Open Thread 149.5

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1,234 Responses to Open Thread 149.5

  1. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Idea: Instead of making a special periodic OT for coronavirus, Scott should just make a special OT for non-coronavirus topics.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Nah. That would leave us without a place to discuss coronavirus for a few days. If they could run in parallel though… that’d be nice.

  2. proyas says:

    As the number of coronavirus survivors who are immune to the disease grows, shouldn’t we try using them for special tasks that are too risky for yet-to-be-infected people to do? For example, should the government make a database of coronavirus survivors and ask them to work jobs requiring close contact with other people, like waiters and EMTs?

    Without drawing negative historical comparisons, I think it might be helpful if survivors wore armbands or badges with large symbols on them (maybe a green check mark) so other people could tell at a glance that they were immune and hence safe to associate with.

    • Loriot says:

      It’s not clear how well the immunity actually works. Also, EMTs require training.

      • Garrett says:

        > EMTs require training

        I suspect that whichever folks get diagnosed with and recover from Covid19 first are going to be going on *every* respiratory distress call until this is over.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Sometimes survivors can have the virus present in their lungs for a long time. I’ve seen several weeks. We can probably test for that.

      If we are worried about them being contagious, though, we can just have them work with our confirmed-positive cases. (But see Loriot’s note that we aren’t sure how immunity works.)

    • I think we should do that with the “it’s just the flu” people.

    • noyann says:

      Only viable in settings of personal acquaintance and relying on reputation.
      To prevent criminal exploits you’d need a hard-to-fake ID badge or card, and/or online verification. Too difficult to set up in this situation.

  3. Matt M says:

    It seems that Facebook has switched to all-AI content moderation, and that the AI is eating thousands of innocuous posts (including links to media articles about COVID) as spam.

    Probably not a great moment to encourage the public to be more accepting of AI…

    • helloo says:

      Facebook and Youtube have probably done more to curb the inevitable Skynet revolution than any AI risk institution.

    • baconbits9 says:

      and that the AI is eating thousands of innocuous posts (including links to media articles about COVID) as spam.

      Clearly a sign that AI is now super intelligent.

    • What irritates me about FB moderation is not that there are a lot of errors, which may be inevitable, but that they lie about the results. They say the site you are trying to link to or the post they are not letting you make violates community standards, when what they mean is “our software suggests that this might violate community standards and we are blocking it until we can check.”

      That’s deliberate defamation, it’s dishonest, and it leaves them open to potential law suits.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Marc Randazza is a very good First Amendment lawyer who has brought lawsuits against social media companies for stuff.

        I’m dead serious when I say you should contact him and ask if this meets the threshold of defamation. I love to see those companies taken down a notch, but these hurdles are hard to meet.

        • I have emailed his firm describing the problem. At this point they have finally stopped blocking links to my web page, but I expect there are thousands of other people in the same situation. It is possible that if they threaten a class action they can persuade Facebook to stop lying about their reason for blocking — and pay his firm some settlement amount to compensate them for bringing the problem to Facebook’s attention.

  4. Deiseach says:

    And it’s great to see that the current public emergency has encouraged the flourishing of the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the more disadvantaged of our local populace >:-(

    The Waterford City branch of the Red Cross say there are a group of individuals pretending to be them are going door to door offering test swabs for the Coronavirus and charging one hundred euro.

    The Red Cross say the group are targeting older people.

    They say they do not carry out anything like this.

    They are advising anyone who is approached by this group to contact Gardai straight away.

    The Red Cross Members on duty always wear full uniform and also has to carry their unique membership ID card.

    Things like this make my Inner Saruman want to establish a Committee of General Security (or heck, just skip straight to the Revolutionary Tribunal).

    • fibio says:

      And it’s great to see that the current public emergency has encouraged the flourishing of the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the more disadvantaged of our local populace >:-(

      An often overlooked aspect to the London Blitz was a truly staggering crime rate. Pretty much anyone could walk into a recently bombed house and start loading furniture onto a hand cart. Generally people would even offer to help with carrying the heavier items and wave cheerily as the burglar wheeled them off.

  5. johan_larson says:

    Welcome to Hollywood. This time, the Little Emperor/Executive Producer wants a film based on a playing card, the six of diamonds. What sort of film do you propose to make based on this theme?

    • fibio says:

      Turns out The Six of Diamonds was his childhood sled all along.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      The six of diamonds from the US DoD archaeology awareness playing cards:

      “Thousands of artifacts are disappearing from Iraq and Afghanistan. Report suspicious behavior.”

      The six of diamonds from the more famous ”most wanted” playing cards was Sabawi Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, Saddam’s half-brother, who was the head of the Mukhabarat during the Gulf War. He was captured in 2005 and sentenced to death in 2009, but died of cancer before he could be executed.

      So combine the two- the Mukhabarat are funnelling valuable artifacts out of Iraq for some unknown Nefarious Purpose…

    • Deiseach says:

      You can do divination/fortune telling with ordinary cards, so let’s see what various definitions have to say:

      Diamonds are the suit associated with the element of earth. They relate to the material world and cover such areas as money, work, practical projects, homes, and so on. Diamonds can also represent the practical aspects of relationships. Diamonds are associated with earth.

      Six of Diamonds – Relationship problems, arguments. Separation. Problems in a second marriage. Charity, offering/receiving help, supporting another financially. ANXIETY – Further material unrest; one is starting to lose control of that which is in and around one.

      Six of any suit – Flow, Pattern, Communication; Ignorance
      Diamonds: Independent, extravagant, impulsive, impatient, optimistic, dynamic, restless, analytical, intelligent, high strung.

      Okay, I think we’ve got enough plot elements to be going on with. Naturally this is going to be a romantic drama – Wikipedia definition:

      Romantic dramas usually revolve around an obstacle which prevents deep and true romantic love between two people. Music is often employed to indicate the emotional mood, creating an atmosphere of greater insulation for the couple. The conclusion of a romantic drama typically does not indicate whether a final romantic union between the two main characters will occur. Some examples of romantic drama films are Titanic, The Bridges of Madison County, The English Patient, Sommersby, Casablanca, Coming Home, Jungle Fever, Memoirs of a Geisha, Last Tango in Paris, Water for Elephants, 5 Centimeters per Second, Love Story.

      So we have our two leads (whoever are the current Hot Favourites for such parts, I can’t keep up with who is the new heart-throb/starlet) in a tale of star-crossed love, misunderstandings, and coming back together for the happy ending. Since this is going to be a chick-flick, we’d better put the focus on the heroine.

      SHE is a high-flying career woman in the Big City with Important Job (note to lowly underling -find out what’s the flavour of the month in ‘Important Jobs For Career Women’ – is the fashion industry good enough or does she have to be, like, the Mayor or something?) She is (pick description from lists above)”Independent, dynamic, restless, intelligent.” Trapped in a loveless marriage to a successful (but not quite as successful as she is) city slicker who is all surface pleasantness and good guy but underneath the facade is self-centred and cheating on her. This is a trophy marriage as far as he’s concerned (his second marriage, see “problems in a second marriage”). She’s unhappy with her Successful Striving Big City Life and her Needs Are Not Being Met. But she doesn’t know what to do – this is the life she always wanted, why isn’t it working out? Hence “ANXIETY – Further material unrest; one is starting to lose control of that which is in and around one.”

      HE is the one that got away – her smalltown childhood sweetheart who, lacking the same ambition and drive to strive and succeed as she possessed, was left behind (“Relationship problems, arguments. Separation.”) when she went off to college for Flashy Degree to get her Important Job while he stayed in their small town to look after the family farm/business/parents/three-legged blind puppies. She’s always had a measure of regret that it never worked out but always ruthlessly squashed it since he was a stick-in-the-mud loser and she was Going Places.

      THEY MEET ONCE MORE when she takes the chance to get away from her stifling marriage and unhappy work life given by the excuse that she needs to go back to the old hometown due to her widowed mother/widower father/granny/that spinster aunt that raised her and whom she has been supporting with her Successful Work Big Salary (see “Charity, offering/receiving help, supporting another financially”) now having problems with health/getting older/the moustache-twirling small town villain who is threatening to evict them onto the side of the road in the cold freezing winds and snow, and she has to come home to sort it all out (which of course she eventually does, since she is dynamic intelligent etc. etc.).

      Cue rekindling of romance, miscommunications, the whole nine yards until it is indisputably proven City Hubby is a big ol’ cheatin’ cheater (who possibly is embezzling or otherwise swindling from his job) when Ex-Wife of City Hubby from his first marriage turns up with the goods to enable Our Heroine to finally get free of him and start afresh with Old Flame. Because she is Successful High-Flyer she helps him turn around the failing farm/business/kennel for blind lame puppies and they live happily ever after with her fulfilled emotionally and as a person, she can too have it all, The End.

    • Bobobob says:

      A biopic of Al Kaline. (Get it? He wore #6 and played for the Detroit Tigers? On a baseball diamond?)

      God, I’m bored.

    • helloo says:

      “Some people are what you call an Ace of Spades or a Queen of Hearts.
      You? You’re more like
      *draws from the deck being shuffled*
      a Six of Diamonds”

    • johan_larson says:

      What does a six of diamonds mean in the standard bidding system of bridge?

      • Loriot says:

        6 is an absurdly high bid, so it means that you think you have basically all the diamonds, or all the high diamonds plus good off suit cards.

        • johan_larson says:

          So someone is trying to set up a world diamond monopoly. A (possibly fictionalized) history of De Beers?

      • Toby Bartels says:

        That’s 6 diamonds (6♢), not the 6 of diamonds (♢6). Not what the producer asked for.

      • Protagoras says:

        As a bid, it would have no connection with the card, but for completeness since a 6 bid is a small slam it might be bid by someone who thinks they can make a small slam in diamonds, or could be a conventional response to some conventional bid seeking information on whether and where to proceed to grand slam. But as for the meaning of the card, the only way to make sense of that is as a question about what it means to lead such a card. If it’s the opening lead, it probably indicates that partner should lead diamonds if partner gets the lead, though it might mean that opener has reason to believe based on the bidding that partner may be able to do something if diamonds are led. As an opening lead at no trump, it may indicate that diamonds are opener’s best suit and the 6 is opener’s 4th highest diamond. In pretty much all of these cases, there is an implication that the opener’s partner should play their highest diamond, unless that would be lower than whatever declarer has played from dummy. Also, for clarity, these are the implications of playing a low/mediocre diamond, not of playing the 6 specifically (no version of bridge I’m familiar with assigns coded meanings to leads of specific card numbers).

  6. BBA says:

    A jurisdictional oddity I found reading up on the crisis:

    In California, each of the 58 counties has a health officer whose jurisdiction, by default, only covers the unincorporated areas outside cities. Each of the 482 cities can either appoint its own health officer or contract with the county to provide those services. Of these cities, only four have their own health officers. Five if you count the merged city/county of San Francisco, which I’m not sure how to, but it’s a special case.

    Three of them are relatively large cities, namely Berkeley, Long Beach, and Pasadena. It’s not clear to me why they retained their separate health administrations, while larger cities like Los Angeles and Oakland are content with their counties’ health departments. But they’re large enough that it’s a defensible choice. (I wonder – could Berkeley go rogue and block local enforcement of the Bay Area shutdown? Just going off stereotypes from a few thousand miles away, it seems much more likely Berkeley would than a county – or any other city, for that matter.)

    The fourth city is Vernon, population 112, the least populous city in California. It’s an industrial area near downtown LA whose only residents are city employees in city-owned housing. I assume the purpose for Vernon having its own health department is graft, because that’s the purpose for everything in Vernon. (I don’t know how the graft works, though – I figured it’d be a cost center.) It could create another potential enforcement gap if the Vernon health officer doesn’t extend the same policies as the rest of LA County, but I find it doubtful because Vernon is trying to stay on its’ neighbors good sides after recent bad press got the state to threaten to revoke the city charter. Besides, it’s almost too small to matter.

    • JayT says:

      Reading the Wiki for it, it seems pretty likely that the position was created as make work for a family member of the government people. My steelman reason would be that meatpacking is apparently big there, so they felt like they needed to have a dedicated health officer keeping an eye on the industry.

  7. Zeno of Citium says:

    Effective altrusim request! I’m in a position to move a bunch of money to efforts to help Americans (specifically Americans) who are struggling due to the economic impact of COVID-19 – workers not getting paid, people who must self-quarantine and need groceries delivered, etc.. What’s the best charity to donate money to in order to do that? So far, the best I’ve found is Modest Needs, which is doing a general fundraiser to disburse direct cash payments to hourly worker who suddenly are not getting paid. Modest Needs has expertise in vetting who would be helped most by the money (i.e., fine if they get a one-time payment, will be seriously hurt and need much more help in the future if they don’t).
    Does anyone have anything better? Note that the people who I can convince to donate will be specifically interested in helping Americans deal with COVID and I can convince them to donate money they’d otherwise not donate at all, i.e. I don’t think this will displace any significant amount of money that would otherwise be donated to more effective causes.
    (And to save you all the time: Givewell is looking in to charities to help with COVID but doesn’t have any recommended yet).

  8. LadyJane says:

    I’ve noticed that a disproportionate amount of trans, non-binary, and intersex people I know (including those who’ve never undergone surgery or taken any kind of hormone treatments) suffer from chronic pain, structural disorders, or autoimmune disorders. As a rough estimate, I’d say about half of the trans/NB people I know struggle with chronic pain, maybe as many as two-thirds. And more than half of the people I know with autoimmune disorders have been trans or otherwise not-cisgender, despite the fact that trans/NB/intersex people only comprise a very small minority of the population.

    And while that’s all anecdotal evidence, there’s some minor statistical data backing this up too: An internet survey showed that roughly 35% of trans women have pectus excavatum (caved-in chest), compared to 1/300 cis males. Likewise, roughly 5% of trans men have it, compared to 1/1200 cis females. And while the survey was informal and probably doesn’t meet scientific standards, that’s still a truly astronomical difference, even accounting for any potential methodological problems. (I have pectus excavatum myself, as well as semi-frequent body aches, although I don’t know if my aches are strong enough or frequent enough to count as chronic pain, and they may result from bad posture more than anything else.)

    Has anyone else noticed these correlations? And is there any possible reason for these correlations to exist? I know the science behind sexual differentiation and gender identity is still very much unknown, but this seems like something we should potentially be looking at.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Selection biases can make such things look that correlated or more, so I’m not sure if I would use the effect size as any evidence. Or maybe there’s group differences in willingness and desire to pursue official diagnoses. But if it’s actually a real effect, the obvious hypothesis is that developmental disorders are not independent events; if something goes wrong with one part of your physiology, it probably had a root cause that is likely to cause other disorders, too. That’s an easy enough hypothesis to test, because it predicts that developmental disorders unrelated to sex and gender would also be correlated.

    • gph says:

      I can’t comment on the pain/autoimmune angle, but wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that pectus can lead to body-image issues which correlate with transgenderism and general body dysmorphia?

      I actually also have pectus, and its fairly pronounced. Can’t say I have much general body pain, but I definitely feel aches and pains in that area of my chest which I attribute to it.

    • Kaitian says:

      I suspect both unusual gender identities and things like chronic pain would correlate with a tendency to be introspective and to worry a lot about your health and body. You can either see this as overdiagnosis in sensitive people, or as underdiagnosis in less sensitive people.

      This wouldn’t account for the pectus excavatum finding, but considering that both trans men and women often get cosmetic surgery on their chest, it might just be diagnosed more often.

    • And more than half of the people I know with autoimmune disorders have been trans or otherwise not-cisgender, despite the fact that trans/NB/intersex people only comprise a very small minority of the population.

      Isn’t the relevant statistic how large a fraction of the people you know are trans etc. not how large a fraction of the population?

  9. Anyone want to try and steel-man the bailouts? It’s bizarre how common they are internationally. The far Left will claim it’s “reverse Robin Hood,” but it isn’t really. Corporations and the wealthy will get the benefits; corporations and the wealthy will pay the increased taxes.

    • Loriot says:

      The Detroit bailouts in 2009 saved a massive number of jobs, so those at least seemed to be a pretty clear success.

    • Ketil says:

      I’m curious, too. There is much talk about providing “liquidity”, which I think means loans and lowered interest rates that will allow businesses to stay afloat. Then there are direct transfers of money – in Norway, the state has decided to pay full wages for people laid off permanently or temporarily, for 20 days, and with somewhat lowered rates after that. These are some major transfers of funds, but what are their effects on the economy in the longer term? Inflation?

      This is not Keynes, mind you, spending money to lower unemployment and keep the wheels turning. it’s just a huge transfer of cash while productivity stays low because everybody stays home.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      This is an unusual event, and lots of profitable, productive businesses – and possibly entire industries (e.g. airlines) – could go under if they aren’t supported through it. It would be pretty damaging for them all to fold, then have to rebuild them all after the pandemic has passed.

      • There are organizations known as “banks” whose job it is to provide temporary support in exchange for interest payments later.

        It would be pretty damaging for them all to fold, then have to rebuild them all after the pandemic has passed.

        Just store the airplanes in hangers. Not much physical capital will need to be rebuilt.

        • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

          Are banks going to be willing to provide funds at the moment? Presumably their current loans are at risk of not being paid already, whether they’re residential mortgages or commercial loans.

          I think you’re understating the amount of work that is required to set up a new airline. There’s more to a company than physical capital.

          • Are banks going to be willing to provide funds at the moment?

            You’d think so. This is exactly the moment when they are most necessary. If any given bank can’t step up to the plate, well, it should fail. Over the last three decades or so the financial sector has grown faster than the economy as a whole. We can afford to lose some of it.

            I think you’re understating the amount of work that is required to set up a new airline. There’s more to a company than physical capital.

            Yes, there are workers. If they were put out of work, hiring them back will be easy.

            The thing is, suppose every airline but one goes bankrupt and is put out of operation.(Two things which I should note are NOT the same thing.) That airline is going to make a fortune. And that explains why you aren’t going to lose “whole industries,” the last airline will get many offers of investment. And it also explains why the second last airline won’t go out of operation, etc. The cost of restarting will fall on the customers, people who use the service, as it should in a market economy.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @Alexander Turok

            I haven’t seen anything to suggest that banks are going to do that, although in fairness, the discussion has moved so quickly to bailouts that banks seem to have been left out of the picture entirely. No point in accepting a loan from bank when the government will give you a pile of free money in a week (albeit maybe with some conditions).

            Again, I think you’re understating the difficulty of rehiring workers. American Airlines employees 130,000 people. They aren’t all going to sit around twiddling their thumbs if flights are down by 90% for 12 months (or whatever either number ends up being).
            I would assume one of the rationales for the bailouts is to avoid that level of disruption.

            You’re right that I was implicitly conflating bankruptcy and going out of operation – my mistake. But again this seems like it would be very disruptive. I think the point is to try and avoid that disruption. People who are pro-bailout presumably think the disruption is very (and potentially durably) negative and the costs are fairly low (not in a strict financial sense but that the extra government spending is recoverable or nothing to be concerned about).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Airlines have fun perfectly fine through bankruptcy filing before.

          • Randy M says:

            Perhaps a typo, or else I’d be in favor of slightly harsher penalties.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:


          • Loriot says:

            There’s a big difference between bankruptcy (our debts are too onerous but the company is probably still a going concern) and an actual shutdown of demand and/or operations.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah… I am seeing stuff pop up like “Don’t worry if the airlines go bankrupt! It doesn’t mean planes will stop flying – it just means that the management of flying planes will be taken over by more competent people!”

            And I’m just wondering, where exactly can we find a group of super-competent-at-running-airlines people that aren’t currently running airlines and who also are going to think that now is a really good time to buy and operate an airline?

          • 10240 says:

            @Matt M , In a bankruptcy, it’s the ownership that changes, not the management. The new owners (the creditors, or whomever the creditors sell the company to) can keep the management if they can’t find a more competent one—which is plausible if the bankruptcy is caused by an unforeseen, one-time event.

          • Again, I think you’re understating the difficulty of rehiring workers. American Airlines employees 130,000 people. They aren’t all going to sit around twiddling their thumbs if flights are down by 90% for 12 months (or whatever either number ends up being).

            It’s good if workers find other jobs and don’t just twiddle their thumbs waiting for demand for flights to return.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      They prevent a collapse in aggregate demand, which is a bad thing because it causes widespread unemployment. There are in theory better ways to prevent that, like directly sending money to households, but if those are politically impossible, bailouts might be better than liquidations.

      • Ketil says:

        They prevent a collapse in aggregate demand

        I wonder. Like most(?) people, I’m stuck working from home. I go to get groceries once in a while, but that’s about all the spending I do. And as consumers have stopped spending, industry has shut down as well. Handing out money will mean that loans and rents are paid, but not enough to keep production or consumption up.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The bailouts are clearly insufficient for shortages of months or more, but if it’s only two weeks and we can declare “all clear” and resume the economy, the pent up demand could create a boom condition. That’s how we got the Roaring Twenties, after all.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          We want to slow down spending. We don’t want stimulus.

