people like my governor would then have not shut down just to spite him, but if so the blame would lie on my governor not Trump. (Assuming for the sake of argument that such a shutdown two weeks ago was the optimal move.)

      3. Ant

        You don’t need to have a lot of influence to be at fault, simply to do wrong thing, and Donald’s usual approach to problem is yet again bad. To copy paste a post from an american left wing, with my comment in italic

        By contrast, what has Donald Trump, darling of the GOP, done?

        1) Two years ago, fired the person in charge of pandemic readiness, and his team, and never replaced them.
        That’s typical and 100% Donald Trump’s incompetence at hiring reliable people. Having this team would or should have help, this is a basic failure of his duty.

        2) Cut the CDC’s global epidemic prevention budget by 80%.
        Not sure if it is Donald Trump who decide that, but it is at least the reponsability of the GOP.

        3) Kept testing catastrophically low. As of March 8, South Korea had tested 189,000 people; the US, 1700. Test kits are in short supply and test labs are backed up. When you hear that the US has had 971 cases (as of today), bear in mind that we just don’t know the total number of cases because we’re barely testing.
        See above

        4) Lied about the severity of the disease.
        100% on Donald, but maybe more of a mistake thatn a fault

        5) Lied about it being contained.
        100% on Donald, and that’s a fault.

        6) Encouraged people with the virus to go to work, spreading it further.
        100% on Donald, and another fault.

        7) Lied about the number of tests available.
        100% on Donald

        8) Lied that the coronavirus is just like “the flu.” Coronavirus’s mortality rate is about 20 times that of the flu. (The flu’s rate is 0.1%; WHO has estimated coronavirus’s at 3.6%. But in China, it was 14.8% for people 80 or older.)
        I suspect that the claim in itself is wrong.

        9) Misled people about how quickly a vaccine can be produced. (It could take a year or more.)
        100% on Donald

        10) Been more concerned about “the markets” and his own popularity than in combating a public health crisis.
        The first one might be a debatable political choice, the second one is a judgement call.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Did he really mislead people about vaccination production time? He said a few months, but that was during a (live) meeting with advisors, who told him it would take much longer.

          Did he talk about it some other time?

        2. Conrad Honcho

          Please stop spreading lies and disinformation for partisan political purposes. You are not helping. You are spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in a time when people at least sort of need to not panic by thinking the government is more incompetent than usual. I hope this backfires on you massively and you lose whatever elections you are trying to win with this.

          1) Two years ago, fired the person in charge of pandemic readiness, and his team, and never replaced them.

          False. He got rid of a person on the National Security Council whose job, since the position was created in 2016, was to say at NSC meetings, “nope, no pandemic in the US.” None of this has anything to do with the CDC’s teams that deal with emerging pandemics.

          2) Cut the CDC’s global epidemic prevention budget by 80%.

          False. He allowed funding to help deal with Ebola in Africa to expire. This has absolutely nothing to do with dealing with a novel coronavirus from China.

          I stopped reading there, but I assume everything else you said is probably similarly false. You should ignore whoever fed you those talking points in the future.

          1. Ant

            For the first point, the source provided is an article from 2018, which corroborated his claims. Given your general lack of reliability, I will trust this more than you.

    12. DinoNerd

      Given the way politics is done in the US currently, I can’t imagine anything that would make Trump’s opponents say he did a good job. If they decide that a good job was done, they’ll be handing the credit to any and every other plausible participant, from their (Democratic) governor to the heroic medical people in their local communities.

      Of course much the same applies in reverse. His fervent supporters will give him credit for things done by other people. And those who feel that a bad job was done, will tend to divide the blame for that in equally partisan ways.

      The small set of people who aren’t rabid partisans may manage a bit more nuance, but since they are mostly getting their news from partisan sources, maybe not. (Even my non-US news sources seem to be on a partisan mission to show the US as a bunch of bungling fools, and allow their local readers to congratulate themselves on being better off [with regard to Covid-19] at home than in the US.)

      For the record, personally I don’t expect to have sufficient information to decide where to place responsibility, particularly if a good job is done. (It’s easier to assign responsibility for collosal blunders, than for making better choices repeatedly, particularly when no choice is really good.)

      And of course some quantity of wingnuts are probably already accusing their favourite conspiracy theory targets of starting the pandemic on purpose, as well as arranging for it to be mishandled ;-()

  9. Ouroborobot

    I’ve seen a lot of recent discussion, here and elsewhere, about hospital bed count. The USA has a low bed count relative to other developed nations. Setting aside the potential impact of our capacity on the current pandemic, what is the explanation for this disparity? Can it be laid at the feet of our lack of universal coverage, or is it something else?

    1. Alexander Turok

      We have more healthcare workers per capita than most developed countries, so no, it’s not because we use less healthcare. Eastern Bloc counties had a suspiciously high number of hospital beds considering the generally primitive state of their medical sectors, presumably due to Goodhart’s law.

    2. Le Maistre Chat

      Italy uses an NHS-style government-run system, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale. Its ICU bed capacity is said to be 12.5 beds per 100,000 people. The USA has not quite triple that, and Germany’s “universal multi-payer” system has 29.2/100k.
      This suggests that a government monopoly isn’t good for the ICU bottleneck during a pandemic. Universal access to a more market-y system might be better.

    3. 10240

      Perhaps less unnecessary hospitalization due to more attention to cost-effectiveness? In Europe, I’ve been hospitalized for more than a week in situations where I’m pretty sure that a one-day hospitalization would have been sufficient.

      1. eric23

        Given that the US spends much more money on healthcare and gets worse outcomes, it’s hard to believe it has more attention to cost-effectiveness.

        1. 10240

          It’s unclear.
          • Some procedures may be more expensive in the US for reasons insurance companies can’t do anything about. However, they may be able to push for shorter hospitalizations.
          • The effectiveness part of cost-effectiveness is not only health outcomes. If Americans are paying for private hospital rooms in place of many-bed wards, they are (depending on their preferences) getting value out of it that they wouldn’t get out of unnecessary hospital stays.
          • The “worse outcomes” part is hard to ascertain. Some sources say it’s heavily confounded, and in any case it is based on metrics that capture only a part of health outcomes.

        2. DavidFriedman

          Given that the US spends much more money on healthcare and gets worse outcomes

          That claim is sometimes based on a WHO study. I critiqued that on my blog some years back. The ranking usually quoted includes cost, so isn’t just of outcomes, the ranking for outcomes is 15 (not the often quoted 37), and the measure of outcomes is based on five factors, only one of which is actually an imperfect measure of health outcomes.

          Or in other words, the results of that study provide essentially no evidence on how good outcomes are. I’ve seen figures elsewhere on particular outcome measures, but nothing that would show the quoted claim to be either true or false.

          Do you (Eric23) have a source for the claim?

          1. eric23

            The first result in Google.

            As for your blog post – it’s more flawed than the study it discusses. First, because you just dismiss as irrelevant any of their calculations which are not explained to your satisfaction. Second, because you ignore that the US is #1 in subjective evaluation, and if you exclude that and look only at objective data, the US’s ranking must be lower than the #15 that includes subjective evaluation. Third, because being #1 in costs (by far) and #15 or worse in outcomes is pretty clear evidence of failure to contain costs.

          2. DavidFriedman

            The first result in Google.

            Which is an article about cost, not outcomes. What I wrote in the comment you are responding to was:

            Or in other words, the results of that study provide essentially no evidence on how good outcomes are.

            Do you have a source for the claim that outcomes are worse in the U.S.?

            Third, because being #1 in costs (by far) and #15 or worse in outcomes is pretty clear evidence of failure to contain costs.

            I wasn’t talking about costs, as you could easily see by reading the comment you responded to. Your claim, which I was questioning, was that the U.S. “gets worse outcomes.” Do you have any evidence to support that claim?

            What you refer to as “objective measures” are, with one exception, not measures of health outcomes, as you could see by reading my blog post or, if you don’t trust it, reading the notes to the WHO study that I link to.

    4. Thomas Jorgensen

      Hospitals are dangerous. They are necessary because you cant wheel a surgical suite and a ct scanner into
      someones home to treat them there, but best practice is literally to get you out of them as quickly as humanly possible, so in normal conditions, cost cutting and treatment optimization both push the number of beds down. I suppose optimal policy would be to let that happen and have moth-balled epidemic wards in an cheap location for when that tendency bites you in the buttocks.

        1. salvorhardin

          Not sure, but usual caveats would apply about confounders in either case. A better (though still imperfect) question would be how hospital beds per capita evolved in states who introduced CON laws after vs before that introduction.

    5. gbdub

      Not sure about “hospital beds” but the US has the most ICU beds per capita by a significant margin. Germany is close, everyone else is substantially behind. The Uk is basically a third world country by that measure.

      My anecdotal sense is that the US has fewer but better equipped (and more private) hospital beds, and hospital stays tend to be shorter. Probably both a cause and effect of their high price.

    6. Dack

      Wasn’t there a big push during the last 1-2 decades to convert the standard 2 beds per hospital room to all single bed rooms?

      1. BBA

        Also, to get people to use storefront “urgent care” clinics instead of hospitals when medically appropriate. And to close underused facilities.

        Hospitals are expensive to maintain. Today, facing a pandemic, it looks like the wrong choice to have closed and downsized so many of them. But does it make sense to pay to keep them open and unused, waiting for a once-in-a-century event? Especially when many of them would be obsolete by the time the next pandemic rolls around.

      1. Guy in TN

        Right? This is why I don’t understand. It’s hard to believe he couldn’t still sell it and make money. It’s just that he can’t make as much money as he thought he could when he decided to buy them.

        And even if he bought the sanitizer initially for some ridiculously high price himself, selling it at a loss is better than letting it sit in his garage. Better to make up some of your loss, rather than none of it.

        The only scenario where he doesn’t want to sell it for a non-gouging price, is if he values just holding onto the sanitizer for more than that. In which case I can’t help him, that’s just a decision he is choosing to make, and he could make that same decision even without price gouging laws.

        1. Loriot

          > This is why I don’t understand. It’s hard to believe he couldn’t still sell it and make money

          Assuming we read the same article, it sounds like this is what he’s planning to do. The problem is that shipping hand sanitizer is uneconomical at non-extortionate prices (he claims it costs $10 for him to ship two bottles), so now he plans to sell them locally at a lower markup.

          1. sksnsvbanap

            If rules against price gouging ban charging for shipping at cost, that seems like a mistake.

          2. John Schilling

            Shipping hand sanitizer two bottles at a time, is a mistake. Shipping is vastly cheaper at the wholesale than retail level; I think we had this discussion regarding cinderblocks a few months ago. If there are shortages of hand sanitizer, we want pallets if not TEUs of sanitizer shipped by train and truck to whichever Wal-Marts are running low this week, not some guy breaking up a pallet and trying to FedEx two bottles at a time to whoever will pay the most.

            If we’re going to have laws against price gouging, that guy is the low-hanging fruit to be legally plucked for the common good. If we’re not going to have laws against price-gouging, then that guy is running at a loss from day one because the retail stores he’s buying from have already increased the price to the market-clearing level without charging their customers retail shipping rates on top of it.

          3. Loriot

            For what it’s worth, I agree completely with you. I was just trying to answer Guy in TN’s question.

          4. Paul Zrimsek

            If we’re not going to have laws against price-gouging, then that guy is running at a loss from day one because the retail stores he’s buying from have already increased the price to the market-clearing level without charging their customers retail shipping rates on top of it.

            Adding for the sake of completeness: if, in the absence of anti-gouging laws, the guy is not running at a loss from day one, it can only be because his day one came earlier than other people’s, i.e., he was among the first to realize that there was going to be a surge in demand. In that case, his big shopping trip served the socially useful function of alerting the players in the normal supply chain to the situation, encouraging them to start raising prices and ramping up production.

            I suspect our gouger may be exaggerating his shipping costs a bit to try and take some of the heat off. I don’t know whether it was possible to order hand sanitizer in retail quantities through Amazon back in normal times, but I do know you could get a bunch of other consumer items whose economics are not obviously different from those of hand sanitizer.

          5. baconbits9

            If there are shortages of hand sanitizer, we want pallets if not TEUs of sanitizer shipped by train and truck to whichever Wal-Marts are running low this week, not some guy breaking up a pallet and trying to FedEx two bottles at a time to whoever will pay the most.

            This is false for at least 2 reasons.

            1. The 50th person who comes into to buy a bottle of hand sanitizer from Walmart is now in an environment where 49 other people have traipsed through, anyone of which could have contaminated a surfact that infects #50 before they even get to the sanitizer.

            2. This is generally the central planning fallacy that hitting the average is better than hitting the specific. It is far better for people who are likely to have complications to get the sanitizer than for people who aren’t, the correlation with wealth/purchasing power here is about as good as you could hope for. Boomers have more wealth and should be the ones getting it (outside of hospitals etc), and they should also be avoiding super-stores like Walmart where they can.

    1. Machine Interface

      Requisition. I mean US cops are already basically allowed to steal whatever they want as “evidence” so, might as well take advantage of that for a good cause once in a while.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        I was going to say “send the cops to steal it” but you would have to make sure the cops turn it over to someone responsible, instead of hoarding it for themselves.

    2. Edward Scizorhands

      I read that and it filled me with rage. Beware toxoplasmas here.

      Him complaining that price gouging is supposed to stop Billy Bob’s gas station, not him, really pissed me off. Besides the implicit insult about Billy Bob:

      In the middle of a hurricane is exactly when you want price increases. In fact, the government should demand price increases. Take it entirely out of the gas station owner’s hands and insist that prices go up by $5/gallon. In the middle of a hurricane, you want people to conserve, and you want people to be incentivized to bring in new supply.

      On the other hand, a guy with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer has it because he bought it up off the market before other people could get it. The shortage is not because some hand-sanitizer-factory exploded or something: it’s because this asshole.

    3. The Nybbler

      He should take his truck around again and start selling them for cash. This is how black markets traditionally work anyway.

    4. BBA

      I know the answer I’m supposed to give: legalize price gouging and let the markets clear. But that still leads to suboptimal scenarios by some metrics, like roughly what we’re seeing now – all the supplies get bought up by preppers and hoarders who don’t want to sell at any price, while retailers have bare shelves and I can’t buy anything even though I can afford the “inflated” price. Besides, it’s boring.

      Maybe some kind of quota-based Dutch auction? The idea is, nobody can purchase more than their allotment. Tally up everyone’s bids, find the top N bidders where N is the maximum number of possible buyers given the supply and quota size, and sell to each of them at the lowest price in the top N. No hoarding, no “unearned” windfalls.

      1. John Schilling

        like roughly what we’re seeing now – all the supplies get bought up by preppers and hoarders who don’t want to sell at any price

        The people buying now are by definition not preppers. And as panicky impulsive hoarders, they are almost certainly at least somewhat price-sensitive. If they heard on TV that toilet paper is running out, saw empty shelves the last time they were at the store, and this time the shelves were freshly restocked at the normal price, they’re going to buy as much as they can carry because literally why not? Every signal and incentive points the same direction.

        If toilet paper (or hand santizer, or rices and beans or whatever) costs twice as much as normal, they’ll whine and scream about the price-gouging but probably think a bit more about how much they want to buy. And the shopkeeper will think a bit more about how he might be able to get more TP on short notice (ditto the manufacturer, etc).

        So, instead of one family getting a six-month supply at the normal price and two others going without, three families pay twice as much but get what they need. And yes, someone is going to bring up the plight of the poor people who literally can’t afford to buy any toilet paper if it costs more than normal, but A: that’s almost certainly not literally-literally, and B: if it is, someone goes without. But that’s what’s happening anyway, every time, and now it only happen in marginal cases.

      2. 10240

        Wouldn’t the price the auction would yield be roughly the same as what the price-gougers would get, unless perhaps you severely limit the personal allotment (and also prohibit its resale)?

        1. Vitor

          Limiting personal allotment is the point of the auction format proposed by BBA. Prohibiting resale might be necessary on top of that (it certainly would be necessary in spherical cow economics land).

          But there is a second benefit to running an auction, namely batching. By waiting for everyone’s bids to come in before you sell anything, you’re able to allocate the goods efficiently (i.e., the sum of buyers’ utilities is maximized), which might be very different from the allocation you get if you just sell to people as they show up, even if you dynamically adapt the price to the demand.

          In the case of toilet paper, I would expect buyers’ values to decrease for each additional meter obtained, so the efficient allocation is that most people get some amount, which is exactly what we want.

    5. cassander

      The rules are simple. Don’t charge more than your competition, that’s gouging. Don’t charge less, that’s dumping. And don’t charge the same amount, that’s colluding. Other than that, you’re good to go!

    6. Guy in TN

      I just want to point out, that if you care about this and think his hoarding is bad, then you intuitively understand that aggregated economic value does not equal aggregated utility. Congratulations on seeing the light.

      So solutions?
      -Instead of using price to ration the scarce supply, use something else, like a per-person allotment. Such laws were widespread in the US during WWII, hopefully we haven’t completely lost the knowledge/infrastructure necessary to implement them.

      -Use state-run enterprises to create more hand sanitizer, selling it at a loss (or give it away for free). Fund it via taxation. This ensures that everyone who wants hand sanitizer gets some. And it floods the supply, removing the incentive for people to hoard.

      1. Loriot

        I think the issue is that the markets are illiquid (you have to drive around to obscure stores to find the supply, which means high transaction costs). Standard economic theory only applies in proportion to how ideal the markets are.

      2. Alexander Turok

        you intuitively understand that aggregated economic value does not equal aggregated utility. Congratulations on seeing the light.

        I don’t think anyone ever claimed they were the same. Rather, the claim is that the policies you think follow from this will reduce both.

        Use state-run enterprises to create more hand sanitizer, selling it at a loss

        The record for state-run enterprises is pretty poor. Better to just subsidize production among existing manufacturers.

      3. BBA

        Re state-run enterprises: the State of New York is having its prison labor enterprise, Corcraft, produce hand sanitizer for governmental use. Worthwhile under current circumstances, but the mere fact that Corcraft exists is pretty distasteful, though I guess convicts have to do something while they’re in prison and somebody has to hammer out the license plates.

    7. Atlas

      This strikes me as a pessimal situation. Suggestions for solutions?

      My intuition is that there should basically be a free market in hand sanitizers.

      This will likely be a painful, unfair and unjust situation. There might well be individual cases where price controls increase net utility. But, if there is a shortage of hand sanitizer relative to demand as a result of the coronavirus, any set of rules, such as government rationing, about how to distribute it will lead to a painful, unfair and unjust situation. The problem is the objective, external material situation, not the set of rules we adopt for how to deal with it. The advantage of having a generally free market, it seems to me, is that it will incentivize and coordinate movement of resources from where they’re relatively abundant to where they’re relatively scarce, and thus tend to somewhat mitigate the pain, unfairness and injustice of the situation on the whole. (Redistribution, of money, is a separate question, and I think it’s more potentially justifiable than price controls.)

      Price controls in natural disasters seem like a case of what is seen and not seen. If a seller charges an exorbitant and unfair price for hand sanitizer, the injustice of that is seen. But if the government sets a price ceiling on hand sanitizer that prevents potential sellers and distributors from going of their own volition (a more dependable motivation than coercion) to extraordinary difficulties to get to the most afflicted areas to charge extraordinary prices, the unfair consequent lack of hand sanitizer relative to what could be is not seen.

    8. Machine Interface

      The thing people seem to overlook here is that there isn’t a shortage because the product is in higher demand than the logistic chain can provide. There is a shortage because a few individuals are deliberatedly ransacking the stores in order to get a monopoly on the product and then selling it at a highly inflated value, counting on the high demand, and this very behavior is creating the shortage – without this hoarding, there would be enough for everyone at normal (or slightly inflated) market price.

      If you want to avoid shortages, then that kind of behavior should be discouraged/punished in some way.

      1. John Schilling

        There is a shortage because a few individuals are deliberatedly ransacking the stores in order to get a monopoly on the product and then selling it at a highly inflated value

        The wannabe hand sanitizer kingpin is a three-sigma anomaly. There is a shortage because millions of people are opportunistically ransacking the stores so they can get the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that, in this uncertain and uncaring world, they’ve ensured that their family has a six-month supply of toilet paper.

        1. Machine Interface

          I don’t buy that. This guy bought thousands of bottle, going through every single store he could find on a 1300 mile stretch of road. Even if only one people out of a thousand are doing that, make the maths yourself.

          1. JayT

            The guy in the article bought 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for $1 each. In 2016 the hand sanitizer market was $195 million. Assuming that hasn’t changed (even though it almost surely has gone up), that would mean for hoarders to buy up half the stock you would need about 1,500 people buying 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. I would guess that this guy is the only person that’s bought that many bottles, so in reality you;d need way more hoarders. It seems much more likely that the real “culprits” are the people that would have normally bought one bottle that are instead buying five or ten.

          2. John Schilling

            Even if only one people out of a thousand are doing that, make the maths yourself.

            Math applied to numbers you made up out of thin air is literally worse than useless. What’s the evidence or other reasoned basis for one person out of a thousand doing that? I’d be surprised if it’s even one in ten thousand.

      2. Nancy Lebovitz

        I’m pretty sure you’re mistaken– most of the buying seems to be a lot of people buying a small multiple of what they usually would, and keeping it for their own use. The supply chain can’t accommodate that in the short run.

      3. Alexander Turok

        The thing people seem to overlook here is that there isn’t a shortage because the product is in higher demand than the logistic chain can provide.

        Why are you assuming this?

        There is a shortage because a few individuals are deliberatedly ransacking the stores in order to get a monopoly on the product

        A prepper with garages full of hand sanitizer selling over the internet will have <<50% of the market share. Unless you have a theory about them coordinating with one another, you’re not using the term “monopoly” correctly.

      4. 10240

        Price-gougers were speculating on an increase in the market price, but I don’t think any of them succeeded, or even tried, to corner the market and get a monopoly.

        In the absence of laws (and public sentiment) against price-gouging, stores themselves could have increased prices when they saw the increasing demand, which would have reduced the profitability of hoarding.

        If you don’t think the amount people would like to buy at normal prices exceeds the available supply, and you think the reason for inflated prices is someone cornering the market, why doesn’t the same also happen in normal times?

    9. Radu Floricica

      Well, the correct solution would have been for the prices to increase from the start, by a moderate amount. Aka allowing the big players to adjust prices on the fly. This would have the most chances of leading to a perfect equilibrium.

      Let’s define “success” first, to make sure we don’t go astray. We want:
      – quick increase production and distribution of those goods
      – easier access for vulnerable populations
      – a reasonably fair distribution
      – (a distant last) least possible spending for that good, society-wide.

      As far as I can tell, price gouging laws only optimize the last, and pretty much ensure the first three are shot to hell.

      Rationing helps a bit with the third as well, but with horrible inefficiencies and bureaucracy.

      Pretending to have price gouging laws and in practice having resellers buy from amazon/wallmart and selling on the black market is the absolutely worst scenario, and that’s what we have now. Not one success criteria is met.

      Allowing and even encouraging walmart to adjust prices on the fly:
      – makes sure the extra profits go to the distribution chain and the producers instead of scalpers, so solves the first criteria perfectly
      – since prices go up fast, it discourages both stockpiling and reselling, so we end up with products like hand gels and masks being on the shelves non stop, albeit at 5x-10x the normal price – which may be “absurdly expensive”, but it’s still perfectly affordable for everybody, including vulnerable populations. With minimal need for charity in extreme cases.
      – since we have both high prices and few shortages, it makes sense to buy only what you need – so as close to perfect distribution as we can
      – there’s a lot of profit to be made by everybody in the production-distribution chain, so as a society we’re basically paying for extra supply extra fast. It’s not the best possible solution, at least in theory. In practice I can’t really think of a better one that doesn’t have chances of backfiring horribly (I still think of trucks full of bottled water untouched weeks after disaster passed).

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        “Pretending to have price gouging laws and in practice having resellers buy from amazon/wallmart and selling on the black market is the absolutely worst scenario, and that’s what we have now. Not one success criteria is met.”

        The situation as described in the NYT article is the worst– people buying in the hope of reselling at high prices, and then not knowing how to resell when they don’t have access to the online markets. So, at the moment, there’s some quantity of hand sanitizer which is sitting in would-be resellers’ storage doing no good to anyone.

        I’m tempted toward the government buying it from the resellers at what the resellers paid for it, so they aren’t tempted to hang on to it just in case.

        1. Radu Floricica

          Oh no, they’re … what was the word? Bragplaining? They’re definitely not in a bad position right now. There are many ways to get rid of it at a profit. They just lost a few of the easiest ones.

      2. Edward Scizorhands

        My first thought: Stores should realize “someone is buying up 500 items at once, wtf. We should restrict him to 10 and then mark up the price on the rest, because something is going on.”

        But in some states, adjusting prices is hard, since each item needs to be individually labelled. Let those states sit, and others can dynamically price.

        I’ve long said that instead of forbidding price increases, governments should go in the other direction and mandate price increases. People get pissed at stores for “gouging” but once the price increases are required, the stores can just shrug their shoulders.

        In case of emergency, give people money. There’s some talk of just giving everyone in America a n-hundred-dollar check as an anti-we-just-shutdown-the-economy measure. Give them that, and if they really want hand sanitizer, they can buy it. Soap still works better if you have running water available. Because of the shortage, I’ve probably only used 4 squirts of sanitizer in the past week.

        1. Trofim_Lysenko

          Three items, not ten, on all sanitizing and OTC cold/flu medication products at the Krogers here in Grove City, OH (an outlying bedroom community in the Columbus, OH metro area). I can pretty much guarantee some individual store managers will be smart enough (and have the will/initiative) to set limits in cases where Corporate doesn’t mandate it.

          Mind you, at those Krogers that only means they’re almost completely out of those products.

    10. 10240

      Besides the obvious solution of repealing laws and policies against price-gouging, I doubt there is actually a shortage of the ingredients of hand sanitizer. There is a shortage of factory-made bottles of hand sanitizer. An enterprising store owner or pharmacist could just mix alcohol, water, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and some thickening agent, and sell his own hand sanitizer.

      Cost would be somewhat higher than when making it in a factory, but I think many price-gouging laws allow some room for increased costs. In some jurisdictions, one may need regulatory approval to make hand sanitizer, though I guess it would be legal if it’s made by a compounding pharmacy. Even if selling the mix as hand sanitizer would be illegal, a store could just stock the ingredients next to each other on a prominent shelf, and stick a printout of WHO’s hand sanitizer recipe on it.

      1. 10240

        Stupid of them to have done it in a state with laws against price gouging, while there are some 16 US states without such laws. Actually, producers of products under shortage, too, could sell their entire production in states without price gouging laws, and speculators could buy any available products in states with price gouging laws, and sell them in states without.

  10. salvorhardin

    So I had independently done a similar analysis to that of hls2003 downthread, of cost-benefit tradeoffs to pandemic mitigation/delay strategies given reasonable estimates of QALY value, and come to a similar conclusion. Namely, restrictive measures with economic cost amounting to low-mid single digits % of GDP are plausibly worthwhile iff they actually work very well, and nothing costing 10+% of GDP annually is plausibly worthwhile *even if it works*.