          In a few months we will probably want stimulus, and lot of it. Right now we have a different problem, maybe best expressed as “how do we put a bunch of things to sleep so they are still useful in a few months.” It’s the opposite of stimulus.

          Sending out checks is probably a good idea, because it stops vulnerable people from tipping into temporary disaster. But this is really weird territory.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            We want to slow down spending. We don’t want stimulus.

            I do not think that this is right. What is needed is a redirection of spending from some sectors to others.

      • baconbits9 says:

        They prevent a collapse in aggregate demand,

        No they don’t. Even under the completely incorrect Keynesian assumptions they won’t prevent an AD collapse with this type of disruption. Giving the airlines $50 billion dollars is not going to make people decide to fly, and giving households $50 billion is likewise not going to make people decide to fly. Demand is being forced to collapse and no amount of money printing can stop it.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          I thought that question was about bailouts in general. Now we have, in addition to demand collapse, also massive supply disruptions, and bailouts are not suited for that.

          But if bailout prevents layoffs, it has a stabilizing effect on demand, since presumably people who would be laid off would reduce their spending.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I thought that question was about bailouts in general.

            I think it was fairly specifically to the currently proposed bailouts.

            But if bailout prevents layoffs, it has a stabilizing effect on demand, since presumably people who would be laid off would reduce their spending.

            Only with a simple model of volatility, where you can squeeze it off in one place without it popping up somewhere else.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do bailouts prevent layoffs? Or do the airlines take the money, layoff/furlough people and then rehire when (if?) normalcy returns?

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            One would hope the money came with strings attached. E.g. you must use this money to pay your employees, so you cannot layoff more than y% of your staff for x months, no dividends or share buybacks for x number of months etc.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Lots of firms are doing “labor hoarding” right now. They don’t need their workers now, but they know (hope) they will need them in a few months, and they don’t want to lose their talent.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I run a small airline in New Zealand. The wage subsidy program here pays $585 per week per employee for 12 weeks. The main strings are:
            -Must keep the employee on at at least 80% pay over the duration
            -Must see a revenue drop of at least 30% each month over the previous year’s month

            This will certainly stop us from laying off pilots in the short term, and there is no way they would find another job in the current market, so they would be on the dole and having to break leases on accommodation.

            The whole real estate market is upending where I live, with basically all of the air-bnbs shifting back to long term rentals overnight. It would make an interesting case study I think.

        • simon says:

          If aggregate demand is measured in nominal terms, which I think it generally is in Keynesian economics, then it can always be increased through inflation.

          • baconbits9 says:

            No Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply are two sides of the same coin, and the dollar value of AD is supposed to reflect the economic capacity and maintaining AD is supposed to prevent the output gap. Maintaining nominal AD is not the goal of Kenesian policy, filling the output gap is.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I don’t want to steel-man the bailouts, but I guess I will….

      There were a few posts in my social media feed with comments about ‘Fed bails out banks with $1.5 trillion but we can’t have national healthcare’ which is pretty ridiculous. The Fed is loaning money, against collateral, as hopefully a one off event in a crisis which is very different from committing to spending a huge sum of money year in a year out.

      IF you are going to have bailouts, this is the way to do them. Loans against collateral reduce the issues of moral hazard (but not eliminate), they are preferentially better for the companies that were stronger going into the crisis and there is a clear and defined path to normalcy (in theory).

  10. Beans says:

    I’ve recently become aware of the existence of something called “glucose tablets” which are apparently basically medically-branded gummy candy for people with low blood sugar issues. My question is, why does such a product need to exist, when such people could simply just eat normal candy instead (or sugar straight from the bag), which based on a quick look, is much cheaper than glucose tablets?

    I can imagine a few reasons:

    -The tablets presumably are consistently portioned so you know what you’re putting in yourself (but it doesn’t seem too hard to allocate an appropriate portion of your favorite real candy for the same purpose).

    -I figure that maybe “literally just candy” doesn’t fit into the qualified expenses for a medical facility, but appropriately medical-looking glucose tablets might, so that’s what medical suppliers order. Also, not everyone likes the same candies, so a medical facility might prefer to keep things simple and just have a generic palatable sugar blob that anyone will be able to eat.

    -Maybe people who need a sugar-boost for diagnosed medical reasons find plain candy not sufficiently serious and medical-looking to be a legitimate treatment.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I think it’s a bit of all three of those, especially the first, with the additional reason that glucose is absorbed and usable faster than other forms of sugar, most of which need some postprocessing by your liver and digestive tract before they’re available to the rest of the body. Regular candy is usually either sucrose (which breaks down into glucose and fructose) or a close-to-50/50 mix of glucose and fructose, so it doesn’t give you as immediate a hit of blood sugar as pure glucose.

      • JayT says:

        I think it’s also a convenience issue. There aren’t too many candies that are as portable as those little tubes of glucose.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      I have no idea if this is the reason, but table sugar and sugar found in most candy is not glucose; it’s sucrose, which is a disaccharide made of half fructose and half glucose. I don’t pretend to understand the details, but the body absorbs and processes them differently, which might make a difference to a diabetic.

    • edmundgennings says:

      Patients are not going to eat too much of generic tablets of glucose where as if they are told to eat candy they are much more likely to eat too much. Most patients will not have this problem but 5% seems resonably likely and large enough that it would be problem.

    • Garrett says:

      The tablets are chalk-like. This means they dissolve/break up quickly allowing for a large surface area for absorption. Most soft or hard candy requires chewing which takes time and focus, something in short supply for someone worried about insulin shock. It also means someone is less likely to be able to accidentally choke on them – the tablets will break up quickly. From a physical perspective, sugar cubes are probably just as good in the sense that they are easy to dose, break up quickly, etc.

      Sucrose can be broken down for glucose very quickly with sucrase to the point that it doesn’t matter much, though some people don’t produce any so straight glucose is the less-likely-to-fail option. That having been said, sugar in orange juice is the go-to drink in public if needed.

    • Randy M says:

      Perhaps if doctors are going to administer/recommend something they want it precise and reliable, even to an unnecessary degree? “Spoonful of sugar” might be a bit sloppy for medical tastes.

  11. matthewravery says:

    I was wondering about infection rates by US State over time and couldn’t find anything to show it to me, so I ended up doing it on my own. Thought folks here might be interested, so here ya go:

    It’s up to date with the today’s data per the JHU github repo. If people find this useful/interesting, I might continue to improve it.

  12. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Corona cooking:

    I am trying to reduce the load on the local food system by eating more dried beans.

    I have bags of dried red kidney beans and dried black beans. Is there any problem putting them both in a disk to soak overnight? Is there any problem cooking them together? The bags treat it as an ingredient and don’t give cooking times.

    • Lillian says:

      I tend to treat red beans and black beans as generally interchangeable, in that I don’t vary my cooking at all when using one or the other, so you should be fine. The main difference is I find red beans are better for sweet dishes and black beans better for savoury, but I’ve also used red for savoury and black for sweet, so it it’s no problem mixing them. Like I said they’re pretty interchangeable.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      There’s no need to soak black beans first of all. They cook rapidly anyway. While I suspect a similar effect on thin skinned red kidney beans the age of beans can affect how they cook, fyi, and so that should be the deciding factor regarding soaking.

      For home cooking purpose the only risk is uneven cooking, which is a problem I have with beans anyway. Each bean will muddle the others appearance and flavor, but if they’re destined to be eaten together that’s no concern. Very few dishes hinge on the pure expressed essence of two different beans.

      More important than anything is salting the water and throwing in onion/garlic/rosemary/something aromatic in the pot while the beans cook. I don’t know who started the don’t salt beans meme but they do not have your best interests at heart. Unless you need to ban sodium for your heart. In which case enjoy bland beans.

      • JayT says:

        Even better than just an onion, is to throw a pound of bacon in with the beans. That basically got me through college.

      • Deiseach says:

        I always heard the point of soaking red kidney beans was because they are toxic otherwise, by a quick online search it seems to be more “severe food poisoning” than “will kill you ded”:

        The toxic compound phytohaemagglutinin, a lectin, is present in many common bean varieties, but is especially concentrated in red kidney beans. White kidney beans contain about a third as much toxin as the red variety; broad beans (Vicia faba) contain 5 to 10% as much as red kidney beans.

        Phytohaemagglutinin can be deactivated by cooking beans for ten minutes at boiling point (100 °C, 212 °F). Insufficient cooking, such as in a slow cooker at 80 °C/ 176 °F, however, is not sufficient to deactivate all toxin. To safely cook the beans, the U.S Food and Drug Administration recommends boiling for 30 minutes to ensure they reach a sufficient temperature for long enough to completely destroy the toxin. For dry beans, the FDA also recommends an initial soak of at least 5 hours in water which should then be discarded. Outbreaks of poisoning have been associated with cooking kidney beans in slow cookers.

        The primary symptoms of phytohaemagglutinin poisoning are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Onset is from one to three hours after consumption of improperly prepared beans, and symptoms typically resolve within a few hours. Consumption of as few as four or five raw, soaked kidney beans can cause symptoms. Canned red kidney beans, though, are safe to use immediately, as they have already been cooked.

        Seconded on cooking anything with bacon to improve the flavour; the saltiness of the cured bacon (even if you’ve pre-soaked it) will come out with the fat in the boiling water and helps flavour whatever vegetable you cook with it (turnip, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, so on) so you don’t need to salt the water or cook them in stock the way you would if cooking the vegetables on their own.

    • rubberduck says:

      Be careful with cooking the kidney beans, especially if you are using a slow-cooker. If not fully cooked they can be toxic.

      As far as cooking times: I’ve never tried the black bean/kidney bean combo but we have in my house a bag containing a mixture of 15 (!) types of dried beans. Cooking them all together produced a soup that was delicious but some of the smaller beans disintegrated. As long as you are okay with an inhomogeneous texture you should be okay cooking black and kidney beans together.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Thanks for all the advice. I ended up cooking them separately.

      1. Put dried black beans in pot. Cook directly. Done in maybe 90 minutes.

      2. Used “fast soak” for dried red kidney beans: boil for 5 minutes, cover and sit for an hour. Then cook. Took about 2, 3 hours.

      I tossed a sliced carrot and onion in each, along with a teaspoon of bacon grease. Mixed them together and they are pretty tasty now.

  13. AlesZiegler says:

    Prepping advice: buy a reserve PC. Mine just broke down so I have to buy a new one in the middle of a lockdown.

    • GearRatio says:

      Buy used? One guy on craigslist is safer than a crowd, provided he’s not stabby.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I went hunting on a deserted streets of Prague with an improvised hazmat suit and a gun, ready to take on roaming gangs… Oh scratch that, I ordered one from an online retailer, but not to my appartment, since delivery could take a long time in a lockdown conditions (suddenly EVERYONE wants something delivered from on-line retailers), but to one of their shops which they advertise is still open for business, and it should arrive tomorow, hopefully.

        Our lockdown is pretty boring, I am afraid.

        • John Schilling says:

          I made it more interesting by assuming that you had ordered the hazmat suit and/or gun from an online retailer.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Old nerd. I have two working Macs (including my work laptop) of my own, plus my wife has one, plus my wife has an old one (my old one failed) current enough to do most things, plus I have an old Linux machine running, and a tablet with a keyboard. Then there’s all the old obsolete stuff…

      • I think our family totals seven Macs at least somewhat in use, and several older computers lying around. As I tell my children, redundancy is your friend.

  14. Deiseach says:

    Our Taoiseach has just spoken in a national broadcast about COVID-19. It’s pretty realistic, both calming panic but anticipating that this is a long-term problem.

    As of right now, we have 292 cases. He’s anticipating that by the end of the month, that will rise to 15,000 cases and further increases over the months following. This emergency will last into the summer at least. At some time they will ask elderly people and the vulnerable to stay at home (“cocooning”). This will affect things like school exams and will have an effect on the economy – we went into it with a strong economy, the government has made preparations and we’ll get through, but it will have a knock-on effect and it will take years to recover.

    Expect the surge to come – things will definitely get worse. Emergency legislation has been signed-off on.

    On the other hand, don’t panic, don’t go overboard on social media, continue practicing basic measures, everyone to pull together.

    So yeah, not falsely hopeful but not total doom and gloom either. A reasonable effort.

    • Randy M says:


      That’s cute, but do they really want to reference the movie where Wilford Brimley and all the other old people got taken away?

    • cassander says:

      Our Taoiseach

      I’m pretty sure you guys have the only Taoiseach…

      • Deiseach says:

        Who can say, it may turn out like the Pope and the Anti-Pope when we finally get around to establishing a new government!

        Seeing how our own and the Côte d’Ivoire flags are always getting confused, you never can tell if some other nations have their own Taoisigh!

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The Irish equivalent of Vice President should be the B-seach.

  15. acymetric says:

    One last survey for the road…anyone have any strong opinions about what is currently the best anti-virus/security software out there at the moment?

    • Loriot says:

      My impression is that most antivirus software does more harm than good, so I’d vote for “none”.

      Look up Tavis Ormandy’s work if you want some real scares.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        True, but this makes the rather high assumption that you know on what not to click. If acymetric needs it for grandma…

        For me personally I think you’re right – I haven’t had a real antivirus hit in many years. A few “unwanted programs”, the vast majority of which I installed myself, with maybe a couple adware that went along for the ride and didn’t know about (not much cared, either).

      • Beans says:

        Antivirus software is more important than ever these days, since it’s just a matter of time until the coronavirus infects computers too.

      • Mitch Lindgren says:

        +1, but I’d slightly modify it to “none except Windows Defender which is built-in to Windows 10.”

        I work in security for Microsoft, so I might be a bit biased. I’m not on the Defender team though. But in my experience, Defender doesn’t hog system resources as much as other AV products, and also causes fewer compatibility issues. It consistently scores well on industry-standard tests, as well.

        I’m less knowledgeable about other platforms, but for mobile devices (iOS, Android) you don’t need any third party software either. Not sure about Mac.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I hear Zinc … oh. Sorry.

      The consensus seems to be that if you’re not an expert, windows defender is plenty enough. No fuss, no fee and no ads.

      When I want an extra check I do a Malwarebytes sweep, but my info on it being very good is many years old.

    • sharper13 says:

      Malwarebytes is effective and not too intrusive (unlike some others).

      • Loriot says:

        It’s had critical security vulnerabilities in the past. If you’re low risk, installing AV software probably just opens additional security holes in the system.

        I can’t post links, but Googling “Tavis Ormandy + [antivirus name]” is a fun exercise.

        • acymetric says:

          I am low risk (maybe moderate, I guess), but also have extremely low risk tolerance (as the computer will be used for work purposes, where any compromised data can have legal consequences).

  16. Deiseach says:

    God damn it, I am by nature an anxious and pessimistic person who immediately jumps to worst-case scenarios in my everyday life.

    So how the hell did I suddenly turn into the voice of calm and reason and “let’s not panic”?

    I think all the COVID-19 scare stories I’m seeing online have burned me out, so seeing yet one more again about something I’d already read about (and evaluated as “eh, too uncertain to say one way or the other on the data so far”) being breathlessly shared on Tumblr has brought out my Inner Mother Figure. (The French recommendation about NSAIDs, if anyone’s interested. Has seemingly morphed into “Take these and DIE FROM COVID-19 EVEN IF YOU’RE YOUNG AND HEALTHY” which is not the originating story at all, and people whom I would have otherwise considered sensible are sharing it like hot cakes).

    Or, since I am in no way, shape or form maternal, my Inner Big Sister Figure. Even at this stage, my Inner If I Were A Nun Figure. I really am feeling like Reverend Mother Rosario and her “Girls, girls! You are young ladies, not a herd of elephants! Behave accordingly!” from thirty-plus years ago when I was at school.

    Dear general public, stop making me be reasonable, I want to be panicking and running around like a headless chicken in the privacy of my home as I usually would be!

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I’m currently optimistic. Not optimistic in the sense of “we can stop our extreme measures” but “our extreme measures will work.”

      Every time the idiots do something stupid and congregate at someplace new (the pubs, the beach), the authorities are shutting that place down.

      The idiots are giving us an extra 2-4 weeks of being locked down, but they aren’t going to kill us.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Well, there’s the whole economic angle to consider. We can hole up and go through it (though Italy and now Spain show that it’s definitely not a given) but for how long? And at what cost?

    • Beans says:

      …sharing it like hot cakes

      What fool would share their hotcakes? Sell, maybe, but share? In this economy?

  17. proyas says:

    Once the coronavirus outbreak is tamed and the emergency quarantine procedures are relaxed, what’s to stop the disease from flaring up again?

    I can envision the U.S. relaxing its precautions in a few months once the number of cases has dropped, but then having to reimpose the mandatory safety measures because cases start rising again. It would be very disruptive.

    • Loriot says:

      The idea is to reduce the prevalence to the point where contact tracing and isolation is effective.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Nah. I mean, that might be the idea, but I hope the governments don’t plan on it. So far the only countries where this seems to work so far are Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan – with China getting there.

        In the west with our individualism and respect for crazy people… look at Italy, it’s already worse than Wuhan.

      • gph says:

        But will we ever be able to get to that point on a global scale if the disease spreads widely and becomes endemic to Africa/Middle East/Other areas that can’t just shutdown and contain it. And once it becomes endemic it’ll probably start mutating into new strains much like the flu.

        A scary thought is that the 3rd world (or even first world that can’t contain it) might effectively get cut off from the rest of the world indefinitely due to this virus.

        • JayT says:

          I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. Is there really any testing to speak of in these countries? Do we have any idea how they are being affected?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      > what’s to stop the disease from flaring up again?

      Good testing.

      If we are really aggressive, you test people on the street, which lets you catch asymptomatic people. We might be aggressive when we start undoing the lockdown.

      If we are at “normal” levels of concern, we just test people who have fever symptoms at the hospital.

      Run those through mathematical models to say how many cases there are. With low counts, contact tracing is feasible.

      Also do checks at borders. How hard these are depends on the entry country’s standards. If Ontario shares its health data with the US, for example, we might only thermal-check every 10th car on the Ambassador Bridge and only corona-test every 100th. For countries with recent breakouts, you hold them in quarantine for N days after arrival, N going up or down depending on how serious it is. The extreme version is no entry.

    • At some point I expect there will be either a vaccine, a medical treatment, or both.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Sure, but all signs are that that’ll take at least a year. Lockdown measures seem unlikely to be sustainable for that long.

        • Garrett says:

          There are a number of existing medications which are suspected to improve Covid19 cases. I presume that they are undergoing trials right now for effectiveness. Given the duration of the disease, we might see useful results in as little as 2 weeks.

          The advantage in these cases is that we already have relevant human safety data. They aren’t all harmless. But if shown to be significantly effective in at least the severe cases it might allow the “social distancing” to be stopped much sooner.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I’d bet on the treatment coming first, plus a jump in improvised ICU beds. In which case we can just shrug and go about our business. At least if the treatment is strong enough to prevent the pulmonary fibrosis as well.

    • Rob K says:

      It seems like the only way out of this is to plan on implementing something like South Korea’s regime once the initial shutdown has beaten the disease back to a manageable level. In the US I assume that means performing some massive number of tests per day (100,000?) in order to test anyone who has a fever and all the contacts of anyone who tests positive.

    • mtl1882 says:

      Yeah, I wish more people would ask what the end game is. A lot of people are talking about how the testing/tracing will then be manageable, as some said in response to this post, and a lot of very sharp people I follow on twitter are saying. This strikes me as inherently implausible, as does the idea of containment. I understand encouraging staying at home so everyone can see what happens, prepare, reassess, and slow it down somewhat, but we can’t sustain this level of shutdown indefinitely. People are clinging to an idea of god-like control but also not recommending any concrete steps, like social distancing is the most heroic and stressful act we could be called upon to perform. We don’t want to set the bar that low. There seems to be this attitude of either the world ending or us getting through totally unscathed. I see comments along the lines of the fact that even though we were late in containing it, humanity shouldn’t give up, as we can create a vaccine. Since when was humanity giving up on the table? Humanity will do what it always does in pandemics and disasters—get through it, even if it gets a lot uglier than this. But we could lose a lot of people, or just have to deal with major inconvenience. I wish we’d start talking more realistically, or at least admit we have to wait and see, instead of acting like this can be neatly settled. We seem to be really pushing a version of the just world theory here, like it will automatically provide us with the solution we’re owed. I understand the impulse to hope, but we can’t go into denial about the likeliest option: a middle ground between eradication and apocalypse/years in lockdown, one which requires mobilizing and struggling through, which we did as recently as the 1940s and many times before.

      • The calculation I have not seen is by how much the sort of policies now being implemented, social distancing and many people working from home, reduce the rate of transmission. If we can get it to the point where one infected person transmits to less than one, we have basically won.

        • John Schilling says:

          Get it to that point, and keep it at that point. If we get to that point by draconian measures that people will insist be lifted as soon as the crisis appears to have peaked, we “win” in about the way the Allies would have won WWII if they returned to a peacetime footing as soon as German bombers stopped appearing over London every night.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We would want to do that region by region, I’m guessing. But doing that requires lots of testing. At what unit of government are tests ordered (like, county or state?) and how do they decide which order to go in?

            Each region would want to get off the shutdown as soon as possible, but limited tests mean we can’t all do it at once. And if a region *fails* its test that means we “wasted” a bunch of tests that we could have used to unlock a different region.

            I’m at a loss for how to coordinate this. Do we want bidding wars between regions for tests?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            There is work on very cheap tests for this happening (That is, a dollar per test) at which point the next move is to manufacture those by the billion and test everyone daily, quarantining the positive cases until the virus is extinct.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen, good news – $20 tests are now FDA approved and will start shipping next week!

      • mtl1882 says:

        Yeah, my point is that I highly doubt this is feasible in the long-term, and it won’t be solved in the short-term, so it seems we should be using this time to make more practicable preparations for ongoing management. Some people are doing that, but it’s not the main message. Like Scott, I’m wondering about the curious lack of mobilization and silence on certain things.

        We would want to do that region by region, I’m guessing.

        I think it will naturally become a region-specific thing, as that is the nature of this. So we won’t have to do this all at once, which makes ongoing management more feasible. But, obviously, you won’t be able to contain it totally without imposing draconian domestic measures that I do not think are feasible or worthwhile. I expect national borders to stay more or less closed until we get a better handle on what is going on, which I think is much more doable.

        I’m at a loss for how to coordinate this. Do we want bidding wars between regions for tests?

        Personally, I don’t think this can be coordinated at the level of effectiveness people seem to be hoping for. I don’t really get all the hope pinned on the testing—are we going to build a little colony for people who are clear to release them into? How long after infection does it take for them to test positive? We know this has a long incubation period, and there’s no safe area. If one infected person gets in to a designated safe area, you have to start from scratch. It just won’t be possible to draw a meaningful line unless you are significantly segregating people away from their families, etc.

    • noyann says:

      A monoclonal antibody that worked against Sars1 has been found to be cross-reactive with Sars2[*] . That means that in 2-4 month production for a passive immunization can be ramping up.

      This may buy us a stronger containment to cover the time until effective treatment or active (more permanent) immunization vaccines are available.

      [*] Source: Virologist on German NPR podcast(to me, a highly credible source but I have no details on the research.)

      ETA: More details.

      Upon discovery that the molecule 47D11 displayed ELISA-cross-reactivity with the SARS spike protein subunits from both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV2, it was reformatted and expressed as a fully human IgG1 isotope antibody for further study.

      Research leader and last author Berend-Jan Bosch (Utrecht University) does not want to raise false expectations. It is a promising first step, but it is far too early to speculate about the potential efficacy in humans.

      And the preprint says:

      In conclusion, this is the first report on a (human) monoclonal antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2. 47D11 binds a conserved epitope on the spike receptor binding domain explaining its ability to cross-neutralize SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, using a mechanism that is independent of receptor binding inhibition. This antibody will be useful for development of antigen detection tests and serological assays targeting SARS-CoV-2. Neutralizing antibodies can alter the course of infection in the infected host supporting virus clearance or protect an uninfected host that is exposed to the virus. Hence, this antibody offers the potential to prevent and/or treat COVID-19, and possibly also other future emerging diseases in humans caused by viruses from the Sarbecovirus subgenus.

  18. salvorhardin says:

    Is there any data on partisan responses to COVID-19 that controls for obvious confounders?

    Question inspired by this Slate article:

    which seems like a terrible analysis because it doesn’t slice by urban/suburban/rural, and of course dense urban cores, places near major international airports etc are both heavily Democratic and places where people have more obvious reasons to take precautions regardless of their politics. Does anybody else’s polling/analysis do better?

    • salvorhardin says:

      Well, Slate itself now has a better analysis which seems to show that even when you adjust for confounders the partisan effect remains:

      Yes, biased source is biased. But this still strikes me as evidence, albeit not decisive evidence, that at the very least, the evo-psych narrative of “right-wingers fear disease more” is wrong. I would also count it as weak evidence in favor of the more CWish theory that right-wingers get systematically worse quality factual information from the media they consume.

  19. KieferO says:

    #!/usr/bin/env python3

    import sys
    import random
    import enum
    import argparse
    import time

    class Suit(enum.Enum):
    spades = '♠️'
    hearts = '♥️'
    diamonds = '♦️'
    clubs = '♣️'

    class Rank(enum.Enum):
    one = ' A'
    two = ' 2'
    three = ' 3'
    four = ' 4'
    five = ' 5'
    six = ' 6'
    seven = ' 7'
    eight = ' 8'
    nine = ' 9'
    ten = '10'
    jack = ' J'
    queen = ' Q'
    king = ' K'

    class Card:
    def __init__(self, suit, rank):
    self.suit = suit
    self.rank = rank
    def __str__(self):
    return self.rank.value + self.suit.value
    def __repr__(self):
    return str(self)

    def pinochle():
    for _ in range(2):
    for suit in (Suit.spades, Suit.hearts,, Suit.clubs):
    for rank in (, Rank.nine, Rank.ten, Rank.jack, Rank.queen, Rank.king):
    yield Card(suit, rank)

    def get_args():
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
    help='Your player number. Must be unique. From 1 to 4 inclusive.'
    default=int(time.time()) // 900,
    help='A random seed. It should be shared between players, but unique '
    'between games'
    return parser.parse_args()

    def main(player_number, random_seed):
    deck = list(pinochle())
    hands = [[], [], [], []]
    while deck:
    for hand in hands:
    for hand in hands:
    print(hands[player_number - 1])
    return 0

    def run():
    args = get_args()
    return main(args.player_number, args.random_seed)

    if __name__ == '__main__':

    This can be used to have everyone agree on what they’re hands are. Everyone still has to say what cards they’re playing through some other means (and not cheat, and keep track of which cards they’ve played, etc.) but running this would let each player only see their hand while distributing each card in the deck to someone. You can even run it directly on python [dot] org if you want to. Like so:

    ... print(hands[player_number - 1])
    ... return 0
    >>> main(3, 'asdf')
    [ 9♠️, 9♥️, 9♦️, 9♦️, A♠️, A♣️, J♦️, Q♣️, Q♣️, Q♥️, 10♥️, 10♦️]

  20. EchoChaos says:

    Fun (?) election thought that occurred to me as a result of my discussions with @meh about the results of the 2020 Presidential election. I was playing with 270towin and the discussion and came up with what happens if Trump wins the four states that @meh pointed out and loses Michigan and Pennsylvania with all other results being the exact same as 2016.

    The result is Trump winning 270 electoral votes exactly.

    In 2016 there were seven faithless electors. Two Trump electors and five Clinton electors cast their votes for someone besides their pledged candidate.

    What happens if in 2020 Trump wins with 270 votes and there are faithless electors?

    Scenario 1 is a faithless elector who sends it to the House, scenario 2 is a pair of faithless electors who actually flip the election and elect Biden.

    My instinct is that the Congress wouldn’t certify such absurdity, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Democrats will control both houses after 2020.

    Don’t get me wrong. Everything about this is wildly implausible, but we live in wildly implausible times.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      If it were sent to the house, wouldn’t it be the current Nancy Pelosi House that would decide?

      However, it’s not a straight vote. Each state house contingent gets one vote, I thought, so you’d have to break it down to see how the parties stack up in per-state representation.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Thinking about it if it goes “one state, one vote,” there’s way more red states than blue states, so Trump wins the tiebreaker easily. It would take two faithless electors, and as jermo says, that would be…well just insane.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Nope, electoral votes are taken by the new House and Senate (although with the old Vice President presiding over the Senate).

        You’re mildly conflating the two votes. The House and Senate vote to certify the results of the electors in a joint meeting. If that certified result does not have a majority, then there is a vote among the election session where each state gets 1 vote.

        Currently the Republicans control a majority of House state delegations, but it’s possible that could change after 2020 (although unlikely).

        Note that something really silly COULD happen. If the House certifies a result with no majority and then deadlocks 25-25, they have no tiebreaker procedure. However, the Senate does have a tiebreaker, which is the vote of the Vice President. Since the Presidency would be empty, Mike Pence could cast the only vote that matters to elect himself President.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Originally, it was the lame duck house that voted in contingent elections because Congress and the President took office on the same day (March 4). They fixed that in 1933 as part of the 20th Amendment, which moved up the dates for swearing in federal elected offices from March to January. It also staggered the terms slightly, with the new Congress taking office on January 3 and the President and Vice President taking office 2.5 weeks later on January 20. This allows the new Congress time to supervise the lame duck VP’s official counting of electoral vote reports and to hold contingent elections if necessary, with time to spare before Inauguration Day.

        Interestingly, the amendment doesn’t seem to specify that it must be the new Congress that supervises vote-counting and holds contingent elections. The date for that is set by statute to January 6 (the third day after the new Congress takes office), so in theory it would be technically constitutional (albeit very poor form) for a lame duck Congress and President to move the date up to before the end of the lame duck session.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      I dont know anything about the rules the electors are supposed to follow, but I expect that the 2016 faithless electors knew they could do whatever without changing the result and nobody would care much. In the scenario you describe I expect they would be less cavalier about their responsibility.

      And if they did give themselves the power to override the will of the American electorate, may God have mercy on their soul.

      • EchoChaos says:

        And if they did give themselves the power to override the will of the American electorate, may God have mercy on their soul.

        Would it be seen that way, especially if Biden wins the popular vote and narrowly loses the EV?

        There are already calls to abolish the Electoral College, after all.

        • meh says:

          Allow me to be consistent and say the average voter wont care about this nuance.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Would it be seen that way, especially if Biden wins the popular vote and narrowly loses the EV?

          LOL, I’m going to go on a limb and say yes, it would. Maybe not by everyone. But by the overwhelming majority.

          It’s one thing to argue the EC is unfair (although I would argue that if you change it, states that entered the union based on the EC should be able to secede). It’s quite another to argue that the results of an election fought with a set of agreed-upon rules is to be overturned because you dont like the results.

          • meh says:

            (although I would argue that if you change it, states that entered the union based on the EC should be able to secede).

            Is this all states, or are you referring to a specific set of states that entered based on this?

          • Deiseach says:

            Is this all states, or are you referring to a specific set of states that entered based on this?

            God bless you, you plainly missed all the post-election whinging about the Electoral College which bleated that “it was set up to allow SLAVE HOLDING STATES to have representation” and so forth, so plainly it’s illegitimate and should be abolished.

            What I’d like to see is what would happen if Trump won the popular vote and not the electoral college votes. Since the argument was that Hillary should have been president based on popular votes and the EC being an illegitimate and tainted entity, then plainly he should get that second term, right? 🙂

          • It’s quite another to argue that the results of an election fought with a set of agreed-upon rules is to be overturned because you dont like the results.

            The agreed-upon rules permit faithless electors.

          • meh says:


            I was more aiming at states whose present government had some sort of sovereignty outside of the US, versus ones who were created entirely within the US

            What I’d like to see is what would happen if Trump won the popular vote and not the electoral college votes.

            This is not really possible.

            Since the argument was that Hillary should have been president based on popular votes and the EC being an illegitimate and tainted entity, then plainly he should get that second term, right?

            That’s not the argument I heard…. the argument I heard was ‘this is a republic not a democracy’, etc. So clearly the EC elected the correct person, and there is no reason to complain.

    • meh says:

      I believe you need a majority, not plurality, of electors to win. So in either case, it would go to the house where Trump would likely win, since each state gets one vote.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        270 is a majority. 269 is a tie.

        • meh says:

          right, doh, i was thinking of electors voting for someone not running, like the current batch did.

      • meh says:

        wait, nm.. i was assuming faithless electors that just went for someone not running… right, if they actually flipped their vote for Biden it would be…. interesting.

    • meh says:

      There is also the possibility of PA+MI+Nebraska 2nd CD leading to a legit 269 tie. It would again go to the house where Trump would win.

  21. proyas says:

    The U.S. Navy gives in to the small but vocal group of people who want the WWII-era battleships recommissioned. The seven remaining ships are fixed up, retrofitted with newer technology, and return to service on the high seas. The timing if fortuitous because the U.S. gets into a war with Russia and China.

    If you were an admiral in the Russian or Chinese navies, how would you sink the U.S. battleships, using existing conventional weapons (no nukes)? What tactics and weapon systems would you use, and how many hits would it take to sink each battleship?

    • cassander says:

      one nuclear submarine could probably take out all 7.

    • John Schilling says:

      The first question is, what are the battleships doing? As cruise missile launch platforms, they’re now basically a much slower B-1 or B-52, or a destroyer with a much smaller magazine, so I basically just ignore them and do whatever I’m going to do to defend against cruise missile attacks generally. If they’re supposed to be using their big, big guns or their harpoons, they’re going to need to get fairly close to the enemy, and as that enemy I presumably know where my own high-value targets are going to be.

      Also, the battleships are presumably going to be sailing with at least a couple of Burke/Tico-class escorts, which will represent most of their actual defense against enemy attack. If they are also sailing in company with a fleet aircraft carrier, the carrier represents most of the offensive power of the task force and the highest-value unit in the task force. That’s unlikely, because the carriers will want to be in a different place than the battleships if they’re both going to do something useful, and the idea of fast battleships screening fleet carriers doesn’t work any more. But the whole idea is daft, so maybe the USN is being forced to do something stupid like that.

      So, if they’re with a carrier, I just use whatever doctrine I’m planning to use against a carrier battle group, and bring a little extra ordnance to shoot up the batteship. Then see if I really need to sink a mission-killed battleship.

      If they’re not with carrier, then I treat it the same way I’d treat an amphibious group – a big high-value target with some capable escorts and a need to close with me in a fairly predictable manner.

      First, track it from a distance. Satellites if I’ve got them, otherwise maritime patrol aircraft or helicopters, maybe submarines with good passive sonar. If the escorts are using their air search radars, ELINT will track them from a distance, if not, they can’t keep my aircraft from shadowing them, but I have to be prepared to loose a few when they play games like pretending to be merchies and then lighting up the radars when my shadow is too close to escape.

      Steer my low-value maritime targets, e.g. civilian shipping, away from the battleship group.

      When it gets close, ideally I’ll have a diesel-electric submarine lurking in the right place to put a salvo of magnetic torpedoes under her keel. Game over. Nuclear submarines have more operational flexibility, but they’re not that much faster than a battleship group and they make noise at speed, so having them hunt down a battleship fleet on the high seas is going to take numbers nobody really has. But we’ll probably lose one or two Belgrano-style.

      If I can’t get submarines in place, large salvoes of anti-ship missiles launched from aircraft, small warships, or mobile land batteries will do the job. Again, same numbers and doctrine that you’d use against an amphibious group, but don’t use sea-skimming terminal attack profiles on the missiles. Pop up and dive will be the order of the day.

      If I’m not using torpedoes, this leaves an ironclad barge carrying a payload of burnin scrap metal and maybe some 16″ guns that still work. Presumably the escorts have also been at least mission-killed at this point, so if I really care I can send a squadron of strike aircraft with laser-guided 2000 lb bombs will suffice to finish it. Ideally bunker-busters, but straight HE with delay fuses should be enough if that’s all I’ve got.

      • proyas says:

        How do you know that standard torpedoes and bombs used by Russia and China can penetrate the battleships’ armor? Is there a spec sheet?

        • cassander says:

          the battleships don’t really have underwater armor. they have a torpedo protection system that is designed to absorb torpedo explosions with minimal damage to the ship, sort of like crumple zones on a car. These would likely be relatively ineffective against modern torpedoes, which are designed to explode underneath ships, not run into the sides.

          As for bombs above water, you don’t need to sink the ship. the battleship is no good if you’ve used HE to destroy its radars, optics, communications, and other vital systems that can’t be armored and set the whole thing on fire.

          • helloo says:

            Those torpedoes that explode under ships aren’t exactly effective against bigger heavier ships.

            The big switch was from battleships to carriers, not torpedo boats or subs, etc.
            Also, I don’t think we’ve have good “data” of modern day naval AA vs. modern day aircraft.

            I thought the new thing was railguns and other guns that had higher range than aircraft?
            Remember that with satellites (assuming they aren’t all/mostly destroyed during the opening hours), there’s no longer the big advantage that carriers had with scouting.

            As with subs… I’m not sure how well subs can deal with well equipped anti-sub escorts (what? are you expecting them to fight alone?). Subs were rather cost effective and even modern tests show they still can work, but subs had the highest causality percentages for most sides in WWII.

          • John Schilling says:

            Those torpedoes that explode under ships aren’t exactly effective against bigger heavier ships.

            The ghost of HMS Ark Royal, a twenty-two thousand ton aircraft carrier, sunk by a single torpedo with a magnetic exploder, would like to have a word with you.

            Magnetic exploders were adopted, and used even after their early and embarassing failures on both sides of the war, precisely because they were much more effective against large warships. There’d be no reason to bother otherwise; a single torpedo contact hit is going to sink just about any WWII or early Cold War era destroyer, and at least mission-kill a light cruiser.

            As far as bombs are concerned, if we pretend a Mark 84 2000-lb bomb is a base-fused high explosive shell of the same gross weight, scaling laws established via extensive testing in the 1920s-1930s and validated by subsequent combat experience suggest it would penetrate about five inches of armor plate. An Iowa-class battleship’s main armor deck is six inches thick, but the modern bomb has a much higher charge-to-mass ratio and more powerful explosives than a 1930s HE shell. If the fuse is properly set to pass through the weather deck and burst on the main deck, it’s probably going to tear through the deck armor (or turret roofs) and send big chunks of steel into the machinery spaces below.

            Once all the engines including auxiliary generators and pumps are defunct, leakage will eventually sink the ship even if it isn’t directly holed below the waterline. May take a while, but it will happen. Or it can be run aground to prevent it from sinking, but since we’re assuming the nefarious Yankee battleship is being sent against our shores, hey, free trophy.

          • proyas says:

            How would you drop a Mk 84 bomb on one of the battleships when they’ve been upgraded with modern antiaircraft defenses? They would shoot down the planes if they flew overhead.

          • bean says:

            How would you drop a Mk 84 bomb on one of the battleships when they’ve been upgraded with modern antiaircraft defenses? They would shoot down the planes if they flew overhead.

            Actually, no. The Iowas had no more air defense capability in the 80s than they did in the 50s. Missiles tend to be rather sensitive to blast overpressure, which killed an attempt to give the Iowas Sea Sparrow during the 80s. You’d need to either do really extensive refits for a VLS or delete a turret. Neither is cost effective, even by the dubious standards of the battleship reactivationists.


            I’m not sure a Mk 84 would do that. 6″ of steel is a lot to break with a couple hundred pounds of explosive. More likely you’d need BLU-109s, but China and Russia have their equivalents.

          • proyas says:


            Remember what I said in my original post:

            The seven remaining ships are fixed up, retrofitted with newer technology, and return to service on the high seas.

            Assume that the battleships have the same air defense capabilities as modern U.S. destroyers or cruisers.

          • bean says:

            That’s not really an assumption which makes sense, though. You can’t just bolt Aegis onto a ship like that and have it work. There’s physically not enough room to fit all of the electronics if you don’t want them blown apart when you fire the guns. You might be able to make it work by rebuilding the entire superstructure, but if someone was mad enough to tear Iowa apart to do that, then they’d end up with something with approximately the performance of a destroyer or cruiser at many times the cost, and with some vestigial guns that don’t work well in a hot war but take a bunch of weight, space, and manpower. At which point, dealing with it is dealing with an unusually robust modern surface combatant. All the stuff topside is still vulnerable to damage, and it’s not immune to torpedoes.

            And this doesn’t even get into the SoDaks, which are incredibly cramped as is, making them much harder to fit such systems to.

            When you said “retrofitted with newer technology”, I thought you mean modern electronics and maybe VLS in the aft superstructure. Which is still stupidly expensive, but much less so.

          • John Schilling says:

            Doesn’t change anything; I’ve already assumed a couple of modern Aegis systems defending the battleship. This is difficult to overcome, but it’s a numbers game – enough missiles, and some will slip through.

            And it doesn’t matter if you put a battleship hull under one of the Aegis suites, because too much of the system has to be outside the armor. Nor can you use the bigger battleship hull to put more/better air defenses on the shop, because that’s mostly limited by electromagnetic self-interference.

            Once you start getting missiles through the Aegis suite, you rapidly don’t have an Aegis suite any more, reducing the problem to one already solved.

            ETA: Ninja’s by bean, of course

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure a Mk 84 would do that. 6″ of steel is a lot to break with a couple hundred pounds of explosive.

            Interestingly, I’ve been (very remotely) watching people utterly shatter thick steel plates with high explosives, but that’s with about eight feet of standoff and three feet of packed earth between the HE and the steel, so not the best basis for scaling. Fun, though, even though my role is the cassandra saying “stop, no, don’t do that, that’s not nearly enough steel and/or standoff”.