    How might those of us who are less allergic than most to these cold equations go about persuading various levels of officialdom not to take 10+% GDP cost worth of restrictive measures? I’m worried in particular that a second infection spike after the loosening of round 1 of restrictions might produce panic that would lead people to irrationally support 10+% cost measures. Am I underestimating the degree to which people will chafe against long-term restrictions?

    1. Loriot

      It’s hard to run the equations when the numbers on both sides are mostly guesswork. We don’t know the how bad the pandemic will be and we don’t know how bad the economic impact of any given measure will be. Also keep in mind that letting infection run rampant itself has a severe negative economic impact.

      1. salvorhardin

        We don’t know, but we can estimate enough orders of magnitude to tell us something not-useless. Take, for example, the impact of China’s restriction measures on their economy over the last three months; I think we can reasonably assume that’s at least a 20% hit to their GDP over those three months, no? (If anyone has actual output numbers that would call this into question, I’d be interested to see them, of course.) So if that level of restriction were continued for six months, you’d have at least a 10% impact on annualized GDP.

        Fair point that an absolute business-as-usual counterfactual would also have a significant negative economic impact. But there are plausible counterfactuals which would minimize economic impact by targeting only small subsets of the population (e.g. focus on isolating the most vulnerable and enforcing quarantines of the known-infected, but accept that a bunch of vulnerable people are going to die for lack of treatment availability anyway).

        To clarify, what I’m worried about here is that the loudest voices will call for Italy-style whole-country lockdowns to continue throughout the year, including in the US; I think the social and economic breakdown this long a period of lockdown would cause is almost certainly severe enough to not be worth it, and I want to know how to argue for that in a way that is persuasive to ordinary people.

        1. Loriot

          I don’t think it’s worth worrying what policy will look like months ahead when the facts on the ground change so quickly. If in two weeks, we’re worse than Italy, then you would look silly to advocate lifting the restrictions and vice versa.

    2. eric23

      The pandemic is spreading exponentially in the US. Either restrictive measures will be taken to reduce the exponent to less than 1, or it will spread until millions of people die.

      The sooner the restrictive measures are take, the fewer cases there will be, AND the less restrictive the restrictions will need to be until containment is achieved.

      So the choice is either a smaller restriction now, or a bigger restriction later, or no restriction and millions die. Pretty obviously the first choice is best.

  11. corticalcircuitry

    Pandemic Pi Party – Virtual Meetup Today at 3 PM EST

    Please join me for a virtual SSC meetup today at 3 PM Eastern.

    The meetup will take place on Zoom – https://zoom.us/j/915512522

    We will also use a complimentary Discord – https://discord.gg/nHhCxR

    Please mute your microphones when you’re not speaking. Also, if you have a question for the person who’s speaking – post it on Discord, and if you want to just say something – jump in on Zoom.

  12. viVI_IViv

    So, what do you people make of the UK coronavirus strategy?

    The uncharitable interpretation is that they are kicking the can, like they did with Brexit, because this is what the UK government does, but coronavirus is not the EU and won’t give an extension.

    The charitable interpretation is that this is a galaxy-brain 4D-chess move to build up herd immunity in a “controlled” way: keep the schools, pubs, cinemas, etc. open so that people get infected, up until the NHS reaches capacity, then partially shut down things so that the number of new people requiring hospitalization balances the number of people leaving the hospitals (on their feet or in a coffin), and keep doing this for months until about 60% of the population has been infected.
    In contrast, Italy’s (and Hubei’s) strategy of shutting down everything to slow down the infection as much as possible is argued to have the drawback that it would take a longer time to achieve herd immunity and full shutdown is not feasible in the long term.

    Does the UK strategy make sense? My understanding is that Italy started to shut down the economy at a lower number of confirmed infections and still its health care system got overwhelmed, so if the UK waits until the NHS runs out of beds before starting to shut down the economy, then the NHS will end up being severely overwhelmed, possibly even more than its Italian homologue (the UK has less hospital beds per capita than Italy). Since the incubation length is 2-3 times the doubling time without restrictions, even if the number of new infections could be immediately reduced to zero, the number of people requiring hospitalization would still increase by a factor of 4 to 8.
    Even if we assume that the UK government is not run by total innumerates and that they are trying to take this math into consideration, playing with exponentials sounds extremely risky: a slight error in your estimates and you are screwed.

    Isn’t the Chinese and Italian strategy of maximum slow down more sensible? Full shutdown is not feasible in the long term but it might buy enough time for research to develop antiviral drugs or vaccines, or even just for the weather to become warmer.

    1. Spookykou

      I am currently in China and am very curious how things will play out once things start rolling again after the hard stop. There is a very strong desire from the people I am interacting with to get things back on track, but I am curious what the response will be if the virus starts spreading when everything does get moving again.

      1. viVI_IViv

        My understanding is that the hard stop only involves the Hubei province, while in the other provinces there are restrictions but most people still go to work/school.

        Is this correct?

        1. Spookykou

          Hubei had the most restrictions, but where I am seems like the most extreme restrictions happening in other countries, the schools are still closed and everyone who can is still working remote, a lot of restaurants and stores never opened back up from the spring festival, and I can only get stuff from Taobao if it is manufactured/stored in my province.

      2. eric23

        If people don’t have the virus, they won’t infect others.

        Just keep the isolation up until everyone with the virus (the ones the medical system doesn’t know about) has recovered or else worsened to the point of isolation in a hospital. Then there will be no cases “out there” and normal life can resume.

        I suspect the necessary time for this is a month or two.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          I suspect the necessary time for this is a month or two.

          If there are 10,000 carriers, a “generation” is two weeks, and we drive R_0 down to 0.4, that’s just over 10 weeks, or 2.5 months.

          I think it’s amazingly optimistic to think we can drive R_0 down to 0.4.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            I think it’s also the result of South Korea being full of South Koreans.

            Thanks for the link. I hadn’t believed containment was really achievable. Maybe it is. . .

    2. Creutzer

      You basically answered your own question, I think: you see just as well as I do that due to the large number of undiagnosed cases and the lag from infection to hospitalisation, the 4D strategy would be madness. There is no way you can estimate correctly when the flood wave will hit and overwhelm your medical system and time a shutdown accordingly.

    3. Edward Scizorhands

      We don’t know.

      I think the US is overreacting, but we don’t know how to properly respond. I can’t say what, specifically, our reaction should be.

      My idea of purposefully infecting the young and healthy somewhere* early is something I like more and more, but people are too risk-averse to consider it. Maybe afterwards we can think about it.

      Also, each time I hear that we are delaying the peak in order to wait for warming weather, I wonder: what if this were happening in late autumn? Would we be trying to pull the peak forward?

      * A hotel that needs business, for example. Sounds like a fun experience for 20-somethings. Although would that hotel retain a stain as a “plague hotel” or something? zzzzort published a Vox piece on Bill Gates below, and one thing Bill Gates said was that we haven’t figured out how to make sure that people who go off to fight a disease (like a military reserve) get to come back to their jobs. This is something we need to plan before the next pandemic — and there will be a next one.

      1. baconbits9

        My idea of purposefully infecting the young and healthy somewhere* early is something I like more and more, but people are too risk-averse to consider it. Maybe afterwards we can think about it.

        The major issues that people are raising aren’t going to be alleviated much by 10,000 (or 100,000 or a million) people with a 2 week course in changing bed pans.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Let’s say I waved a magic wand and gave 80% of the population aged 5-25 immunity. Not so much giving us workers, but that would give us some herd immunity and slow the transmission through the rest of society.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            If I stuffed the 19-25 year olds who are packing into bars (because college went online, woohoo!) into hotels and gave them free condoms, how long would it take for the virus to burn through 80% of them? Two months?

            The Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center (I chose that because it’s where CPAC was) has 2000 rooms at around $200/night. Squeeze 4 kids in each room. That’s $12 million a month to keep 16,000 of them out of our hair.

            It looks like there are 30 million people in the US in that age-bracket, so that means 1875 groups of 16K, so $22.5 billion a month. (And most hotels are not sitting on the Potomac!)

            Look, I know I am proposing something insanely expensive. But so is killing half our economy for a month. We should be considering other ways of isolating the young-and-stupid from the old-and-vulnerable.

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            They are eating food right now. They are going to be eating food wherever they are. That is not an additional expense. Since they are all heaped up together food can be prepared in bulk. You can hire some of the more competent of the 19-25 year-olds to do basic things like cooking and cleaning and monitoring vitals. Some small fraction will become seriously ill, and you bring them to an ICU the same way you handle a 70-year-old with COVID-19 who becomes seriously ill.

          3. baconbits9

            They are eating food right now. They are going to be eating food wherever they are. That is not an additional expense

            No, they are not already eating catered food in a hotel right now, and its not the expense. Its the hundreds of thousands of service employees who have to take care of the millions of people you want to quarantine, and interact with the food deliveries, spreading the disease. It is the people who will sneak out to party/find drugs/out of just general boredom well before the quarantine is up. Here is a story of a man walking out of a quarantine area and walked into a store and boarded a public bus. He turned out to be negative for the virus, but he was only there a few days at the most before going on a walk about. If you don’t have armed guards willing to use force then quarantines aren’t going to work, even with them they shouldn’t be expected to work on this type of virus.

          4. Edward Scizorhands

            Most of those 19-25 year-olds aren’t eating meals cooked at home by mom and dad. They are eating take-out or sit-down meals at restaurants.
            You can deliver supplies to the hotel, which has big kitchens on-site, and do it at scale.

            Was the man that escaped quarantine put there against his will? I took it as obvious that I was dealing with volunteers. Even then, yes, you would probably need guards.

          5. acymetric

            @Edward Scizorhands

            You think most 19-25 year olds are eating out for 100% of meals? It probably isn’t even anywhere close to that.

            A large chunk of 19-22 year olds are technically “eating out” at school dining options, but they paid for that up front when they bought the meal plan.

    4. The Nybbler

      This seems like a really dumb strategy that’s equivalent to no strategy at all; that is, they’re going to get overwhelmed and any partial shutdowns will do effectively nothing.

      I don’t think it’s the worst strategy, though: that would be “flattening the curve”. The problem with that one is that keeping up measures sufficient to keep ICU beds available until most of the susceptible population has been through the disease means a _very long_ period of restriction. I think some back-of-the-envelope numbers thrown around have been in the 10-year range. Thus you’ll get the worst of both worlds: a long and expensive partial shutdown of the economy, followed by uncontrolled outbreak ANYWAY when you cannot take it any more.

      The Chinese and Korean strategies seem to have resulted in R0 < 1; that’s the outcome you want. Either attempt to actually stop the epidemic, or bite the bullet. “Delay” strategies only make sense if you have good reason to expect something else to stop it in the short term (e.g. if it really is seasonal, or you can pull a vaccine out of a hat)

      1. Kaitian

        The problem with containment is that the virus is everywhere by now. So even if you manage to trace all cases in your country, someone will bring it back in next week. And since it seems to be just a cold for many young people, good luck tracing it in the first place.

        We are probably expecting to have a vaccine or an effective therapy by the end of this year. We probably can’t afford to confine people to their homes until then, but what else can we do at this point? If we just let the virus run rampant, hospitals will be overwhelmed in at least some regions for sure.

        1. Garrett

          > but what else can we do at this point

          People capable of activities of daily living self-isolate for the next few months or so. And the ones who aren’t independent die, significantly cutting overall healthcare costs.

        2. 10240

          If every country will choose to either let the disease run rampant, or shut down everything and push R₀ well below 1, then the epidemic will be over everywhere in a few months (either because of herd immunity or because of R₀<1), and there is nowhere to bring back cases from. We are in trouble if R₀≈1 in some place, because it will go on for a long time there.

    5. baconbits9

      Disclaimer: I have no idea what is actually an optimal strategy here, I don’t think anyone actually does and all the models being used are wildly incomplete. This is just a steel-man attempt at the potential benefits of the strategy.

      One of the big risks for China is that as they attempt to ramp up their economy again they see a downstream collapse in demand as the Western world goes into slowdown/shutdown/recession. The early stages of the illness saw Western countries shifting as much of their supply chain away from China as they could (at least in the short term) so some demand has just been lost there, and if we get a serious recession now that is more demand shortfall while they are trying to ramp up. Avoiding the worst of the virus but getting the worst of the recessionary forces on both ends is a scary prospect.

      On the flip side being one of the last major economies open for business might give you some tail winds, and may give a competitive advantage to GB. Lower input prices can sometimes be turned into longer contracts at below (future) market prices, and supply chains that are formed now can produce benefits for a long period of time and delaying the shutdown could plausibly reduce long term government debt (relative to shutdown countries) which can weigh on growth.

      Growth here is pretty important, if there is not a major seasonality issue + people can reinfect easily what does China do if there is another outbreak? Can they realistically go full quarantine again? The worst case scenario isn’t ‘do nothing, it ravages your country’ its ‘do something dramatic and at high cost and it comes back and threatens to ravage your country anyway’.

    6. Edward Scizorhands

      I’m still watching the UK broadcast, and they say that by their models cutting off travel from China would only have delayed the onset of the epidemic only by a day or two.

      I have said, repeatedly, that I think America’s travel ban bought us a month. Maybe I was completely wrong on that. They said they would need 95% elimination of people coming from China to the UK — and they thought they could only get 50%, considering all routes. It’s possible the US has better border control, just because of geography.

      (Separately: I like that Boris Johnson led off by saying that we are going to lose some of our family members before their time. And there was no panic.)

    7. Thomas Jorgensen

      You missed one. Malice.
      The tories hate the NHS, by not doing containment at all, the NHS is guaranteed to be spectacularly overwhelmed, which can be used as an excuse to sell it for parts, and also a bunch of pensioners will die, saving money that can be used for tax cuts.

      1. toastengineer

        Is there any evidence of civil servants in a democratic country ever actually making these kinds of decisions? The closest things I can think of was the plan to get the U.S. in to WWII with a false-flag attack from the Japanese, but that was never actually executed.

        I’m not sure what counts as “these kinds of decision;” I guess I’m just asking, shouldn’t our prior for this specific explanation be infinitesimal?

        1. JayT

          Especially since going down this path would almost certainly lead to more blame being put on the Tories than the NHS, since people will blame who’s in charge.

        2. Thomas Jorgensen

          Ehrlichman:

          “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

          More relevantly, Brexit itself was horrifyingly against the best interests of the people of the united kingdoms, and the Tories damn well knew that.

          1. cassander

            “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.

            an old man bitter about getting throw under the bus by nixon is perhaps not the most reliable of sources.

            More relevantly, Brexit itself was horrifyingly against the best interests of the people of the united kingdoms, and the Tories damn well knew that.

            First, I think that’s far from obvious. More importantly, though, the tory leadership was almost uniformly anti-brexit. They called the referendum in the hopes of shutting down the brexit debate forever. So you can accuse them of a lot of things, but foisting brexit on the country is not one of them.

          2. Loriot

            > They called the referendum in the hopes of shutting down the brexit debate forever

            My impression is that Cameron was worried about losing support to the UKIP, and so he promised the referendum in order to boost his chances of election, confident that the referendum would never actually pass anyway. It was just a political stunt gone horribly wrong.

          3. cassander

            @loriot

            I think we’re saying the same thing, or at least things that are compatible. cameron was against brexit and he wanted to shut up the brexiters who were also threatening his premiership. he was confident that the referendum would fail and then for the next decade or so, any political movement that was pro-brexit could be told “shut up we already voted on this.”

      2. Edward Scizorhands

        If your theory-of-mind of your outgroup has them doing things internally incoherent, start over.

        If anyone told me Obama was deliberately letting Ebola in the country to destroy private insurance and install single-payer, I would say “okay” and then turn the channel away from Infowars.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          Oh, I dont think this likely, but I in general try to apply both sides of Hanlons Razor. That is, when incompetence is not a plausible explanation it is time to check for malice.

      3. The original Mr. X

        The tories hate the NHS,

        Firstly, no they don’t.

        Secondly, Boris Johnson is probably the most economically left-wing Conservative PM since the pre-Thatcher days, so he’s hardly the sort of person to want to kill off the elderly to free up money for tax cuts or whatever bizarre conspiracy theory you’ve convinced yourself of.

    8. eric23

      Given that the number of cases in the UK is increasing by 40% per day, this is nonsense.

      Massive social adjustments are needed even to decrease that 40% to 10% or whatever would be necessary to “slow” the spread. And if you’ve already got it down to 10%, why not get it down to -10%. You’re already most of the way there in terms of economic impact. And at 10% growth you need to institute these measures indefinitely, at -10% growth you can remove them once the pandemic is gone.

        1. eric23

          I didn’t say R0 of 0.9, I said 10% decrease in cases per day. At that rate, the case rate would be decreased by 90% in about three weeks. South Korea is achieving a better rate than this right now.

    9. Viliam

      The charitable interpretation is that this is a galaxy-brain 4D-chess move

      We moved from Brexit to coronavirus, but the structure of the discourse somehow remained the same. This is either a 4D-chess move or the ordinary stupidity; people have strong opinions in both directions; and the convincing data will only be available in the future.

      As long as the other side can refrain from calling them geniuses, I promise to refrain from calling them idiots. (Applies to both Brexit and coronavirus.) No one is going to convince the other anyway.

      1. Toby Bartels

        I don’t know anything specific about the UK’s response to the coronavirus, but I do know that boneheaded stupidity is far more common in general than 4D-chess genius.

    10. The original Mr. X

      The uncharitable interpretation is that they are kicking the can, like they did with Brexit, because this is what the UK government does, but coronavirus is not the EU and won’t give an extension.

      That would be uncharitable, and also wrong. The government didn’t kick Brexit down the road because “this is what the UK government does”, but because Parliament was majority anti-Brexit and wouldn’t vote for any leave agreement. Note that, after the election when the government’s hands were no longer tied like this, it started moving much more quickly regarding the EU.

  13. noyann

    Sars2 statistics: Why are absolute numbers given everywhere?

    I can get that it gives info about “IT IS HERE!!!” in the very early stages, but in a roughly exponential spread phase, numbers relative to the population would be much more informative.

    I’d like to see, for examples (whenever such numbers are available, and, maybe even credible),
    “(estimated) infected per thousand”, (e)IpT,
    “tested per thousand”, TpT (or rather, for now, “…per million”, TpM),
    “positive tests percent”, Pt%
    “severely ill per thousane”, SIpT,
    “in/requiring intensive care per million”, ICpM,
    “dead per million”, DpM,
    “cured per million”, CpM.

    The news and websites I saw don’t use relative numbers; I guess I am missing something very basic, something Chesterton-fencey?

    1. Kindly

      Maybe one reason is that the relative numbers are often pretty small. The website I just checked, for example, told me that there have been 2340 cases detected in the US, which is 0.00007% of the population. People can’t really get an intuitive feeling for the difference between that and, for example, the 0.007% we’d expect if there’s actually 100x as many cases as we’ve detected.

      1. noyann

        True, but I guess because “percent” is to big to be a useful unit. But “per million” would work: 0.7 pm detected and 70 pm suspected, that is understandable. Or 7 vs 700 “per ten million”.
        (And surely someone will joke about “micro-people”, and the catastrophe of the “infected milli-people”.)

        1. Kindly

          Advantages of “per million” include comparing different populations. (For example, right now, New York has 27 pm detected cases, whereas California has 6.7pm, so as a whole California is actually doing a little better than the US average.)

          Disadvantages include trying to figure out the right denominator to use. (For example, right now, 183 of California’s 265 detected cases are in the Bay Area, which is giving us around 24 pm, so what I said above is kind of misleading.)

          But using absolute numbers because denominators are hard isn’t helpful either, and has the same disadvantages.

          Maybe people who aren’t good with numbers become suspicious when they see the above happening. They intuitively feel that someone is trying to slip something past them, but can’t tell what or how.

          Maybe trying to give useful numbers is considered bad in a Copenhagen-interpretation-of-ethics kind of way. If you just give the absolute numbers, well, you can’t be blamed for not doing any calculations at all. If you try give numbers that correct for population, then you’re doing statistics, which we all know is worse than damned lies, and if you don’t do a perfect job then you’re to blame for misleading people.

          1. noyann

            Disadvantages include trying to figure out the right denominator to use. (For example, right now, 183 of California’s 265 detected cases are in the Bay Area, which is giving us around 24 pm, …

            Yeah, it may be necessary to state the ‘resolution’, i.e., being very clear of what area/community is meant.

            Maybe trying to give useful numbers is considered bad in a Copenhagen-interpretation-of-ethics kind of way. If you just give the absolute numbers, well, you can’t be blamed for not doing any calculations at all. If you try give numbers that correct for population, then you’re doing statistics, which we all know is worse than damned lies, and if you don’t do a perfect job then you’re to blame for misleading people.

            Given the state of political debate, that may be the best explanation: ass-covering.

  14. noyann

    For entertainment or inspiration: Cory_Doctorow’s When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth: text, podcast

    Sysadmins is a story about civic duty at the end of the world, about the network admins who decide to keep the internet running even as the apocalypse rages.

    (homepage)

  15. Le Maistre Chat

    Third Mar-a-Lago guest tests positive for COVID-19.

    The president’s physician, Sean P. Conley, wrote that Trump did not need to be quarantined or get tested for covid-19.

    “These interactions would be categorized as LOW risk for transmission per CDC guidelines, and as such, there is no indication for home quarantine at this time,” Conley wrote. “Additionally, given the President himself remains without symptoms, testing for COVID-19 is not currently indicated.”

    I am so angry. How can Conley not be stripped of his license for not comprehending the epidemic risks associated with the fact that COVID-19 incubates for up to 14 days before the infected has symptoms?

    1. Le Maistre Chat

      So if President Trump isn’t responding appropriately, what’s Joe Biden’s plan?
      Well, crap. I guess it’s reassuring to know that containment would have been completely bungled by either Party, just with different motivations?
      Nothing about locking down epicenters of the disease like metro Seattle, but he remembers to say “Acts of racism and xenophobia against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community must not be tolerated.”
      To be fair, buried deep there is mention of some stuff that actually would save lives, like surveillance. But mostly it seems uncomprehending of how the highest priority is containment/mitigation, how sclerotic bureaucracy (the CDC and FDA) would have also prevented a Democratic administration from testing enough people, and how a ruler can’t just declare enough oxygen intubation/whatever life-saving bottlenecks into existence the same day just by believing in Big Government more than his opponent.

      1. BBA

        I can just imagine a Clinton administration’s response. Lots of heavy-handed messaging against racism, Hillary doing lots of photo ops in Asian communities, maybe even going to China to show there’s nothing to be afraid of, blue Twitter going wild with the YASSS SLAY KWEEN… and a couple of months later President Kaine or Ryan is imposing martial law.

        (I don’t think Hillary herself is that wokeness-addled, but everyone who’d be planning her strategy certainly would be.)

      2. InvalidUsernameAndPassword

        I realise the crisis is mostly out of the president’s hands, but Trump (or Biden, or, contra the poster above, Clinton) could have countermanded the CDC when it decided not to use the WHO-approved coronavirus test. The sclerotic bureaucracy is what it is, but you can make a decision to bypass it.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          There are lots of Presidents that would have used “well, there was red tape, what could I have done?” as an excuse, but Trump is the last one I’d think would have done it. He’ll bulldoze over rules and customs at will, but not this time?

          On the other hand, he also seems the only one who was willing to cut off travel from China. I remember during the Ebola scare that Obama seemed unwilling to even (comfortably!) quarantine returning health care workers, something I still don’t understand.

          1. InvalidUsernameAndPassword

            “well, there was red tape, what could I have done?”

            Never a convincing defense coming from the head of the executive branch, but it would be especially irrelevant in this case: there was no “red tape” standing in the way of a decision to use the WHO test like most other countries on the planet.

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            We don’t know why the WHO test wasn’t used.

            But the red tape I had in mind was for things like not having proper IRB clearance for the people who were involved in the flu study consenting to be part of a coronavirus study. “Yes, that is a very good point, and we will now ignore it. Anyone have a problem with this? Here is the microphone where you can talk to the American public about why we should not have testing.”

          3. InvalidUsernameAndPassword

            We don’t know why the WHO test wasn’t used.

            My best guest would be fear of appearing unpatriotic.

          4. John Schilling

            Making our own is SOP. But then, SOP for the United States Navy is to use its own aircraft carriers. When we temporarily ran out of working aircraft carriers in 1942, Nimitz and Roosevelt had no qualms about asking the British if we could borrow one of theirs for a few months.

            Sometimes your O isn’t S. If you’re not prepared to adapt, what the hell do we need you in a command position for in the first place?

        2. Loriot

          Not eliminating the White House officials responsible for pandemic preparedness team might have helped.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            Or it might not have. If President Biden fires the Heads of Memes and in 2023 a wild meme kills 10% of the country, it doesn’t mean the Heads of Memes would have made a difference.

            What you say is very plausible, and it also makes horrible optics that Trump’s political opponents would be stupid not to use. But what actual difference is there? This is the second time I’ve asked. (Not the second time I’ve asked you, though.)

      3. John Schilling

        So if President Trump isn’t responding appropriately, what’s Joe Biden’s plan?

        Why should Joe Biden have a plan for this, any more than he has a plan for e.g. defeating the Nazis? By the time Biden is in a position to implement any plan he might have, the pandemic will either be over and done with or something unpredictably different than it is now.

        He could say “Here’s what I would have done if I’d been President in December 2019 (or 1939)”, but at this point that would be so tainted by hindsight that nobody would take it as an indication of superior crisis-management skills.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          Well yes, on one level it bespeaks cluelessness to spend time writing up a plan when you can’t have any government authority until early November (and only the tiniest and most informal until Jan 20 2021) and we’re as little as 14 days behind Italy.
          On the other hand, he’s basically won the Democratic primaries and could potentially save lives by saying to his audience like a shadow government in the least partisan way possible (not very, I know) “The federal government is being grossly negligent. I encourage all Americans to avoid buildings other than their home, supermarket, pharmacy and workplace IF you can’t work from home. If sworn in as your next President, I will address your economic hardship and your children missing school after the crisis.”
          We may have reached a crisis point where undermining the unpopular President in the direction of “quarantine yourselves as much as possible even if you feel well” could be a net benefit.

    2. k10293

      Trump selects people who are willing to say insane things about his health:

      If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency

      – Dr. Harold Bornstein, Trump’s former doctor. Bornstein later said that Trump had dictated the quote to him.

      I am happy to announce the president of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond

      – Dr. Sean Conley, Trump’s current doctor.

      But speaking of being at risk, the president, he sleeps less than I do and he’s healthier than what I am

      – Dr. Jerome Adams, Trump’s surgeon general and a fit 45-year-old man.

      It’s hard to tell whether they are incompetent or too weak willed to say anything that would annoy the president.

      1. Alexander Turok

        Perhaps Dr. Bornstein cheated on his taxes, saw what happened to people who stood by Trump like Michael Cohen, and decided the smart thing to do was stab the traitor in the back.

  16. LesHapablap

    I run a tourist flight operation with aircraft in the 5 to 13 passenger range. We have no confirmed virus cases on our island of 400,000 people.