            For a better comparison, Nathan Okun gives the scaling for nose-fused HE (so no great contribution from the shell’s momentum) penetration against RHA as roughly 0.2 calibers. Since the relation of charge mass to shell diameter for battleship-gun HE shells is roughly 0.045 lbs per inch cubed, that suggests the necessary charge weight would be 5.63 pounds times the cube of the armor thickness in inches. So, 1215 lbs of HE to penetrate the Iowa’s deck. A Mark 84’s charge is 945 lbs actual, or 1115 lbs TNT equivalent.

            If the Mark 84 punched through the weather deck in one piece and the tail fuze functioned properly, I’d wager the bomb’s momentum would give it the extra few percent of performance it needed to hole the main deck.

          • bean says:

            My concern there is that we’re well outside the region that even Nathan Okun is going to have data on because nobody made HE shells that big. The US 16″ HC had about 150 lbs of burster, which is about the upper limit for battleship shells. Your 0.2 caliber rule would suggest a 30″ gun to fire an HC shell capable of getting through the deck, and that’s a very long way from anything we have data on. Not to mention that the shell body probably plays a part, particularly at 0.2 calibers, and a 2000 lb bomb is definitely not a 30″ shell, which is going to weigh somewhere in the ballpark of 6 tons.

    • bullseye says:

      What tactics and weapon systems would you use, and how many hits would it take to sink each battleship?

      It takes exactly four hits to sink a battleship. Everyone knows that.

    • bean says:

      The U.S. Navy gives in to the small but vocal group of people who want the WWII-era battleships recommissioned. The seven remaining ships are fixed up, retrofitted with newer technology, and return to service on the high seas. The timing if fortuitous because the U.S. gets into a war with Russia and China.

      Ick. That’s a terrible idea.

      If you were an admiral in the Russian or Chinese navies, how would you sink the U.S. battleships, using existing conventional weapons (no nukes)? What tactics and weapon systems would you use, and how many hits would it take to sink each battleship?

      Pretty much what John said on this. Torpedos are the first choice, and while the TDS on the remaining battleships (excluding Texas) is quite good, it’s not up to stopping a modern heavyweight torpedo. Beyond that, laser-guided bunker-buster bombs. Which, yes, would penetrate the deck pretty well.

  22. meh says:

    If the virus is worse than expected, people pro strong reaction will say we should have done more, and people anti will say we tanked the economy and it didn’t even do anything.

    If it goes better than expected, people pro strong reaction will say our measures worked, and people anti will say we tanked the economy and the virus amounted to not much.

    Is Trump’s response a 4-d chess move that lets him claim all positions at once?

  23. acymetric says:

    While I’m starting top level threads…anyone here have experience with Plantar Fasciitis, and if so was there anything in particular you found especially helpful for treating it (thinking more in terms of “get rid of” than “alleviate symptoms of”?

    • Chalid says:

      Yes! I had a really bad case for a while. Gel heel cups (specifically these) made it go away completely for me. I still wear them just in case.

      • noyann says:

        +1 for gel heel cups.
        Also gentle massaging the soles.

        ETA: If it started with a heel spur, you can prevent relapse with special insoles, basically insoles with gel-filled holes under the heels.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Green superfeet insoles, which I don’t have in all my shoes, but my most used and that cut down on the Plantar Fasciitis considerably. I supplement both MSM and Curcumin for joint and tendon pain generally. MSM is something I notice if I don’t take it for whatever reason. Adding curcumin pushed me from manageable pain to no pain, but I haven’t tried curcumin alone and I’m well aware supplements are voodoo so buyer beware and all that.

      • Elementaldex says:

        Missing my daily curcumin noticeably increases my pain from my various ailments (including plantar fasciitis).

        I also use heel a heel cup.

    • matthewravery says:

      In addition to insoles/gel, rest is about the only thing that worked for me.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Be aware that there are muscle strains that can present like plantar fasciitis. I had one of these (tibialis posterior) strained and none of the usual things (heel cups, braces that keep your feet curved while you sleep) worked for me. Finally went to a physical therapist who gave me a stretching program that did work.

    • Betty Cook says:

      They gave me stretching exercises that helped a lot.

      Put both arms out in front of you on a wall, lean toward the wall with one foot 2-3 feet ahead of the other, depending on your height (or whatever you need to feel the stretch in the calf). Forward knee is bent, both feet with heels on the floor, damaged foot in back. Straighten back leg, hold for 15-20 seconds. Then bend back knee, holding heels still on the floor, hold another 15-20 seconds. Switch feet (yes, only one foot is damaged, but you don’t want to develop this on the other side) and repeat with that foot back. Do this a couple more times; do it again later in the day. You are stretching things out in the calf so they aren’t tight enough to pull your foot apart (very rough non-medical terminology). Keep doing it until the problem is gone, and then do it every so often so it doesn’t come back.

      Mine hasn’t come back, and that was over a decade ago.

      • acymetric says:

        only one foot is damaged

        If only, it is definitely both feet for me.

        Thanks (and to the other commenters in this thread) for the input/advice so far!

      • Doctor Mist says:

        A similar stretch that works well for me is to stand on a stairstep (facing upstairs). Back up four inches so about half your foot including your heel is hanging in the air. Hold the banister so you don’t become unbalanced. Then let the heel drop below the step level, with your leg as straight as you can make it, as far down as you can comfortably do. You should feel a significant stretch in the back of your calf — if you don’t, you might not be keeping the leg straight. Hold this for 20-30 seconds and then raise it back up and rest for a few seconds. Repeat until bored.

    • acymetric says:

      Several of the responses have mentioned heel cups, and several the the products I’ve looked at (heel cups and full insoles) talk about relieving heel pain. My pain is primarily in the arch and the ball of my foot, with almost no heel pain. Is anyone else’s experience similar?

    • Matt says:

      Had it in 2014 or so, went on a beach vacation, played a bunch of beach volleyball, and noticed when I got back from the vacation it was gone.

      It came back in 2017 or so, and I went to the local sand volleyball court and walked laps every couple of days until it went away. It hasn’t returned.

      I don’t wear any special shoes or insoles or anything.

  24. Chalid says:

    The US essentially has a patchwork response to coronavirus right now, in which various localities are locking down or not based on what mayors and governors decide. In general, this non-uniform response seems like a really bad idea to me. Locked-down areas take a big economic hit to suppress the virus, but of course they can’t keep infected people from adjacent areas out in the long term. That leads to overall ineffectiveness of the suppression strategy in the long term, unless the US sets up internal border checkpoints or something.

    You could imagine this working as deliberate curve-flattening strategy in that you could have the less-restrictive areas utilize the hospital capacity of the more-restricted ones. But doing this right would require higher-level coordination which is clearly not happening.

    The other way you could imagine this working out well is if treatment options dramatically improve soon, say in a month or two.

    What am I missing?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      That different places are different and need different solutions? If you’re in BFE and there’s no cases around, locking down tanks whatever economy you’ve got for no benefit.

      • Chalid says:

        Given the lack of testing, you don’t know if you’ve got no cases around. If you wait until it’s obvious then you’re two weeks too late.

        Also, there’s a nasty free-rider problem here.

    • matthewravery says:

      Are you asking why the US has responded in the way that it has, or are you asking why a rational actor would choose to respond the way the US has?

  25. eric23 says:

    I had the thought that the coronavirus outbreak in the Shincheonji church/cult may have indirectly saved many lives. As the first major outbreak outside China, it gave Western observers an idea of how much they needed to worry. When Korea got it under control, it gave Western observers a model for how their own outbreaks could be controlled.

    In theory China could have served as the model, but we are naturally skeptical of news from China due to the government’s weak reputation for honesty, and also learnings from a poor dictatorship are easily dismissed as not relevant to wealthy tolerant democracies.

    • Rob K says:

      The problem with this theory is that Western countries don’t appear to have either reacted in a timely fashion to the South Korean outbreak, or imitated South Korea’s successful response when they did act.

      • eric23 says:

        They reacted badly, but they could have reacted even worse.

        (To be clear, I am not trying to excuse Shincheonji, they were criminally irresponsible, but I think it’s interesting how things might have turned out well despite that)

  26. acymetric says:

    Is there a good place to find out what motherboard my laptop has so that I can figure out what aftermarket upgrades are compatible? The laptop in question is an Acer Aspire 3 A315-41-R98U. RAM is easy enough, but trying to figure out what options are and what costs would be if I wanted to upgrade the CPU, or if a dedicated GPU is supported.


    • Deiseach says:

      Don’t know if this is any good to you, but this computer magazine review seems to have details on what the components for that model are, and this site seems to have a load of specs.

      This seems to be short and sweet about “can I add a dedicated GPU?” “No” 🙂

      • acymetric says:

        Thanks! Although the final link (while it may ultimately be correct) is dubious…the response to whether that laptop model supports dedicated GPU’s:

        Unfortunately, no you can not install a dedicated graphics in laptops.

        Which is…definitely not a general rule.

        The other two links I had seen, but neither appears to give a specific motherboard model #.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Generally speaking, unless you’re using a specially designed upgradeable high-end laptop, it’s *very* difficult to upgrade any component other than RAM. Even if you swap out a CPU that has the same socket, for instance, the heat production might differ and overwhelm the onboard cooling system, or the supplied voltage might not be correct, etc.

      People who *do* upgrade anyway are usually people comfortable with tinkering, experimentation, and so on. If you haven’t done overclocking and built a traditional PC before, I would emphatically not recommend trying.

      • mitv150 says:

        Upgrading to an SSD if you don’t already have one also makes a significant difference.

        • acymetric says:

          It comes with an SSD, an also has an open bay if I decided I wanted to install another drive for additional on board storage.

      • acymetric says:

        Thanks for the advice, I’m 100% comfortable with those things (and the concerns you raised are partly why I’m looking for more detailed specs so that I can decide what is going to be compatible).

        Certainly, RAM is the low hanging fruit for an upgrade and likely where I would start.

  27. samueljaques says:

    Has anyone tried the strategy of deliberately infecting themselves now in the hopes of avoiding queues later, and would want to talk about it?

    • eric23 says:

      It seems like it would be hard to find someone who is infected (except in a hospital, where they wouldn’t let you in).

      • acymetric says:

        Also seems like it only makes sense if you definitely expect to get it. Otherwise you are trading “maybe I get sick” for “I definitely get sick”.

        • Viliam says:

          More precisely, you are trading “maybe I get sick” for “I definitely get sick, maybe twice”.

    • yodelyak says:

      I’ve had some people ask me about this idea. I think it’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking I’d normally encourage, but can’t get behind *AT ALL* here. Don’t do this.
      1. You won’t really know you’ve got it until you deliberately expose yourself and wait in quarantine for a week or more, and then maybe you don’t show symptoms and still don’t know for sure you’ve got it. And you still have to distance yourself etc. In this case, nothing improves–you were asymptomatic, and you were socially distanced, and you would have been both those things no matter what.
      2. You deliberately get it, but actually get something other than Covid-19. Like the really nasty influenza-b that made this past winter a record bad (compared to recent years anyway) flu season in the Northern hemisphere, with newsworthy fatality rates for young and old. Then you get Covid-19 later, thinking yourself immune.
      3. You deliberately get it, but actually get infected with flu or a cold as well at the same time. Disease-related inflammation makes your body weaker sooner, and you doubled up. Plus extra infections all at once can’t help your odds of dodging needing care or a bad care outcome.
      4. You deliberately get it, but time it very badly because you didn’t understand that many of the people who need care need care for weeks, not days. If you weren’t going to need that kind of care, especially if you could self-treat at home, it didn’t matter when you got it, but if you are going to need that kind of care, it is already too late for getting Covid to be anything but a very bad idea.
      5. You deliberately get it, but it turns out you’re one of the people (including some young people) who get lasting reductions in lung capacity and significant organ damage when you could have *not* had those things. One Korean study I saw (sample size of like 15 tho) took people who checked in and were confirmed Covid cases, and said 1/3 had lung capacity a month later that was reduced by 30%, also 1/3 had significant organ damage. I think that’s obviously going to be not-that-helpful at guessing the true rate of this kind of lasting damage, but it’s pretty scary.
      6. Your attempt to get yourself infected involves traveling to a nearby friend or clinic. You didn’t know it, but you were already infected, and this traveling means you become a vector by way of a gas station attendant or a police officer who stopped your car or whatever, and that person continues to spread it, and then the larger-than-otherwise spike kills people you care about and further harms the economy and well being of the country in which you live.

      I think the net result of these possibilities adds to a very small set of possible worlds where deliberately exposing yourself to sick people makes you better off, and a much larger set of possible worlds where this is a bad or even very, very bad choice. The likelihood of mistiming the outbreak or ending up as a vector are the biggest ones though.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The time to do this was a month or two ago.

    • salvorhardin says:

      This strategy would be a lot more effective if we had serological tests available so that one could confirm that one had antibodies to the virus but not the virus itself, thus establishing safety and immunity. From the giant Wired article on testing:

      it sounds like this is feasible but at least weeks, more likely months, from being ready.

  28. Deiseach says:

    And in today’s COVID-19 news from Ireland (north and south), my 20 year old nephew probably has it. He was attending UCG (University College Galway) and a couple of weeks ago they were told to stay home and work online; he saw an ambulance on campus and a section got deep-cleaned, so everyone suspected there was a case. That’s where he probably picked it up.

    He went home and now today his mother has told me he has a fever of 40°C (104°F) and is coughing, so they’re self-isolating. I told her to ring the helpline and get him tested and they’ll want to know his contacts. He’s young and has no underlying conditions so he should be okay (but God knows); my sister and brother-in-law are in the 50+ age range with no underlying physical problems (although my sister was very sickly as a child, had pneumonia as an infant, and has weakened lungs ever since) so they should be okay if at slightly greater risk. His father’s mother, though, is elderly and frail so if he’s been in contact with Granny and passed it on when he was infectious but not showing any signs – yeah, that’s worrying.

    And this is why they should have closed the universities down sooner. But at least our side have done it, I don’t know why the Nordies are being so stubborn about it but whatever.

    In religion-related news, my sister is living in a very Orange part of the North and she tells me the local “crazy Jesus people” are saying that COVID-19 is God’s will for preventing the Fenian parades (i.e. the cancellation of St Patrick’s Day celebration) (insert eye-rolling by yours truly here). Remember this heroic virtue the next time you read me ecumenically defending any Reformed-tinged denomination 🙂

    For the Catholic response, here’s St Patrick taking on his next job after driving out the snakes!

    Right, time to dig out that novena to Archangel Raphael and start saying it on behalf of the nephew and good luck to you all – stay safe and socially distant!

    • Plumber says:

      “…my 20 year old nephew probably has it…..”

      Sorry to learn that @Deiseach, best wishes for a recovery.

      My wife and son’s have the sniffles, but without a test it’s hard to tell if allergies, cold, or Wuhan.

      We can only wait.

      • Deiseach says:

        Thanks for the good wishes, Plumber. Yeah, it doesn’t help that this is colds’n’flu season anyway, because now any kind of cough/runny nose/fever immediately makes you jump to OH NO I’VE GOT THE LURGY!!!!

    • Ella says:

      Do urge them to talk to the doctor — 40 C is no laughing matter, in an adult, and there might always be something else wrong with him.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      FWIW, I would go to the hospital if I had a 104 degree fever.

      • Deiseach says:

        FWIW, I would go to the hospital if I had a 104 degree fever.

        Down here they’re recommending not going directly to the hospital (in order to keep transmission down as much as possible and not clog up A&E with a lot of people who may or may not have the virus as distinct from normal colds and flu):

        If you develop symptoms you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.

        He’s up in the Wee North right now so I’m not sure what the advice is there; this seems to be what’s up so far:

        Everyone in your household must stay at home for 14 days. Do not go to your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

        You can ring NHS 111 for information or advice and they will help you decide if you need to contact your GP.

        Calling your GP is only necessary if you have:

        – an existing health condition
        – problems with your immune system
        – very serious symptoms

        If it is a medical emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999 and inform the operator of your symptoms.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        It at least call ahead so that they can get you without letting you near the others.

  29. voso says:

    All of these other responses seem like total overkill to me — just make a discord bot that lets you deal cards.
    This one is open source, and looks like it could be a good starting point for a pinochle deck.

  30. Le Maistre Chat says:

    List people with Captain Obvious names, e.g.
    King Guy (as opposed to the much rarer King Gal or Queen Guy)

  31. AG says:

    Have a third party shuffle and deal cards in their own home, and email the cards each player has to each player privately.

    Showing each person’s play in real time is harder, but couldn’t they use some sort of text notation in a chat server, instead of displaying cards visually? (The way chess can be done with just text notations)

  32. Incurian says:

    Unreal Engine is free and easy. It uses a visual scripting system that requires no real coding experience but it’s pretty powerful and flexible nonetheless. It is normally used for pretty 3d games but will work for 2d games fine. Network functionality is mostly built in, though the game logic needs to accommodate it.

    • silver_swift says:

      That’s still way more than 2 hours of work if you start from scratch (especially if you’ve never done anything similar before).

  33. silver_swift says:

    Tabletop simulator?

    • silver_swift says:

      Extending a bit: Tabletop simulator is a “game” on steam that lets you simulate playing a huge variety of boardgames. It’s not free (about €15,-) and each player has to buy it separately, but it’s probably the most hassle free version of what you are looking for.

      It also looks like somebody already made a pinochle deck for it.

  34. EchoChaos says:

    Trying this again because apparently my last got eaten. Maybe the link was too much?

    I am following the US cases on worldometers coronavirus tracker, and we have 93 deaths and 4748 cases, but only 12 cases in serious or critical condition. This seems wildly low to me, which makes me wonder what is going on.

    I understand that our testing is behind and our true number of cases is almost certainly higher than ~5000, but “in a hospital for COVID-19” is pretty easy to detect, so I would expect this to be even more accurate. Are we counting them differently, or are we just only having people come into the hospital briefly to die?

    • AG says:

      Given that testing is behind, and the general state of our healthcare system for people in the lower classes, then it makes sense that people wary about the costs of going to the hospital aren’t going until things get fatally bad, and don’t find out that it’s COVID-19 until that point.
      It may also be the case that, given the shortage of testing resources, they’re just treating people with really obvious symptoms (serious or critical condition) without wasting a test on them.

      • J Mann says:

        It would be bizarre to have someone in an ICU on a ventilator and not test them for coronavirus, although I guess maybe you’d isolate them either way.

        If the tests are really in that short a supply, though, we should see a jump in the critical condition numbers as the new tests come on line in the next week or so.

        • matthewravery says:

          I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but getting results back from tests was taking as long as ~4 days in some case. (1 day to get them back from the state, and then if that was positive, another 2-3 days to get confirmation from the CDC, which would presumably be required to be included in the stats.)

      • m.alex.matt says:

        Given that testing is behind, and the general state of our healthcare system for people in the lower classes, then it makes sense that people wary about the costs of going to the hospital aren’t going until things get fatally bad, and don’t find out that it’s COVID-19 until that point.

        I would say that there is about a close approximation of zero chance that the ‘general state of our healthcare system’ is causing enough people to not go to the hospital in the middle of a pandemic panic to explain the kind of numbers EchoChaos is talking about.

        People forget, in the middle of all the election season rhetoric, that something like 75% of Americans are perfectly satisfied with the insurance coverage they have. The current health system worries focus on a (large and worrying, of course) minority of people with no or in-adequate coverage.

        • JayT says:

          Not just that, but my understanding is that (for people with insurance) it’s easier to get in and see a doctor in the US than in most European countries, so if anything, I would expect more Americans to be seeing a doctor, not fewer.

          • acymetric says:

            Well, depends on your insurance. I have insurance, but as it is a high-deductible plan if I go to the doctor for a diagnosis for cold/flu/COVID symptoms I will be paying for that visit out of pocket, likely in the $150-$350 range. Hopefully I’m paying for it with the money I’ve been putting into my HSA, but not everyone is doing that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I reported before that my million-person-county only had 3 tests.

            They say they have enough tests, now. My MIL is taking my niece to get tested because niece self-reported an old fever (at the start of the month) to her OB-GYN (that visit was today). Which sounds like an incredibly lame reason to test, but it indicates to me that we have swung rapidly away from the crazy situation where you need a note from the Pope to get tested.

          • acymetric says:

            Is the test likely to catch a month-old infection?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Follow-up on niece.

            As background, she is a compulsive liar. I should have mentioned that.

            Her grandmother took her to the testing facility, where they stayed in their car. They got a number, were told to wait, and then later to drive to a certain spot in the parking lot. A nurse came up, diagnosed niece’s symptoms, dithered on a test, and then niece ginned up her memory of her old symptoms enough to get a test.

            So now her whole household is on quarantine for a few days while waiting for the test. Her grandmother (my MIL) is a vulnerable population so we’re pissed moderately annoyed that niece may have exposed her. (Niece had been staying with her boyfriend until her story to her OB-GYN caused niece to need a ride to the testing clinic.)