    How should we be disinfecting our aircraft between flights? I see here that coronovirus could last up to nine days on surfaces. Or it could be 48 hours. And high temperatures could kill it: “But some of them don’t remain active for as long at temperatures higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).”

    It is still pretty warm here so the easiest thing for us would be to stick a fan heater in the planes between flights and crank up the heat to 30 or even 50 degrees. Would this work? How long would it need to be at those temperatures?

    1. toastengineer

      Would it be possible to buy a 55-gallon drum of concentrated benzalkonium chloride, dilute it down 150:1, and just hose down the interior of the plane between flights in addition to the heat treatment?

      I think it’s a more heat = better kind of situation. The more heat, the faster the proteins that the virus needs to do its thing bend out of shape, the greater chance that any individual virus particle is dead after a given duration, the lower the chance of infection from people touching surfaces and then their face/food after a given duration.

      So, get it as hot as you can, it will probably help, but don’t think it’ll sterilize the plane. You may well be better off just taking the time to have someone wipe all the surfaces people touch with their hands with disinfectant wipes.

  17. danridge

    I thought of something incredibly stupid, and then I went and checked, and found out that not only was I not the first person to think of this, someone actually acted on it. Apparently someone bought the domain name slutstarcodex.com, but as of now they haven’t done anything with it, and if you visit the url Go Daddy offers to let you attempt to purchase it.

    Honestly, whether or not the domain name had been taken, I think I might have posted here simply to have the chance to spread the irrational glee I feel when I think of this url, but since it still exists in the realm of boundless possibility, I put it to you: in an ideal world, what comes up when you type http://www.slutstarcodex.com into your browser and hit enter?

    1. Canyon Fern

      God, yes. This makes my stalk hard. Count this polypodiopsid in for some of your “irrational glee.”

      In an ideal world, this link would host a camgirl (or rotating cast thereof) who wear sexy Scott masks and read posts from Scott’s writings in ASMR voices. That’s not very inventive, but I’ve just had a marathon fertilizer session and I can barely stay rooted.

      Have a Slut of Gratitude from my menagerie, for giving us all horrible thoughts.

      1. Conrad Honcho

        I gotta ask, as I so rarely have the opportunity to converse with a sentient canyon fern, how do you type?

    2. The_Archduke

      My favorite misspelling that I always to is slatetsarcodex.com. In Imperialist Russia, blog reads you!

    3. crh

      The Fire Of My Loins: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

      List Of Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of Emmanuelle

      OT 136: Gropen Thread

      [ACC] What Are The Benefits, Harms, And Ethics Of That Thing You Do With Your Tongue?

  18. BBA

    The governor has ordered all the theaters to close. This sounds like a sentence out of 18th century New England (or would if they had allowed any theaters to open there to begin with) but it’s 21st century New York. Here is the order, complete with ornate Gothic-style letterhead.

    It is not entirely clear how the order can be enforced. Neither the order nor the enabling legislation (a law passed by the state legislature on March 3, which feels like an eternity ago) specify any penalty for violation. The state health department will be enforcing it, and the department is empowered by the Public Health Law to make similar orders to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, but many sections of the PHL explicitly do not apply to the City of New York, whose local health department is separately authorized by the city charter. (For example, birth and death certificates are issued by the city health department and not by the state health department, which issues them in the other 57 counties.) So far all the theaters and other gathering places are abiding by it voluntarily. It’s likely that the legal basis for the order will never be challenged.

    I repeat: The theaters are all closed, by the governor’s order, and nobody’s going to challenge it. Let that sink in.

    1. Statismagician

      To anybody who isn’t an NYC resident, this seems significantly less weird than I think you think it is.

    2. Le Maistre Chat

      The governor has ordered all the theaters to close. This sounds like a sentence out of 18th century New England (or would if they had allowed any theaters to open there to begin with) but it’s 21st century New York.

      I remember the film Shakespeare in Love addressing the responsibilities of the Master of the Revels, which included shutting down revels when necessary for epidemiology. It’s treated about as sympathetically as him scolding the people who work at the Globe for letting women play women’s roles (“unshamefacedness!”).
      (1998 feels like an eternity ago. If Hollywood used Shakespeare’s work as the basis of a romantic “biopic” now, it would use the Sonnets to depict him as in a love triangle with a trans Fair Youth and a Dark Lady who’s transphobic due to internalized misogyny.)

      1. BBA

        This is what I was getting at. If there isn’t a plague, closing the theaters is a very Puritan thing to do, from Cromwell banning all public amusement to the extremely broad definition of “obscenity” used by the Boston Police well into the 20th century.

        New York is many things, but Puritan it ain’t.

    3. C_B

      Can you explain more about why this seems so strange to you? To me, everything about the coronavirus response feels a bit surreal, but closing public gathering places seems no more so than any other measure being taken by lots of places.

    4. Faza (TCM)

      Personally, I don’t find the content of the EO particularly strange. Movement and gathering restrictions are like the basic response to an epidemic. By JHU, the State of New York has four times the number of active COVID-19 cases that Poland has and we have similar restrictions. Actually, ours are somewhat more far-reaching, if a bit late.

      What gets me is the form of the document, with the curly writing, WHEREAS, THEREFORE, FURTHER, GIVEN, Privy Seal and everything. It looks like something out of a sovereign citizen’s wet dream to my European eyes.

      By way of comparison, here’s what I’m used to when it comes to law-making documents (this particular one is a regulation of the Minister of Health, regarding financing of medical services for the purpose of preventing COVID-19). The form is clean and nicely understated and the text is simple and no nonsense (non-speakers will have to take my word for it, though).

    5. Conrad Honcho

      I repeat: The theaters are all closed, by the governor’s order, and nobody’s going to challenge it. Let that sink in.

      Liability cascade. Nobody wants their theater to be responsible for spreading the virus.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        That or a fear cascade.

        I suspect the rational response is:

        1. for very large or for crowded events: shut them all down

        2. for moderately large and uncrowded events: shut down 50% of them.

        (That “50” figure is not exact. It might be as low as 25 or go up to 80.)

        But we have, at this point, no rational way of deciding a fair way of choosing which 50% stay open. And the people in charge aren’t sure which side they’d want to be on — do you get a bailout? Do you get a bailout only if you are ordered? Would it be nicer to sit home and still get paid? Or from the other side maybe you really want to keep going.

        So we’ve lost the middle ground. No one wants to be the tallest blade of grass sticking out from the rest.

        After this is over, we need to figure this out for next time.

    6. Well...

      I just want to take this opportunity to point out how journalism — stop your groaning! — how journalism imitates the form of orders like this. I said stop groaning! Both the government and the journalism use this form because it looks official. It somehow announces itself as important and inherently worthy of respect. It is part of the visual language of authority.

      Ducking back out now before I get hit with a flying bottle.

  19. Statismagician

    Today in ‘Things that have only just occurred to me’ – did anyone else realize that the way conductors indicate measures (in common time, anyway) is the same motion as crossing onesself? Given who did most of the really excellent early composing and for whom, I can only imagine this wasn’t an accident.

    1. Faza (TCM)

      Given who did most of the really excellent early composing and for whom, I can only imagine this wasn’t an accident.

      On the one hand, it’s a really fits our intuitions nicely.

      On the other, if you’re beating out 4/4 time, you really want to have an unambiguous hand movement for each beat, because you can’t be sure that ol’ Bill on the ‘bone in the back row was paying attention until right now.

      Historically, conducting took a while to develop to its present form. As late as the 17th century the way a way of keeping time was to wave a big stick up and down, which is all fun and games until someone puts it through his foot and dies of gangrene.

      Modern conducting technique wasn’t really developed until the 19th century or so. Berlioz’s The Orchestral Conductor: Theory of His Art (part of the Treatise on Instrumentation, added in 1855) still holds up pretty well in terms of outlining the conductor’s role and its execution, I think. Even if you don’t read French, just looking through the images will give an indication of how intricate the gestures can get for various time signatures.

      By this time, the connection between music and religion was much looser than in, say, J.S. Bach’s time. The various people involved may well have been privately religious and it isn’t totally inconceivable that the crossing yourself gesture was ingrained enough in the collective consciousness to influence the development of conducting technique, but I expect it is simply a coincidence stemming from the fact that a cross has four points.

    2. LesHapablap

      IIRC although clergymen were used for this purpose it has nothing to do with the modern conductor’s crossing-oneself signals. Times were communicated digitally, as in with a number of fingers.

      At many water stations, the water was provided by a tank pond which often had fish or other impurities. Fish in the boilers could be a real problem: the ‘crossing oneself’ motion was used by the boilerman to let the conductor know that the water had been inspected and was clean (like holy water).

    3. AG

      I don’t see it. The common school now is that the baton/hand actually hits the same location for each beat (no variations in the vertical or horizontal), so the closest to the crossing is only for 3/4 (4/4 has an extra loop to the conductor’s right, as well as returning to the center for beat 4), and there’s never a beat at the head.

      (And having variations in the vertical or the horizontal axes makes for bad times for the players, speaking from experience.)

  20. DinoNerd

    There’s a thread buried too deep for responding to be convenient. I find I want to respond.

    So I’m reposting this from nkurz as a more convenient starting point.

    @DinoNerd:
    > I came to this visceral conclusion watching a video of his fans chanting “lock her up”. I understood that as meaning that to him and his fans, opposing him was a criminal act, that ought to be suppressed by the power of the state.

    I’m not a fan of Trump, and have never chanted “lock her up”, but I don’t think your interpretation is correct. Instead, I think the feeling was that Clinton (correctly) believed herself to have been above the law, and the chanters were declaring that once Trump was elected, she would be subject to penalties. They (and I) genuinely believed that she had flouted the law regarding the handling of classified information, and should be punished. Factual or not, the underlying issue was her apparent flagrant violation of the law rather than her opposition to Trump.

    > He didn’t keep that campaign promise of course – no criminal charges were laid against Hilary Clinton.

    I don’t like the “of course” here. While it might be true, in the absence of investigation I don’t think it’s in any way obvious that Clinton did not violate the law. Without personal knowledge, how can one be sure of this? Or do you mean that because of her position in society it’s clear that criminal charges would never be filed against her regardless of the legality of her actions? If so, I think this is the part that really bothers others.

    > There was a whole meme at the time about insecure email servers, that supposedly justified this hypothetical future prosecution

    I think it’s highly misleading to dismiss this as merely a “meme”. Are you aware that the “Judicial Watch v US Department of State” is in fact still rolling right along, and that earlier this month the judge issued a sharply worded order, which subpeonas Google for the remainder of Clinton’s emails and requires Clinton and Cheryl Mills to appear in person for deposition?

    The order also makes very clear the judge’s frustration with the State Department’s responses to date:

    “With each passing round of discovery, the Court is left with more questions than answers. What’s more, during the December 19, 2019 status conference, Judicial Watch disclosed that the FBI recently produced approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails. State failed to fully explain the new email’s origins when the Court directly questioned where they came from. Furthermore, State has not represented to the Court that the private emails of State’s former employees who corresponded with Secretary Clinton have been searched for additional Clinton emails. State has thus failed to persuade the Court that all of Secretary Clinton’s recoverable emails have been located. This is unacceptable.”

    This is a pissed-off judge who feels he’s been given the run-around. The order is full of other “choice words” directed at the State Department. If your current view is that the whole affair is nothing but a meme, I think you might find it interesting reading: http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2020/images/03/02/hrc.pdf.

    1. DinoNerd

      @nkurz

      I’m not a fan of Trump, and have never chanted “lock her up”, but I don’t think your interpretation is correct.

      This is the comment that caused me to want to respond, and to do so with enough space that we could manage considered responses. It suggests I might find new data in this exchange, if only just enough to figure out where our ideas of “acceptable behaviour” diverge.

      They (and I) genuinely believed that she had flouted the law regarding the handling of classified information, and should be punished.

      At the time, I believe opinions were pretty much lined up by political affiliation, much like the recent impeachment – to one lot, the behaviour was self-evidentally illegal, and also meaningfully wrong, and to the other it was a tempest in a teapot drummed up for political effect – either it never occurred, or it wasn’t illegal, or it was a mere technicality that should be legal, or folks on the other side routinely did the same thing with impunity; possibly all 4 at once.

      > He didn’t keep that campaign promise of course – no criminal charges were laid against Hilary Clinton.

      I don’t like the “of course” here.

      The “of course” here referred on the one hand to the likelihood of any politician keeping their campaign promises (low, IMO), and on the other hand to the fact that I was upset by a threat that turned out to have no teeth to it, rather than by the victors actually jailing their opponents.

      Or do you mean that because of her position in society it’s clear that criminal charges would never be filed against her regardless of the legality of her actions? If so, I think this is the part that really bothers others.

      The elite – of all political stripes – routinely get away with things that would get mere mortals in trouble. But that wasn’t where I was going. In general, I tend to favour not prosecuting politicians for relatively minor offenses, because it’s too easy for that to become a way for the party in power to silence their opponents, enforcing rules that are usually ignored and/or simply manufacturing evidence. But this seems to be a case of sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander – I’m sure if we asked, we could get people on both sides to post a dozen instances of their opponents doing terrible things which they never should have gotten away with.

      Nope, this was a visceral, emotional reaction – those fans were baying for blood, and that both shocked and frightened me. And AFAICT Trump was encouraging it.

      This may be a (sub)cultural difference; I see some amazing viciousness in e.g. posters in sales offices apparantly intended to encourage “our” salespeople to outsell their competition, not to do what the posters actually depict. (E.g. a football tackle, that looked likely to cause serious injury.) And some sports fans seem to go for similar chanting – OTOH, some of them also destroy stadiums and battle the opposing team’s fans to the point of arrests and serious injuries.

      I also could not see any reason why they wouldn’t be equally ready to turn on me (by category; I’m not a famous public figure), and why Trump wouldn’t encourage them to do so. There had already been a lot of rhetoric about “elites” (= anyone who can get an undergraduate degree? = anyone who can accurately describe the scientific method?), foreigners, and folks who live on the US coasts. I’m resigned to financial attacks with targets like these, but this felt like a statement in favour of both legal attacks and mob violence.

      Note the feeling language above – their behaviour made my amygdala expect them to attack me physically. My left brain can make a more nuanced assessment of the likelihood of that actually happening. But that doesn’t change my amygdala’s opinion.

      1. nkurz

        Thanks for reposting and responding. I think I agree with almost everything you say in the response. I’m also terrified of mob behavior, and occasionally am enough of a nonconformist that I can easily see myself on the wrong side of one. If I were to quibble, it would be to reiterate that (many within) the mobs’ behavior wasn’t because they felt Clinton had wronged Trump, but because they felt she was trying to get away with doing something morally and legally wrong. You are likely right that Trump tried to direct the crowd in self-interested ways, but I don’t think defense of Trump was a driving force for (many of) the participants.

        I’m also not sure if the political division in attitudes maps to Democrat vs Republican as clearly as you suggest. I supported Sanders in 2016, ended up voting for Jill Stein, was very offended by Clinton’s behavior, and have probably become more biased since then. I was interested enough to read all the previous transcripts of the depositions in the case, and concluded that Clinton must be lying about her lack of recollection in many of her answers. I think the judge in this case has reached the same conclusion, and is hoping to pillory her for it.

        > But that doesn’t change my amygdala’s opinion.

        I wonder if a difference is that I get most of my news from print sources, listen only occasionally to radio (which is almost always NPR), and other than occasionally passing through airport terminals, I watch very little video news. As a result, I probably have less of a limbic response.

      2. Spookykou

        FWIW I am fairly apolitical, It seemed to me at the time, and now, that both perspectives are reasonable except in as much as they think the other perspective is ridiculous. The difference between ‘illegal’ and ‘technicality that should be legal’* seems big in outputs but small in inputs.

        *I picked this one of the four because it is the only one I heard, although I don’t actively follow the news so I might have come into it late in the new cycle after the first two stopped being common positions. The 4th is something I pretty much only heard in reference to other people doing this and not getting away with it. I get most of my news from NPR when I get it.

      3. John Schilling

        The elite – of all political stripes – routinely get away with things that would get mere mortals in trouble.

        This is your regular reminder that the trouble “mere mortals” normally get into for doing what Hillary Clinton is to be fired from their government or government contracting job and put on the list of people to never get such jobs in the future. Hillary Clinton “got away” with it in the sense that she was turned down for the government job she was then applying for and is exceedingly unlikely to get such a job in the future.

        The cries of “lock her up!” were the result of a populist demagogue demanding that his political opponents be given extra special punishment for being his political opponents. The people making such cries deserve to have all their future political champions subject to the same strict scrutiny and draconian enforcement, which in the land of three felonies a day(*) means having basically every non-RINO Republican who ever dares run for office, locked up and made ineligible to run for office. Have fun with that.

        The rest of us, don’t deserve that, and we wish you all would knock it off. There’s a reason we have a norm of prosecutorial decisions being made by hopefully apolitical civil servants with zero input from elected officials, or chanting crowds with overactive amygdalas, and if we’re going to do away with that norm I want the cost to fall 100% on the people breaking it. But I’d rather not go there at all.

        * Not literally true, but close enough for this purpose.

        1. Conrad Honcho

          This is your regular reminder that the trouble “mere mortals” normally get into for doing what Hillary Clinton is to be fired from their government or government contracting job and put on the list of people to never get such jobs in the future.

          I do not believe this is true. For merely mishandling classified documents, like accidentally taking a few home or something, fine, maybe that’s true. But for setting up an entire alternative email server so she can systematically remove reams of classified materials from secure networks and dodge federal record keeping laws…no. If a mere mortal did that they would get way more than fired from their job. They would go to jail.

          1. John Schilling

            I do not believe this is true. For merely mishandling classified documents, like accidentally taking a few home or something, fine, maybe that’s true. But for setting up an entire alternative email server so she can systematically remove reams of classified materials from secure networks and dodge federal record keeping laws…no.

            Those are two different things; the people who get fired and blacklisted for mishandling classified information aren’t being let off easy because, hey, at least they followed federal recordkeeping laws while they did so.

            Taking “reams” of classified information off the classified servers so you can work from home, normally gets you fired and blacklisted. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that it matters whether the personal computer you then store it on is a “server”; that makes no difference in practice and shouldn’t make any difference under the law.

            The server was for evading federal recordkeeping requirements, which is illegal whether the records are classified or not. It is AFIK exactly as illegal whether the information is classified or not. And I’ve never heard of anyone being imprisoned for it, only fired.

            If you’re going to claim that a specific combination of crimes each of which normally gets someone fired, would have gotten a normal person imprisoned but Crooked Hillary got a break, then I’m going to be extremely skeptical and you’re going to want to find a case where a normal person was in fact imprisoned for that combination of firing offenses.

          2. cassander

            @John Schilling

            There is sandy berger, who did face criminal charges. But there’s also the sheer size of clinton’s violation. She didn’t just take some papers home, she took the email correspondence of the entire senior state department.

          3. John Schilling

            Sandy Berger wasn’t locked up; he got two years’ probation. And the number of documents is largely irrelevant; it’s the motive that matters. One document that you’re planning to send to Russia, gets you locked up. Your entire department’s files because you didn’t know what you’d need to work from home, gets you blacklisted. A nominal conviction with no jail time is a common way to implement that.

          4. JayT

            Berger paid a $50,000 fine and had two years of probation, and he was definitely more than a “mere mortal”.

        2. Spookykou

          the result of a populist demagogue demanding that his political opponents be given extra special punishment for being his political opponents. The people making such cries deserve…

          This seems to say that Trump riled up his voters and that they are wrong for being so riled. However it is unclear to me if they are supposed to be wrong because they believed the politician they intended to vote for or because they are aware that their cries are totally spurious?

          If the former, well okay, if the latter, I disagree.

          One of Trumps campaign slogans was drain the swamp for a reason. He was appealing to people who thought the political elite are a problem. Your own framing of what actually happened, seems to be(I admit I am not sure here), that the political elite do this all the time and never get punished(if we did start punishing this then no Republican could run for office) but normal people get fired and blacklisted. This seems like the Trump supports have a reasonably consistent position.

          Also, I think there is a substantive difference between losing a fair election and as such not getting the job you wanted, and being fired/blacklisted, especially given the results of this election came after the majority of the behavior we are talking about.

          I agree totally that extra special punishment is well out of line and generally think Trumps behavior in this was wrong and it was one of the many things I didn’t like about Trump. I am not convinced that the average Trump supporter had the same insight into the legalities that you do. I know at least as many Trump voters as I know Clinton voters, and my impression is that they are both largely expressing earnestly held beliefs. Of course I do go in for that mistake theory pretty hard, which is going to color my perspective.

        3. Clutzy

          This is your regular reminder that the trouble “mere mortals” normally get into for doing what Hillary Clinton is to be fired from their government or government contracting job and put on the list of people to never get such jobs in the future.

          Your precedent contains examples of people setting up systems to mishandle classified information? I understand you might portray this as simply mishandling classified information, to which I would agree with you. Sometimes people take something home, or send emails incorrectly. What people don’t merely get “fired” for is setting up systems that ensure lots of classified information is mailed through the postal service to their home. Essentially what she set up was an open port into classified systems, more or less what a hacker would do.

          1. BBA

            It is my understanding that it is every bit as illegal to send classified information over governmental email as it is over private email. You need to use a separate, secure channel for that. [This is going off secondhand information; I have never been employed by the government in any capacity and have no security clearances.]

          2. John Schilling

            illegal to send classified information over governmental email as it is over private email.

            Correct, at least as far as unclassified government email is concerned.

            Interestingly, “mailing through the postal service” is legal, and could be used to set up a legal home office for handling classified information at up to Secret level. There’s lots of fairly specific and cumbersome procedures that would have to be followed if someone wanted to do that, though, and it wouldn’t have been particularly useful for Hillary.

        4. Evan Þ

          I take your modus ponens and raise you a modus tollens. Everyone who violates the law should be punished according to the law. There should be no selective enforcement, because we (should) have a government of law not of men. If this means every politician gets locked up (RINO or not), then let it be so. Let Trump and Clinton be marched off to jail together.

          And then, maybe just maybe we’ll get a government that actually repeals the overextensive laws on the book – even if they’re repealed by a brand-new legislature of people who’ve never before been in sight of politics because everyone better-qualified is now in prison.

          1. John Schilling

            Everyone who violates the law should be punished according to the law … If this means every politician gets locked up (RINO or not), then let it be so. Let Trump and Clinton be marched off to jail together.

            Wait, when you said “everyone”, did you mean just politicians?

            Because otherwise it’s going to be Trump and Clinton and you and me and Scott and everyone else here and everyone else in the country including all the jailers who could hypothetically let us out of jail when we realize what a stupid idea that was.

            It’s not going to go quite that far in practice, because we’ll realize it was a stupid idea before we’ve locked up even 10% of the country. But, somebody has to go first and I think it ought to be you.

          2. Evan Þ

            Good question! If it’s actually literally everyone, I’d actually be okay with that. If it’s “get those guys first, and then let’s stop the train before it hits the Ingroup,” I’m not; that’s just more selective enforcement.

            My one exception to this is politicians. Since they’ve put themselves in a position where they could help stop overextensive laws, but have not in fact tried to do so, I consider them to have volunteered themselves to get the short straw so we can all get a better world in the end.

      4. Conrad Honcho

        those fans were baying for blood

        I see you are familiar with the concept of political hyperbole, as you well know no one wanted Clinton’s blood: they wanted her properly prosecuted by the DoJ for the crimes the FBI found her clearly committing.

    2. BBA

      Piggybacking on this to say: political scandals are just partisan bludgeons. None of them matter in the slightest.

      I remember what a big deal the Valerie Plame affair was in the ’00s, leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent for political gain, accusations of official misconduct that might go all the way to the top… and then the leaker turned out to be not a partisan bomb-thrower like Cheney or Rove or Libby, but the moderate Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who clearly didn’t realize the significance of what he was doing. Everyone shuffled off in embarrassment and Armitage was never even charged with anything.

      Incidentally, at the very same time, Colin Powell was using a private email server to conduct official business as Secretary of State, and there wasn’t a peep from anyone about it.

      So while I don’t doubt that everyone here genuinely cares about the precise misconduct that major political figures are accused of, the masses don’t and the Washington power elite don’t. It’s all just partisanship.

      1. brad

        No one is out there chanting for OJ Simpson to be locked up. Of course none of this was ever about justice or the rule of law.

      2. cassander

        Incidentally, at the very same time, Colin Powell was using a private email server to conduct official business as Secretary of State, and there wasn’t a peep from anyone about it.

        As I recall, Colin Powell sometimes used a private email account when travelling because of the primitive nature of the department’s email system (it was early 2000s) and that doing so was not against the rules at the time. Clinton violated explicit rules, on a far wider scale, and destroyed the evidence after she got caught.

        I don’t deny your basic point, but sometimes there is actual substance to scandal.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Everyone had learned things from Powell’s experience, and Powell warned Clinton that it could lead to a lot of trouble for her.

  21. Viliam

    For those living in countries where coronavirus is not yet, here are things you can do, as an individual. But you should do it quickly!

    * Ask everyone whether they have Skype and know how to use it. Help them install it, create for them an account. It will help older people during the days of isolation when the virus comes.

    * Learn how to make face masks. Buy a lot of material. When the virus comes, the masks will be sold out quickly. People around you will be really grateful if you give them a few ones later. (Note: You will have enough time to make the masks when the virus comes; don’t waste time now. Just buy enough material.)

    …uhm, other ideas? People living in areas already with coronavirus, what do you regret not having done sooner? (I mean other then the usual stuff like buying more food etc.)

    1. yodelyak

      I regret not buying enough liquid hand sanitizer for both the front door and the two cars my house has/uses. We’re stuck with alcohol wipes in the cars, which aren’t nearly as good.

      I also regret not more aggressively using the first few hours when I noticed it was definitely going to be exponential in the U.S. to call friends and family and tell them to start distancing.

      If it turns out to be true that people who get the virus and get really sick, but then recover, mostly recover to a new, lower baseline with significant organ damage and lowered lung capacity, then I’m *really* going to regret that I emphasized “distancing” rather than “total avoidance” with myself and friends and family.

      1. Statismagician

        What’s your source for the organ damage part? This is not how this sort of thing works, generally.

        Also and separably, you almost certainly don’t know any of the people who’ve been spreading the virus around, so your not having been preternaturally quick to call people with advice they probably wouldn’t have taken isn’t in any real way blameworthy.

      2. noyann

        80% alcohol is as good as commercial sanitizer.

        If pure alcohol is taxed highly in your country, you can dilute denatured alcohol (ethylated spirit) 4:1 v/v with water.

        But beware: Every surface and disinfected hand will have a bitter taste afterwards that is hard to wash off — don’t use before preparing foods, or if you like thumbsucking. 🙂

      3. A Definite Beta Guy

        I also regret not more aggressively using the first few hours when I noticed it was definitely going to be exponential in the U.S. to call friends and family and tell them to start distancing.

        They weren’t going to listen anyways. Believe me, I tried.

  22. Dino

    I’ve seen some stories about Jordan Peterson’s coma that seemed unreliable, probly because he’s so controversial. This one seems a little better, and has more info that I haven’t seen elsewhere, but of course is not completely un-biased.

    What Happened to Jordan Peterson?

    Lot’s of things that could be taken away from this article, a few –
    addiction is not the same as dependence.
    treating addiction/dependence is complicated.
    you don’t want your addiction/dependence treated by a quack in Russia.
    Jordan Peterson is a hypocrite who can’t follow his own advice.
    Jordan Peterson (and his daughter) are grifters making money off of bogus stuff.
    Jordan Peterson is a victim of media hostile to his ideas.

    Our commentariat should have things to say – let’s hear it.

    1. Viliam

      So… a guy is sick, takes medicine, finds out he has withdrawal syndroms. Oh, he’s an outgroup, let’s mock him publicly!

    2. broblawsky

      I did a brief literature review of medically-induced comas for treatment of addiction and withdrawal when I heard about this. What I came with was that the technique is no more effective in the short term, and less effective in the long term, than the conventional taper withdrawal method; addicts are more likely to relapse eventually with the experimental technique, and the induced coma technique itself is obviously very dangerous. I hope Peterson’s experience doesn’t convince others to try this technique.

    3. Don_Flamingo

      Hit piece.
      The carnivore diet isn’t a snake oil diet.
      Yes, Mikhaila Peterson is making a business out of promoting it.
      That doesn’t make her a grifter nor does it make the diet bogus stuff.

      Jordan Peterson wasn’t promoting the carnivore diet either, he merely stated that it helped his daughter with her severe, lifeflong autoimmune issues and that it seems to work very well for him too with his own health issues on the Joe Rogan podcast.
      Well and then he speculated a bunch on the topic for half an hour (with frequent disclaimers that he’s very much not an expert and can’t speak with any authority). Cause it’s that kind of podcast.
      What Jordan Peterson does promote is his virtue ethics. He’ll fill a a stadium, pick a story from the bible and then spin some life lesson out of it.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLF29w6YqXs

      “Dependency goes against the core tenets of Peterson’s philosophical brand: stoicism, self-reliance, the power of the will over circumstance and environment.”
      I mean you can describe his “philosophical brand” like that, I guess.
      (though it sounds kinda off, e.g. he never actually refers to the Stoics)
      But saying that “being physically dependent on a drug” is against the core tenet of his philosophy is just sophistry.
      What kind of philosophy is advocating for drug dependence?

      No opinion on the treatment thing. Looks very dramatic, though.

      1. zardoz

        What kind of philosophy is advocating for drug dependence?

        Rastafarianism does, although they probably wouldn’t use those exact words. I think the Hippie philosophy from the 1960s did as well.

        1. Dino

          Rastas and hippies do not advocate drug dependence. They advocate the use of some drugs – only ganja for Rastas, cannabis and psychedelics for hippies.

    4. Walking Droplet

      It’s pretty damming. He maneuvered himself into a pretty deep hole. Should we have compassion? Sure. But we also need to be willing to say that no one in their right mind should take advice from him. Luke Ford does a far better job with the self-help shtick and he does it without pairing it with neoliberal economics.

  23. Le Maistre Chat

    Pop culture analysis I’d be happy to see:
    @Plumber on the unrealistically spacious and non-toxic sewers in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and any number of video games).

    1. Plumber

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      That made me laugh!

      But tell me about it! Those turtles never wear an air monitor or safety harness!

      My suspension of disbelief for those wisecracking, pizza eating, bipedal amphibians is ruined!

      1. JayT

        Sewers that you can walk upright in is a pretty normal part of pop culture, not just in regards to TMNT. How common are sewers like that?

        1. Plumber

          @Jay T,
          Completely upright?

          Not that common, I gather that there’s a bunch under London and Paris, and other pre-20th century built ones that were made of brick from the inside, but in the 20 months that my duties included opening sewer manholes and look in only twice did it look like someone had room to walk (at a crouch) the tunnels under the street, but I don’t think anyone’s going to get to a bank vault via one!

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Not that common, I gather that there’s a bunch under London and Paris, and other pre-20th century built ones that were made of brick from the inside, but in the 20 months that my duties [SNIP: nope]

            “Made of brick from the inside” is definitely the standard model visual artists use for video games, etc.
            Overlord (on the one hand, medieval fantasy so “brick-built spacious” gets a pass, OTOH those ceilings look 4+ meters high!)
            TMNT the arcade game

          2. Anthony

            There are plenty of sewer mains in San Francisco which are tall enough to stand in. I have some plans from a project at work which show “Standard Three-Compartment 8’3 x 9’6″ Sewer”, from plans dated 1909.

      2. bullseye

        My suspension of disbelief for those wisecracking, pizza eating, bipedal amphibians is ruined!

        What really takes me out of it is when they describe themselves as amphibians. They should know that they’re reptiles!

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        “These underground passages have more in common with the catacombs of Paris than any actual sewer system.”

        Even for D&D purposes, I don’t know if I have the audacity to have storm water and poop flowing past densely-packed tombs. Maybe some day.

      2. AG

        Not sewers, but I am always amused by the “this TV show has the WORLD’S LARGEST VENTILATION SHAFT” game.

        1. Procrastinating Prepper

          @AG:

          If it’s meant to be a space between floors then sure, but sometimes ventilation shafts really _can_ get that big!

          In university I took a tour around the HVAC system of a large medical science building on campus. The tour ended with a look into the central ventilation shaft on ground level. It was bigger and wider than my (two-storey) house, and more than 100 feet long.

    2. Well...

      Sort of related: during a few brief stints living and working in NYC in my late teens and early 20s, several people told me there was a whole shadow-city in abandoned subway tunnels and other adjoined subterranean spaces, populated by an underground secret society of…I dunno. Probably not mutants.

      That was years ago and I never bothered to follow up with internet research. Was this bogus or is it legit?

      1. The Nybbler

        The Riverside Park Tunnel, an abandoned train tunnel in Manhattan, was famously used as a homeless encampment. It’s been restored to use so no longer is, but the homeless will naturally set up camp anywhere there’s shelter and no one to throw them out, so there are likely plenty of other similar places. But as for actual functioning cities underground… still rumor, as far as I know.

      2. noyann

        The authors of Relic and Reliquary mentioned their sources gave about 5000 living mostly-permanently underground in NYC. Books were from late 90es, so today –?

  24. salvorhardin

    How might we most feasibly, and/or most cost-efficiently, modify the design of public spaces to make it harder for contagious diseases to propagate?

    Example: it seems like it would be super good to adopt more automatic door openers, especially for restroom doors. In every US city I’ve lived in these have been uncommon for all but the largest and/or most directly health care oriented businesses. And note that this is an accessibility issue as well as a sanitary one. Maybe automatic door openers are too expensive or awkward for wider use? If so, why don’t we at least have more of those things you put on the bottoms of doors so people can open them with their feet?

    Or is reducing the number of times people have to touch public door handles not as effective as one might think? If so, are there more effective design changes worth considering?

    1. Kaitian

      I’ve been wondering. It seems that for many diseases, being exposed to more of the disease causing agent leads to worse sickness. This is why more health care workers die of corona and Ebola than other people from their demographics.
      So maybe being exposed to very small amounts of germs, like you might get from touching a public door handle and rubbing your face half an hour later, might not acting lead to “asymptomatic infections” that leave you immune.

      Now, there are some diseases that can make you very ill from a small amount of virus / bacteria, but things like flu and corona seem to work on a more germs -> worse illness model. So constantly risking exposure to small amounts might be overall good for public health.

      If this speculation is correct, then it might make sense to design public spaces to discourage direct close contact between people (e.g. by having little shields around the head rests of train seats), but at the same time encourage indirect contact over shared surfaces.

      1. Statismagician

        Virologists feel free to contradict me, but I don’t think you’re right about this. Source for elevated mortality among health care professionals, please? If that’s indeed true, I strongly expect it will be a statistical artifact rather than anything causal, but I don’t want to spout off too much without data to look at.

        As to the mechanistic argument – well, as I say I’m not a virologist, but it seems to me that if things really worked this way it would be a whole lot easier to produce vaccines than it is.

    2. CatCube

      Maybe automatic door openers are too expensive or awkward for wider use?

      They’re about $3,000 each just to purchase, plus the installation labor, then ongoing maintenance (door hardware in public buildings take a lot of abuse). This is one of those things where you only add a small amount to each project, but add up every bathroom door of every floor of every building, and you’re talking real money.

      1. salvorhardin

        Thanks, very useful datum. Why is it so expensive? Would it be feasible to make a version that costs hundreds rather than thousands and works 90+% as well, but wouldn’t meet current regulatory mandates?

        Also, https://www.stepnpull.com/shop has the low tech foot-operated solution for $30, and presumably it’s lower maintenance too, so cost doesn’t seem to explain the rarity of these (I only even know about them because some, though not all, of the bathrooms at my workplace have them).

        1. The Nybbler

          I think you’d find that saving anything on initial cost ends up costing you more in maintenance. It costs that much because it has to put up with a lot of use and abuse.

    3. Matt

      Public bathrooms with a trash can next to the door make it easy to wash your hands, grab a paper towel to dry them, grab the door handle with the paper towel to open the door, then toss the towel in the garbage on the way out. My work bathroom is like this and I never touch the handle when I’m leaving.

      1. JayT

        I was at the airport the other day, and all they had were those Dyson Airblade blowers. I decided to walk out with wet hands.

    4. rubberduck

      For larger bathrooms, or ones at the end of the hallway, wouldn’t it be easier to eliminate the door entirely and instead construct a wall or two such that one can walk into the bathroom without anyone outside being able to look in? I’ve seen this before at airports and some places overseas but it doesn’t seem to be a thing in most of the US. Then again, you’d still have to touch the doors to the stalls, which are probably equally dirty.

      1. salvorhardin

        Yeah, this should be the standard for bathrooms that are large enough but in anything short of a thousands-of-people-size venue they generally aren’t.

        And yes, you still need to touch the stalls at least when you go to latch the door. I don’t have a great answer to that one (maybe a pushbutton latch-engaging mechanism that could be pushed with an elbow rather than requiring a twist with the hand?) but at least that’s only one touch per bathroom trip instead of two.

    5. JayT

      It’s always seemed to me that it would help if you could make it so that bathroom doors open outwards, so that you have to touch the door handle on the way into the bathroom and then just push the door with your elbow on the way out. Another good one would be the increasingly popular bathroom setup where the stalls are all unisex with real doors and walls instead of the current dividers, and then the sink is just out in the open. That way you don’t have to touch any doors after washing your hands.

      1. Mark V Anderson

        @Jay
        Yes I was going to say the same thing about opening outwards. I noticed the bathroom at work is a push to get in, but there is no way to open the door on the way out except by pulling it with the hand. So I am catching the bugs of the folks who didn’t wash their hands properly, even if I wash mine perfectly.

      2. salvorhardin

        +1 to putting the sinks outside of the stalls/private areas. In fact, much more ubiquitous handwashing sinks in public areas are probably a good idea generally.

        1. Evan Þ

          This. When I walk into a restaurant, there should be a place right there to wash my hands. As it is, I need to awkwardly dodge back into the restroom before my food comes.

    6. Spookykou

      Airports tend to do the no doors thing, what is the minimum extra square footage needed to pull that off? Some places like restaurants probably don’t want it either way. I have also seen foot handles, which seem like a decent solution until you take off your shoes, still might be an improvement though.

      1. salvorhardin

        The airport style is probably too big for anything short of a big-box store or mall. Certainly in e.g. dense city centers (which are particularly hard places to slow disease spread anyway) a typical store or restaurant is going to have a single-digit number of toilets/urinals in all its bathrooms.

        People should be washing their hands after taking off their shoes anyway, so foot handles definitely seem like an improvement.

    7. Wrong Species

      Why not just have a door that you can open with your foot? Step on a some kind of switch and you don’t need to grab a door handle without buying some crazy expensive tech.

    8. Dack

      Replace all stainless steel touch surfaces with brass.

      Or maybe all touch surfaces with brass?

      How feasible would a brass-plated keyboard and mouse be?

    9. Unsaintly

      About a year ago, my work installed foot door openers on all restroom doors. Basically, it’s a spiky-ish bit of metal sticking out from under the door (spiky like a bike pedal, so there’s traction but doesn’t cause injury or damage to shoes). You just put your foot on it and pull, and you can open the door that way. It works great, and there’s no electronics or other costly components. Just looking at the materials, it looks like the sort of thing you could pick up from Home Depot for chump change.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        I visited a workplace with those foot-door-openers and they were very awkward at first but I got better at them in a few days.

        What happens when you have your foot on them and someone yanks open the door from the other side?

        1. salvorhardin

          Well, if the opener is on the pull side the person on the other side will typically be pushing towards you, so maybe some loss of balance but less than if they were actually pulling your foot away from you.

  25. Plumber

    Signs at work:

    Inside the Public Defenders building along with busts of Malcolm X and posters of Che there’s a large handwritten note reading “If you were smart enough to finish law school you should be able to sort recycling from trash!”

    Around the corner and across the street in the DA’s area there’s quotes from Ronald Reagan on the walls, and a cover of the book “Teach Your Cat About Gun Safety”, on the fourth floor there’s signs about a missing “service animal” – Waldo, a cat a police officer brought in that escaped.

    Yes, “Where’s Waldo?”

    A few nearby billboards sponsered by the Department of Public Health state: “Learn What to do in an overdose”, I see two on my drive in, and one on my drive out. 

    In the elevators and elsewhere there’s now “What to do about coronavirus” posters, these last ones prompted my boss to say “It’s crazy how people are hoarding toilet paper”, which prompted one of the guys from “The Russian Empire” (the boiler room) to say “In Soviet Union we just used newspaper”.

    I had to bite my tongue hard to keep from blurting out: “I thought that in Soviet Russia paper use YOU!”

    1. Nick

      “In Soviet Union we just used newspaper”.

      Finally found people with lower opinions of journalism than here.

        1. broblawsky

          The state has a strong incentive to ensure that citizens have access to propaganda. Toilet paper is less essential.

    2. Randy M

      Inside the Public Defenders building along with busts of Malcolm X and posters of Che there’s a large handwritten note reading “If you were smart enough to finish law school you should be able to sort recycling from trash!”

      I read this at first as commentary on the historical figures in question, but I’m not sure what it means for a person to be recycling.

      1. Evan Þ

        It means his ideas aren’t quite good enough to apply right away, but they’re good enough for other people to reuse, re-phrase, and build upon?

        1. Well...

          No, it means his ideas were good the first time but they’re used up now, but the good news is we can sanitize them and use them again for something else.

      2. Plumber

        @Randy M,
        Oh, maybe? That interpretation didn’t occur to me, I just find the obvious differences in political affiliations between the city departments/buildings funny as I do the other signs (well, except for “Worried about nova coronavirus?”).

        The cops and D.A.’s have pro-Republican stuff (including bumper stickers on lockers that are for elections that were decades ago).

        The custodians have pro-union stuff.

        And the defenders are clearly further Left.

        Beats looking at the plumbing!

        1. Well...

          Randy M’s interpretation was mine as well, and I liked that paragraph he quoted in particular as a great stand-alone joke. (Because I think the average American over the age of 25 will agree Malcolm X should be “recycled” while Che is “trash”.)

  26. J.R.

    Anyone coming down with flu-like symptoms and try to get tested for COVID-19? I’m in the USA, in a state that is around the median for reported cases as of today.

    I have a ~100F fever and a slight cough that developed yesterday. I caught it from my wife who has been having the fever symptoms for the past 4 days or so. I’m a young guy in good health, so I’m not worried about dying from this thing. I just don’t want to be a liability.

    My primary care clinic / and insurance provider are offering a useless online screening quiz. The quiz basically asks three questions:
    1. Do you have flu-like symptoms?
    2. Have you traveled to any of these countries (Italy, Iran, China, etc.)?
    3. Have you come into contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19?

    They hide behind this quiz because they are the “latest CDC guidelines”. However, my workplace just instituted a ban for 14 days upon returning from a list of countries that is far more extensive than the one in the screening quiz — basically all of Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. It’s mind-boggling to me that it is common knowledge that we’re well into the community transmission stage but we are still giving a shit about travel. Plus, how can you possibly get a signal from #3 if you’re not testing people extensively?

    Anyway, I took the quiz, answered no to #2 and #3, and was told that I shouldn’t get tested.

    I persisted. I called my primary care clinic. The lady who picked up the phone, ran through the same questionnaire with me and told me I shouldn’t get tested. I did my best Saul Goodman impression and said, “I understand your guidelines. But let’s step back here and let’s talk, human being to human being. Is it really that big of an issue if one extra person gets tested? I’m not really worried about myself here; I can’t really work from home, but I would hate if I were unwittingly spreading this virus to my coworkers, who will spread it to their loved ones, and… I don’t want to feel responsible for whatever happens.”

    That seemed to work, so she offered to transfer me over to the clinic that was actually expanding their testing capacity (in the big city). I talked to the receptionist there and ran through the same things. I did the same song and dance; she offered to transfer me to a triage nurse who would make the call on whether I could come in to get tested.

    Unfortunately, the nurse who picked up the phone was from a different clinic in the big city than the one that was doing the testing — the two big city clinics have a shared phone line for nurses — and she didn’t want to violate the aforementioned guidelines, so she couldn’t make the call. She confessed that she still needed to be briefed on the situation for expanded testing, so she didn’t know what was going on over at the other clinic. I made her promise me that someone from the other clinic would call me back who could make the decision whether to have me tested or not.

    I’m still waiting for that call, about 2 hours later. We’ll see.

    1. John Schilling

      Serious question: What difference does it make? You’ve probably got an infectious disease that you shouldn’t be exposing other people to, so you should probably isolate yourself for a while. You’re in a permissive environment for self-isolation; it’s unlikely your boss is going to fire you if you say “Hey, I’ve got a cough and a fever so I really think I should stay home from work this week”. But you’re apparently not in life-threatening danger, and you’re almost certainly sensible enough to call an ambulance if that changes. You should be in an environment where a positive COVID-19 test means local health authorities go around investigating and testing all your recent contacts, but that’s not going to happen either.

      So, what relevant actions would you take if a test came back positive, that you wouldn’t take if the test result was negative or ambiguous or there was no test? Is there something about your personal circumstances that makes this unusually relevant?

      1. J.R.

        John/Aapje

        You’re absolutely right. The only relevant detail here is workplace policy. Anyone who tests positive has a no-questions-asked 14 days in quarantine, then has to have a doctor’s note permitting them to return to work.

        The pressure to go into work even if I’m sick is high because I work on a very high visibility project that needs my body in the factory every day to help move things along. So there’s a lot of pressure for me to show up and get results.

        But, as you say, there’s a 0% chance I get fired for staying home, so that’s what I’ll do.

        1. Aapje

          If your boss does demand that you come in, demand a written statement that he’s aware that you were refused a test and that you believe that you have COVID, but nevertheless wants you to work. That should clinch it, because it’s a basically a ‘fire me’ notice if you would go to work and infect everyone.

          The pressure to go into work even if I’m sick is high because I work on a very high visibility project that needs my body in the factory every day to help move things along.

          It’s probably a lot worse for your image if you end up infecting everyone.

    2. Aapje

      @J.R

      I agree with John. Just call in sick and tell your boss that you might have COVID. He’s going to want to cover his ass, just like the nurse.

    3. Deiseach

      You say you caught this from your wife. Do you or she have reason to believe that she has been exposed to, or in contact with, someone who has a feasible chance of having COVID-19? I understand you want to be tested, but this is precisely the reaction that is over-stretching the health service. Agreed that the lag between the old and new recommendations is bad but on the other hand, if everyone who has “flu-like” symptoms turns up to be tested, that’s a huge clog on the system and uses up testing kits which seem – at present – not to be supplied in the numbers they should be.

      You tried to spin it to the receptionist as “I’m just one guy, how bad could it be if I got tested even if I don’t fit the criteria?” but you’re not “just one guy”, or rather, there are hundreds if not thousands of other people thinking the same thing.

      Even if you have the virus (unlikely, but we can’t rule it out) – are you in an area with confirmed cases? are you elderly or suffering from conditions that will make it more hazardous e.g. immuno-suppressed, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or lung problems? are you otherwise young and healthy? If so, then self-isolating is probably the best way to go.

      Not to sound like I’m hammering you, but there’s a lot of panic and a lot of assumptions that things can go on as normal re: getting doctor’s appointments and testing. Worst case scenario – if you’re young and in good health without the aggravating conditions – you’re one of the majority who get it, get over it, and have no long-lasting effects. Stay home if you can, your wife stays home also, and both of you practice social distancing and take care. Like John Schilling says – ring your boss/workplace, tell them your wife is sick and you’ve picked it up too, and just in case it is the virus you’re both staying home.

    4. Chalid

      In an ideal world you’d get tested. This is not that world.

      Right now tests are scarce and there are probably people who need them more than you. And you bugging all these nurses is just burdening the health system.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        My county of over a million people has 3 tests. (Once they use them up, they can ask for more.)

        We have 2 confirmed cases. Like 3.6 Roentgen.

    5. AlexanderTheGrand

      My best recommendation to anyone in this situation: start by getting a flu test. They’re fast, cheap, actionable, not in short supply, and a positive result pretty much implies being negative for COVID (unless you’re really unlucky). Make sure your provider knows you’re coming in with symptoms, they’ll take the proper precautions.

      Also: this CDC page tracks the number of tests performed each day in the USA. Unfortunately, this makes it clear why it’s so hard to be tested if the path from you to COVID isn’t embarrassingly obvious.

    6. zzzzort

      #3 reminds me of the Mitch Hedberg bit, “I get the roundabout AIDS test. I call up my friend Brian and say “Brian, do you know anyone that has AIDS?” “No” “Cool, cause you know me.”

    1. Aftagley

      Your article says the exact opposite of what you’re claiming. I think they’ve updated it since you read it, since they are now saying that Bolsonaro denies having tested positive and remains uninfected.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        This. Also:

        “Exposures from the case are being assessed, which will dictate next steps. Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”

        … why are we not testing asymptomatic famous people who are shoulder-to-shoulder with ten thousand people a day and have been within a hundred feet of a confirmed case?

        1. Nick

          … why are we not testing asymptomatic famous people who are shoulder-to-shoulder with ten thousand people a day and have been within a hundred feet of a confirmed case?

          Why would we do that? People might test positive, and that would be terrible.

      2. Nick

        …Not before I told my office he tested positive. I feel really stupid for not clicking the link to read it first.

        1. j1000000

          I only know the vaguest details about Bolsonaro, but is it far fetched he’s just lying and he actually tested positive?

          1. Anteros

            Do you have any vaguely unbiased evidence that he is more of a habitual liar than, say, Bernie Sanders?

      1. jermo sapiens

        Correct. He is in isolation but has not been tested yet as he is not showing any symptoms.

        1. Roebuck

          I presume that’s because they want to be silent and let the potential virus go into the distance rather than startle it with a testing kit.

    2. Douglas Knight

      23/290 members of Iran’s parliament tested positive.

      Iranians have a culture of greeting each other by kissing the other person on the cheeks. Politicians often overdo it to show their closeness to power players. In this particular moment, the greeting could have transmitted the virus.

      What is the chance that Ayatollah Khamenei (age 80) catches it? Does he interact much with parliament?

    3. AG

      So what happens if the remaining Democratic candidates get wiped out? I guess Buttigieg technically only suspended his campaign, and he might still have more delegates than Tulsi, hah.

        1. Plumber

          @Edward Scizorhands,
          Yes compared to Bernie and Joe they are, but which one will be become a group and get cast out first?

      1. Plumber

        @AG,
        The delegates already selected are obligated to vote for who their pledged to (I don’t know if there’s a “but my guy is deceased” clause), I presume that being dead counts as “won’t accept the nomination”, and the delegates will be free to vote in a second round along with the additional “superdelegates” (about 15% of total delegates).

        1. Eric Rall

          I think that if a candidate dies, it’d be treated under the same rules as if a candidate drops out: their district-level delegates become unpledged and can vote for whomever on the first ballot, and their state-level delegate slots are reapportioned among the still-active candidates who got above the 15% threshold in the state’s primary.

  27. Le Maistre Chat

    Thoughts on whether any of the current dividend aristocrats are at high risk of cutting their dividend?
    I’m looking at XOM, whose yield was up to 9.83% earlier today. XOM and CVX could continue to get pummeled even if the US goes into lockdown and safely comes out at the beginning of May, due to the Russia-OPEC gambit and how exposed oil stocks are to Russia and a handful of countries next to Iran, any of which could bungle pandemic response.

    1. Matt M

      I work in that industry and I would not be buying any of those stocks any time soon, myself.

      I think I’m technically not allowed to say much more than that.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        I work in that industry and I would not be buying any of those stocks any time soon, myself.

        I meant “I’m looking at” as most risky in the group, not “I’m looking to buy!”
        (I’ve had 27 shares of CVX for almost a year. That’s enough oil exposure for me. 🙁 )

    2. broblawsky

      How long do you plan to hold onto those stocks? I wouldn’t expect the oil industry to bounce back any time soon.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        I dunno, maybe 25 years? I’ve picked a few dividend aristocrats since liquidizing a house, and the idea was value investing that also produces an income stream to pay bills no matter how bad other life circumstances get (like unemployed + widowed or divorced).

        1. broblawsky

          Just be prepared to lose 50% of your investment. I don’t know if it will get that bad, but it might.

  28. Anteros

    I didn’t think I’d be much affected by the C. Virus. Of course the French government have now closed all the schools so my kids are going to be at home for 5 weeks. I also had a three week working holiday in Spain planned for a weeks time. That looks increasingly unlikely to happen, although I could make a dash for it now, leave my wife to deal with the kids and get to Spain just before the border is closed…

    Interesting times, and it is probably worth adding that my initial interpretation of what would happen with the virus was very wrong. I still think that the biggest disruption will be caused by governmental reaction to the outbreak, but wrong that this would somehow be unjustified or unnecessary. Live and learn, I suppose, but a fairly large portion of humble pie nonetheless.

  29. Nick

    Scott, I’d like to reiterate my suggestion to quarantine coronavirus discussion to a particular open thread every two weeks. The one time open thread about it clearly did not do the trick, and at this point nearly half the top level comments, and probably most of the comments overall, are about it.

    1. acymetric

      The advantage of having it in the regularly scheduled open thread is that you can be reasonably certain what you are reading is mostly up to date. If you’re only making one thread every two weeks you have to sift through a lot of outdated crap, plus given the volume of discussion those bi-weekly threads would be HUGE and unwieldy. There would need to be an OCT (Open Corona Thread) basically on the same schedule as the regular OT for it to work and be useful.

      Personally I’m fine having it as part of the regular OT, and probably slightly prefer it that way.

    2. EchoChaos

      One problem is that the threading structure makes a single “coronavirus thread” implausible in an open thread, for example during this open thread Trump banned all travel from the EU, which spawned a comment thread.

      But there is too much going on (it’s probably the single biggest world story by a large margin) to put it off for two week centers.

        1. Aftagley

          Nick – serious question: When it comes to establishing a quarantine, why are you expecting Scott’s response to this crisis to be any more effective than the CDC’s?