      • John Schilling says:

        Given that testing is behind, and the general state of our healthcare system for people in the lower classes, then it makes sense that people wary about the costs of going to the hospital aren’t going until things get fatally bad

        OK, but that’s the lower classes, which is less than half the population – and the half which has spent the least amount of time visiting China or Italy or hanging out with people who have, which probably still matters a bit.

        Most Americans have health insurance good enough that the “cost” of going to a hospital ER is dominated by the personal hassle of an ER visit, not the dollar copay. Most isn’t nearly all, but that only gets you maybe a factor of two discrepancy between US death:critical rates compared to the EU. It looks like you’re seeing something much more than that.

        Which probably means you’re seeing a reporting issue, with most of the critical cases not being explicitly reported and aggregated into whatever COVID-19 total you are looking at.

    • broblawsky says:

      Less smoking, maybe? MERS is pretty similar, and the primary risk factors for it are diabetes, heart disease, and smoking. Also, exposure to dromedary camels.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Less smoking, maybe?

        Could definitely explain the lower combined severe and death rate, but why would our ratio of severe to dead be so wildly different than other countries?

        Most are seeing lots of severe cases which is causing ICU stress, which is the major risk people are talking about. We are seeing virtually none.

        • broblawsky says:

          I think @AG’s answer is probably the one with the most explanatory power – that a lot of people with poor health insurance aren’t going to go to the hospital unless they absolutely have to. Lower smoking rates might just be making some of the severe cases marginally less severe, which results in less people seeking medical assistance, even if they might still need it. I would’ve thought that higher diabetes rates in the US would make up the difference, but it looks like China, at least, has about the same diabetes rate as the US.

    • Kindly says:

      My assumption is that the information is being aggregated from many sources, most of which are not listing cases in serious condition at all, whether or not they exist, so the number (12) is just meaningless.

    • gudamor says:

      You can try to extrapolate from the data at, specifically the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network. The recent uptick in the data is not without precedent, but they note “Clinical laboratories in regions 2 and 10 reported a decrease in influenza virus circulation; however, these are areas of the country where COVID-19 is most prevalent and more people may be seeking care for respiratory illness than usual at this time.”

    • Chalid says:

      It’s probably a reporting issue. But since people tend to associate with others of similar age, you could also imagine situations where the virus’s initial spread in Italy was among an older subset of the population while the initial spread in the US was among a younger subset.

      • EchoChaos says:

        One other thing that came up was that a full third of American deaths so far are in a single nursing home in Washington where the patients really didn’t get any ICU. They just caught COVID-19 and crashed out.

        Perhaps that’s the modal American death, so there are very few in serious condition because Americans either get mild cases or outright die.

  35. smithee says:

    What are the best places to learn about coronavirus? Ideally, I’m looking for explainer blogs that go in-depth and offer opinions, like a SSC or Gwern. Do you know any blogs, publications, researchers, Tweeters, etc.?

    More broadly, what are the best sources on biosecurity and pandemics?

  36. JacobT says:

    Does anyone know a good platform to create a closed group for my son and his friends from 2nd grade, to share pictures etc with school closed. Some kind of controlled social media?

    • Aapje says:


    • silver_swift says:

      Discord is probably a better option, but I’ve also heard people using private subreddits for this purpose, though (having not looked into it) I suspect it requires a bit more tech savvy-ness.

      • JacobT says:

        Thanks, Forgive my ignorance but from what I have read Discord is not recommended for kids and is for 13 and up.

        • acymetric says:

          Are the 2nd grade kids going to be the ones actually using the app, or are you just going to be showing them stuff on it?

        • mitv150 says:

          My impression is that this is more a supervision/oversight issue than a technical issue. Discord does not, afaik, have built in parental guidance tools.

          I have no issues with my children using Discord with occasional review by me.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The internet is illegal for children under 13. This is nothing special about Discord.

          • acymetric says:


          • The internet is illegal for children under 13.

            What does that mean? Lots of children under 13 use the internet.

          • BBA says:

            Not sarcasm, slight exaggeration. COPPA makes it so onerous to run a website used by children under 13 that most don’t bother trying to comply and just ban kids entirely.

            And by “ban” I mean kids have to lie about their ages or claim to have parental permission in order to go online. Everyone knows it’s impossible to enforce, but we keep pretending.

          • Nick says:

            The nicest thing about turning 18 is that I could stop lying about my age!

          • Business Analyst says:

            There are a variety of laws that make it very hard to get advertising money and comply with the law if you knowingly allow children under 13 to access the site.

            So most social media bans children under 13, but doesn’t enforce the ban too hard (they’ll shred accounts if someone reports them, but won’t look at the account otherwise).

            The loophole is to claim that the parents are making and running the account.

            You’ll likely find that restriction on any site not dedicated to kids, which will likely be pretty limited.

          • @BBA”

            Judging by the wiki piece you linked to, the restrictions only apply to a web site that collects personal information from children. My site collects no personal information from anyone, and I don’t think I have to do anything at all to comply with the law.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Following on the comment by Business Analyst, YouTube got into a lot of trouble last year for this and had to pay a large fine. Then they caused a lot of confusion and dismay among their contact providers by trying shunt the responsibility for this onto the channels. To be sure, their alternative would have been a huge cut in advertising revenue. (Which all of the channels that post videos for children are going to have anyway.)

      • crh says:

        Creating a private subreddit is easy, but there are mild restrictions on who can do it. In particular, you need someone with at least a 30 day old account.

        • acymetric says:

          If they are concerned about age-appropriateness, reddit seems a much worse option than Discord.

          • crh says:

            Yeah. Plenty of age-inappropriate content on both, but I suspect it’s more discoverable on Reddit.

    • AKL says:

      Usually used for baby photos, but maybe Lifecake.

    • AG says:

      Pick any social media platform they’re not on yet, have them create accounts, friend each other, and then set all display settings to friends-only for all accounts.

  37. johan_larson says:

    Let’s talk about one of the odder cards from the MtG expansion “Theros: Beyond Death”: Skola Gravedancer. That’s a 2/2 with these abilities:

    Whenever a land card is put into your graveyard from anywhere, you gain 1 life.
    2G: Put the top card of your library into your graveyard.

    Spending three mana to gain, on average, 17/40 of a point of life sounds like a terrible deal, so I suppose this card is supposed to pair with some other card that mills you, like Acolyte of Affliction or maybe Devourer of Memory. It’s still not gaining you much, though.

    Is Skola just a bad card?

    • Aharon says:

      Just looking at draft: It’s also a 2/2 enchantment creature, that triggers constellation. There are worse things to be had for 2 mana…
      Other formats: it would synergize with fetchlands a bit?
      Commander: Maybe put it in a deck that has Forgotten Harvest and similar effects.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      A 2/2 for 2 mana with two weak abilities isn’t bad.

      Milling yourself is useful in green/ black decks that can get stuff out of the graveyard. I have a fun older green black casual deck based around Oversold Cemetery and other “bring creatures back from the dead” cards that could use that, especially since it’s a creature as well. The ability is expensive but it doesn’t require tapping so whenever you have mana left at the end of your opponent’s turn you can just dump it all in to that ability.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Gravedancer is a common, and like most commons it’s targeted strictly at limited. In limited, a 2/2 for 2 does not need much upside to be a reasonable card, and the three smallish upsides of Gravedancer taken together certainly get there. It’s a cheap enabler for Constellation, and an expensive but still real one for Escape, which also produces minor upside in conjunction with the other Escape enablers that are likely to be in your green deck. Don’t think about it as spending 2G to gain .425 life; think about it as spending three mana to draw a quarter of an Escaped Voracious Typhon or a third of a Pharika’s Spawn. And yes, occasionally that extra point or two of life over a game will be the difference in a tight race.

      But you should not be putting it in your constructed deck, unless it’s part of some whacky combo where you mill the whole deck and kill with Aetherflux Reservoir or something.

    • fortyCakes says:

      Looking at it: it’s a fine card for limited already, being a bear (a 2/2 for 2 mana). In the context of Theros Beyond Death, it’s also got two-and-a-bit synergies:

      * It’s an Enchantment, so it triggers Constellation, one of the major set mechanics
      * It puts cards in your graveyard, allowing you to use Escape, one of the other major set mechanics
      * Much more dubiously, Heliod, Sun-Crowned wants cards that can gain you life.

      I think it’s mainly intended to pair with the green card that mills you… Relentless Pursuit, that’s the one. If you have a few of each, you can expect to gain maybe 2 or 3 life for free while doing things you already wanted to do (playing creatures and drawing lands). It also pairs well with Oread of Mountain’s Blaze, since you’re likely to discard land cards in the late game when you don’t need them.

      All of that said, its upsides aren’t that big, and it’s never going to be a high-impact or key card.

      In terms of Limited (draft or sealed deck play), it’s probably around a 2/5: good filler for a draft deck, but won’t always make it. In terms of Constructed play, it’s almost certainly never going to be played, barring some kind of sweet combo being discovered with it. You might see it in an EDH/Commander deck that runs Crucible of Worlds to recur Wasteland, or something similar.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t think it’s a great card, but I am trying it in my (middling power) cube, because it has synergy with graveyards, enchantments, and life gain, three archetypes green is involved in, similar to the limited environment as fortyCakes describes.

      You also might kinda of want it in a Gitrog Monster edh deck, but I’m sure you could find a lot better.

    • Jake R says:

      I think the card is pretty good. A 2/2 for 2 doesn’t need much. With the escape mechanic, milling 3 or 4 cards is practically draw a card. This card does it slowly, but this format seems prone to long grindy games and having a place to dump your mana for value in the late game is useful.

    • sidereal says:

      It’s a common. Limited fodder grizzle bear with small upside, possibly enabling graveyard synergy while still being a bear. That’s all. (Maybe fringe playable as an anti-aggro sideboard card in some kind of dredge deck.)

      But yeah, most commons are just filler trash.

    • Business Analyst says:

      In limited its a pretty competitive 2 drop, especially for a common. Not the best, but certainly playable in green (and very playable in green white enchantment decks).
      In standard I’ve only seen it used in a few Nissa ramp decks designed to get a bunch of lands out, use a few to block early, and then power up an explosion/hydroid krassis with a nyxbloom ancient and the aforementioned lands. It’s purpose there is to boost the value of the lands that serve to stall the opponent.

      It’s effective enough unless the opponent gets the planeswalker that stops extra draws, as that’s the focus of its ramping.

  38. silver_swift says:

    People in the Netherlands are now talking about needing 50-60% of people to have had COVID-19 for herd immunity to arise.

    That seems implausibly low to me (according to the table in the 2018 adversarial collaboration entry on vaccines, it would put it below everything except Hepatitis B). Thoughts?

    • Watchman says:

      It’s the same as in the UK, also from respectable government scientists, and I’ve not seen it disputed. It’s based on Rate of Infection, and basically how many people you need to stop a virus spreading through the entire population, so it wont stop isolated breakouts (say communities that missed it first time) just stop it spreading.

      And coronavirus is not really contagious compared to things like measles. Its not particularly airborne for a start, relying on water droplets. It may also suffer in warm conditions.

    • gbdub says:

      It’s infectious, but not that infectious. The estimates I’ve seen for its R0 in an unprotected population are something just north of 2. Simplifying, if the natural R0 is 2 but the population is >50% immune, the effective R0 is <1, and an outbreak won’t grow.

  39. Evan Þ says:

    From the Babylon Bee (originally a Christian version of the Onion; now just as much a US-political-conservative version): “Nation’s Nerds Wake Up In Utopia Where Everyone Stays Inside, Sports Are Canceled, Social Interaction Forbidden.”

  40. sharper13 says:

    So, consolidated Covid predictions thread.

    Here’s your chance to show your range and your confidence levels in one easy place where you can explain later to all your SSC buddies how you got it right and they were all wrong.

    My entry:
    1K – 50K deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year, confidence level 75%. So, as I mentioned before, worse case is likely a bad flu season’s worth.

    If you disagree, state your prediction. Bonus accuracy bragging points for smaller ranges.

    • broblawsky says:

      150K-250K deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year, confidence level 60%.

    • JayT says:

      Back in January I took the under on H1N1, which was estimated to be between 151,700 to 575,400 deaths, and I’m sticking with that. I’d say 70% confidence for the low number, and 95% for the high.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        That’s a global number, so is your corona prediction global?

        (so many people on this thread aren’t clear on that!)

        • JayT says:

          Yes, I was thinking globally. In the US, my numbers would be something like:
          <5,000 – 70%
          <20,000 – 95%

    • sty_silver says:

      More than 250.000 deaths (75%). See also here:

    • johan_larson says:

      Let me try to upper-bound this.

      In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed 675,000 Americans from a population of 103 million. The US currently has 327 million people. So if COVID-19 were as bad as the Spanish Flu, it would kill 2.1 million.

      Spanish Flu was a whole lot more deadly than COVID-19; in particular, COVID-19 mostly kills the elderly, whereas Spanish Flu killed people of every age.

      • Kindly says:

        On the other hand, our population is more than 3 times denser than it was in 1918. (And a lot more connected in ways that are hard to quantify.)

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Which is why this kind of pandemics are here to stay. Until we learn to build vaccines and treatments on the fly.

          • johan_larson says:

            Or we adopt behaviors that make this sort of diseases a lot less likely or a lot less likely to spread.

            Are SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19 all believed to have been spread from wild animals to humans?

          • The Nybbler says:

            MERS is believed to have spread from domesticated animals (camels). SARS from bats to civets, though I’m not sure if the civets were farmed or wild-caught. I believe most novel flu strains come through domesticated animals.

          • Nick says:

            If we want to reduce the incidence of novel wild animal–human transmission, would closing/aggressively suppressing all those wild animal markets help?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Well, sure, the first thing to do is limit contact between humans and wild animals. Not necessarily in a drastic “let’s kill them all” fashion, but more like “wild animal markets=a new virus per decade”.

            But the fundamental problem is the one I remember from Guns Germs and Steel – population density and size breed pathogens. If you consider viruses that can potentially infect humans, only a few may be viral enough to survive in a population of hunter gatherer tribes that don’t have contact between them for months. But in the modern world with a culture of “we beat disease” and transatlantic flights… even a stupidly helpless virus that can only hope to infect the 1% with a specific gene complex and gives perfect immunity afterwards, can still survive. So you have a much much higher potential pool of pathogens.

      • sharper13 says:

        So do you have a prediction? Or just an upper bound?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      80% on a vaccine being tested in the field by the end of the year. Testing that targets populations likely to get Covid and intends to measure infection rates counts (i.e. blind testing on 1000 health workers in Italy). 90% on 12 months from now. 60% on 6 months.

      There are too many optimization shortcuts that can be taken in a truly serious situation for this not to happen. Some are money, some regulatory, and some are just people doing their best to help.

      • Evan Þ says:

        What counts as “tested in the field”? They’ve started testing one candidate vaccine on volunteers yesterday.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I should up my numbers. Last I heard, they were ready for phase 1. Apparently from “ready” to sticking needles in people takes less than a day these days.

          I mean with the intention to actually be useful, aka protect people.

          • I would expect the U.S. to be slow to approve a vaccine, given the general regulatory attitude to such things. But once there is what looks like a workable vaccine, I would expect some other countries, such as Iran, which isn’t likely to take U.S. regulatory rules very seriously, to deploy it pretty fast. And once that happens and isn’t a catastrophe, it’s hard to see U.S. regulators holding out very long against the pressure to adopt it.

            Also, I’ve seen a number of news stories claiming that a known malaria medicine is reasonably effective against Covid-13. If that turns out to be true, it could pretty sharply reduce mortality figures and length of hospitalization.

          • Radu Floricica says:


            The Chinese just released a study saying an existing antiviral is (somewhat) effective as well.

            Things are moving very fast. There is a delay of a few months before it all actually starts being used, but there’s a good change several things will hit the shelves at more or less the same time and make a big difference.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      If the hospitals were swamped today, the bottleneck would be workers trained to safely use ventilators.

      “U.S. acute care hospitals are estimated to own approximately 62,000 full-featured mechanical ventilators.”

      “The addition of older hospital ventilators, SNS ventilators, and anesthesia machines increases the absolute number of ventilators to possibly above 200,000 units. Many of the additional and older ventilators, however, may not be capable of adequately supporting patients with severe acute respiratory failure. Supplies for these ventilators may also not be available due to interruptions in the international supply chain. Moreover, an analysis of the literature suggests that U.S. hospitals could absorb between 26,000 and 56,000 additional ventilators at the peak of a national pandemic, as safe use of ventilators requires trained personnel.”

      So initially we’d only be able to save the lives of <116,000 people who need mechanical ventilation to survive at a time. What percentage of active cases is that?
      In Italy, 8% of cases are Serious or Critical.
      So if 80% of cases just need to stay home and get over a bad cold, 12% require hospitalization but not ventilation, and 8% ventilation (and their ICU stay will average 15-16 days), we should be able to handle 1.45 million infections at a time before the preventable deaths start?

      Right now, we’re at 4,482 confirmed cases and 86 deaths, a 2% death rate without the hospitals filling up. The problem is our abysmal testing: if 322 people are carrying the virus for each one who’s tested positive, we’re about to hit a 15-day period where hospitals are slightly overwhelmed.
      Another metric: if things get as bad as Italy, we’ll see a day where 368 * ~5.33 people die, or 1,961. If we hit that number but it doesn’t get exponentially worse, it would take about two months to lose 100,000 people.

      • sharper13 says:

        So what’s your prediction on deaths at the end of the year?

        There are certainly lots of “ifs” out there, contributing to wide ranges and low confidence levels, but what is yours?

    • Yosarian2 says:

      A lot depends on how we act and on unknown factors about the disease, so I think there’s a fairly wide range of possibilities. I would put it between 50,000- 400,000 but even with that wide range I only have about a 60% confidence in it; it wouldn’t surprise me that much if it’s as low as 25,000 or as high as 1,000,000 so I guess if I had to make a 90% confidence range that would be it.

    • silver_swift says:

      In my personal prediction app from 2 weeks ago:

      1) Someone I personally know gets COVID-19 (70%)
      2) Corona panic is mostly gone from the Netherlands by ascension day (21st of May), with mostly gone being defined as no extraordinary measures being taken by the majority of the population. (70%)
      3) I will not self-quarantine ahead of any government regulations (90%)

      I was right on 3 and would now estimate 1) at a much higher percentage (probably >95%) and 2) at a much lower percentage (<50% for sure)

    • voso says:

      I agree with the sentiment, but I’m a little less confident; I’d say 1k — 75k deaths, 60% confident.

      1) Asymptomatic cases are looking more and more to be a significant force. Bad for spread, but (provided no immunity oddities) great for building an immune population.
      2) I still do believe in the seasonality effects. As far as I can tell, Japan has had disease growth of 5-12% per day, a bit off of the 30-40% that most of the rest of the world exhibits, with (as far as I can tell) really quite limited social distancing. Despite being the most sparsely populated part of Japan, the largest cluster is in Hokkaido (the cold, snowy, northern island).

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        But the rest of Japan is cold in February as well, for Tokyo 6°C (48.2°F).
        It is absolutely a mystery to me why Japan is *not* an absolute disaster right now. High density, limited social distancing, lots of early cases, (presumably) week contact tracing due to limited testing, very old population etc.

    • FLWAB says:

      I think you’re right: 1K – 50K sounds right to me. Heck, I’ll narrow it further: 1K-30K.

    • John Schilling says:

      OK, late but it took a while to do math I can at all trust. BLUF: I’m predicting 20,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States this spring and summer, but with an 80% confidence interval of 1,400 to 300,000. Best I can do with the data available, and note that the median number is roughly equal to a bad winter flu season. Which means the net death toll could be negative, as the same countermeasures we’re using against the coronavirus will also protect against the flu.

      Now for the math:

      South Korea is the first developed nation to reverse (not “flatten”) the curve on COVID-19, with a steady decaying exponential at -0.155/day. And the measures they took when their outbreak took off on ~20 February, look an awful lot like what the US finally got around to roughly this weekend.

      Best plausible case, the ratio of actual vs. reported cases in the US is no worse than it was in the ROK a month ago, and the US response starting yesterday is as effective as the ROK response starting 20 February. Extrapolating from the ROK experience, that would give us 140,000 total clinically reported case and, at an optimistic 1% mortality, 1400 deaths.

      Worst plausible case, it takes an extra two weeks of fiddling before the US countermeasures reach ROK-effective levels, Then, after another three weeks and with the new-infection rate down a factor of two from the peak, we declare victory and do remove all countermeasures for two weeks before saying “oops, that was stupid”. Except, the effective US response is mostly at the state level, and it won’t be that neatly synchronized – so probably no more than half the states will do the really stupid thing while the other half watch to see how it turns out. If at that point we finally get it right, and even the United States usually doesn’t take more than three tries to get it right, then we see ten million infections and probably closer to 3% mortality due to overtaxed hospitals, so three hundred thousand deaths.

      Geometric mean of those two is just over 20,000 deaths.