          (I lied. That was not a serious question)

          1. Nick

            Nonserious answer to a nonserious question: Scott has repeatedly suggested abolishing the FDA, which alone would have saved us weeks!

            More seriously, the responses have got me thinking that maybe a coronavirus-free thread would be better.

          2. Anteros

            @Nick
            I think that’s a much better idea. A virus-free zone would be a pleasant place in these Corona-infested times.

    3. Aftagley

      While realizing this is not a democracy, I’d argue against quarantining this discussion. It’s objectively the biggest topic in the world right now, and the different top-level comments (at least to me) are discussing different aspects of the outbreak.

          1. Faza (TCM)

            The epidemic may well last longer, but after a while it just becomes the new normal.

            The reason the topic is on everyone’s lips (and keyboards) right now is that the past week is when most of the significant political response started taking place. The vast majority of us aren’t likely to see any major health-related issues due to COVID-19*, but we are seeing plenty of disruption in our lives because of the counter-measures being taken.

            In a few weeks, we’ll either have adjusted to the disruptions (humans are capable of adjusting to nearly anything) or we’ll simply have nothing new to say about them. There’s also a possibility that they’ll start being rolled back because they’re either considered to have served their purpose or are found to be unnecessary.

            Either way, I’ve seen a bunch of crises in my life to date (including more disruptive than this) and know that after a while they just become part of the background noise. This is probably a Good Thing.

            * This is a guess based on the currently published number of identified cases and deaths. Personally, I expect the number of actual infections to be at least an order-of-magnitude higher than the number of confirmed cases (because of testing protocols) and therefore the public health impact to be comparable to a bad ‘flu season at worst.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        I agree. But I think making a dedicated post, maybe even one every week, would help people discuss it. (That post would still be full of individual threads.)

        And people who are trying to disconnect from it for mental health reasons should be allowed to. I don’t bring it up to my wife (unless she brings it up herself, which happens often enough) because it’s stressing her out.

    4. J Mann

      If we quarantine coronavirus threads, I’d like to just see a duplicate of each thread. (I.e. .25 Open, .25 covid and so on). I appreciate people wanting COV out of the general thread, but it’s fast moving and important, so I appreciate having a fresh thread to discuss it in.

    5. zardoz

      Scott, I’d like to reiterate my suggestion to quarantine coronavirus discussion to a particular open thread every two weeks

      Hey, we don’t have enough resources to test every comment thread for potential coronavirus.

      Instead, people should just panic uncontrollably.

    1. AG

      Heavy investment in public transportation (add more metro stations and bus service), heavy investment in bike and moped lanes. Fix the zoning laws.

    2. Eric Rall

      The low-hanging fruit is probably to change zoning rules to allow buildings in residential zones to be partially repurposed for commercial use. Converting the bottom floor or two of a big apartment building into shops and offices means that residents just have to take the elevator downstairs to do basic shopping rather than needing to get in a car or on a bus or train to go to a different part of the city. Offices help less in the short-term, but a few years down the road it means a nontrivial percentage of the population will be able to plan their living arrangements so they can commute by elevator or by walking a short distance to a nearby tower.

    3. hnrq

      My time to shine. I actually live and was born and raised in Brasilia.

      Now, I’m obviously very biased, but I completely disagree with the article. I actually think Brasilia is a big success (my comparison points, I have lived in São Paulo and in Melbourne – Australia) and most of the people that I know tend to like living here a lot (and I know lots of people that came to work here from elsewhere in Brazil). This applies to a subset of people living here – upper middle class that actually lives in the heritage protected part of the city, most people live in peripheral cities and suburbs that have more “normal” urban characteristics.

      People say as if there is no commerce close to where people live, but every residential block has an adjacent (<5 min walking) that has most necessary shops (small grocery stores, farmacy, restaurants, coffee shops, etc).

      Brasilia also has the best traffic of all major Brazillian cities, and although public transport could be better, it is not awful by any stretch. And, anyway, most traffic is present in commuting roads, not within the city itself, where it tends to flow very well. People that live in Brasilia rarely need to drive for more than 15 min to get to work.

      It's hard putting it to words really, but I really do enjoy living here, and not only because of the fact that I was born here or whatever. I feel like the city has just the right amount of density, not to dense to become too chaotic to actually live in, while not too sparse to make everything too far away. The actual problem of Brasilia is not brasilia itself, which works just fine, but the adjacent city/suburbs.

      1. SystematizedLoser

        Thanks, this is a very useful comment that pushes against my (mostly uninformed) intuition. You say: “The actual problem of Brasilia is not brasilia itself, which works just fine, but the adjacent city/suburbs.” Why is that the case?

  30. Chalid

    unless the plane was recently used to go elsewhere

    Of course it was? That’s what planes are for.

    It’s expensive and unpleasant but I think the safest thing would be to rent a car and drive, and stay in hotels that can be trusted to have done good cleaning.

    If she’s really immunocompromised and really, really needs zero exposure, she could wait 48 hours between renting the car and actually driving it (virus doesn’t live that long on surfaces) and sleep in the car to avoid hotel exposures.

    1. Randy M

      Thanks for the reply; I deleted the original as it seemed a bit personal and slightly less relevant after recent discussion (I need to stop doing that). For context, my wife is considering whether to cancel a flight to avoid a return through LAX.

      It seems a kindly friend has offered to drive to fetch her, as CA schools are shutting anyway.

      Of course it was? That’s what planes are for.

      Yeah, I realized as typing that the current passengers wouldn’t be the only concern.

  31. bzium

    I opened the JHU dashboard right now and then number of cases is down to 91,773. Some countries are missing from the list, among them Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, and Germany.

    Did somebody press the exterminatus button? I think it was too soon.

  32. mitv150

    Let’s assume one has a month’s word of non-perishable goods and other assorted necessities stock-piled. Should such goods be:

    -used now so as to avoid going to public places;
    -used once the local confirmed case count begins to rise; or
    -stored against the possibility that food will become actually difficult to obtain.

    1. EchoChaos

      Depends on how risk averse you are.

      If you 100% absolutely need to avoid Wuhan Coronavirus, e.g. you are immunocompromised or elderly, you should hunker down now unless you live in rural Idaho/Alabama already. There is almost certainly some degree of hidden community spread occurring and a month from now we may be saved by a warm spring.

      If you can afford to get it but would prefer not to, we’re still definitely at the place where you can just avoid crowds and keep your reserve in case something truly unexpected happens.

      1. broblawsky

        a month from now we may be saved by a warm spring

        Please stop spreading this meme. It’s deeply irresponsible.

          1. Matt M

            Does this mean that people who live in warmer-than-average climates are already at less risk and can take less severe measures?

            Like, I’m in Texas. It’s 9 AM in the morning and already in the 70s outside. Should I be less freaked out than the people who live in Ohio because of this?

          2. EchoChaos

            @Matt M

            Probably. Texas currently isn’t seeing any serious domestic spread. All the places that we’re seeing serious spread in the United States are similar to Korea/China/N. Italy in climate.

            To put it in perspective, Texas is the second largest state in the Union and has fewer cases than Colorado, Florida is similar. Denver is a major international hub and cooler and drier.

            I’d still steer clear of major gatherings and airports.

            Note that I am not a doctor and all that I said earlier was prefaced with “may”. Wuhan Coronavirus is novel, which means that it could behave differently.

          3. actinide meta

            A paper using data from different Chinese cities estimates that 1 degree F or 1% RH decrease R0 by about 0.02. So if it is 30 degrees warmer somewhere that is like 0.6 lower. This is enough to make a big difference in the rate of spread or the amount of social distancing needed to control the disease, but it probably isn’t enough that anywhere can afford to be complacent.

          4. Cardboard Vulcan

            @actinide meta

            Would you be kind enough to post a link or citation to the paper relating temperature and R0. Thanks!

      2. matthewravery

        I’d be very skeptical about relying on the climate to keep you safe. You used “may”, which is appropriate, because there isn’t definitive data about whether and how this coronavirus is effected by climate. Most are, but not all. We also don’t know how much temperatures will climb in the next few months. We know what it’ll do on average, but when you’ve got exponential growth, relying on averages is often dumb.

        1. EchoChaos

          @actinide meta posted that the spread rate decreases by about .02 per 1% RH and 1 degree F.

          If you’re immunocompromised and absolutely cannot risk getting it, now is the time to use all your quarantine because the risk is probably getting relatively lower over time.

          In the US we’re probably not quite at peak risk, but it is likely that the peak happens sometime in the next month.

    2. Kaitian

      It depends on a number of factors (e.g. if you have to be outside in public all day anyway, might as well go grocery shopping too). Keep in mind that the local confirmed case count is both naturally lagging behind actual cases, and probably undercounted by a lot (especially in the US).

      I expect that food won’t actually become scarce, though there could conceivably be rationing and long lines in stores like Italy has right now.

      Overall I’m trying to do my shopping at a time when there are not yet many corona cases walking around, but also not too many panic shoppers emptying the shelves. Once I think this no longer applies, I’ll use my stockpile. If the worst comes to worse, I hope the state can manage to keep me supplied.

    3. viVI_IViv

      Use 2/3 of your stores, then order more to be delivered at home (wear a mask and gloves when receiving the packages, let the packages sit for a day, then disinfect it with alcohol, open and disinfect each individual package again).

      1. Cliff

        Are you serious? Wait 24 hours and then disinfect it anyway? Why do you have to wait if you’re disinfecting? I understand transmission from surfaces is very rare anyway.

        If there are packages sealed from the manufacturer can’t you just open everything and then wash your hands?

  33. J Mann

    Whose fault is the testing slow down? I have no idea, but some possibilities:

    1) CDC/Trump Admin: If it’s the case that they can and should remove some of the regulatory framework slowing down tests.

    2) Regulations: If it’s the case that we’re overregulated and nobody can legally waive the regulations.

    3) Nobody: If its the case that (a) we’re not actually that far off everybody else in testing, (b) unregulated testing countries are getting a lot of bad tests/infecting people with hepatitis or something, and/or (c) its really the fault of shortages in reagents or something outside of government control.

    1. actinide meta

      From what I’ve seen:

      1. FDA:
      – Invoked emergency regulations allowing them to regulate laboratory-developed tests that normally labs can use on their own, then used this power to block all testing except the use of CDC test kits that did not exist. Has now loosened these rules, and is finally starting to approve commercial tests, but totally unnecessarily caused most of the delay.
      – Has failed to (or at least moved unreasonably slowly in) waiving pre-existing red tape to get manufacturing capacity and lab capacity on board for this and other necessary things.

      2. CDC:
      – Decided to develop their own test protocol instead of (NOT in addition to) using the WHO one – delay of about 2 weeks.
      – Screwed up production of initial test kits – delay of another 2-3 weeks
      – Couldn’t fix test kits for weeks. Eventually testing started by just discarding the part of the test kit that didn’t work (which could have been done immediately, but wasn’t) – delay of another 2-3 weeks
      – Specified a specific RNA amplification kit for use in the tests, which there isn’t an adequate supply of
      – Didn’t exercise any positive leadership or show any evidence of having planned for this situation, which is their job. The whole point of having a CDC is to not be starting from zero figuring these things out when a disease hits.

      3. Administration
      – Didn’t do anything to fix the above problems
      – Spent a bunch of time downplaying and ignoring the problem (mostly this has delayed adoption of social distancing rather than testing, though)

      As far as I can tell, if the whole Federal government had just stopped coming to work Jan 1, we would be way ahead on response to this.

      1. Thomas Jorgensen

        Trump literally fired and dismantled the Pandemic planning team two years ago. Hence no plan.

          1. Randy M

            Because you can see a plausible route from one to the other, or because all of John Bolton’s actions are long term plans to trigger regime change?

          2. matthewravery

            all of John Bolton’s actions are long term plans to trigger regime change [in Iran]

            Never a bad guess! 🙂

          3. Aftagley

            Trump didn’t fire them, John Bolton did.

            This is a weird statement. John Bolton wasn’t some unaccountable loose cannon; he was Trump’s National Security Adviser. As far as I can tell, Bolton had the mandate (either personally or from Trump) to reduce the size/complexity of the office of the national security adviser and he accomplished that be shitcanning the pandemic team.

            I mean, it’s conceivable that Trump probably wasn’t personally involved in the decision of what teams to keep and which to get rid of, but it’s been a well-established norm that if you are president and the people you hire take action, you have responsibility for said action.

          4. Nick

            @Aftagley
            I get and agree that Trump is ultimately responsible in a lot of ways for what his administration does. Still, I think we should distinguish what an allegedly competent person in Trump’s administration does from what Trump the contradictory loose cannon does.

          5. Aftagley

            Ah, my apologies. I missed the “literally” in Thomas Jorgensen’s original post which would prompt your corrective reply.

          6. Cliff

            The pandemic response team was a part of the national security counsel and not CDC right? What was their role or would it be?

        1. actinide meta

          Happy to add that to the list too, but surely the absence of an NSC planning team doesn’t excuse CDC or FDA from having some kind of idea what they are doing.

          I also don’t want to discount the impact of preexisting regulation and the general attitude in our culture that doing nothing is better than doing something imperfectly. But the agencies involved mostly did have the discretion to do a lot better than they did.

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          The optics of that suck. I could easily believe it wrecked things. But what is the actual path from not having that team and the poor response we have?

        3. John Schilling

          Trump literally fired and dismantled the Pandemic planning team two years ago. Hence no plan.

          Much as I would like to blame Trump, and even more so John Bolton, for this, no. The team that was fired/reassigned, worked above the CDC at the White House /NSC level. If you’re looking for someone to blame for e.g. not having observers in Wuhan last December, or for blindsiding our European allies with the travel and trade and oops no just travel ban with the EU, then sure. But having adequate test kits, supplies, and testing plans on hand, is internal to the CDC.

          Also, if the CDC is going to claim that they are excused from being adequately prepared to track local transmission of infectious diseases in American communities just because they don’t have a “pandemic planning group” with a seat on the National Security Council, then also no. That’s basically their core mission, and something that they should be planning for internally at every branch and level. If not that, then why do we even have a CDC? Wait, wait, I know – something about the scourge of vaping, or was it gun violence?

          They got distracted, forgot what they were for, and failed – and as near as I can tell, they’d been doing that since before Trump was even a viable candidate for office.

          1. J Mann

            Yeah, I’m pretty convinced. The fault lies first with the FDA and CDC for not responding appropriately, and secondarily (but still significantly) with the Trump administration for not recognizing there was a problem and responding sooner and more effectively.

          2. mitv150

            It is also a relevant fact that the NSC only had a specific pandemic planning team starting in 2016 or so. There is no reason to believe, absent further information, that the purview of those particular members of the NSC was not absorbed by other members of the NSC.

      2. Edward Scizorhands

        https://www.npr.org/2020/03/12/814881355/white-house-knew-coronavirus-would-be-a-major-threat-but-response-fell-short

        This is NPR so the usual suspects will say it’s biased and ignore it. And I would say to add a few extra grains of salt (in addition to the normal NPR grains of salt I apply) because we don’t have a direct quote, just an “understanding.” But according to Diamond, through Secretary Azar,

        My understanding is [Trump] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear – the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.

        I haven’t bought into this completely, but it fits previous patterns where, for example, Trump talked about keeping the numbers down by keeping the Grand Princess off-shore.

        1. EchoChaos

          This is actually a perfect example of what @Conrad Honcho was talking about downthread in terms of damning Trump regardless of what he does.

          Trump both should have relied on the CDC/FDA experts more and should’ve overridden the CDC/FDA experts and told them to do something different with tests.

          You can’t both override the CDC and rely on them and get it right unless you have perfect hindsight.

          1. matthewravery

            Trump ignores experts and bureaucrats all the time, including the ones he appoints. He picks and chooses which and when and is accountable for those decisions.

            He’s down-played the threat in remarks for the past two months while appearing more concerned with how the market would react than containing the virus. When faced with the option to take longer to start testing and do less of it vice a more aggressive approach that would result in a higher number of identified cases, he opted for the former.

            This isn’t motivated reasoning or hindsight. There were people shouting from the rooftops for at least a month that the lack of testing in the US was dangerous.

          2. JayT

            @matthewravery, that doesn’t address the specific point EchoChaos was making. He’s right to point out that people have been both saying that Trump should have listened to his experts, and at the same time overridden other expert’s plans. If he overroad the FDA and opened testing up to all companies and it ended up with a bunch of false positives and negatives and slowed down the response, people would have blasted him for not listening to his experts at the FDA.

          3. Edward Scizorhands

            It’s alleged (but not yet proven, I want more information) that the agencies were operating to Trump’s wishes by slow-rolling testing, in order to keep the numbers down.

            We don’t know why, at all, the US declined to use the WHO test. This is a major issue. Was it a conscious decision at all? If they sat down, guessed they had more time than they did, and were just wrong, that’s one thing. But we shouldn’t retcon excuses that they didn’t have at the time.

        2. mtl1882

          I feel like most politicians/higher ups had some of this “but panic will hurt my polling numbers/the economy” thing going on, which is not good but doesn’t surprise me. Most think in terms of self-interest, and Trump is sensitive to how he comes across, but I think that’s normal for presidents. It was probably bolstered by wishful, motivated thinking that this really wasn’t a big deal. I think it was more short-term than November-oriented—the entire plan would backfire if he knew the risks but held back because it would hurt the economy/his reputation, because it was only a matter of weeks until it was out of control.

          I think people are trying to argue he didn’t take it seriously enough because of self-interested and motivated reasoning, and convinced himself he could keep it under control and it would never become an issue. This is a huge problem, but I’m not convinced Trump being president is making much of a difference. Of course, he still bears most of the responsibility, but I think most higher ups in government, business, and media have an unhealthy fear of disruption and shared such thinking. Many are quickly sliding into making it seem like a diabolical plot where he knew it would get out of control but wasn’t willing to act because it would hurt his numbers. That doesn’t make sense. This unwillingness to take action and prepare properly is a longer-term, broader issue.

          ETA: I don’t believe there is conspiracy against Trump on this issue, but the questions asked in the press conferences were at times ridiculously leading, and spurred his much-condemned responses. “Are you being selfish by refusing to be tested?” etc. Given everything else that has gone on, I understood why he pushed back, but he shouldn’t be directing blame elsewhere right now. Although, I guess since Biden is going after him, he has to respond, but he probably shouldn’t.

        1. BBA

          Take your pick:
          – Standard bureaucratic stubbornness and indifference
          – Orders from on high to keep numbers down and make Trump look good
          – Deep State conspiracy to make Trump look bad

          The country is going to spend the next eight months arguing about whether it’s #2 or #3. It’s most likely to be #1 but that doesn’t fit anybody’s narrative (sit down, libertarians, there are too few of you to matter).

  34. johan_larson

    Well, at least one person was expecting/hoping-for something worse than COVID-19: our old pal the prophet-o-doom, Peter Watts:

    I’ll admit I didn’t really see it coming. I mean, sure: I’ve been harping on Dan Brooks’s epidemiological musings (and, as it turns out, those of the US DOD) for years now.

    So you might find the scenario familiar: a warming world drawing old pathogens into new habitats, full of new and vulnerable hosts. A series of rolling pandemics starting to hollow out the world’s urban cores within the decade, characterized by low mortality but high contagion; societal stresses and fractures due not so much to die-offs as to sick days, a whole subsidiary cascade of collapse where the people who maintain the ATMs and drive the food trucks and take out the garbage start calling in sick, and their replacements call in sick—and before you know it the whole damn house of cards has collapsed with hardly anyone even dying, and the water’s off and we’re all sitting in our home-made forts, counting our remaining tins of Puritan Irish Stew with Formed Meat Chunks.

    Here’s the thing, though: COVID-19 isn’t nearly as bad as what I’d been expecting.

    I’m talking about the actual virus here, not the social impact. The Cassandra prognosis—admittedly a purely theoretical, what-if scenario—imagined a bug with a 10-20% mortality rate, ultimately infecting around half the world’s human population. COVID-19 isn’t anywhere near that lethal.

    He does link to something I haven’t seen discussed before, a declassified US DOD document discussing what to do about an influenza pandemic.

    1. Aftagley

      Minor Quibble: The document isn’t declassified, it’s unclassified.

      Reading this document reinforced why I don’t like dealing with DoD. When they are talking about ways to disrupt the enemy’s center of gravity when the enemy is the influenza, you know someone has drunk a bit too much cool-aid over at the pentagon.

    1. The Pachyderminator

      Twitter is down at the moment so I can’t see the tweet. What’s the provenance of this leak? How confident should we be that it’s genuine?

      1. toukmond

        Source here: https://www.jenniferzengblog.com/

        Pinged the chinese blogger that leaked the images RE source, no response yet. (Will keep this post updated if/when she responds.) FWIW (a) I’ve found that her blog corresponds well to BBC reporting, (b) the phrasing of the documents is similar to the phrasing of other CCP documents.

        The imgur links have a copy of the documents. Here’s a transcription of the text:

        TRANSCRIBED FROM THE TRANSLATED IMAGES:

        CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China) Internal Documentation for Internet Commentators (no spreading)

        The War of Internet public opinion is of vital important to the life and death of the regime of the People’s Republic of China. For the prosperity and strength of our motherland and the revitalization of the Chinese nation, all online commentators should always be prepared to defend the country’s Internet firewall with their intelligence and diligence.

        METHODS:

        During working hours, online commentators must check their work email at least once every hour so as to grasp the latest spirit in the instructions from their superiors.

        Online commentators ought to cooperate as per request. When needed, work teams consist of commentators from different regions and professions will be formed to implement specific tasks. If necessary, superiors will transfer personnel from other groups to understaffed teams.

        Basic working procedures: the routine work for each group only focuses on specific websites. Different groups are held accountable for relevant forums of different major websites. The daily work serves to defend the correct guidance of public opinion according to the overall guidelines. In case of a sudden public opinion outbreak, the routine work should be suspended. Instead, commentators should follow the instructions of special working teams in superior departments. The staff and resources should be devoted to the guidance of public opinion on the emergency.

        Online Commentators should be skillful in concealing their real identities. They must have multiple different usernames, with which they need to post articles in various styles of writing. If required, members of different working teams can pretend to be netizens who are debating in forums. Then, the third party can forward strong evidence to guide the public opinion in it’s favor.

        When rumors are spreading in the cyberspace, commentators should find the original post and the publisher as soon as possible. Commentators should compel the website administrators to delete the original post. Then, commentators should copy and post the content of the deleted post and use another IP address to declare themselves as local citizens in which the rumor took place. Then, commentators should use the account of forum moderators or other netizens to point out that the IP address does not belong to the area where the rumor was referring to, thus proving the message a canard.

        If needed, commentators can post fake news that is more sensational to capture the attention of netizens. Then, commentators should soon clarify that those pieces of information are purely rumors.

        On some popular forums where the credibility of netizens is usuallly high, commentators should go make a mess. Commentators can intervene by posting ambiguous articles, distort viewpoints irrationally in their comments, incite misunderstandings, and debates to distract the netizens’ attention from some issues.

        It is difficult to gain control of the public opinion on websites overseas. When commentators fail to dominate the public opinion on foreign forums, they can use short, irrational, and meaningless posts to space the forum. When the screen is flooded with a pointless mess, netizens are likely to lose interest. In this way, commentators can prevent reactionary ideologies from public dissemination.

        To meet the basic qualifications of an “internet commentator,” one has to continuously learn to improve their writing skills, and learn to grasp several writing styles while mastering the art of imitating others’ writing.

        Learn to communicate effectively with fellow netizens, earn their trust and blend in with them, especially so for those whose articles are influential online. Get a position as the host to crucial online forums, when possible.

        Be highly vigilant when hunting for posts to work with. Using your judgement to quickly find the posts, among million others, with high potentials of influence, and focus heavy emphasis on them.

      2. toukmond

        EDIT: Previous post complained about forum eating posts. Answer: transcript was too long (thanks nornagest!) Moved it to pastebin attached.

        Source here. Pinged the chinese blogger that published the docs for source, no response so far, will update if I get one.

        FWIW: (a) following her blog, her posts have corresponded well with BBC reporting, (b) the phrasing of the chinese is similar to other CCP documents.

        In case twitter still down, wrote a transcript here.

        1. Nornagest

          There might be, but it’s pretty high. The spam filter will eat your comment if it contains a lot of links, though, or one of several words and phrases that our rightful caliph has deemed inappropriate (see “Comments” link in the site header).

        2. toukmond

          EDIT: Previous post complained about forum eating posts. Answer: transcript was too long (thanks nornagest!) Moved it to pastebin attached.

          Source here. Pinged the chinese blogger that published the docs for source, no response so far, will update if I get one.

          FWIW: (a) following her blog, her posts have corresponded well with BBC reporting, (b) the phrasing of the chinese is similar to other CCP documents.

          In case twitter still down, wrote a transcript here.

    2. Aftagley

      I’m skeptical of this piece’s legitimacy as an actual CCP set of instructions for a couple of reasons:

      1. Who is the intended audience for this document? It doesn’t seem anywhere near detailed enough to be a resource for new employees. On the other hand, it’s way too specific to be for anything else.

      2. It seems to include a bunch of phrases that are hyper-focused on attracting the attention of a western audience. Look at lines like:

      all online commentators should always be prepared to defend the country’s Internet firewall

      or

      If needed, commentators can post FFAAKKEE NNEEWWSS [edit mine to hopefully avoid my comment from getting eaten for the 3rd time]

      or

      When commentators fail to dominate the public opinion on foreign forums, they can use short, irrational, and meaningless posts to space the forum… In this way, commentators can prevent reactionary ideologies from public dissemination.

      Again, I can’t imagine an instruction manual including these terms. Maybe this is an artifact of motivated translation, but I feel like I’m supposed to read this and get angry, which makes me question its legitimacy.

      3. The person who tweeted this out is a Falon Gong activist currently in exile in Australia, unless wikipedia is incorrect. Now, I agree that the Falon Gong have been treated reprehensibly by the Chinese government, but they aren’t great sources. They will pass along the story that presents the CCP in the worst possible light, truth be damned.

      All in all, the things described in this text may be happening, but I don’t trust this to be a legitimate source. I’ll keep looking and see if I can find where it came from.

      Also, toukmond, it wasn’t that your transcript was too long, it was that it contained some banned words.

      1. toastengineer

        It seems awfully short for a written set of instructions. Is the CCP just sitting random nerds down in front of computers, handing them this sheet of paper, and letting them loose?

        Seems like basic “how to disrupt the Internet” info like this would be conveyed to you by your manager, or senior team members, or a training class or something. I’d expect at least like a 15 page pamphlet if not an entire book to make it worth writing down.

        On the other hand, I don’t know anything about how people get organized in China, maybe that really is how they do it.

  35. Atlas

    Some miscellaneous CW-y thoughts on COVID-19:

    (I would have thought that this would be an obvious, like literally the most obvious, take, but I don’t think I’ve seen it so far. Granted, I haven’t been reading a lot about coronavirus, so sorry if this is old news.)

    It’s interesting to compare Trump’s rhetoric, at least circa 2015-2016, on the risks posed by e.g. Islamic terrorism and Mexican immigration to his current rhetoric on the risks posed by COVID-19. Which do you think is a greater threat to Americans’ lives, Islamic terrorism or the coronavirus? Which do you think will do more damage to the economy, illegal Latin American immigration or the coronavirus? How do you think President Trump’s rhetoric on the former issues compares to his rhetoric about the current pandemic? (Not rhetorical questions, genuinely curious what people think.)

    Steve Sailer suggests that Bill Gates would make a good corona Czar. I agree, except that I think, as Steve observed in the past, the “Czar” title is lame and it seems like people who have it usually fail at whatever they’re tasked to do. So I nominate Bill Gates as America’s Coronavirus Imperator Kaiser Nabob Mikado Muad’Dib. (In all seriousness, I would trust Bill Gates to understand and competently deal with this problem about 10000x more than I trust Trump to.)

    What are your forecasts for unemployment and GDP growth by the end of the year? Not “it’s entirely possible that a recession could happen,” but ranges/numbers/probabilities. Do you think that a coronavirus-triggered recession will be a decisive factor in the general election?

    1. broblawsky

      > What are your forecasts for unemployment and GDP growth by the end of the year?
      Unemployment (U3) > 5.5%. Not sure about GDP.

      > Not “it’s entirely possible that a recession could happen,” but ranges/numbers/probabilities.
      I’m about 90% sure that we’re in some kind of recession right now.

      > Do you think that a coronavirus-triggered recession will be a decisive factor in the general election?
      Decisive? Maybe. I think it’ll be a significant factor, but the oil war might actually be larger in terms of impact. The oil war will worsen\extend the pre-existing manufacturing recession, which will have an outsize impact in the Rust Belt. I actually think this was a significant part of why Hillary lost in 2016.

      1. DavidFriedman

        The oil war will worsen\extend the pre-existing manufacturing recession

        The oil price war means that oil, which is an input to lots of activities, is cheap. Why would you expect that to make things worse? It’s bad for oil companies and companies that produce drilling supplies and the like, but I would expect it to be good for almost everyone else.

        1. broblawsky

          Oil will be cheaper, but it’s not the most expensive input in most sectors, AFAIK. We’ve already been through this song and dance routine before, in 2015/2016, when the Saudis tried to kill shale oil. The US labor market continued to improve throughout that time period, but unemployment rates in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan all increased Y/Y. In certain areas, there was a definite decrease in economic activity that correlated well with the decrease in oil prices. The US is probably more economically dependent on domestic oil production now than it was in 2016, and the shale industry is even more indebted, so I expect that this go-around will be worse.

      1. Kindly

        As far as I understand, people that don’t believe in evolution are fine with all observable evolution (like viruses), but are skeptical about macroevolution, and in particular about humans evolving from monkeys.

        1. FLWAB

          In fact, most Young Earth Creationsists (at least the more scientifically minded types at the DI or AIG, as opposed to “fossils were planted by Satan” types) believe that evolution works even faster than standard evolutionary theory would suggest.

          Though this seems like a bit of a contridiciton, it all falls down on the “Young” portion of “Young Earth Creationist.” YEC biological theory holds that instead of a “tree of life” model of biological history you instead have a “forest of life” with God creating many different animal “kinds” that went on to evolve and diverge into different species. For example, there would have been one “cat” kind that eventually evolved into all the different cat species we see today, from the common house-cat to the mighty lion. Since YECs also hold that the Earth is 12,000 years old at maximum, this requires evolution to work very quickly to create new species. I remember reading news reports on Answers in Genesis crowing every time some scientist discovered a species rapidly evolving.

          All of this is moot, of course, but I like talking about things I know.

      2. Deiseach

        Mike Pence leading the task force — a man who doesn’t believe in evolution

        Okay, this is the last straw, I am throwing down on this. Can we get some goddamn evidence for this, apart from “I’m a lefty who wouldn’t dream of using stereotypes about any group except when it comes to my outgroup”? Because I’m seeing a lot of this floating around in various contexts, but can anyone tell me that Pence is actually a Young Earth Creationist?

        All I know is that he was reared Catholic then converted to Evangelicalism, and I’m even shaky on what exactly he converted to. Can we get some actual statements of the kind of either a doctrinal confession of whatever church or denomination he now belongs to, or from the man’s mouth himself?

        I mean, I don’t believe in evolution if you have a broad enough definition of what it means to “believe in evolution”(and yet this did not stop me doing vocational training in becoming a laboratory technician back in my youth). Am I a Young Earth Creationist? No. Do I believe that materialism is a sufficient explanation for “and that’s how we got the universe, life, and humans”? Also no. So first define for me what exactly and precisely you mean by “believe in evolution” and not in the shallow “I effin’ love Science!” way I see this type of insult being thrown around.

        Because it reminds me of nothing so much as P.Z. Myers’ sour grapes over Francis Collins – how very dare some filthy rotten religious believer get a plum job at the Human Genome Project when Myers, a superior Bright, was stuck teaching in a Minnesota cow college? (Bonus irony, in light of what Wikipedia calls the Eucharist incident, that UMM started off as a religious school: “The first campus buildings housed an American Indian boarding school, first administered by the Sisters of Mercy order of the Catholic Church and later by the United States Government.”)

        I think Pence is unfortunate in that he appears to have what is called “resting bitch face”; back when he was swearing in that bisexual Arizona senator, there were 101 Tumblr posts and other social media posts gloating about “look at his face! he must be raging! she’s everything he hates!” with accompanying photos of grave/stony-faced Pence administering the oath, but nobody reblogging the photos where they were smiling and friendly/civil to one another.

        So yeah, I’m about sick to the back teeth at this stage of “religious believer = NO SCIENCE, WILL NOT BELIEVE DOCTORS, WILL RECOMMEND PRAYER INSTEAD OF MEDICINE” crap popping up just to make a partisan polarised political point.

        1. Aftagley

          Here’s the quote from an speech on the floor a few years back:

          Paleontologists are excited about this, Mr Speaker, but no one’s pointing out that the textbooks, I guess, will need to be changed. Because the old theory of evolution taught for seventy seven years in the classrooms of America as fact is suddenly replaced by a new theory or, I hasten to add I’m sure, will be told a new fact.

          Well the truth is it always was a theory, Mr Speaker. And now that we’ve recognized evolution as a theory, I would simply and humbly ask that can we teach it as such and can we also consider teaching other theories of the origin of species …

          The Bible tells us that God created man in His own image, male and female; He created them. And I believe that, Mr Speaker. I believe that God created the known universe, the earth, and everything in it including man, and I also believe that some day, scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides [the only] even remotely rational explanation for the known universe.

          Like all Pence quotes, anyone can see whatever they want in it. Lefty’s will see it as a denial of science, YECs will see it as a politician boldly coming out against evolution and people (like you, I’m assuming) will see it as him affirming the possibility of guided design.

          Anyway, that’s not the real reason to object to Mike Pence leading this response. The real reason is that in his previous role as governor he failed to adequately respond to a public health crisis because time and time again he refused to take necessary action because he was either blinded by ideology just because it would have been politically unpopular with his base.

          Given that the most direct criticism of the current government response is that it has been more aimed at keeping approval ratings high than actually solving the problem, putting someone who has previously put politics over public health is demoralizing.

          1. Deiseach

            I believe that God created the known universe, the earth, and everything in it including man

            I believe that myself. The rest about intelligent design? A bunch of Thomists have disputed that, so that’s good enough for me. (Let them do the theological heavy lifting so I don’t have to, is my motto).

            As to the rest of it, if you don’t like the guy because he’s part of an administration that’s opposite to your political inclinations, that’s fine. We all work that way. But don’t drag religion into it unless you know for sure that he or anyone else has based policy decisions on a particular doctrinal understanding. Incompetence, inertia, and contradictory advice from sources all touting their own expertise are enough to do the work there.

            For instance, the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister is today calling for school closures after just last night standing in agreement with the First Minister, Arlene Foster, that such would not be necessary. Part of it is because we in the Republic closed our schools and colleges. Arlene herself is not happy Leo never mentioned this to her, but listen girl, we only found out ourselves by listening to the morning news, our lot didn’t even send out a heads-up via the Departments of Health or Education to schools. This is the kind of “yes/no/maybe” flapping about that does not need to be explained by holding a position on evolution, it’s ordinary “right hand not knowing what left hand is doing”. Yeah it’s not good enough for the situation, but it’s the kind of human mess and muddle that always happens in such situations.

          2. matthewravery

            Thanks for posting this. The meme about Pence being unfit to lead the task force because of his views on evolution is the worst kind of political meme. Your in-group gets a few laughs, you all pat yourself on the back, but everyone else thinks you’re being ridiculous and missing the point completely. The result just entrenches partisanship and eliminates real discussion.

            The reason to be skeptical of Pence as the head of the effort is because of how he dealt with the HIV outbreak in his home state. The optimistic case is, he belatedly reversed course after an initially disastrous response. Perhaps he’s internalized some lessons from that and things will go better this time.

          3. Aftagley

            Perhaps he’s internalized some lessons from that and things will go better this time.

            I guess/hope but to my knowledge he’s never made a public reckoning with the ramifications of his decisions.

          4. Edward Scizorhands

            For the past generation at least, Vice Presidents are often put in charge of things like this. “Pence” is not even on my top-5 of worries about the coronavirus.

          5. meh

            I believe that myself. The rest about intelligent design? A bunch of Thomists have disputed that, so that’s good enough for me. (Let them do the theological heavy lifting so I don’t have to, is my motto).

            Are we talking about you or Mike Pence?

        2. Deiseach

          And! for those of you who can’t bother your arse figuring out what exactly a particular set of Christians may or may not believe, but sure any stick will do to beat the dog, aren’t they all fundies anyway?

          I did some digging on your (and my) behalf, so when we’re slinging insults around, at least we’ll be using the correct ones.

          Pence was raised Irish Catholic Democrat. Going away to college, like so many other young people, was the catalyst for a change in belief: that’s where he converted to Evangelicalism.

          Up to around 2013, if I go by Wikipedia, he and his family attended Grace Evangelical Church. Looking them up, their website helpfully indicates that “Grace Evangelical Church affirms the doctrinal position of the Evangelical Free Church of America as in the EFCA Statement of Faith. We also agree with the Evangelical Free Church of America’s Distinctives”. Bippity-boppity-booing my way along to the Evangelical Free Church of America, I get the impression that they’re Reformed in a Presbyterian/Calvinist heritage (though again, Wikipedia tells me the progenitor churches that merged to form the EFCA were Swedish and Norwegian Lutherans), which means Biblical inerrancy along with total depravity and other such good things.

          However, that does not indicate any particular stance on evolution, pro- or anti-. Yes, this may shock you, but simply the name “Evangelical” or “Born-again” is not sufficient evidence to know one way or the other.

          So I Googled it straightforwardly and here we go:

          Does the EFCA have a position on the age of the universe, either young-earth or old-earth?
          In Article 1 of our Statement of Faith, we affirm the following: We believe in one God, Creator of all things [who has] limitless knowledge and sovereign power [and who] has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.

          These are the explicit essentials of creation we affirm. When addressing the age of the universe, i.e. the timing question, we have intentionally placed that in the category of silence. What this means is clarified in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, (34).

          Genesis 1 expresses truth about God as Creator and His creation, but because of the uncertainty regarding the meaning and literary form of this text and the lack of Evangelical consensus on this issue, our Statement does not require a particular position on the mechanics of creation. However, to be within the doctrinal parameters of the EFCA, any understanding of the process of creation must affirm:

          – God is the Creator of all things out of nothing (ex nihilo)
          – He pronounced His creation “very good”
          – God created with order and purpose
          – God is the sovereign ruler over all creation which, by His personal and particular providence, He sustains (9)
          – God created the first human beings—the historical Adam and Eve—uniquely in His image
          – That through their sin all humanity, along with this created order, is now fallen (as articled in Article 3)(10)

          (9) We deny the notion that God is simply the Creator of the universe but is no longer active in it, as is espoused by deism.

          (10) This Statement does not speak to the precise process of creation or to the age of the universe. To be acceptable within the EFCA any views on these specifics must completely affirm this Statement of Faith and align within these essential parameters.

          PLEASE NOTE POINT 10 ABOVE. So, to answer the question, “Does Mike Pence disbelieve in/deny evolution?”, the answer is “I don’t fucking know and neither do you, unless someone asks him straight-out. His former denomination of birth (Catholicism) accepts it; his former church’s non-denominational home (EFCA) doesn’t make any doctrinal requirement about holding a position on it one way or the other. So he need not be a Young Earth Creationist simply because he’s an Evangelical.”

          (I swear to God, I never thought I’d be defending a bunch of Calvinist-flavoured heretics. Internet lazy lefty slap-fight prejudice has done more for ecumenism than any amount of Church initiatives).

          1. Aftagley

            PLEASE NOTE POINT 10 ABOVE. So, to answer the question, “Does Mike Pence disbelieve in/deny evolution?”, the answer is “I don’t fucking know and neither do you, unless someone asks him straight-out.

            The issue is that people have asked him straight out, and like everything else he dodges the question. See this interview from with 2009 with MSNBC’s most recent castaway:

            Chris Matthews, the show’s host, asked Pence in the interview: “Do you believe in evolution, sir?”

            Pence responded: “I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that’s in them.”

            Matthews continued: “But do you believe in evolution as the way he did it?”

            Pence replied: “The means, Chris, that he used to do that, I can’t say.”

            Several minutes later, Pence responded similarly to the same question: “Chris, I believe with all my heart that God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them. … How he did that, I’ll ask him about some day.

            So… does he or does he not? That certainly sounds like someone trying to avoid answering a question. If he did, he could pretty easily say, “I believe in evolution acting as God’s instrument” or whatever. He deliberately doesn’t; from this, it’s clearly possible to conclude that either he doesn’t believe in evolution, or he’s willing to signal that he doesn’t in order to gain the support of those who don’t.

            Also, you’re giving US Catholicism too much credit here wrt knowing/following church teachings. Pew polling from 2013 suggested that somewhere between 20-30% of US Catholics didn’t believe in evolution, and that’s tracked my personal experience.

          2. Randy M

            The issue is that people have asked him straight out, and like everything else he dodges the question.

            Is that the issue? Do you think this affects his view on epidemiology?

            FWIW, his response sounds rather humble. It could be dodging the question, a rather commonplace political sin, or it could be that he hasn’t looked deeply into it. I agree with whoever else posted that there aren’t many creationists so ardent they disbelieve in novel viral/bacteria strains.

          3. Aftagley

            Is that the issue? Do you think this affects his view on epidemiology?

            Do I think his religious/political (i don’t normally conflate the two, but for him it’s appropriate) have the potential to affect his decisions when handling a public-health crisis? Yes.

            From the Lancet:

            The upper bound for undiagnosed HIV infections in Scott County peaked around January 10, 2015 at 126 undiagnosed cases, over two months before Governor Pence declared a public health emergency on March 26, 2015. Applying the observed case-finding rate scale-up to earlier intervention times suggests that an earlier public health response could have substantially reduced the total number of HIV infections. Initiation of a response in January 2013 would have suppressed the total number of infections to fewer than 56, representing at least 127 infections averted, while an intervention in April 2011 could have reduced the number of infections to fewer than ten, representing at least 173 infections averted.

            Check out that Politico piece I linked in the previous comment. When he was governor he refused to take action that would have saved lives.

          4. Randy M

            Did now. It says nothing about evolution. Basically, you’re using “creationist” as a stand-in for “anti-drug” or possibly “anti-gay”. I don’t think the correlation is that tight, and you might as well say the part relevant.

            Or possibly you are misreading this:

            However, after meeting with officials from the Indiana State Department of Health and the CDC, and an evening telephone conversation with Scott County Sheriff Daniel McClain on March 23rd, Pence said he would “go home and pray on it.”

            I do not read this as Pence thinking prayer was a suitable cure for an outbreak. Translated, this is Pence saying he would consider what actions to take. Perhaps you feel he should always defer to experts on important matters. I disagree, but it isn’t unreasonable. But this isn’t Pence thinking prayer would get him out of the situation; this is Pence looking for guidance on how to balance two potentially competing values, the recommended approach to the virus and not wanting to condone drug use as an official.

            I think the drug enforcement has had enough unintended negative side effects to make me think we should probably toss it and giving deference to it here was not a credit to Pence, to be clear, but let’s understand that from your article that’s what was motivating Pence, not a disbelief in the transformative power of random mutation and natural selection.

          5. Aftagley

            @Randy M

            I think we’re having orthogonal discussions. I have two claims:

            1. Mike Pence possibly doesn’t believe in evolution.

            2. Mike Pence’s previous failures responding to public health crises and his seeming unwillingness to learn from that experience make him a bad candidate for the government’s top man handling this crisis.

            I think I agree with you that point 1 has absolutely no bearing on his ability to respond to this crisis. He can believe that we all came down from the moon 20 years ago for all I care.

            I posted this up-thread, but I’ll post it again:

            Anyway, [his belief or lacktherof in evolution] is not the real reason to object to Mike Pence leading this response. The real reason is that in his previous role as governor he failed to adequately respond to a public health crisis because time and time again he refused to take necessary action because he was either blinded by ideology just because it would have been politically unpopular with his base.

            Given that the most direct criticism of the current government response is that it has been more aimed at keeping approval ratings high than actually solving the problem, putting someone who has previously put politics over public health is demoralizing.

          6. Nick

            I read about the HIV scandal a few years ago. My understanding of what happened is:
            1) some folks recommended Pence as governor authorize giving out needles to reduce spread of HIV;
            2) he considered it and decided not to, because he’d be encouraging the lifestyle, etc.;
            3) people intervened pleading with him to support the policy, anyway, including the local Catholic bishop;
            4) he… didn’t do it anyway, even though he couldn’t justify his opposition to it.

            It’s one thing to have principles, of course. It’s another thing to literally be unable to explain why you won’t do this. The source I read was definitely not friendly to Pence (I thought it was the New Yorker, so take with a grain of salt: what irked me was that Pence could not even explain his reason for opposing it, but n.b. that’s the sort of thing a very partial journalist could easily slant.

          7. meh

            Because he is able to Motte and Bailey his responses does not mean there is no reason to be concerned his view on science and afterlife may interfere with duties. This is only a little about what he believes, but a lot more about what he doesn’t believe.

          8. Randy M

            @Aftagley
            I’m having the discussion that came from:

            Instead we got Mike Pence leading the task force — a man who doesn’t believe in evolution. Believing in evolution isn’t a boon for all tasks, but seems like it’s relevant to a disease that did evolve, is evolving, and will evolve, all with societal impacts.

            and got Deiseach’s druthers all up or down or whichever way druthers shouldn’t be.

            You pointed back again to that article as if it pertains to this discussion in particular, and reading it, it doesn’t seem to.

            I almost posted in response to your reply to her that I agreed with this:

            Anyway, that’s not the real reason to object to Mike Pence leading this response. The real reason is that in his previous role as governor he failed

            (I didn’t respond because I don’t know the story apart from what you posted.)
            It’s perfectly fair to criticize his earlier handling and object to him being involved because he opposed sharing needles in response to the Indiana HIV spread. But this thread related that specifically to his belief in evolution, which, apart from being a bit opaque as you pointed out, really seems to be entirely irrelevant and basically a smear on Christians.

            Because he is able to Motte and Bailey his responses does not mean there is no reason to be concerned his view on science and afterlife may interfere with duties.

            Because if there’s one thing religious people are known for, it’s letting sick people die because, hey, Heaven, right?

            @Nick,
            I’m loathe to nit-pick this point because hesitancy in a crisis is about as bad as doing nothing, but Aftagley’s article says this, implying he got around to it eventually:

            However, after meeting with officials from the Indiana State Department of Health and the CDC, and an evening telephone conversation with Scott County Sheriff Daniel McClain on March 23rd, Pence said he would “go home and pray on it.”

            On March 25, 2015, Pence finally declared a public health emergency, which permitted needle exchange in the town. Several days later, an HIV testing clinic opened. In early April, after consultations with Indiana State Department of Health, CDC and local law enforcement, Pence established a temporary syringe-exchange program for 30 days. Finally, in May 2015, Pence signed a bill that allowed counties in Indiana to apply for permission to establish syringe-exchange programs. These exchange programs were temporary and did not receive state money.

            Perhaps that what you meant, and late is as good as never? I dunno the details.

          9. Nick

            @Randy M
            I finally found the article: it was this one from Jane Mayer. It looks like I confused two cases: one where Pence refused to let a Syrian refugee family resettle in Indiana, but his reason was the weaksauce “I need to protect the people of the state,” the other where, as you say, he supported the needle program after a time. Pretty embarrassing mistake on my part, sorry.

          10. Aftagley

            @randy m

            Yep, you’re correct, I was arguing a side point there.

            I don’t think I have anything else to add to this discussion so I’ll bow out.

          11. Randy M

            @Nick
            Syrian/Syringe it’s basically the same. 😉
            What’s the saying, history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes?

            @Aftagley
            Fair enough, and I can’t complain about tangents when we agree on what particulars they do or don’t support.

          12. meh

            Because if there’s one thing religious people are known for, it’s letting sick people die because, hey, Heaven, right?

            afaik, they are not known for *not* having their faith being the main influence to their worldview, actions, and policy preferences.

            you are making a jump form macro to micro that i wasn’t ready for. the following 3 statements could all be simultaneously true

            1. someones faith influences their policy preferences
            2. someone has a preference for people not to die
            3. someones policy preferences causes more people to die

            so yes, MP probably has a preference for people not to die, but it is useful to know all factors that go into how he makes a decision.

            the same can be said for calling leftists baby killers, or saying they want people to die. obviously that is not their preference, though they may have other preferences that are in opposition to that.

          13. Nick

            @Randy M
            Heh. I really am very embarrassed, though; I usually don’t open my mouth about what I half-remember, but since I couldn’t find the article and I have a pretty good memory, I summarized. But I turned out to be way off. A lesson in the value of google duck duck fu.

          14. Randy M

            @meh

            you are making a jump form macro to micro that i wasn’t ready for.

            Perhaps incorrectly, but this was the inference I took from your reference to afterlife in the context of Pence’s role in handling disaster.

            so yes, MP probably has a preference for people not to die, but it is useful to know all factors that go into how he makes a decision.

            Sure, but people are complex and prone to rationalize and compartmentalize. More useful to look at results.

            And in the at least one case, it seems that Pence’s results were incorrect, or at least delayed, perhaps for reasons relating to faith (presumably he believes drugs are immoral for religious reasons), but ones that seemed only tenuously correlated with evolution or an afterlife at most.

            I think the assumptions you and the op are making are about as fair as saying “Don’t vote for an atheist, they don’t believe they are answerable to a higher power and will thus abuse their power.”

            Something that’s fairly commonly said, probably only rarely true, and basically never charitable or reliable as a predictive model.

          15. Matt M

            Agreed with Randy.

            The mapping of “publicly religious” to “doesn’t believe in evolution” and “doesn’t believe in evolution” to “unfit for any labor more complex than busing tables” is incredibly uncharitable, to say the least.

          16. Deiseach

            and got Deiseach’s druthers all up or down or whichever way druthers shouldn’t be.

            Randy M., at this hour of my life, my druthers like everything else are probably heading South 🙂

            Anyway, that’s not the real reason to object to Mike Pence leading this response. The real reason is that in his previous role as governor he failed

            Good. Fair enough. That’s the kind of reason for having a go at the man that I wanted to see. Snarky remarks about evolution just sound like you want to use any stick to beat the dog because he’s one of those horrid awful fundamentalists, and as I said – there’s a selection of us on here who don’t “believe in evolution” the way the “I fuckin’ LOVE Science!!!!” crowd “believe in evolution”, which is not to say we don’t believe viruses mutate or that medical advice needs to be followed.

          17. Paul Zrimsek

            Dander is the thing that gets gotten up, and maybe down again provided you’re not Irish. Druthers are what you have if you get your own way.

        3. DinoNerd

          I don’t have direct evidence for Pence’s religious ideology affecting his handling of the epidemic. But I had the same reaction – he’s likely to expect prayer to be more effective than social distancing, and personally lack the knowledge required to comprehend what the public health people tell him.

          Of course Pence is not just a religious believer – he’s someone who’s using his religious affiliation to enhance his political status. And he’s doing it in the US, which is full of people who are religiously motivated to not just reject large chunks of modern biology, but to attempt to prevent it being taught.

          Maybe religious people – and especially religious politicians – in Ireland are a bit saner, on average. In the US, some of them are living in cloud cuckoo land.

          1. Deiseach

            he’s likely to expect prayer to be more effective than social distancing

            Y’know, as an anthropological essay in how the other half lives, I am finding this conversation hella educational.

            You non-believers really have that quaint old-fashioned gollywog view of believers? There is nothing to say that we can’t equally believe “social distancing” and “prayer” are both good and should be used.

            I don’t know what the man is like. As I said, digging into his past church, it sounds Reformed. But the comments on here are making it sound like ye think he’s a mix of prosperity Gospel and snake-handling – and I don’t think that is so.

            Okay, darn it, as Oscar Wilde said “I can resist everything except temptation” and here goes: the attitude to prayer in time of sickness has goaded me to post here the Novena prayer to St Raphael the Archangel. You too can use this instead of panic-buying every bottle of hand sanitiser in the shop! 🙂 (I’ll throw in a link to a prayer invoking Ss. Cosmas and Damian – two for the price of one, no price gouging here!)

            Glorious Archangel Saint Raphael,
            great prince of the heavenly court,
            you are illustrious
            for your gifts of wisdom and grace.
            You are a guide of those who journey
            by land or sea or air,
            consoler of the afflicted,
            and refuge of sinners.
            I beg you,
            assist me in all my needs
            and in all the sufferings of this life,
            as once you helped
            the young Tobias on his travels.
            Because you are the medicine of God,
            I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities
            of my soul and the ills that afflict my body.
            I especially ask of you the favour

            (Make your request here…)

            and the great grace of purity
            to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

            Amen.

            St. Raphael,
            of the glorious seven
            who stand before the throne of Him
            who lives and reigns,
            Angel of health,
            the Lord has filled your hand
            with balm from heaven
            to soothe or cure our pains.
            Heal or cure the victim of disease.
            And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.

          2. Conrad Honcho

            At Mass on Sunday I’m going to ask Father to bless my bottle of Purell. Holy Hand Sanitizer.

          3. Randy M

            “Thou shalt count to three as thou washest thy hands. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.”

          4. DinoNerd

            But the comments on here are making it sound like ye think he’s a mix of prosperity Gospel and snake-handling – and I don’t think that is so.

            Precisely. He’s an evangelical, IIRC, whatever his upbringing, and in the US that starts at “the Bible is literally true, dictated by God Himself” and gets farther from reality in the more extreme examples. To be fair, there’s a sub-group of Evangelicals that make a serious attempt to square their literally true bible belief with observations made by the senses and brain they believe their god gave them; it’s possible he belongs to that group. And being human, most evangelicals compartmentalize some of the time, and routinely do things against what they claim they believe.

            Some of them even manage to be successful in STEM fields. But that wouldn’t be the type who go into politics.