      • meh says:

        Best plausible case, the ratio of actual vs. reported cases in the US is no worse than it was in the ROK a month ago

        weren’t they testing at a very high rate?

        • John Schilling says:

          February 20th was when they realized the virus had been spreading unchecked among members of the reclusive Shincheonji cult. Whatever testing they had been doing up to that point, wasn’t testing the right people.

    • MrApophenia says:

      You guys are still being way too optimistic.

      The US and UK both just drastically changed direction based partly on an epidemiological study London’s Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, which is advising the British government.

      A CNN summary is here:

      The actual report is here:

      The short version is – if the US and UK do nothing, they estimate about 250k deaths in the UK and 2.2 million in the US. Mitigation strategies to slow the spread, but short of total nationwide lockdown, cut that in half. The only strategy they project to result in only tens of thousands of deaths is total social distancing lockdown until a vaccine can be deployed- ie, keep this up for 18 or so months.

      • sharper13 says:

        So what’s your specific prediction for U.S. deaths by the end of the year? Got a range and a confidence level?

        The request is to please go on the record with what you think, rather than solely pointing to other’s opinions.

        • MrApophenia says:

          No idea, because it’s a range from 10k-2mil, based largely on what the Trump administration does. And nobody knows what the Trump administration is going to do, including the Trump administration.

      • mtl1882 says:

        Yeah, it seems likely that making a real difference would require long-term staggering, and it is simply not possible/sustainable. I’m not talking about the stock market. People just won’t tolerate it, especially in the U.S., for that long, and daily life would collapse. I don’t think we have the organizational ability to enforce it or keep everyone in this huge country comfortable by delivering food and medicines—we’ve let things get pretty messed up socially/structurally/in other ways. Tons of people will just flat out run out of money for basics and be unable to obtain healthcare and other things. They will go stir crazy and you’ll get unrest.

        The norm in the past has been struggling through large losses of life in pandemics or other crises—it is devastating but societies have handled it many times. And it’s not just selfish feelings of invincibility, it’s simple resignation to reality–people will be willing to risk dying long before 18 months is up. South Korea and Singapore, if they really have it under control, have a very different government structure and took incredibly invasive measures that just won’t happen here for a bunch of reasons.

        Things like the Olympics shouldn’t happen, and international travel should be pretty controlled for a while, and people should of course be more cautious than normal. But I think we need a way, way more practical view of what’s going to happen here, which involves acknowledging that a large number of deaths *can* “be allowed to” happen and probably will. As serious and devastating as death is, human history doesn’t give much evidence for the desire to avoid it driving total and long-term societal shutdowns.

        While I have no illusions that we’ll get out of this unscathed, the death rate numbers we have are still rather tenuous—we have to see how it actually plays out, so I can’t give a guess. The trajectories we have so far are pretty recent, and we are testing at different rates than other places, and we don’t know if things are being reported correctly. It seems pretty clear that we aren’t recording a huge number of less serious or asymptomatic cases.

  41. Le Maistre Chat says:

    “Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful.” — Warren Buffett

    Any thoughts on developments to watch for that will indicate specific blue chip companies are bottoming out and will rise again fast?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I don’t know, but the fact that you didn’t call him “Buffet” fills me with the same absurd gratitude I feel towards those who manage to spell “amend” and “anoint” without doubling any letters.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’m not even going to consider buying until we’ve hit 40% down from all-time highs. The market is still too unstable and volatile, and that’s not just fear – the one-two punch of the coronavirus and the oil war kind of broke credit markets last week, and they still haven’t stabilized.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      If anyone knew where the market will be tomorrow, it would already be there.

      Trying to guess when the market has bottomed out is really risky, and is probably worse on average then buying at any other random time.

      • Ketil says:

        Trying to guess when the market has bottomed out is really risky,


        and is probably worse on average then buying at any other random time.

        Doesn’t that imply that trying to buy at market peaks would be better on average?

        • acymetric says:

          No, buying now is better than buying later on average. Market peaks are just as hard to time as market bottoms*. That said, the once things are “pretty low” the fact that things might (or even probably will) get even lower isn’t a compelling reason not to buy now unless you’re a very short term trader looking for quick/immediate gains.

          *I reserve the right to be harshly corrected by the financial experts who hang around here.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The difference between peaks and bottoms though is the old adage ‘stocks take the stairs up and the elevator down’. The S&P took about 19 months to go from peak to trough in 2007-2009 and 48 months to get from that trough back to the 2007 pea, in 2000 in was ~24 months down and 60 months up. In a bear market stocks generally have an extended period of being ‘cheap’. Now you are missing out on dividends during that period, but you can have money in bonds paying similar rates (typically). Once you are in a bear market there are generally a lot of buying opportunities, and most of the sharp bounces are actually bear market rallies, not the beginning of a new bull market.

            The difficulty in most cases is knowing when you are in a bear market (which does not appear to be the case this time). 2018 had two pretty serious draw downs, one starting in Jan and an almost 20% decline starting in October. Neither turned into a bear market itself and the S&P gained over 900 points (~35%) from the lows in Dec 2018 to the highs in early 2020. If you had sold out during that draw down in late 2018 and bought back in sometime in 2019 you are probably worse off than just holding, but at yesterday’s close you were better off just selling out (as long as you were holding bonds or something earning interest) at any point in 2018 and staying out.

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I tend think that if you’re investing long-term, that trying to buy during period of very high volatility increase your risk without really increasing long-term returns.

          If for some reason prices were going up but were somehow this volatile (as in, 20% swings per day volatile) I’d be nervous about buying then, too.

      • acymetric says:

        Right, if you see the TV you want on clearance, 60% off, just go ahead and pull the trigger. Don’t wait, hoping they’ll drop it another %20 percent and end up missing the sale.

        I mean, if the goal is “get rich quick” I guess, but if the goal is “make a substantial sum of money over the next several years” the answer is probably go ahead and buy in now.

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I think this is a fundamental mistake about what stock prices mean. When prices are lower than they were yesterday, it doesn’t mean they’re “on sale”; more likely it means we have new information that implies that prices were too high yesterday.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Trying to guess when the market has bottomed out is really risky

        Actually no, historically trying to guess when a market has bottomed is very difficult, but it has actually a fairly low risk proposition.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, back in 2009, even if you missed the absolute bottom by three months (on either side, for a total of a six month window) you still got close enough that you’d have doubled your money within 5 years after everything had recovered.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            On the other hand, I know people who saw stock markets start to slide in 1999 and bought in then, thinking they were getting a sale, and they didn’t get back to breaking even until right before the 2007 market crash.

          • baconbits9 says:

            And then didn’t have any significant gains until late 2013.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can find stories of “Bob”, the world’s worst market timer, on line.

            Here is one:

            The punchline is he still comes out way ahead.

            NB: I have not verified any of the numbers in this story. Also beware of assuming that the future will always be like the past.

            NB2: Bob also stayed in the broad market. If he jumped from stocks to gold to bonds to bitcoin or whatever was the hottest thing, he’d get wiped out.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You can find stories of “Bob”, the world’s worst market timer, on line.

            I replied this the last time you posted it.

            Bob is not the world’s worst market timer, he was a bad market timer in the strongest market in history, you get completely the opposite results if you choose Japan or England’s stock exchanges, I suspect you get a worse result if you choose the DAX.

            Also not stated as an assumption is the fact that this doesn’t happen if Bob ever has a tough period of unemployment. Somehow ‘Bob’ managed to go through the stagflation 70s, the dot com crash, the GFC and all the little blips along the way without once having to draw on his savings and sell during a recession to cover costs while he looked for a job.

            So buy and hold worked for Bob because he was in the 90th percentile for employment in the 99th percentile market in history, and that is our ‘base case’.

          • acymetric says:

            On the other hand, I know people who saw stock markets start to slide in 1999 and bought in then, thinking they were getting a sale, and they didn’t get back to breaking even until right before the 2007 market crash

            Those are perfectly reasonable timelines if you’re talking about retirement investment 25-40 years out.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You have me confused with someone else, and also missed the NB.

            EDIT Also, the specific thread was about timing in the recent US stock market.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Those are perfectly reasonable timelines if you’re talking about retirement investment 25-40 years out.

            No its not, zero returns for 14 years means to compound and average 5% returns over say 28 years you need to average 10+% returns over the second 14 year period, and these are nominal returns. If you are flat over 14 years with 2% inflation every year your real return is -25% not 0, and almost all financial advisers recommend being equity heavy when you are younger and shifting more and more of your portfolio to bonds as you get older. There is nowhere to get 10% returns in bonds over a long time horizon right now, and again this is one of the strongest markets in the world, not an average market.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You have me confused with someone else

            Sorry, someone posted this recently and this type of piece drives me nuts.

            EDIT Also, the specific thread was about timing in the recent US stock market.

            Is there a good reason to think that the next 50 years in the US should have markets as strong as the 1970-2015 markets?

          • Yosarian2 says:

            So, in general, buying stocks is better than not buying stocks, BUT buying stocks in a falling market before it’s stabilized is still the worst time to do it.

            Note for example that anyone who bought stocks yesterday when I said people should wait has already lost 5% of their money, so at least in the narrow sense I was correct that that wasn’t a good moment to jump in.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      So I bought that Security Analysis book baconbits9 recommended and I’ve opened my eTrade account. I’m still waiting to buy anything, but I am looking at Disney. They’re down about $50 and I’m pretty sure they’re going to come back when this is all over. If this is all bad enough to kill off Disney then the only safe investment was canned goods and lead anyway.

      • Business Analyst says:

        The discount on Disney reflects how important their parks are to their bottom line. Parks and experiences represent more than half of their total operating profits. A single pandemic makes people wonder how much vacationers will shy away from crowds of global origins for the next year or two.

        • baconbits9 says:

          If i was going to pick one stock to follow and buy into near the lows it would probably be Amazon.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            AMZN hit its all-time high on February 19 and hit a 52-week low on March 12. However, the all-time high was $2,185.95 and currently at $1,767.80 (after-hours trading of 3/17). So it’s still only lost 19% of its peak price. Where do you expect it to go?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Where do you expect it to go?

            I wouldn’t put a price on it, this situation is subject to rapid change, and any collapse in the broader markets is going to hit Amazon. I would probably start by dipping a toe in (say 10% of the total amount you want to put there) the week before 1st quarter earnings. It will be bad across the board and could drive a wave of selling, but Amazon might come out relatively unscathed, and if things are improving I might do the same with 2x that amount before Q2 earnings.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The first thing that I would say is that no active investor has seen a market act this way in the US. In 2007 the market peaked almost a year before Lehman brothers set off the collapse, and the S&P was down almost 20% before the major short term sell off happened. Pretty much only the great depression goes from a real market high to a crash in nothing flat, and now this. That makes a lot of historical comparisons suspect, as the deleveraging aspect hadn’t already begun as it usually had in previous crashes.

      The only modern crash that looks like this superficially that I know of (I do not have a vast and extensive knowledge of markets though) would be Japan in 1990. The Nikkei fell from 37,000 to 20,000 in 10 month, but that wasn’t the bottom which didn’t come until 2003, and no rally during that time pushed it above 22,500, and it didn’t break that until 2018 (currently at 17,000).

      People who are confidently predicting that markets will be back up in 10 years don’t know their broad financial history, and are basically looking only at the US over a century of data. The FTSE 100 (London stock exchanges 100 largest companies) is currently at levels seen AFTER the 2000 decline, and is ~25% down from the 1999 peak. There have been only a couple of short periods where you could sell at a higher point than that peak, and even if you sold out at the 2020 peak you are still only looking at a 10-15% gain over the 1999 peak over 20 years (more than that with dividends, but peak to peak and trough to trough returns have been really poor and nowhere near the 5-8% annual gains that people claim is the norm).

      • baconbits9 says:

        To go to the orginal question about ‘when is a bottom in’ some indicators I would follow.

        1. Oil price. You want to see oil prices stabilize, which is hard to tell because oil is fairly volatile, but to don’t want it to be below 30 and bouncing a few dollars a day in either direction.

        2. The VIX. VIX is a volatility index, it won’t mark the bottom but it is a good indicator of the direction the market is going in terms of calm/panic.

        3. Copper. Copper is often called Dr Copper in the markets as it ‘predicts’ recessions. A sustained rise in copper prices likely means that industrial use is rising again signalling a inflection point from contraction to growth in the economy.

        If oil prices rose over $30 a barrel, Copper prices rose over 2.50 and the Vix was down below 20, and those three held for several weeks that would be a decent signal to start buying (but a weak one and subject to another shock).

    • Chalid says:

      I don’t know, but as a meta-comment I’d guess this is a case where history is not going to be a good guide. Past recessions and stock crashes have had very different causes from this one, and so you shouldn’t expect that historical patterns will apply.

  42. Could someone explain how “herd immunity” works as a strategy against a pandemic? I know that with vaccines, the people who get them protect those who don’t, but I don’t understand how the idea would work to counter a disease that’s spreading through the populace. Herd immunity would then simply be a consequence of the bad effects of everyone getting the disease and then becoming immune (though there’s some evidence that Covid-19 is biphasic either because people aren’t becoming immune or because there are multiple strains).

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      If you isolate the old-and-vulnerable, you can let the disease burn through the young-and-stupid.

      There are problems with this. There are problems with other plans, too. I’ve been steelmanning this one for a few days. I’m not sure it’s going to hold up.

      • Chalid says:

        Right, Robin Hanson has some posts on this too.

      • Why would that be considered a “herd immunity” strategy though? Herd immunity is just what will happen once enough people are immune. It seems like it would be better to isolate the old-and-vulnerable AND the young-and-stupid to the extent that’s possible. Obviously there’s a trade-off, since lacking full automation we need some portion of people working in order to support the production of food, water, electricity, and medicines, as well as doctors and nurses to work on patients, among some others. That doesn’t change the fact that there a lot of young people who probably should be welded into apartments “quarantined” with food and water. Clear the streets and issue permits for breaking curfew. Only necessary work is allowed to continue.

        Now would probably be a good time to try and quantify how many jobs and how much of the economy is essential to supporting survival and how much is either frivolous or only necessary on longer scale timeframes (school education of children, for example).

        • Clutzy says:

          Why would that be considered a “herd immunity” strategy though? Herd immunity is just what will happen once enough people are immune. It seems like it would be better to isolate the old-and-vulnerable AND the young-and-stupid to the extent that’s possible.

          You’re kind of strawmanning the idea (one that I am skeptical of as well). The plan basically is: Everyone who is low risk, just go about your day, and you probably get C-19, and maybe you miss a day of work with a fever and cough, then you are back in action. Meanwhile, all the high risk people, who are only a small % of the working population, hole up for 2 months. After those 2 months, most of the people in the low risk environment will have already have been exposed and fought off the illness with almost none of them needing serious medical treatment. Now “the herd” is generally immune, and the high risk people can go back into the world, and a few of them will catch C-19, but because most people are already immune and not carrying, those people will be sparse, and our healthcare system will have plenty of capacity to care for them .

          • eric23 says:

            Except that it’s impractical to separate people into “high risk” and “low risk” groups with no contact between them. For example, retirement home residents are “high risk” but most of the workers there are “low risk”.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can isolate the young workers. Have them stay on grounds and only have limited contact with people who are in turn tested regularly.

            Yes, this is expensive. Maybe crazy expensive. Shutting down the economy is also crazy expensive.

            It’s possible we just can’t get things like this working in time right now. But we should consider things like this for next time instead of deciding “well, that sounds hard.”

            Also, some people want to dismiss things by saying “it’s risky.” The problem is every path forward is very risky.

          • eric23 says:

            Every young worker has family and friends. You’d have to enforce total isolation for them – indefinitely, possibly for years. Which young worker would agree to that? Do you build separate grocery stores for them to shop at? Do you prohibit them from dating anyone except other retirement home workers? Just a single one-time violation by one of these workers, and the disease is into the elderly population.

            The alternative is shutting down the in-person parts of the economy right now (which is not all the economy, perhaps not even a majority of the economy) for just a few months until the disease has disappeared. The number of infected never gets higher than maybe 1% of the population (though whether it’s 0.01% or 10% depends a lot on when exactly you start this). Doesn’t that sound better?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Doesn’t that sound better?

            Plan A which is assumed to work definitely sounds better than Plan B which is assumed to fail.

            But what if locking down society doesn’t work? I’m doing my part, meanwhile kids are congregating at pubs and beaches. Maybe the lockdown gets so onerous and boring that people at the middle of the conscientious curve start going out and getting infected. Maybe we have months of “just a single one-time violation” by millions of people and this thing keeps going.

            We should be working on strict monitoring of our nursing home workers now, simultaneous with our current plan.

          • eric23 says:

            If the kids are currently congregating at pubs and beaches, there’s no lockdown. Lockdown means closing the pubs and beaches.

            And yes elderly people and particularly homes for the very elderly should be even more careful than the rest of us.

          • Clutzy says:

            There are risks to both plans. If lockdown is successful, its a great plan. However, if its not almost 100% successful you’ve created an economic depression for almost no gain.

        • Okay, I understand it a lot better now. Either way, the UK government has decided to abandon the strategy and just do what everyone else is doing now; apparently this paper was influential in that decision.

        • Deiseach says:

          The thing with that is, as soon as the young-and-stupid are let back out, if the virus is in the general population they’ll all pick it up, be infectious, and pass it around. Herd immunity works something like the old days of measles: a disease of childhood that killed some, had bad effects on others, but the majority recovered and as adults were immune so it was only a disease of childhood that new generations of children born since the last outbreak (and rarely those adults who had never got it as children) became infected with it. Since measles and mumps are worse when contracted as adults, getting it when young and getting it over with are better.

          Best outcome is vaccination as children so you don’t get any of these diseases, second best is get it when young (if it’s not likely to kill you), worst is get it as adult when there is a greater risk of complications and when, as we see now, having a huge tranche of adult-age workers out of the workforce either sick or in self-isoation has severe knock-on effects.

      • eric23 says:

        The problem is, you can’t isolate the old-and-vulnerable. You can 99% isolate them, but the 1% is going to kill them. Who is going to take care of the old-and-vulnerable, after all? How are they going to buy groceries and visit doctors? What happens when, after 50 million cases, the virus mutates into a form to which the original cases have no immunity? What if this new form is fatal to young people too?

        • AG says:

          Exactly. Reinfection has already happened, so immunity for anyone in the first place isn’t even a given.

          • acymetric says:

            Has it? I hadn’t seen that anywhere (but I haven’t been closely following the news).

          • Deiseach says:

            Reinfection has already happened

            Can I get a citation on that? I can’t find reliable sources claiming it has happened, and I’d like to know the difference between “recovered then got re-infected”, “took longer to recover than thought with a short period of better health in between troughs of bad health” and “picked up secondary opportunistic virus after recovering from original infection, thought it was a re-infection”.

          • fibio says:

            It is also plausible that the first identification was a false positive.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We have a few reports of re-infection.

            This is likely reporting mistakes, or flukes of people who just happen to lose resistance. I have a family member who has been vaccinated many times against mumps, but their blood levels always show they have no immunity. It’s just one of those things.

    • 10240 says:

      (Edit: already said.)

  43. marshwiggle says:

    Hey people of SSC,

    How is your church, knitting club, or other regular gathering of people handling all this?

    Are there innovations in making the best of the situation that the rest of us can steal? Stuff that wouldn’t generalize but that would be encouraging?

    • Aapje says:

      Churches are closed to the public, but churches already were streaming their services, so people now can (still) listen at home.

    • EchoChaos says:

      My church is currently having a debate amongst the leadership board about whether to hold services. We’re not large, but we do have a decent number of older parishioners.

    • telifera says:

      My church livestreamed our service last Sunday on YouTube, but we’re also setting up other ways to stay connected and coordinate mutual aid:

      – Right after church, the group of people I usually go out to lunch with started a Google Hangout and set up an experimental Discord server. Some people in that group will be playing Jackbox games together to beat isolation; some are planning to eat lunch together on Google Hangouts for encouragement while working from home.
      – Community groups and the Tuesday morning prayer group are all continuing to meet at the usual times over Google Hangouts or Google Meet; Hangouts seems to be the best technology for this, as long as the group is under about ten people. We’re going to encourage people who haven’t joined a community group yet to get into one at least for the duration of the quarantine, so that we know they have at least once source of support.
      – One of our deacons has set up a church-wide Slack with channels for #coronavirus-news, #sunday-services, #prayer-requests, #need-help, and #random. People have mostly been sharing news stories and Bible verses (plus some bickering over sports teams) so far.
      – We’d like to set up a “coffee hour” next week, encouraging people to talk in smaller groups after the service so it feels like we’re attending church “together,” not just passively watching a sermon. One of my friends says we can use Slack to assign people to random chat groups. That’s not how we usually do coffee hour, but it might actually be better; most of the people I talk to at church are fellow young people who happen to sit on the left side of the building, and it would be great to meet more people in different demographics, with an obvious shared starting point for conversation. We’ll see how it goes next week.
      – The church offered assistance for some of the local undergraduates who were moving out over the weekend. Here we ran into some difficulties with coordination, since we were using email routed through our church administrator. In the future, I’d recommend putting helpers and helpees in a group text as soon as possible, since email isn’t a great medium for time-sensitive group tasks.
      – On the other hand, the graduate student union at my university is running a mutual aid email service that seems to be working quite well. They set up two Google forms, one for offering aid and one for requesting aid, where people could check off various categories—moving help, a place to stay, grocery delivery, monetary needs, etc. Whenever someone requests help, an (automatic?) email goes out with all the people who offered that particular kind of help bcc’d, people reply with offers, and (usually a few minutes later!) a second email notifies the whole list that the need has been met. It appears to be really efficient, both because it was well designed and because so many people are eager to help.