            I’m afraid Pence sits at the overlap of two groups I generally despise – or maybe 3 such groups.

            Deiseach on the other hand does not. I disagree with her religion, but she isn’t in politics, doesn’t have power over me, and hasn’t shown signs of hiding her head in the sand while covering her ears and singing “la; la; la”. And she’s also not a past master of evasive language who continues to practice regularly – though that’s probably redundant with “politician” ‘-(

          5. quanta413

            But I had the same reaction – he’s likely to expect prayer to be more effective than social distancing

            This is a silly hyperbole of why believers of various theisms pray. Believers don’t do things like pray instead of eating because they think that prayer is more effective at nourishing you than food. They pray before eating to ask for guidance, give thanks, etc.

            Same for praying and then instituting government policy or whatever.

            Mostly. There are still loons (like whoever disliked lightning rods for diverting God’s judgement), but I’m not sure they are more of a problem than other types of loons anymore although it varies from place to place.

          6. Jaskologist

            @DinoNerd
            Between this and past statements of yours, I’m not convinced you have any real knowledge of what the people you despise actually believe.

        4. chrisminor0008

          > Can we get some goddamn evidence for this

          Did you watch the video I linked to? It’s pretty clear.

          Also, I’m not a “lefty”.

      3. John Schilling

        Instead we got Mike Pence leading the task force — a man who doesn’t believe in evolution. Believing in evolution isn’t a boon for all tasks, but seems like it’s relevant to a disease that did evolve, is evolving, and will evolve, all with societal impacts.

        It might seem like it, but it really isn’t. As others have noted, Christians in general are very good at keeping their beliefs about what may or may not have happened in 4004 BC out of their understanding of what is happening today.

        And, while there may be other reasons to be suspicious of Pence’s leadership on this issue, or even something in his particular understanding of Christianity, when someone opens with any sort of simplistic bigotry then it poisons the whole rest of the discussion and nobody is going to care about the other, possibly more important stuff.

    2. Conrad Honcho

      Re: Rhetoric. Islamic terrorism is a long, long-term (like, civilization long) problem. That is well studied (or at least extensively studied). COVID-19 is a novel, poorly studied, and while damaging, probably short-term problem. I don’t think you can really compare the two in terms of “damage.” I still think the panic will likely be worse than the disease, so I’m okay with Trump attempting to calm people’s fears.

      I still think the criticism of Trump, while the crisis is still ongoing, is unnecessary politicization. If he calms people down to prevent panic, he get slammed for “downplaying the seriousness of the disease.” If he tells everybody to prepare for the worst, he gets slammed for “manufacturing a crisis” probably for the purposes of fascism or racism or something. Getting it exactly right isn’t possible, because no one knows what that is, and “listening to the experts” isn’t even viable because the experts say different things. I see takes like “sure, I guess banning travel to Europe is good, but he should have done it a week ago and now it’s too late!” But who was saying that a week ago? Was the person claiming it should have been a week ago saying that a week ago? Everybody do the best you can, when the crisis is over you can yell at Trump for how stupid and evil he is, regardless of the outcome.

      Re: Bill Gates. Yes, I think he would do a great job of handling coronavirus containment.

      Re: Economy. I won’t be shocked to see unemployment tick up 2%, and GDP growth to be stagnant or even negative. While technically this might count as a recession (two quarters negative growth, I think it is?) I expect everything to come roaring back afterwards, because the fundamentals of the economy are strong. There will be a lot of money to be made cleaning up after the mess. Earthquakes don’t cause recessions, either.

      I don’t think a corona-triggered recession will matter for the elections. I think people will largely understand this is a novel situation. I do think the naked politicization of the virus could backfire. Everyone’s trying best they can to deal with a chaotic, scary, dangerous situation, and I find the people taking the opportunity to gleefully hurl partisan insults over it gross. Really, really gross. I can’t be the only one.

      1. EchoChaos

        Everybody do the best you can, when the crisis is over you can yell at Trump for how stupid and evil he is, regardless of the outcome.

        I actually want to complement Gavin Newsom of California, no stranger to criticizing Trump, who seems to be doing this. Good job, Gavin and California!

        1. Plumber

          @EchoChaos >

          “…Good job, Gavin and California!”

          While granting that you’re a “give credit where credit is due” gu” that’s not a sentence I would’ve bet you’d post (me either come to think about it)!

          Disregarding their policies I’ve found both Newsom and Trump loathsome (’cause of reports of their personal lives and, well, really their hair!), but in how the’ve responded to the epidemic I really can’t imagine a President Clinton or a Governor Cox doing better.

          1. Eric Rall

            Agreed on all counts

            It’s also worth noting that Gavin Newsom is probably a replicant. Specifically, he failed a Voight-Kampff test in 2003.

            And sadly, there’s precedent for this. This isn’t the first time Californians have elected an evil robot from the future to be our Governor.

          2. Plumber

            @Eric Rail,
            Well I’m convinced!

            Also, I’m now in the tank for incorporating the Voight-Kampff test in candidate debates.

      2. Randy M

        There will be a lot of money to be made cleaning up after the mess. Earthquakes don’t cause recessions, either.

        How is this not broken windows thinking? There will be some people who profit (rightfully) off of there work mitigating the losses incurred by the enforced sabbaticals and aiding the sick. But on the whole we are still losing out.
        I get markets recovering from seeing that long term trends are back to being rosy, but I don’t think cleaning up messes helps us relative to not having them.
        Earthquakes are localized and we haven’t had big ones in awhile.

          1. Randy M

            I guess it’s a difference of perspective on the strength of the economy. Is it making stuff worth having or is it trading dollars around. Disasters certainly get plenty of the latter going on, but they diminish the former, for a time at least.

      3. Edward Scizorhands

        If he calms people down to prevent panic, he get slammed for “downplaying the seriousness of the disease.” If he tells everybody to prepare for the worst, x or something.

        There is a huge gap between those two extremes.

        he gets slammed for “manufacturing a crisis” probably for the purposes of fascism or racism or something.

        Too bad. People will call you names for doing your job? Then do your job and let people call you names. Besides, this is Donald Trump, and he isn’t supposed to care about people calling him names.*

        If he tells everybody to prepare

        This isn’t a movie where the government is secretly trying to stop a loose nuke or a rogue asteroid, which either gets fixed without us knowing about it or wipes us out instantly without us knowing about it. (For all we know, the government regularly handles those.)

        But the public is not just an audience here. They are a critical component of response. You need the people doing smart things, and avoiding doing dumb things, in order for us to respond. Are people washing their hands? Are they social distancing? What do you need them to do? Are they doing it? Aside from response, people should be prepared, and a little bit of prep can go a long way.

        * This reminds me eerily of defenders of Bill Clinton who said “but if he pleaded the Fifth about having sex with Lewinsky, his opponents would have made political hay out of it!” Yes. And? Do your job.

        1. Conrad Honcho

          But the public is not just an audience here. They are a critical component of response.

          Yes, and Trump’s detractors are confusing and frightening them callously for political gain. Great, fine, play political games, but I do not believe it is in the interests of public or economic health.

          Edited for less snark.

    3. BBA

      It’s good to see that, as the world’s about to end, we’re focused on the important things.

      The left is policing language because that’s all they know how to do anymore. An announcement by a Republican Congressman that he tested positive was immediately denounced by a blue-check mob as racist for calling it the “Wuhan virus.” To be clear, lots of diseases are named after the places where they were discovered – Ebola, Lyme disease, MERS, Norwalk virus – but the official WHO designation for this one is COVID-19. (Of course, WHO has been spending most of the crisis trying to deflect blame away from the Chinese government, and the name “COVID-19” may very well be part of that.) In any event, calling it “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese coronavirus” is now a surefire way to trigger the libs, so everyone to the right of Mitt Romney is doing just that. And now apparently high-ranking figures in the Chinese government are calling the virus a bioweapon of US Army origin…

      It’s been a good run, humanity.

      1. Randy M

        I know it’s a letter off, but whenever I see “COVID” I think of crows.

        Speaking of avians, it does seem like a rather a lot of recent novel viruses originate in China. Maybe that’s just a numbers game, given the population?

        1. Ketil

          Most likely, COVID-19 is from bats, which are apparently traded in food markets in the-province-that-must-not-be-named in the-country-that-must-not-be-named in the same sentence as the disease. Bats carry a bunch of corona viruses, apparently.

          In the west, we eat relatively few species, and the food industry is, well, industrialized, meaning relatively few people are in direct contact with the animals. Other countries differ in both regards, and when multiplied with the population density, it is perhaps not surprising that this is where many epidemics are born.

          (I expect one day we will pay them back with some nasty antibiotic resistant bacterial strain.)

          1. acymetric

            (I expect one day we will pay them back with some nasty antibiotic resistant bacterial strain.)

            We’ve probably already done that.

      2. Deiseach

        It’s been a good run, humanity.

        Nah, we’re stupid and I’ve always said that. But even with the inevitable deaths from this new virus, I don’t think we’re done yet. I honestly don’t expect real-world institutions to have the kind of smooth effortless efficiency that the movies portray their competent government heroes to have in the face of crises (the kind of super-star American President who leads by example and unites the nation by sheer charisma and hyper-capability that you see in disaster movies, for example). So the stupidity and “X does A, Y does B, C doesn’t know which of them to copy” isn’t anything strange, new or startling (that we’ve survived this long is the surprise, as far as I’m concerned).

        The real threat will be running out of loo roll! (My sister up North tells me there’s not a roll to be got in her local Asda) 🙂

      3. matthewravery

        IDK, when I hear “Chinese coronovirus”, I assume the Chinese thing is thrown in there with deliberate malice these days. Is there a different coronavirus we’re supposed to be worried about right now and we’re just trying to be clear? Do people not know which virus we’re talking about so we have to make it clear that it’s the one that started in China a few months back?

        A month ago (which is when it looks like most of those clips are from; Dr. Li died 7 Feb, the Diamond Princess was quarantined around 10 Feb; others don’t really have context), I think there were still plenty of folks that weren’t following the story. Nearly all of the known cases were in Wuhan back then, whereas now it’s obviously gone global. Once the NBA gets canceled, I don’t think there’s any confusion, whereas a month ago, I think there were plenty of cable news watchers that didn’t know what “the coronavirus” or “COVID” or “COVID-19” was. (Though mind you, plenty of experts did!)

        1. jermo sapiens

          IDK, when I hear “Chinese coronovirus”, I assume the Chinese thing is thrown in there with deliberate malice these days.

          I would recommend that instead of assuming malice, you at least consider the (very high, IMHO) possibility that the person you’re hearing is simply speaking naturally without a politically correct filter. This virus has been called the Wuhan virus or something similar for a couple of months, until some woke people on Twitter decided to get outraged on behalf of the Chinese. Most of the world still ignores woke-ism, and unless you equate ignoring woke-ism with deliberate malice, you’re bound to have many false positives of deliberate malice in the next few weeks.

          1. Aftagley

            until some woke people on Twitter decided to get outraged on behalf of the Chinese

            Interesting. Maybe we exist in different spheres and have different outgroups, but my interpretation was that the “Don’t call it Chinese” push came from inside China/the Chinese government and was being pushed by reliable CCP mouthpieces abroad.

          2. jermo sapiens

            but my interpretation was that the “Don’t call it Chinese” push came from inside China/the Chinese government

            That may very well be true also. I mainly saw it on twitter from blue checkmarks.

          3. BBA

            It’s simultaneously true that Chinese people are particularly sensitive about being associated with illness, that the Chinese government is running its propaganda on full steam to deny any responsibility, and that American left-wingers are obsessed with finding and calling out bigotry on the most specious of grounds. In my experience the tankies and the wokies don’t get along, so I doubt it’s a single organized campaign.

        2. EchoChaos

          IDK, when I hear “Chinese coronovirus”, I assume the Chinese thing is thrown in there with deliberate malice these days.

          It should be. If the Communist Chinese government hadn’t cracked down on doctors who were sounding the alarm in November, this wouldn’t be a global pandemic at all.

          Their government bears every drop of blood from this pandemic.

          1. Aftagley

            Their government bears every drop of blood from this pandemic.

            Which, to my point above, is why they are so strident about denying responsibility for it.

        3. Deiseach

          Do people not know which virus we’re talking about so we have to make it clear that it’s the one that started in China a few months back?

          Better tell Wikipedia to get its act together, so: is there anyone alive today who does not, after this distance of time, know which First World War epidemic we’re talking about and so should know not to call it the Spanish Flu because after all it went global? How insensitive! It must be deliberate malice!

          Or else it could be, as they say, “colloquially known as”.

      4. Chalid

        Let’s be clear though, no one was calling it “Wuhan coronavirus” or “Chinese coronavirus” much until recently. (I checked the last two OTs and the coronavirus megathread, not one single usage out of hundreds, and some people defending the “Wuhan coronavirus” usage were perfectly happy to just call it “coronavirus” then.)

        I think I have the right to be annoyed by that manipulative change in language and especially to be annoyed by attempts to gaslight me about how we were all talking about this a week ago.

        1. mitv150

          Until a few days ago, the media was pretty commonly referring to it as the Chinese Coronavirus or Wuhan Coronavirus, see here.

          1. mitv150

            Not really sure the denominator matters . . . the question isn’t how common the usage was. The point is that the people calling it the Wuhan or Chinese coronavirus throughout January and February are the very same people now saying that the term is racist or xenophobic.

            These terms were perfectly fine for two months and raised no eyebrows until it became fashionable to attack the GOP over their use.

          2. Chalid

            I don’t know how reliable this methodology is, but google searching in the date range 2020-02-01 to 2020-03-01 gives 47,900 results for “Chinese coronavirus,” 189,000 for “Wuhan coronavirus” and 506,000,000 for just plain coronavirus. So the fraction is extremely small.

            Are google results reliable for this sort of thing? I honestly have no idea.

          3. Chalid

            @mitv150

            I’m not saying it’s intrinsically racist, I’m saying that I’m annoyed that people (in this case, right-wingers) are shifting the language in a way that provokes fights while gaslighting us about it.

            Yes the antiracists should have just let it go but “antiracists bad” is amply covered here.

          4. Conrad Honcho

            Did you see Matt M’s video? CNN’s been calling it the “Wuhan coronavirus” or the “Chinese coronavirus” for months now. If they’ve now stopped, but the right wingers are still using the language, that’s not the right “shifting the language.”

          5. Chalid

            Christ, I didn’t watch the video all the way through until just now, but some of those usages are obviously people saying “China’s coronavirus outbreak” or similar and not “Chinese coronavirus outbreak”. Of course those usages are toward the end of the video where I’m guessing most people won’t watch to. (And more I suspect were edited that way – e.g. someone says “China’s coronavirus problem” and the video cuts it before “problem” and it sounds a lot like “Chinese coronavirus” if you aren’t listening carefully.)

          6. Conrad Honcho

            Also, for a while I was hearing that you shouldn’t be calling it “the coronavirus” because all the smart people know there’s lots of coronaviruses, and this is the “novel coronavirus recently identified in Wuhan, China.”

            Remember, it’s important to keep the spider from touching your face.

            I’m really sorry if pointing out that lots of weird viruses keep coming from China is hurting Chinese people’s feelings. But I don’t think that’s really the big problem right now. Also, maybe the shaming isn’t a bad thing? Maybe they should think about eating fewer bats?

          7. Chalid

            You want to call it Wuhan coronavirus because of precision issues, and to support this you link something that talks about how Covid-19 is the correct name?

            Anyway, if you want to defend actively changing the language in order to offend the Chinese, you can do that. At least it’s honest. I will say that it’s not a good idea; recall that we might need to cooperate closely with China over the next few months. Having some of their experts visit to advise on how to build a hospital in 3 days might come in awfully handy soon, and if we collectively antagonize them we might find their experts are all otherwise engaged.

          8. Chalid

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’ll point out that you and every other commenter were content to call it “coronavirus” until a couple days ago. None of the arguments for it have changed. The only thing that has created interest in calling it “Chinese” is that you found out it would trigger some woke people.

            Changing your behavior just to annoy the woke people and increase the general amount of divisiveness in society isn’t racist, but it is pretty childish.

          9. abystander

            searching through google with the site command I find
            npr.org and nytimes.com were using “Wuhan Coronavirus” late January and early February.

          10. Jaskologist

            @Chalid

            Changing your behavior just to annoy the woke people and increase the general amount of divisiveness in society isn’t racist, but it is pretty childish.

            Defying censors is inherently virtuous.

          11. Chalid

            I never really felt the urge to use any anti-Christian slurs on SSC, but if it’s inherently virtuous to defy censors then I guess I need to modify that behavior in order to become a better person.

          12. JayT

            I’ll point out that you and every other commenter were content to call it “coronavirus” until a couple days ago. None of the arguments for it have changed. The only thing that has created interest in calling it “Chinese” is that you found out it would trigger some woke people.

            Changing your behavior just to annoy the woke people and increase the general amount of divisiveness in society isn’t racist, but it is pretty childish.

            Except that, as I showed above, it’s something that peaked in January before the virus had a name, so in this case it seems like it’s mostly the woke people are trying to trigger the non-woke.

          13. Chalid

            It peaked in January, but was never very high. Google Trends doesn’t do denominators either, surely you noticed?

            Going by the google count methodology, which I’m sure is flawed, but hopefully is not orders of magnitude off:

            after:2020-01-01 before:2020-02-01 “coronavirus” gives 335,000,000 results.
            after:2020-01-01 before:2020-02-01 “wuhan coronavirus” gives 129000 results.
            after:2020-01-01 before:2020-02-01 “chinese coronavirus” gives 27200 results.

            So yes, usage of some Chinese adjective may have been more common in January, but I maintain that no one has presented any evidence that it was actually common.

            I want to go reemphasize what I said: ” no one was calling it “Wuhan coronavirus” or “Chinese coronavirus” much.” That specifically includes you, SSC commenters.

            No one is arguing that the phrase “Wuhan Coronavirus” was invented a week ago. If someone does make that silly argument, then all the links you guys are posting will become relevant. But in this discussion, *examples* tell us little about *rates*.

          14. Conrad Honcho

            The SSC commentariat is not representative. “People didn’t say X because SSCers didn’t say X” is not a good argument.

          15. The Nybbler

            There were those complaining about calling it the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” coronavirus even before it had a name (even “2019-nCoV”). Never mind the Spanish Flu, Lyme disease, Ebola Marburg, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, etc. Lots of diseases are named after a first discovered or otherwise significant patient, others after the discoverer, and many after the place they were discovered or investigated. That’s not racist and it was always dumb to say it was.

            Personally I object to “Chinese coronavirus” because China is just too big to name a disease after; this is the _second_ novel human coronavirus out of China in recent years, after all, SARS being the first.

          16. JayT

            I never said it was used much, I explicitly said it wasn’t actually. I’m just saying that the limited use of it wasn’t an issue until a Republican used the term, and then it became an issue. So in this case, it sure looks a lot more like the woke crowd is the one being childish.

            Also, the number of Google results is fairly meaningless since “coronavirus” will return millions of hits that have nothing to do with SARS-CoV-2. In fact, if you search for coronavirus right now, the number one result has nothing to do with the current outbreak.

        2. BBA

          It was only in mid-February that the virus was officially named “COVID-19.” Before then it was a mix of “coronavirus”, “novel coronavirus”, “Wuhan virus”, just “the virus”, etc. I don’t think the particular phrase “Wuhan coronavirus” was ever in wide use.

          Mid-February was also when America started taking the threat seriously. Until then it was just seen as China’s problem, with a right-wing narrative of “don’t let it spook the markets” and a left-wing narrative of “the real threat is racism.” And though we are taking it seriously now, clearly we can’t let our narratives go so easily.

          I don’t think “Wuhan virus” is racist, but I do think it’s obviously meant to trigger the libs. And okay, maybe we libs shouldn’t be so easily triggered, but it’s still pretty damn obnoxious to do it. (I also don’t care for “small hands” jokes. They weren’t even that funny the first time.)

          1. The Nybbler

            The virus is named SARS-CoV-2, which is a terrible name because it’s too long; apparently some groups want it to be changed to HCoV-19 (Human Coronavirus 2019). The disease it causes is COVID-19.

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            There was a memo that went out saying that calling it the Wuhan virus was racist. Didn’t everyone get it?

            Really, on this

            1. China’s Chernobyl-like handling of this should not be forgotten. I doubt anyone is going to, but if they do it would happen with double-speak like this.

            2. Calling it Chinese virus or wuhan virus or the foreign virus is probably just doing it to trigger people. So like don’t.

            3. But. And this is important. Changing the names of things and calling people who use the old name racist is something that’s the domain of the privileged. Being able to track stuff like this is something that is very easy for people with lots of spoons.

    4. mtl1882

      The rhetoric seems rather inconsistent and disproportionate, for sure, though I think that is sadly normal in politics. But I think it is a mistake to take his earlier comments at face value. They served more of a symbolic or shorthand purpose–he believes in controlling borders, and a lot of people agree that something major is needed. He was also highlighting related social issues that people want dealt with–terrorism, crime, jobs, cultural change, globalism, China, sovereignty. A pandemic raises all of these issues, but it wasn’t a popular selling point. In many ways, his rhetoric has kept up with the earlier stuff–he’s banned flights even though some disagreed, and has kept going on about China, globalization, and jobs, and been somewhat aggressive in certain foreign policy situations. But how to deal with the virus domestically implicates a mostly different set of concerns, ones that he has not emphasized. You could say the same with Boris Johnson–fighting for English sovereignty and then saying the English people will have to deal with the virus because it can’t be contained. It’s not a question of what is more important or a bigger threat, but a question of who is in control. Protecting Americans from ourselves is just a different issue, rhetorically, symbolically, and otherwise.

      It’s hard to measure illegal immigration’s alleged damage to the economy, because it benefits many people, especially in the short-term, and hurts people in harder to measure and indirect ways. It’s more the long-term shift towards cheap labor in general that is the problem, and this event will help push back on it. I expect the pandemic to do far more visible damage in the short-term, but the two issues may interact.

  36. proyas

    What is the likeliest endgame for Scientology? What sequence of events will likely unfold leading to the organization’s demise, and how long will it take to go extinct?

    1. VoiceOfTheVoid

      That’s an optimistic perspective, given the proven longevity of various other…similar organizations.

    2. toastengineer

      Generally with this sort of thing you expect to see a long tail. Remember there’s still a handful of people who think the Third Reich was a good idea.

    3. Nornagest

      I’m betting that in a hundred years it’ll just be a particularly weird subsect of Christianity.

        1. Nick

          I can’t wait for the kids’ musical version of Battlefield Earth. They will need to add a princess, though.

          1. Plumber

            @Nick >

            “…They will need to add a princess, though.”

            What isn’t better with an extra princess?

    4. Konstantin

      They have deep financial reserves and have been investigating heavily in real estate, building huge “Ideal Orgs” that stand empty. I see a slow decline as their membership dies off, they are not able to recruit new members and don’t even try anymore. When their leader, David Miscavige, dies it will set off a massive power struggle as he wields absolute power in the organization.

    5. kai.teorn

      I think they are in fact more vulnerable than other religions. Most religions make use of ancientness, pre-modernity, traditionalism as part of their package; the deep-past perspective helps them keep a grip on the minds. Scientology is intentionally different, they are very “modern” and sci-fi-ish, which makes them look and sound dated and silly already, and this will get worse with time as we move farther away from the spirit of 1950s-1960s.

      But the main vulnerability of scientology is their greed and materiality. They’ve always been a get-rich-quick scheme, and are not even hiding this all that much. In an abundance economy where being much richer than average is a burden, not a pleasure (and we’re already moving in that direction), scientology will not survive. Managing a capital will be universally looked upon as hard work for not much personal reward – much like holding formal power already is, at some levels and in some places. Think of being elected head of a council in some small municipality: no fame, no perks, just extra work and responsibility, constant ridicule, loss of privacy; in such places you need to actually persuade people to run for the post. My (optimistic) theory is that this aversion to power and riches will gradually spread to the highest levels, even if that may take a couple centuries. And among other evils, this will get rid of scientology too.

    6. Matt

      What is the likeliest endgame for Scientology?

      Ideological victory when Xenu comes for the rest of us?

    7. John Schilling

      Scientology doesn’t have the gravitas of a real religion, or even something like the Boy Scouts of America. It doesn’t have a legitimate (as opposed to merely legal) means of succession. It also has a long history of behavior that isn’t going to hold up to scrutiny in the age of #MeToo. I’m not going to predict the particular form of scandal that will bring it down, save that if it comes in the next five years probably something sexual. But scandals happen, and Scientology hasn’t the depth to survive them the way e.g. the Catholic Church does.

      As toastengineer says, you’ll still have a few true believers for a long time. But subunity replacement, laughable public stature, and most of the organization’s assets going to the lawyers and the state.

  37. baconbits9

    I’ve posted a lot about my thoughts on the current market situation, so I thought I would share how I have structured our current finances anticipating a market drop and recession (though not specifically the virus and the size and speed of things). Feel free to ask any questions at all and I will give the best (non professional non advice) that I can.

    Asset allocation:

    401k entirely Treasury bonds since October 2019.
    Gold Roughly 5/8ths the value of the 401k
    Property: Twin home with half rented half lived in. If we had sold last summer our net over mortgage debt would probably have been 2.5x-3 our 401k value. I don’t expect to be able to sell for that amount any time soon.
    Short positions. Currently the account is 1/8th our 401k value, but only 30% is in active shorts which are on Gold and Silver, but have been in and out of stocks recently.
    Some cash, roughly 1/8th the 401k value.
    Planned shifts:
    Move the 401k from bonds to cash (money market) soon, probably shortly after the 10 year breaks below 0.5% return.
    Remove shorts from Gold/silver and start going long gold with leverage (calls) slowly after I think deleveraging has stopped pushing gold down. Probably a 20-25% draw-down from the recent peak.

    1. corticalcircuitry

      I am actually about to buy 30 year treasuries, though our time horizons may differ. The bond yields just spiked up – people are selling treasuries for liquidity (same as gold), but the writing is on the wall, the Fed cuts by 50-100 points during the next meeting, 30 year treasuries do very well.

    2. acymetric

      Kind of surprised there hasn’t been any talk here (that I’ve seen) about the $1.5 trillion injection by the Fed?

      I don’t know enough about it to have any thoughts whatsoever on what it will/will not accomplish but am definitely interested in the thoughts of more knowledgeable people here.

      Cynically, I assume it will mean fat bonuses for those in the banking/finance sector.

      1. matthewravery

        Yeah, it kinda got buried with all of the other news yesterday, including the fact that the market still dove. Seemed like a huge step to my eyes, but I don’t know any of the specifics.

      2. baconbits9

        It does not appear to be alleviating the funding crunch, which is one reason the Fed also announced a 33 billion QE today with a different set of purchases.

        $1.5 trillion is also a weird headline number, the actual maximum is $5.5 trillion before they would start coming due, but the actual subscribed shouldn’t be near that. About $120 billion of the first $500 billion offering has been taken up, and it is unlikely that it will come close to the $1.5 trillion.

        My interpretation is that the Fed recognizes that this is a separate issue from the virus as is started last fall, and they are basically promising the markets that there won’t be any over subscribed repos while the virus is still an issue.