      I’d love to see other suggestions to steal!

    • The SCA, the medievalist hobbyist group I’m part of, has been cancelling all major events and now, in the West Kingdom (mostly northern California) minor events as well. There seem to be some attempts at online substitutes, but not much. I’ve been wondering how practical it would be to do an online version of my Pennsic bardic circle.

    • BBA says:

      I’m curious how traditional Jewish groups are managing, given the ban on using electricity on the Sabbath. It might be possible to set up a continuous streaming “virtual minyan” such that nobody has to touch their computer to start and stop it. Or, more simply, the rabbi could say these are special circumstances and the normal rule doesn’t apply.

      (Was raised modernist Jewish, not currently practicing.)

    • albatross11 says:

      The (Roman Catholic) Archdiocese of Washington DC has stopped public Masses, closed Catholic schools, and cancelled all meetings and events on Church property. The Archbishop gave everyone a dispensation to miss Mass for the duration of the emergency. My family watched the Sunday Mass streamed over the internet.

  44. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    From one of my friends:

    “I’ve definitely come to think that there is a kind of emotional intelligence that masquerades as or contributes to rational-intellectual intelligence–and that is the ability to entertain facts that make us uncomfortable and decide on them reasonably. Have any of y’all read anything about this?”

    There should be something explicit about this rationalist or other writing but I can’t think of anything. Suggestions?

    • GearRatio says:

      Isn’t that just the definition of rationalism? That’s what I understood it to at least pretend at being.

    • crh says:

      Sounds sort of like ‘cognitive decoupling’:

      Stanovich talks about “cognitive decoupling”, the ability to block out context and experiential knowledge and just follow formal rules, as a main component of both performance on intelligence tests and performance on the cognitive bias tests that correlate with intelligence. Cognitive decoupling is the opposite of holistic thinking. It’s the ability to separate, to view things in the abstract, to play devil’s advocate.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think this is a very important skill for thinking about unpleasant things. Is this person I trust lying to me? Is my country committing atrocities? Is my employer fundamentally doing something crooked and evil? Is that nasty mole on my arm cancer? Are my finances in such a state that I’m headed for bankruptcy? Is my brother’s drinking problem becoming worse?

      All those involve factual questions (mostly not CW around here, though in politics many such questions are extremely CW) that also have a strong emotional content, and that can make it hard to reason clearly about them. But thinking clearly about them is really important to make good decisions….

  45. salvorhardin says:

    Annoyed by the poorly-socially-distanced line the last time I went grocery shopping, I was thinking: surely the collectively-optimal strategy for scheduling shopping outings at a time of distancing, when people have pretty much nothing to do other than work and shop and care for their kids, looks something like:

    — calculate N such that you need to go shopping sometime in the next N days
    — pick a random number R uniformly distributed between 1 and N, and go shopping on day R

    If everyone did this, we would optimally loadbalance trips to the store, no? (In fact this is analogous to a typical traffic loadbalancing algorithm for distributed systems).

    What would it take to make this the socially-accepted thing to do among a large enough chunk of the population? Or is this just too geeky ever to take off? Or has someone else already thought of this and is already trying to make it take off?

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      The solution that one Asian country found (I forgot which one) was to sell face masks based on the last digit of the birth year.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      You always get every item you want on the day you go shopping, and don’t have to return in a day or two for a missed item?

      You always refill everything at once?

      I split shopping between 3-4 stores. No only do I not necessarily have the time to run to all of them in the same day, but frequently an item or two will not be in stock and I’ll have to go back in a day or two.

      And I have never, and don’t want to start, calculating the run-out time to the day for every single grocery item. I actually can’t calculate this, as my household’s diets aren’t so regimented that everything is used in a particular quantity, order, and time.

      I believe the best distribution is during time of day, not day of week. If there was a way to go shopping anytime during the day, and not have your groceries spoil (or travel too far from work/home), this would work better. To an extent this happens already, as you can see retiree-age people predominating when shopping around 10 – 2 on the weekdays. There’s definitely room for more shoppers in the early morning and late evening, though.

    • sunnydestroy says:

      If everyone did this

      Let me stop you right there and point out the difficulty of coordination problems.

      Also, if you try treating people as perfectly rational 100% of the time, stopping to run through a load balancing optimization problem before going shopping, you’re probably assuming too much. On an individual level, many people don’t even make a shopping list before going to the store and end up having to go back for forgotten items, which is an order of magnitude less thought then doing calculations for optimal shopping times.

      People do things for immediate convenience and optimize for not having to think a lot most of the time.

      I think the only way you could influence this behavior is through an economic incentive at the store or having some government mandate.

  46. Aapje says:

    What hypotheses can we check with and what events can we expect due to the natural experiment(s) that are now happening?

    1. Will exam results will be worse for kids that had their school closed for weeks/months?

    2. Will tinder use and the number of relationships increase because people realize that a partner is more reliable in a pandemic than friends, sex clubs, hobbies, prostitutes and SSC meetups?

    3. Is there going to be a baby boom?

    4. Are similar companies that sent their workers home (earlier) going to do worse than those who don’t?

    5. Is working at home going to get a permanent boost?

    6. Will countries with more deaths rebound more strongly, economically, due to ‘dead weight’ dying more often?

    7. Will countries with more deaths see higher incomes for workers?

    And what situations will offer or offered the best natural experiments? People on opposite sides of state/Schengen borders? Countries/states with more/fewer deaths. Countries/states with different policies? These all have many confounders. Are there natural experiments that are more reliable?

    My predictions:
    1. Gurl jvyy, gur jbefr gur ybatre fpubby vf abg tvira
    2. Srne bs fbpvnyvmvat jvyy fybjyl nongr naq gur jbefrarq rpbabzl jvyy yrnir crbcyr jvgu yrff zbarl naq gvzr gb qngr
    3. Anl. Onol znxvat vf gbb cynaarq naq gur vqrn gung cnegaref jub ner fghpx va pybfr pbagnpg jvyy unir puvyqera vtaberf gung ovegu pbageby jbexf.
    4. Abg fvtavsvpnagyl.
    5. Lrf, ohg bayl n fznyy obbfg.
    6. Gur terngre qnzntr jvyy bssfrg guvf, fb zber qrnguf vf jbefr
    7. Artngvir, gur ynobe znexrgf ner gbb vagreangvbany sbe gung

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      I’m not really sure I understand your #2. Do you mean less money and more time, or less money AND less time?

      • Aapje says:


        Some people will lose their jobs, they will have time, but not much money.

        Those with jobs will have to work harder on average. They will have equal or less money, but less time.

    • Simultan says:

      3. I agree, plus, who wants to bring a child into what may well turn out to be a recession? Well, someone comfortably well-off, I suppose.

      • albatross11 says:

        Bringing a kid into a recession in 2020 America is like bringing a kid into a boom time for essentially all of human history more than about 20-30 years ago.

        • acymetric says:

          This seems overly simplistic, at best.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          That’s not exactly true. There is the substantial possibility that I lose my job, so the risks are substantially worse, even if median income isn’t worse. Plus, fixed expenses are probably higher, too.

    • salvorhardin says:

      My questions in this vein:

      1. Will social trust decrease due to weeks-to-months of people thinking of every random stranger they see as a disease vector?

      2. Will self-esteem decrease and/or depression increase due to weeks-to-months of people thinking of *themselves* as disease vectors?

      • Tumblewood says:

        I suspect the most prominent effects will not stem from the thought of people as disease vectors, but rather from isolation. Lack of social contact, lack of sunlight, and repetitive surroundings are more biologically important and will have stronger effects, I predict, than cultural/personal perceptions of disease.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Oh come on, Aapje, this is the sort of thing that shows Rot13 has gone too far. Why did you have to hide your answers? I’d like to see a moratorium on Rot13.

    • alchemy29 says:

      1. This is is difficult experiment because curriculums are going to have to change so what are you comparing?
      2. Tinder use will decrease because of social distancing. Also long term romantic partners are more reliable than friends, but short term romantic partners are way less reliable than friends. A related question – will people get married more in the near term future? I think yes. People desire stability in times of crisis so I think people will settle down a little more over the next few years.
      3. No baby boom. People are stressed and pessimistic – not the right conditions for producing a child. If there is a sharp rebound late this year or next year and everyone turns out better than we expect then yes there might be a baby boom. But I doubt that scenario playing out.
      4. Impossible to answer. Companies that will do well are those that sell inelastic goods like toilet paper, salt and healthcare. Everyone else will do badly regardless of their specific policies. However, companies might increase remote work if this experiment goes well (a really good time to be in the teleconferencing field!).
      5. Yes
      6. No, countries with more deaths will be hurt by this. I doubt there is much economic benefit to killing old people and there are more important negative economic effects. Effects on businesses, supply chains, perceptions by other countries and thus trade etc.
      7. No, the negative economic effects overwhelm anything else. Besides workers are not just workers – the are also consumers. Decreasing supply and demand for labor means it isn’t possible to predict the outcome. They probably cancel out.

      Edit: looks like we basically agree on every point.

      • Aapje says:

        1. I assume that exams will stay the same

        2. I was referring to the period after social distancing ends.

        7. The question is more whether power shifts to workers, as has been theorized was the effect of the bubonic plague

        • That was a result of a much larger percentage die off. Reduce the ratio of labor to land and wages go up and rents go down. In the present case, total mortality of one percent of the population looks like a high estimate.

          • JayT says:

            Also, the bubonic plague killed everyone, while this disease disproportionately affects people that aren’t working anyways.

          • Aapje says:


            Sure, but my reasoning was that any effect will be pretty much impossible to see by comparing countries that were hit hardest and those that weren’t.

            So then I didn’t actually have to evaluate whether the deaths will increase wages to answer the question.

    • LesHapablap says:

      How will this collective experience affect peoples’ attitudes toward global warming?

    • fraza077 says:

      Regarding your answer to 3: What applies here that doesn’t apply to power outage baby booms? I thought they had been verified?

      • Aapje says:

        Perhaps, there seems very little evidence, with a single African study with a major effect, a Colombia study with a small effect and a negative effect during hurricanes.

        With studies tending to p-hack and Western societies not very being very young (the increase in kids was mostly found among the very young in one study), the expected boom is probably close to zero. I expect the negative effects of the economic damage to dominate.

    • albatross11 says:

      1. Will exam results will be worse for kids that had their school closed for weeks/months?

      No. My expectaction is that they’ll be about the same, with smarter kids with smarter parents getting a small boost.

      2. Will tinder use and the number of relationships increase because people realize that a partner is more reliable in a pandemic than friends, sex clubs, hobbies, prostitutes and SSC meetups?

      No idea.

      3. Is there going to be a baby boom?

      Yep. Lots of young couples are stuck at home without a lot else to do every evening….

      4. Are similar companies that sent their workers home (earlier) going to do worse than those who don’t?

      Probably, but there are going to be too many confounding variables to untangle causality. Brain work is easier to telecommute for, and brain work pays better and has smarter employees.

      5. Is working at home going to get a permanent boost?

      Yes, massively. Lots of organizations and employees will have experience and infrastructure for doing it.

      6. Will countries with more deaths rebound more strongly, economically, due to ‘dead weight’ dying more often?

      I think it depends on the aftermath of the infection. If it kills off the old and sickly and leaves everyone else alone, then probably it causes a boost to the economy long-term, as nursing homes close down for lack of business. That’s a hell of a nasty way to get an economic boost, but it might work. But if it kills off 50-60 year olds in large numbers, you’re losing a big chunk of your management class and your most experienced and knowledgeable workers. And if it leaves a lot of formerly-healthy people with permanent disabilities (this happened with SARS, I think), then it could leave us a whole lot poorer–we end up with higher medical bills and more people retiring or going on disability early.

      7. Will countries with more deaths see higher incomes for workers?

      If lots of the 50s-60s folks die off, then there will be more spots available at the top of the ladder, so probably the people in their 40s waiting for a spot to open up above them will do pretty well. Not sure abotu the economy as a whiole.

      • Matt M says:

        5. Is working at home going to get a permanent boost?

        Yes, massively. Lots of organizations and employees will have experience and infrastructure for doing it.


        Of course, I could also envision plenty of companies doing an “internal study” that basically goes: “During the two months where everybody worked from home, our stock declined by 30%. Therefore, working from home BAD.”

  47. Matt M says:

    I just bet about half of my remaining predictit funds on Biden. I now believe he will win in a landslide. I don’t see how we get through this COVID situation without a massive recession (even the actions already taken are enough to ensure that – and there’s likely much more to come). Trump spent the last year saying “vote for me because of the economy” and is about to enter an election season with an economic crisis worse than 2008. I don’t see how that’s survivable. No amount of crazy gaffes or far-left pandering can surpass what’s coming… and this time, as the incumbent, Trump will have to be on the defensive rather than on the attack, which he’s much better at. “It would have been even worse if I wasn’t in charge” will be a tough sell on a populace going through the largest societal disruption this country has seen since the 1940s.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Depends. I don’t really see people blaming Trump for the economy, so it comes down to “who can best fix the economy wrecked by the coronavirus.” If you think Trump mismanaged the reaction to the coronavirus, last I saw a few days ago Biden was still saying travel bans are no good, so that doesn’t seem better. Beyond that nothing else has changed. On immigration Trump still wants to build wall; deport illegals, and Biden’s now saying moratorium on deportations.

      Before I would have said Trump wins. Now I would say…probably Trump wins, but things are chaotic and I do not have high confidence in any prediction. We’re basically in uncharted territory and anything can happen. I wouldn’t make any bets one way or the other.

      • meh says:

        I don’t really see people blaming Trump for the economy

        Again, I don’t understand the sudden elevation of the average voters ability to grasp nuance. I mean, maybe they won’t specifically blame him, but enough are low information enough to say ‘i don’t give a f, but the economy sucks, lets try the new guy’

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          There’s no nuance to be grasped. “It’s the virus” is not nuanced, and largely true.

          • meh says:

            yes. I agree with this. But I’m still not going to be too surprised when someone claims average voter isn’t able to grasp something equally unnuanced.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Disagreed. Voters are pretty clear about the difference between “external struggle causes bad” and “internal errors cause bad”.

          There is a reason that the worst economy in American history also coincided with the longest run of a single party controlling the White House in American history.

          • meh says:

            1801-1829? It’s hard to draw conclusions as electors were not all popularly elected until 1880

          • EchoChaos says:


            Hah, you got me. I meant the modern party system and was referring to FDR and Truman.

            Besides, John Quincy Adams doesn’t count. 🙂

          • meh says:

            ok, this is some evidence, though 2 factors make me think maybe there is something else going on.

            1. they took over from an even worse economy

            2. the bd economy could have been overshadowed by the outpouring of patriotism due to the war. Possibly the same as 9/11, the patriotism spike was much stronger than any economic blame assesment. Unfortunately, the virus is like fighting a war without the patriotism spike.

    • John Schilling says:

      Of course, the 1940s are the era of President-for-life Roosevelt, followed by his VP becoming his two-term successor for an unprecedented period of administative continuity in the United States.

      Trump’s hope for victory is A: the actual COVID-19 crisis abetting this summer and B: a quick even if incomplete economic rebound when it does and C: most of his supporters putting all of this in the external-threat bucket. A is moderately likely, B is moderately likely given A, and C is moderately likely given A and B, but it does take all three so your bet seems a reasonably safe one.

      What odds did you get?

      • Matt M says:

        What odds did you get?

        About even money. I bought Biden shares for 49 cents. Trump shares are trading for like 46.

      • broblawsky says:

        Trump needs more than just his die-hard supporters; he also needs a bunch of independents as well.

    • EchoChaos says:

      If the virus peaks and falls off in late spring early summer and there is a boom summer following it when everyone returns to work, Trump could absolutely get reelected, especially if Europe gets hammered way worse.

      Otherwise, I fear you’re right.

    • hash872 says:

      I basically agree with this but not the landslide part, and there’s still uncertainty:

      It’s not impossible that the economy starts to recover by say August or September, and I think most of the poly sci research indicates that it’s the trend of the economy that matters most. If things look up, the stock market rebounds even though it’s effectively down for the year, etc., this could help Trump a lot.

      Partisanship is obviously extremely high in the US, and there are vast vast chunks of America who are going to either vote Republican literally no matter what happens. There are no more landslide elections man. Trump comes with a solid 40ish % of the voting populace (not total population) who are going to vote for him even if he personally threw a pipe bomb onto to the Nasdaq floor and singlehandedly causes a recession (this is my attempt to be funny, sorry). Also, 2018 showed very high voter turnout by Republicans even in a midterm year which is unusual, which just further shows that politics are Really Important to the American psyche and that both sides are fired up. EDIT to include: if we repeat the 2016 map, the Dems probably have to win the national popular vote by 3 million plus in order to get more delegates.

      Biden is at best a replacement-level politician with some degree of dirt in his past (I say this as someone who will be voting for him). This is not a prime Bill Clinton or Obama against Trump, this is a kind of mediocre politician and weak debater who has plenty of shady deals and relatives (everyone’s focused on his son right now, but his brother looks to be a much shadier character- I’d imagine the RNC is holding back on that oppo dump until the summer).

      Liberal enthusiasm & particularly young voter enthusiasm for Biden will be weak, and I expect some Me Too allegations don’t come out against Biden and weaken that support further. Plus I’d be surprised if there’s not another Jill Stein candidacy to peel them off, and Parscale & the RNC are certainly smart enough to fund/encourage/set up a Super PAC to get behind a 3rd party far left candidate (haven’t heard much from Tulsi Gabbard recently….)

      The Russians are clearly pretty pro-Trump, and I think we’ve seen enough now to say that foreign propaganda operations are part of our modern world- there’s no magic cure for it (and obviously Trump will not lean too hard against them while they’re supporting him). You’ll see a repeat of RT coming up with a crazy allegation that’s then repeated by Fox News, Breitbart, the RNC, etc. If it’s not collusion it effectively is.

      So, considering all that, but most importantly the 40-45% of the population who will vote for Trump literally no matter what, I wouldn’t go higher than 55% on Biden under any circumstances

    • JayT says:

      I think that if countries like Spain and France continue to fair (much) worse than the US, that the COVID situation could actually benefit Trump. If he’s able to point to other first world countries and say “look how much better I did!” I think that will actually play well. So, I think I’m still sticking with Trump as a mild favorite.

    • metacelsus says:

      Yes, but what if Biden gets infected and dies?

    • BBA says:

      Trump is one of the best campaigners of all time. Biden is one of the worst. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

    • Robin says:

      Here is somebody who thinks similarly to you:
      Of course this guy is (albeit conservative) biased against. Still, interesting to read his list of lies and mistakes.

      A pretty tasteless thought is that the disease will affect Trump’s voter base above average.
      I’m ashamed to bring this up, but it might have an effect.

      • A more significant issue may be that most of the major players are old — Trump, Biden, Sanders, and a lot of the House and Senate leadership. What happens if one or two of them die?

        • EchoChaos says:

          There are two Supreme Court Justices over 80, another over 70 and three more over sixty. One of the over sixty Justices (Justice Sotomayor) is also a diabetic, which is a very high risk.

          It is entirely possible that we lose 2-3 Justices in an election year. In case 2020 wasn’t exciting enough already.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think it depends how things are by November; if there is still self-isolation and bans on large groups, that is going to have a huge effect on “how the heck do we get people out to vote?” so, provided the election still goes ahead as normal and it’s not all done by postal voting, then it depends.

      If things are really bad, there may be a cry for “kick the bum out” and the hope that a new administration can make it all better. Unfortunately, if things are really bad, there’s no making it all better by the magic of novelty, there’s just suffering through to the end.

      If things are much the same as they are now or a little/a lot better, it’s likely to be “don’t change horses in mid-stream”, and “stick with the devil you know”. The current administration at least has a handle on how things are going, a completely new one will take time at the start to get up and running, and that is time wasted.

      If it’s Biden versus Trump (which it is probably going to be), and things are not very much worse, I think Trump has a reasonable chance of winning a second term. I don’t see a landslide for either candidate no matter who wins.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If someone is going to change their vote over COVID-19, that would probably be because they think Trump didn’t do enough. But Biden’s rhetoric is:

        A wall will not stop the coronavirus.

        Banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop it.