    3. nkurz

      Most of my money is is VTSAX (Vanguard’s total stock market index), which is down 24% for the year so far. While I wish I would have taken more out earlier, at this point I’m thinking of waiting for a temporary “bounce” before diversifying. Is this reasonable, or better just to get out now? Or just hold and hope for the best?

      And if diversifying, into what? Bonds funds aren’t dropping as fast, but are generally down as well. Long-term US Treasuries are up — is this trend likely to continue if the stock markets continue to fall? Is there anything else in the Vanguard ecosystem that would be likely to go up if the broad indexes keep going down?

      1. baconbits9

        Right now there is a clear push towards cash. Cash is a decent hedge against the value of your etf going down as you can then use it to buy in at a lower level, and going half cash (there should be a money market fund or some equivalent) can act as a hedge now, but is risky against losing upside.

      2. Mark V Anderson

        These investment threads on SSC seem to be dominated by aggressive investors, but I think the best approach is to buy diversified stocks and hold them. I think you are at least as likely to miss an uptick in stocks as a decrease. On the average, stocks go up, so on average pulling them out means you are missing an increase. I keep all my funds in various index stock funds and never move them out.

        By the way, Bacon said he moved a bunch of money into Treasury Bonds in Oct 2019. I think he missed a very big uptick in stocks at the end of the year. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to this, so maybe stocks are now below where they were in Oct 2019? If so, not by much. Maybe Bacon makes money in the long run by constantly moving stuff around, but I think I do best by just standing pat. And that’s also a lot easier. I have other ways I’d rather spend my time.

        1. nkurz

          > I keep all my funds in various index stock funds and never move them out.

          Buy-and-hold has been my basic strategy for the last 20 years as well. But rightly or wrongly, I’m worried by this current crisis in way that I haven’t been during that time.

          > I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to this, so maybe stocks are now below where they were in Oct 2019?

          The difference is smaller than I would have guessed, but if we compare VTSAX (Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund) to VLGSX (Vanguard’s Long Term Treasury Index Fund) from Oct 2019 to present, it looks like the “all stock” position would be down about 8%, and the “all treasury” position would be up about 6%: chart

          So whether by luck or prudence, even though he missed out on the ~15% run up in stocks from October until February, baconbits9’s move to treasuries currently puts him significantly ahead.

        2. baconbits9

          By the way, Bacon said he moved a bunch of money into Treasury Bonds in Oct 2019. I think he missed a very big uptick in stocks at the end of the year. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to this, so maybe stocks are now below where they were in Oct 2019? If so, not by much. Maybe Bacon makes money in the long run by constantly moving stuff around, but I think I do best by just standing pat. And that’s also a lot easier. I have other ways I’d rather spend my time.

          I don’t constantly move things around, the shift into bonds was the first change in our 401k allocation I have made in (I think) 5 years.

          I think he missed a very big uptick in stocks at the end of the year. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to this, so maybe stocks are now below where they were in Oct 2019? If so, not by much.

          Stocks are down significantly since October 2019, the S&P is currently down (with a 9% up day yesterday) ~170 points, or ~ 5.5% from the lowest close in October, and more like 10% from the average close in October while bonds are up 5-7% in value since then, so that one move right now would realize me 10-20% gains over the market if I went back into equities on money, that is 2 years of expected gains, in equities and nothing to sneeze at.

      3. Loriot

        IMO, rebalancing to reach your target allocation is fine, but you shouldn’t change your target asset allocation lightly, and especially not in a crisis. The best investing strategy is to make a plan and stick to it.

    4. Elementaldex

      Just putting a comment in for people reading this while confused/concerned about the market. Most people who own stock don’t need to sell them anytime soon, unless you are retired/retiring/unemployed don’t worry too much. Also there will be tons of people talking about shorting things or moving to/from cash. Most of those people will lose more than if they just stayed put, unless you definitively know what you are doing not doing anything/continuing to do what you were is much more likely to go well for you.

      The above is my slightly condescending/probably not well targeted to the SSC demographic advice that I’m throwing in upon seeing people (really just person as of this writing, but people are like ants…) asking for financial advice in this thread

      1. Randy M

        Thanks. I’m not adjusting my 401k right now; I’m not planning on taking anything out for twenty+ years, and I could imagine it’s a great time or a terrible time to invest, depending. But I was wondering if I’m not being negligent about it.

        really just person as of this writing, but people are like ants…

        Where you see one there’s probably more?

          1. Loriot

            I would say the opposite – if you are investing in stuff other than stocks and bonds, you’re likely making a mistake. (Ignoring stuff like a cash emergency fund of course)

            What alternatives do you propose and why do you think they would offer superior diversification/return?

      1. sharper13

        It’s a pretty long article to attempt to summarize, but he covers:
        The US spends a lot on education
        The US spends more on poor students than non-poor students
        Teachers are not underpaid
        We don’t have a shortage of teachers
        The Achievement Gap is not because of teachers
        Having a doctorate or masters does not make you a better teacher
        Bad test scores are not (all) because of bad schools
        It’s not easy to measure teacher performance
        Charter schools are not bad for traditional public schools
        Charter school success is not because of cherrypicking students.
        Charter School success is not only because of “no excuse” disciplinary policies
        Pre-school does not improve academic achievement
        Smaller schools and classes are not a fix for the system
        Public charter schools don’t hurt minority and poor students
        We don’t need to eliminate property-tax-based funding for public schools
        It is very difficult to improve teacher quality and professional development does not appear to be effective.
        Student evaluations are incredibly biased and are often negatively correlated with teacher quality
        and then concludes that we should “start by allowing school districts to pay [teachers] more for high-need subjects and to pay significantly more for high-need schools” and to “get rid of the costly programs that are currently creating issues in finding and retaining good teachers in at-risk districts.” and that “bad” schools are generally the result of inputs (student population they start with) combined with lack of effective school discipline.

  38. AlesZiegler

    Ok, perhaps this will be useful to somebody, those are the orders of the Czech government, which just declared constitutional state of emergency for 30 days:

    Schools including universities, but not kindergartens, are closed (happened two days ago).

    Border controls with Austria and Germany are to be established. Ministry of Interior will issue order handling details, it will come into effect starting from 15 March.

    Foreigners from following countries are banned from entering the country, except for those who already have a residence permit: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany (!), France, USA, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, UK, Belgium, Austria (!), Greece. Exceptions are to be granted if entry of a foreigner is judged to be in a national interest.

    All proceedings regarding visa applications to Czechia are to be halted.

    Czech nationals and foreigners living in Czechia on a basis of a permit are banned from traveling to above mentioned countries, except for Czech workers in Austria and Germany.

    Foreigners that do not have a residence permit but are here legally (i.e. tourists, business travellers) might stay.

    International transport of persons, but not goods, over Czech borders, is to be essentially halted, except for Prague airport, which will stay operational. No trains and no buses with over 9 seats, except for those carrying Czech nationals and foreigners with residential permits back to the country. Exceptions are possible on a case by case basis.

    All public or semipublic events with over 30 participants are banned, except for Parliament and court proceedings and similar things. And also except for funerals.

    All fastfoods in shopping centers over 5000 square meters are closed, but shopping centers will otherwise remain open.

    Fitcenters, public pools, cinemas, libraries etc. are closed.

    And, most significantly of all for this beer country, all pubs, restaurants etc. are closed from 8 pm to 6 am.

    1. Le Maistre Chat

      There are an estimated 30.7 Americans for every Czech (I’m including documented non-citizens etc. in both cases).
      Czechia has 115 confirmed cases and 0 deaths.
      The United States Center for Disease Control seems to be avoiding testing people, and I don’t know what testing is like in Czechia. The US has 38 deaths and a bit more than 1,400 confirmed cases. It could not possibly be that things are only 13 times as bad in the US. It could be as little as 38X as bad with an estimated 30.7X population (1.24 times as bad per capita).
      THEREFORE, either Czechia is overreacting or the United States needs to copy these policies effective March 12 (or earlier!).

      1. Kaitian

        I think Czechia has less healthcare capacity / fewer doctors than the US (per capita). The main goal of these measures is to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

        Germany, Italy and France are recommending similar things to their populace, though so far I think only Italy is actually enforcing them.

        The earlier you take measures like these, the fewer infections there will be. But it does hurt the economy and terrify the people. As a politician, it must be really hard to make the call, especially since, if you succeed, the result will be “it was not so bad and you overreacted”.

        1. AlesZiegler

          Yeah, exactly, our healthcare system will be overhelmed pretty quickly if cases will start to pile up.

          1. Deiseach

            our healthcare system will be overhelmed pretty quickly if cases will start to pile up

            I think that’s the strategy with our own governmental response; to slow it down (they’ve accepted they can’t stop it coming to Ireland as it’s already here); I’ve read something along the lines of “make it so that we get 200 cases over 5 weeks rather than 500 cases over 2 weeks so that hospitals have a chance to respond” and our health minister is talking about “flattening the curve”.

            So all the closures, isolation, social distancing and so forth are to slow down the transmission so that only genuine and severe cases turn up to hospital, not everyone getting a cough and fever and panicking and turning up to swamp the place.

        2. hilltop

          Is preventing overload even possible?

          Assuming containment fails in the US and the disease runs to 60% herd immunity; that’s about 200m total disease courses. 10% of the currently sick are Serious or worse (ie they need at least Oxygen). About 1/3 of those or 3% of the total sick need ventilation. I haven’t found how long they need ventilation for (on average)— a WAG is 10 days.

          That’s 6 million cases requiring 60m ventilator days. I haven’t found how many ventilators we have, but we have 0.1m ICU beds. 20-40% of ICU patients are typically on ventilation and ICU occupancy is about 2/3, but let’s say we have one ventilator per ICU bed.

          In order not to have a country-wide shortage of ventilators, we’d have to stretch this out over 600 days. Assuming we could free up the 10 thousand odd ventilators currently used for non-Covid cases.

          2 months? That’s almost 2 years.

          On the plus side, we have time to make more ventilators.

          1. Kaitian

            China and Korea seem to have managed it (also Japan, Taiwan, Singapore) so it’s possible in principle. Whether it’s possible in the US remains to be seen.
            I think the drastic measures in Europe will bring down infection rates a lot, but who knows how long they can keep it up. One month is probably not enough…

            It should be possible to get more ventilators if the crisis continues, but the lack of trained personnel might become an issue.

          2. Garrett

            > need ventilation

            I’m not in a position to comment on your estimate. But I would note that there are ways to provide ventilation *other* than with an external mechanical ventilator. I’m preparing for the likelihood that I’ll volunteer to go in and work multi-hour rotations using a BVM (Bag valve mask) on someone. It’s a super-inefficient use of human capital, but it’s a potential short-term emergency while other resources come online.

      2. AlesZiegler

        Those policies are partially a reaction on testing being so far grossly insuficient. Although it might not be as bad as in the US. Yesterday Ministry of Health reported 1400 tests, with about 100 confirmed cases. Government promises that it will ramp up testing quickly, but who knows whether we could manage it. It is imho obvious that we have at least hundreds of undetected cases.

        So far only (possibly) effective tool we have is a giant hammer. Fortunately government is not afraid to use it, to my pleasant surprise.

      3. Radu Floricica

        One of the most difficult things to grasp intuitively about exponential growth is that comparing numbers is meaningless. Any possible difference is less than a month away. Most are just 1-2 weeks.

        The applicable logic is: can we get an epidemic in our country? If yes, sooner and harder you act, better results you get.

        Romania for example is about 2 weeks behind Italy (under 100 cases). So far it looks like we’re doing the right things, amazingly, and people are panicked enough to actually avoid socialization. I don’t think it’s just my bubble either, Bucharest hasn’t had such clean air in at least two years. So I’m betting we’re gonna be more or less ok.

      4. Ninety-Three

        THEREFORE, either Czechia is overreacting or the United States needs to copy these policies effective March 12 (or earlier!).

        Or the infection has not been equal in its spread to/within Czechia and the US? Like, you wouldn’t extrapolate what the US should be doing from what China is doing because China definitely has a ton more infected people, it’s not implausible that Czechia also has a higher rate of infections than the US.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          Given the CDC “we forbid you to test” situation, Czechia probably though not necessarily has more complete information than the US does.
          It has 0 deaths vs. 38 US deaths with ~30.7 times the population.
          Working with that limited information, it seems very improbable that they have a higher rate of infections than the US. That’s not the pattern of exponential growth during the “asymptomatic carriers spread it” phase that grows into symptomatic people >1% of whom die we’ve seen unfold in China, Italy, etc.
          Even if Czechia had 1 death, that would be weak evidence that the US rate of symptomatic infections is >1.24X higher per capita: so 0 makes the true US situation worse by an opaque amount. It would be pretty weird if they’re in a worse situation in terms of true, total infections than we are.

        2. Anthony

          Infection rate probably correlates with population density. And while New York City and San Francisco may have the population density of Prague, I’d bet much more of the Czech population lives in population densities higher than, say, Sacramento or Atlanta.

      5. AlesZiegler

        Cool, I see that some volunteers overnight cobbled up a web with good informations about our situation overnight and yesterday they managed to get it connected and approved with health authorities.

        “Suprisingly” it is in Czech, but it pretty intuitive – on a first, large graph, blue line represents number of tests, and red bars represent confirmed cases. Testing was evidently ramped up quickly in a last two days.

  39. AKL

    It has been fairly well established that what “we” can do basically boils down to social distancing, washing our hands, not touching our faces, and trying to build a month or two supply of essentials.

    Presumably, the government and private sector are moving as fast as possible to manufacture and distribute diagnostic tests at scale (though I have not heard anything significant about screening tests).

    Pretty clearly, leaders of organizations are at least actively thinking about canceling events and gatherings. Towns may elect not to cancel school, but it’s at least no one is ignoring or missing the possibility.

    What about hospital capacity? I understand we can’t just conjure 10x the ECMO capacity out of thin air… but presumably hospitalization short of intensive care can make a significant difference for many, many people. What is the art of the possible here in one week? Two weeks? One month? Why aren’t there field hospitals going up in every major city, or at least preparations for such? Why are we hearing nothing about this from our (US) government?

    1. Le Maistre Chat

      Presumably, the government and private sector are moving as fast as possible to manufacture and distribute diagnostic tests at scale

      We’ve been hearing that the CDC is moving as slow as possible on rolling out tests at scale. Not sure what the current state of lower-level governments and the private sector being allowed to move as fast as possible is.

      1. Matt M

        I’m hoping that at some point, some sort of large entity (either private sector or state/local government) will use this opportunity to call the feds’ bluff.

        What would happen if Johnson and Johnson came out and gave a press conference and said “We have developed a test. We’ve tested it thoroughly and are confident that it is 99% accurate. We are hereby offering it, at cost, to any public or private entity who wants it. It is not approved or endorsed by the CDC, FDA, or anyone else. We don’t care. We can’t wait for them. If they want to stop us from distributing this, they’ll have to throw us all in jail.”

        The government has backed down from over-regulation before when the stakes were a lot less than this. Uber operated in defiance of the law in plenty of markets, and got away with it because they were too popular – any city official that tried to throw the book at them risked being voted out of office.

        1. matthewravery

          I heard something about the Gates foundation planning to do something like this for Seattle, but that was, like, a week ago. Haven’t heard anything since.

        2. hls2003

          Maybe I am misusing my Bayesian statistics, but I think mass testing is not a great idea, at least at this stage.

          Let’s say you have the 99% accurate test you are saying, so that it gives a false positive 1% of the time. There are currently a couple thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., about 1 per 100,000 population. Let’s assume that it is actually 100 times more prevalent than that with undiscovered low-intensity cases, so actually it’s 1 per 1,000. If you test 1,000 people with your 99% accurate test, it will produce 10 false positives mixed in with the true positive. So if I test positive, assuming no other information, I should estimate there is about a 10% chance I actually have the disease. Right?

          Of course, you can mitigate this by having independent lines of evidence, but even that becomes more difficult if you start testing at mass scale. If you test 100 million people and have to wade through 1 million false positives, you’ll need a couple other statistically-independent tests at 99% just to get to a manageable number.

          1. actinide meta

            I think it would be a really good idea if we had the capability (and I think we would already have the technical capability if we had the social capability).

            First of all, if you could identify people with a 10% chance of having the disease, interventions (social distancing, etc) concentrated on them and people close to them would be orders of magnitude more cost effective than those spread across the whole population of infected and noninfected people. You could also be ready to give them chloroquine or remdesivir or whatever at the first sign of fever and cough.

            Secondly, I think “false positives” for RT-PCR tests almost all boil down to sample contamination or something in the prime/probe sequences that isn’t actually unique to the target virus. In the latter case you could start sequencing them and updating the tests until they are basically perfect in that respect. In the former case you can repeat tests. It should be possible with a modest overhead to make the actual error rate really small. It isn’t like tests where the thing measured by the test just has a modest correlation with the thing you actually care about.

            Thirdly, even if the information was useless as to individuals, having better estimates of how many people are infected in what places would make for drastically better decision making and modeling. Right now everyone is flying blind with a 2 week delay and a large unknown factor between our measurements and the actual number of infections.

          2. John Schilling

            The value of large-scale testing is that it lets you do contact tracing. If you do contact tracing on everyone who is identified as carrying COVID-19, you have to do roughly Dunbar’s number of tests per patient, which would have meant roughly 10,000 tests two weeks ago and 200,000 tests now. That gives you ~2 new real cases and, if the test is only 99% accurate, ~2 false positives. Even soft quarantine of those, should drop R0 well below 1.0 and put us on the path to victory.

            Those numbers should be something we can deal with. Not being able to do that because the CDC can’t make the test kits and won’t let anyone else make the test kits, is disgraceful.

            You might also want to do regular testing of everyone doing direct patient care in a hospital in a community with local transmission. Again, not an intractable number of tests, and if a 1% false-positive rate means you mistakenly send 1% of your nurses home for the duration, that’s probably a fair trade for largely eliminating that transmission vector.

          3. hls2003

            I guess it depends on how accurate you can make the test. I don’t have any technical expertise in the matter; I was just using the number hypothesized above. If you’re talking about rolling out mass tests, like tens or hundreds of millions, then even a 1% rate is going to leave you a big burden of millions of positives to sort through (and if we’re talking about burdening just one population segment, how about retirees stay home?) If you can whittle that down with one-in-a-million level testing, you can presumably do better, and I don’t know anything about the details of that. But I also think that the odds of having the disease right now are probably nowhere near 1 in 1,000. It only arrived at most maybe 6-8 weeks ago. If it doubles once per week, it would only be a few hundred times more infected times it progenitors. It would have to double every 3 days, about, to get to several hundred thousand infected by now. That’s possible, but doesn’t seem consistent with the growth rate others have seen.

          4. hls2003

            @John Schilling:

            Of course I have nothing against targeted testing. They should be testing nursing home employees all the time, for example. I’m just saying that testing anything within an order of magnitude of the whole population seems like it’s going to generate more headache and panicked citizens clamoring for a hospital bed because of their “positive test” than it will save.

            On a numbers point, if you test 200,000 people with your 99% accurate test, won’t you end up with 2,000 false positives? Am I doing the numbers totally wrong?

          5. John Schilling

            Yeah, in that hypothetical you’d get about 4,000 people who are told “As best we can tell, between this quick and dirty test and your having had some contact with a carrier, there’s a fifty-fifty chance you’re carrying COVID-19. For the love of God, stay home for the next two weeks and take these precations…”, and half of those will be false positives.

            Even if we don’t back up the love-of-God bit with fear of the local sheriff, that’s still a big win over the virus for a tolerably small cost. And even as a Libertarian, I’m OK with bringing in the sheriff for an honest Bayesian 50% probability of someone spreading a deadly disease, if that’s what it takes. But Americans are mostly decent people, so it probably doesn’t need to go that far.

          6. Edward Scizorhands

            I saw someone propose an idea when tests are limited: testing people in groups.

            Let’s say you swabbed all 4 people in my house, and ran them together in one test. If it comes back positive, we are all going into quarantine, which is the same thing that we would do if we knew which one of us specifically tested positive. The rest of us are likely exposed anyway.

            I would certainly like to follow-up with knowing which of us is sick, but I’m not sure how important it would be to know that before symptoms: we aren’t supposed to rush into the ER anyway. (No one in my house is immunocompromised.)

            Does this make sense? Can we run multiple swabs through the machine at once?

          7. JayT

            Just have everyone share the same swab, that way you don’t have to worry about testing again to figure out who had it!

          8. abystander

            Regarding combining group samples into one test I think you run into dilution problems. This would increase the limit of detection and you might end up with false negatives.

        3. Elementaldex

          I actually think that might be a really good publicity stunt right now, assuming they can get a test that really is 99% correct.

          1. AG

            What’s the accuracy on the tests other countries have rolled out in very short amounts of time?

        4. actinide meta

          The discovery of the Washington index case was apparently due to a university researcher testing without permission. She was then ordered to stop testing. (the argument in this case being that the people who provided the samples she is testing only agreed to have them tested for influenza, not nCov. I’m like the world’s biggest advocate for being careful about patient consent and even I think this is criminally stupid)

          Lab Corp [1] and Quest [2] have both announced private tests that they have validated themselves, relying on the FDA’s sort-of-promise [3] to give labs 15 days after they create their own tests to submit EUA requests to the FDA. This document is a masterpiece of bureaucratic weaseling (e.g. “This guidance represents the current thinking of the Food and Drug Administration on this topic.It does not establish any rights for any person and is not binding on FDA or the public.”) but does more or less appear to let private labs develop their own tests. What it does not do is let commercial suppliers produce their own kits at scale; each individual laboratory has to do this themselves. (e.g. Quest has just a single lab in California doing this). So it’s not clear if private labs are actually adding much capacity yet.

          Apparently there is also a looming shortage of the specific sample collection and RNA isolation kit that the CDC specified for use with their test kits. Not sure how much of this problem is red tape and how much of it is just bad planning and supply chain disruptions.

          [1] https://files.labcorp.com/testmenu-d8/sample_reports/139900.pdf
          [2] https://www.questdiagnostics.com/dms/Documents/covid-19/SARSCoV-2_HCP_Fact_Sheet.pdf
          [3] https://www.fda.gov/media/135659/download

        5. Matt M

          My main point here isn’t really about testing specifically. It’s more of a philosophical objection to the notion of “Well the real problem here is the government isn’t letting people do X”

          Look, I hate the government as much as anybody. I routinely encourage people to defy it, even on minor things, as a matter of course.

          But at this point, not only is it permissible to defy the government, it is morally required. If you truly believe that tens of thousands of lives are at stake, and that you can do something to help, you need to do the thing and help. I will not accept “but the FDA said we couldn’t” as an excuse.

          Any company/lower government/individual that can help needs to do so. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. If you let people die because you’re afraid of the FDA, you are no better than the people in the milgram experiment or the people who didn’t call the cops when they heard the girl being raped outside. I know this sounds harsh and cruel but I think this is important. Speaking for myself, I publicly vow that if called to serve on a jury involving a case like this, I promise I will vote you innocent, no matter what.

        6. The Nybbler

          They have. The government shut them down — no votes needed, it’s the bureaucracy doing it.

          “Our team is productively collaborating with state regulators and has identified a path forward that will allow us to continue testing” is euphemistic. It’s a case of, as Scott put it in the coronavirus post, “ban by default, review at leisure”.

          1. Matt M

            They have. The government shut them down

            How?

            Did men with guns literally show up and padlock the door?

            If not, they should keep going.

          2. VoiceOfTheVoid

            I suspect if they continue in direct defiance of the government, it will become difficult for them to continue operating their research lab in the future, one way or another. It’s possible that the value of their potential future research outweighs the benefit of continuing to test marginally more people, even before you account for the selfish “I don’t want to lose my job and hamstring my career” bias.

          3. Matt M

            I suspect if they continue in direct defiance of the government, it will become difficult for them to continue operating their research lab in the future, one way or another. It’s possible that the value of their potential future research outweighs the benefit of continuing to test marginally more people, even before you account for the selfish “I don’t want to lose my job and hamstring my career” bias.

            To be clear, my stance here is not just that you have a moral duty to save lives, even if the government will punish you for it.

            Rather, it’s that in cases this severe, the government is bluffing, and won’t actually punish them for it. In the long run, people who play a part in curing or limiting the spread of this virus will be regarded by the public as heroes, while people who attempt to thwart them will be regarded as villains.

          4. Garrett

            > Did men with guns literally show up and padlock the door?

            The regulatory state has gotten around that need. Much like the IRS. It used to be that you had to send them a check for all of your income tax come April. Then they worked around that by implementing “withholding” so that they get most of the money even if you try to avoid paying. And then for the remainder they can just go and pull it from your bank account or wherever you have assets stored. It’s very, very difficult for most employees to be able to long-term keep money from the IRS if it is convinced you owe it.

            The same goes for a lot of stuff here. Become ineligible for grants, publication, potentially employment, whatever. The researcher might never be criminally punished and still legally be able to work as a researcher, but (perhaps) not on any government-funded project. Given how the government has a near monopsony on funding this kind of research, it’s in-practice the threat of career destruction.

          5. The Nybbler

            Right, the government absolutely is not bluffing. They may not criminally prosecute or take any formal action… but any defiant researchers will find themselves quietly blacklisted in the future, and they all know it.

          6. Matt M

            but any defiant researchers will find themselves quietly blacklisted in the future, and they all know it.

            What’s the point of even being a researcher if during a global pandemic you pack your shit and go home because some bureaucrat threatens to take your funding away? What did you get into science and medicine for if not for this?

            I am being quite serious here. This is the time. This is the moment. This is when we really need researchers. If you have to sacrifice your career, sacrifice your career. If that happens, make loud and public appeals describing what happened. The public will rally to your cause. Even if they don’t, you’ll have saved thousands, perhaps more.

          7. The Nybbler

            What’s the point of even being a researcher if during a global pandemic you pack your shit and go home because some bureaucrat threatens to take your funding away? What did you get into science and medicine for if not for this?

            The choice is whether to end your career to defy your masters and maybe make some small difference, or to suck it up and keep doing your regular work for the rest of your life. It’s an easy choice, really. Particularly given that if they HAD been defiant, most people with a position on their blacklisting would fall somewhere in the spectrum from “well, they should have known” to “gee, that’s too bad, but there’s nothing I can do for them”

            The public is fickle and will lose interest once the crisis has past. The bureaucracy, though, holds grudges.

          8. Garrett

            > What’s the point of even being a researcher

            A 30+ year career which is interesting, pays well and has decent status.

            All of which could be flushed down the toilet by breaking the rules.

          9. LesHapablap

            I have to agree with Matt M here. A friend of mine gave up his career in research by being a whistleblower: he was a researcher at Harvard, at the start of his career, doing research on music therapy for autism. His bosses were fudging data to make it look like the therapy was working, and he gave up his career exposing them for it. He was immediately ostracized by all his coworkers and never worked in psych research again. (he was a really genial guy, not someone who would rub people the wrong way or anything).

            That was a difficult choice for him, but it didn’t involve anything life or death, let alone the lives of potentially thousands of people. He got another career, it isn’t that hard.