        This disease could impact every nation and any person on the planet — and we need a plan to combat it.

        If a voter thinks Trump has flubbed the coronavirus response by not doing enough, Biden is not the guy who’s going to do more for them.

    • meh says:

      This is probably a good value. I think a lot of people here are overestimating an inevitable 2nd Trump term. It’s not that he had a good or bad first term, but his initial margin of victory was a lot smaller than folks want to remember, and enough voters were not blown away by the first term.
      I use 2016 as a bottom for Biden, since I don’t see him doing any worse than someone as despised as Clinton. There were 6 states Trump won in 2016 with less than 50% of the vote (7 if you include Utah, but I don’t since it won’t be in play)

      That means he doesn’t even have to flip that many people, only attract independents, or voters who wouldn’t vote for either DT or HRC. In PA the margin was 0.72% and Biden’s native son status will almost certainly give him enough to cover that margin. The Michigan margin was 0.23%, and I think he has enough rust belt cred to make that one nearly certain as well. Then to win he will need just one of

      Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina

      Which is better than a coin flip in favor of him imo. and really, any support for or against the candidates in the other 43 states is pretty meaningless.

      • EchoChaos says:

        At even odds I don’t think Biden is a good bet. I think Trump is a favorite, although only a modest one and a really bad response to the virus could absolutely torpedo him.

        PA has actually polled the most swingy of the three Rust Belt states, and seems to be pure tossup. This is partially the secular movement of the Rust Belt away from Democrats and partly that Biden has inexplicably come out aggressively against fracking. Michigan I agree leans Democrat.

        The other four mentioned lean Republican both secularly and candidate specifically.

        Florida especially Trump has a strong home state advantage and it’s a state where Republicans won statewide against a strong candidate in a very D year in 2018.

        The other states not mentioned that may change from 2016 are New Hampshire, where polling is relatively sparse but Trump has done surprisingly well, and Minnesota, which is to the left of the rest of the Rust Belt but has been more like Wisconsin recently.

        • meh says:

          I don’t know, given the slim margin, and his native status I would bet the farm PA is a lock. (though off the top of my head, Trump and Gore did not carry their homes)

          In order from most to least likely to flip, I think:
          Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina

          so yes, I wouldn’t bet on Florida to flip at even odds; but one out of those 4? I’d take that. Wisconsin was less than 1% in 2016, and in 2018 Ds won senate, and beat an incumbent governor.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I don’t know, given the slim margin, and his native status I would bet the farm PA is a lock.

            Terrible bet. PA is the toss-up-est state in the Union this year. Technically Biden’s home state for running for office purpose is Delaware, btw.

            (though off the top of my head, Trump and Gore did not carry their homes)

            Although Trump’s legal home state in 2016 was New York, he already lived in Florida most of the time and it was his de facto home state. He has since legally changed it and is de jure running as a resident of Florida.

            In order from most to least likely to flip, I think:
            Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina

            I think that’s correct, perhaps reversing Wisconsin and Arizona. They’re pretty close.

            so yes, I wouldn’t bet on Florida to flip at even odds; but one out of those 4? I’d take that. Wisconsin was less than 1% in 2016, and in 2018 Ds won senate, and beat an incumbent governor.

            One of those four and not one of the others flipping back is what you’re actually betting on. Much less sure. Especially since as we saw in 2016, states can be heavily correlated.

            In my view those four lean Republican, PA and NH are tossups and MI and MN lean Dem.

            Now, both sides can win a state that leans the other way (PA and MI I would’ve said both leaned D last election), but that’s the way it goes.

    • zzzzort says:

      If it just comes down to partisan conflict and the state of the economy, then it doesn’t look good for Trump. If it’s more that the country is in a state of crisis and we need continuous leadership, then it could help him.

      So far there hasn’t been any rally around the flag effect. I did think Trump’s last press conference was substantially better, both for the country and for Trump politically. It focused more on shared sacrifice in a way that could activate a conflation of civic loyalty with support for the current administration. We’ll see if he can stay on message; my sense is that Trump’s political skills are optimized for a high partisan conflict environment.

    • zardoz says:

      I think Trump has a chance if the coronavirus situation passes without becoming a major disaster.

      None of his opponents are going to make the argument that we should have prioritize the economy over public health. All of his opponents are going to argue that he handled the virus crisis poorly. Whether that sticks will depend a lot on how well the crisis actually goes. He is now the COVID president, whether he likes it or not.

      (His opponents have a lot of ammunition if the crisis goes poorly– the fact that his appointee John Bolton fired the pandemic team at the CDC will is very damaging in that situation.)

      I’m sure Trump is hoping for a warm summer, and even more, a quickly available vaccine. I don’t know how feasible the second one is but I feel like it’s more feasible than many people are predicting now.

      • EchoChaos says:

        the fact that his appointee John Bolton fired the pandemic team at the CDC will is very damaging in that situation.

        This isn’t even close to a fact. The CDC wasn’t changed. The pandemic office in the NSC (not the CDC) was merged into a single directorate.

        Now, that’s mostly irrelevant. If Trump does a great job, the Democrats yelling about things weeks and years old won’t matter at all, and if he does a poor job it won’t matter to anyone why.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I remain skeptical that firing the pandemic response actually changed things, because (and this is now the third time I’ve asked) no one has followed up with an explanation for what had changed.

        But as a political ad? Hoo boy. It would be malpractice for the Democratic nominee’s campaign to not harp on that.

        • EchoChaos says:

          But as a political ad? Hoo boy. It would be malpractice for the Democratic nominee’s campaign to not harp on that.

          It won’t matter, honestly. The news cycle is too fast. Trump is going to get obliterated in November if he handles this badly, and if he does well, nobody will care if he theoretically should’ve prepared better.

          In fact, harping on “we should’ve had more bureaucrats” if Trump does a great job would look even more out of touch and probably hurt.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It matters less how he handles it and more on what the outcome is. If Trump does everything right from now on and we’re still under significant restrictions or experience a situation as bad as Italy, he’s probably out. If he screws up by the numbers and it turns out summer saves us, he’s probably in.

            Seems to me that he put the travel bans in too late (but sooner than any Democrat would have), and was way too slow in getting the CDC and FDA off their butts about testing.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            It matters less how he handles it and more on what the outcome is.

            Yes, that’s what I meant by “does a great job”, but you said it much better than I did.

            Americans care only about outcomes, not process. If the Democrats run ads against Trump’s process when deaths were low and the economy bounces back, they’ll look terrible.

            If deaths are high and the economy is terrible, Democrats can run ads on that instead of the process.

  48. sidereal says:

    I am amazed by the rapidity and severity of measures put in place in the states, but I am highly skeptical we can keep this up for 4 months or more, and projections I have seen suggest this thing is likely to peak in july at the earliest. Is it possible we are setting ourselves up for failure, by reacting too strong, too fast? I.e. rather than flattening the curve, we are just shifting it to the right, incurring great economic damage and “blowing our load” too early?

    Not actually advocating against current measures just trying to think about the long haul.

    • cassander says:

      there’s no chance it can be kept for 4 months. Even 1 seems to be pushing it.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      That’s the UK’s argument. “This might seem tolerable and even exciting now, but it’s gonna turn into a real drag and we need to delay the worst measures.”

      *EDIT*: maybe not. The UK Only Realised “In The Last Few Days” That Its Coronavirus Strategy Would “Likely Result In Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths”

      • broblawsky says:

        Next time someone says Dominic Cummings is some kind of rationalist genius, I’m going to remind them of this.

        • EchoChaos says:

          That’s kind of exactly the plan I’d expect a genius to take, honestly.

          “We will all get infected anyway, so why take extraordinary measures that don’t change the final result but hurt in the interim?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            And it is indeed a good plan… if the premise is true. Perhaps modern Westerners are too fragile and soft to accept it, but I feel certain my grandparents would have.

            However, it seems to me that the containment of the outbreak by several countries demonstrates the premise is false. And that changes everything.

          • broblawsky says:

            There’s a big difference in mortality if everyone gets infected in one month vs everyone getting infected in three months.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s a big difference in mortality if everyone gets infected in one month vs everyone getting infected in three months.

            Using some rough numbers I used before, assume 6 million people end up needing ICU beds for 1 week each. There’s around 30,000 available ICU beds normally. So each month you can have 120,000 people in your ICU beds. So your big difference ends up being 5.88 million dead for lack of hospital capacity as opposed to 5.97 milion dead.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            Yeah, if everyone is guaranteed to get infected in the next three months, then all this social distancing and cetera is pure wastage, plus even if it isn’t, a genius seems more likely to reduce people to pure numbers and say “well, mostly 80+ people are dying, and spiking the economy hard for the poor in order to add two years of life to them isn’t worth it”.

          • Secretly French says:

            Look at the ease with which Stalinybbler here dismisses almost one hundred thousand deaths with an effete wave of his bejewelled hand. Big difference.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Okay, here’s our plan to kill 5.8 million Britons and 1 clown.”

            “Wh– wh– why do you want to kill a clown?”

            “See?? I told you no one cared about 5.8 million dead Britons!”

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Secretly French

            I don’t know if The Nybbler’s numbers are realistic.

            But it’s plausible that having most of society shelter in place for the next few months will result in large numbers of people* losing jobs, businesses failing, families depleting their emergency funds (if they have any)/failing to pay rent or mortgages/being evicted, lack of hiring due to the decline or shutdown of a large portion of industry, etc. At some point down the chain, all of this mess culminates in increased deaths too, just not directly due to contracting covid-19.

            So, please quit it with the Stalin cheap shots.

            * Low millions if we just count employees in the restaurant industry.

          • Plumber says:

            Somehow I expect such a ‘genius’ to sit in a swivel chair, wear a Nehru jacket and carry a cat!

          • LesHapablap says:

            The Nybbler,

            My understanding is that virus patients require an ICU bed for 4 weeks on average, not one week. So spreading it over three months is even less effective.

            One problem with the strategy though is that it may create a permanent travel ban between countries that have the disease circulating and those that don’t (China, Singapore, South Korea, etc).

          • 10240 says:

            Wait, what happened to Secretly French’s comment? I didn’t think you could delete your comments, and Scott doesn’t normally delete posts either as a moderator.

          • Aapje says:

            You can delete within the edit window.

          • The Nybbler says:


            I wasn’t able to easily find an average ICU bed stay for patients who survive. (I found one range of “3 to 20 days”, but 20 days was the end of the study period). All my assumptions were intended to be optimistic; I was using them before to demonstrate that “flattening the curve” is untenable even under optimistic assumptions.

            (as for the nasty comment towards me, I suspect it got auto-removed by too many reports.)

        • 10240 says:

          I’ll wait until the end of the epidemic to give a verdict. It could turn out that the suppression strategy also results in hundreds of thousands of deaths (possibly because lockdowns can’t be maintained as long as they would be necessary), and a huge economic damage on top of them.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I’m guessing from the timestamp that you replied after the edit. In which case, changing your mind based on new evidence is pretty much what a rationalist does. And what politicians seldom do, btw.

          To me, the story is a bit depressing and looks like this: UK looked around and made a plan that was somewhat (not that much) different from what everybody was doing. The press, which is treating UK gov almost as fairly as they do Trump, quickly translated it to “our strategy is to infect everybody”. To the point it took _days_ before I even found the briefest description of what UK was actually trying to do. Soon after, UK updated its plans based on new info, and is now more in line with everybody.

        • Tarpitz says:

          The UK government is following the recommendations of their specialists. Per the ICL report linked in the BuzzFeed article, new data from Italy lead them to double their estimate of peak ICU demand given a mitigation strategy, prompting the change to suppression.

          They expect suppression measures to be required until late July initially, and then intermittently for about two thirds of the time in spells of a couple of months until an effective vaccine can be widely distributed, which they expect to be late 2021.

          This is classic changing your mind because the facts changed. It also shows why they were reluctant to adopt containment: the costs are modelled as being much higher than general discussion seems to assume.

      • Deiseach says:

        That the UK is finally getting serious about this, or that things are at a grave state, is shown by the cancellation of the Grand National which was due to take place next month. They allowed Cheltenham to go ahead (due to the amount of money that would otherwise have been lost) but they’ll lose as much or more by cancelling the Grand National.

        This is sensible, and Cheltenham should have been cancelled (but wasn’t due to economic considerations, despite a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the village), but it does demonstrate how severe measures are necessary.

    • 10240 says:

      projections I have seen suggest this thing is likely to peak in july at the earliest.

      What are these projections based on?

      The data I’ve seen showed that in China, the number of new cases started dropping pretty much immediately when the Wuhan quarantine was implemented, if the estimates of when patients got the disease are used. (The statistics based on when it was diagnosed show an approx. 10 day delay.) To the extent the Chinese numbers can be believed, the epidemic mostly stopped in China 1.5–2 months after the quarantine started. We’ll see in a few days if the Italy lockdown is similarly effective.

      At that point, the main concern is reinfection from abroad or from sporadic domestic cases. That’s a concern until the epidemic is over in every country, either due to herd immunity or strict containment measures (depending on each country’s strategy). Whether and when that will happen is hard to predict.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        At that point, the main concern is reinfection from abroad

        So we’re going to drop the cases to zero — or close enough to zero — that we can do tracking and isolation on each individual case that comes in?

        That might work, but we’ll need to quarantine/track every single person who comes in.

        • John Schilling says:

          Or just test every person who comes in. Possibly just with an IR thermometer for most of them; that will miss a few at the very beginning of the contagious period but if we isolate and backtrace those as soon as they report symptoms that may be good enough.

          • Garrett says:

            Wasn’t that our initial strategy which failed in the first place?

          • John Schilling says:

            Our initial strategy seems to have ignored people who came in from e.g. Canada, because Canada isn’t Asia and someone forgot that lots of Asians travel to Canada. And it didn’t involve (usefully) backtracing the contacts of people who develop symptoms after arriving in the US, because that would require tests that we didn’t have.

        • Loriot says:

          Isn’t that what several Asian countries already did?

  49. JayT says:

    Does anyone know where I could get a spreadsheet that has the daily increase in cases/deaths for all the different countries that are reporting their COVID numbers?

  50. Eigengrau says:

    Check out page 15.

    Can anyone make sense of that chart at the bottom? At first I thought it was saying that a 0.02% influx of sudden critical illness translates to 16.7% of hospitals exceeding capacity, 0.03% leading to 58.8% of hospitals exceeding capacity, etc. but I’m not sure now. Is it an absolute number of 16.7 and 58.8 “regions” that will experience capacity overflow? Like, between 16 and 17 counties will have hospitals with insufficient capacity if the country gets a 0.02% infection rate?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I think it is “percent of regions,” since the number looks like it asymptotically approached 100.

      If 1/10,000 people suddenly show up, all regions are okay.

      If 2/10,000 people suddenly show up, 16.7% of regions are in trouble.

      *EDIT* There are 306 Hospital Referral Regions.

    • Statismagician says:

      It’s the latter – 0.02% of the population suffering sudden critical illness means 16.7 ‘hospital referral regions’ will run into critical care shortages. I’m not sure how any of that’s defined, exactly, but I imagine it’s something like % regional population needing ventiliation or other major support and within a couple of hours of large hospitals (which tend to cluster in urban areas for obvious reasons).

      To put it another way, 16 referral regions couldn’t cope with a 0.02% critical illness rate in that region. The 0.7 is probably just a mathematical artifact; I can only imagine this was thrown together by an overworked intern or research assistant who didn’t think about how ‘is the region overwhelmed or not’ doesn’t really make sense except as a integer.

      • Statismagician says:

        Or it could be percentages, like Edward Scizorhands says above, but then I’m going to be really mad at whoever did the table design.

  51. Edward Scizorhands says:

    How long does it take from being exposed to being contagious? Two days?

    My household is limiting errands to one per day, and I wonder if there is social benefit to altering who runs them.

    Assume we all start healthy. If I’m the one who goes out every day, assume I get infected on day 1. I could infect people on day 3. (This also assumes I don’t just bring home the virus on my hands and immediately infect everyone else. Assume I wash up well on return.) I wouldn’t notice until day 7. That’s errands on 4 days or so where I am spreading.

    But I won’t infect my wife right away. With luck, I might not infect her until day 4. So on day 7, when I show symptoms, she has only just started being communicable. If she has made half the errands, that has cut the number of times we exposed the community by half. If we recruit our son into the cycle, we’ve egress filtered down by two thirds!

    (Obviously on day 7, as soon as I have symptoms, we all assume we’re all infected and go into lock down anyway.)

    Are my numbers right? And if they are, is this a strategy that every household should adopt if possible?

  52. Skeptic says:

    Bay Area six counties expected to be under “Shelter in place” order until April 7th.

    I imagine this will not apply to the homeless, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.


    Is this enforceable in 2020 in the Yay?

    Is it too late?

    Will there be so many loopholes that it will be ineffective ?

    • acymetric says:

      Why would you not expect it to apply to restaurants?

      I could even see it applying to grocery stores after a certain grace period to stock up.

    • BBA says:

      Enforceable as a matter of law? Yes. California law authorizes public health officers to order any measure necessary to preserve the public health and prevent the spread of disease. Health & Safety Code §§ 101040 and 120175. (Other states have similar laws.)

      Enforceable as a matter of state capacity to enforce? Who the hell knows anymore.

    • Plumber says:

      I should apologize for a previous thread, other candidates did mention the incidents but few cared, you were right it was reported on, but not followed up on.

      I haven’t heard any “shelter in place” orders yet; but schools and public libraries are closed, and the governor is “suggesting” bars close and no sit down dining for restaurants.

      • Skeptic says:


        You don’t owe me an apology for anything! Cheers.

        Maybe this will get revised, but this is the news I’m reacting to:

        Released today

        FWIW it says restaurants will stay open. As well as veterinarians’ offices and auto repair shops…

    • Plumber says:

      In the last hour my boss called a meeting and told us that the apprentice is being furloughed for three weeks starting tomorrow, but the rest of us are “essential City and County of San Francisco disaster service workers” and still have to work regular shifts or more, and to carry our I.D. badges going to and from work now as cops may start enforcement of “shelter in place”.

      I had already signed out a vacation hour to buy St. Paddy’s Day fixings for the crew tomorrow, and now I’m in line at Safeway along with a third of San Francisco as the shelves are stripped by folks preparing for siege.

      • sami says:

        My husband was told the same thing here in Philadelphia (he’s a sewage treatment plant operator). The city is pretty much shut down; schools, bars, playgrounds, libraries, many city offices, courts, restaurants (although delivery and take out is allowed) and all “non-essential” retail. He’s already working a lot of overtime because two coworkers are out sick (not confirmed Coronavirus cases or anything); I expect it to get worse because a large portion of the workers are over 55.

        • Plumber says:

          When and how fast did Philadelphia shut down?

          Maybe there were more signs, but for San Francisco it seemed very sudden to me!

          • sami says:

            It was pretty sudden. On Saturday the mayor was urging people to go out to restaurants over the weekend, on Monday they shut everything down. There is no “shelter in place” order yet, but it would not surprise me to get one soon. I have a friend a couple blocks from us whose husband is also currently working crazy hours in critical infrastructure and who has a kid the same age as my son, so I’m going to ask her to be quarantine buddies with me to make it less onerous.

          • Plumber says:

            Thanks, hope you and your loved ones stay well, good luck.

          • Deiseach says:

            Good luck Plumber, as to the fast announcement that does seem to be how state bodies are handling it everywhere – today it’s “no quarantine, everything as normal, don’t panic” then the next day it’s “okay, everyone stay at home, pubs and large public gatherings shut down, nobody go anywhere unless absolutely vital”. Changes of advice based on what is the latest recommendation are happening everywhere!

            Take care of yourself and your family!

          • Plumber says:

            Thanks @Deiseach,

            Some bailiffs and public defenders are still on the job, one of the defenders clients was confused by their building being closed “But how do I talk to my lawyer?”, I told him “It’s closed because of the plague” (I wasn’t sure whether to say “Whuhan” or “Corona”), and pointed to the phone number posted on the door, to which the client said “Oh I have his phone number, I guess I’ll call him”, further confirming an old deputies assessment of “It’s 80% cause of stupid” as to why inmates are in jail (leaving 20% for bad luck, crazy, and/or evil).
            A couple of lawyers are wearing masks inside, but cops and bailiffs aren’t.
            Yesterday at the supermarket about a fifth of the customers wore masks, and judging by that one supermarkets clientele about 50% of San Franciscans Lankhmarians are of Asian descent, and 30% are skinny young white men with beards (not what the census says!), not quite panic, but definitely urgency.
            Across the bridge in Oakland Gondor things looked pretty normal, but folks were running redlights in Berkeley Imrryr, and crossing that city was scary until I finally got home to Hobbiton

          • Le Maistre Chat says:


            San Franciscans Lankhmarians

            Lankhmar was explicitly Alexandria, Egypt.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,
            In his early story “Adept’s Gambit” sure, but after his wife’s death Leiber moved to San Francisco where he wrote “Ill Met in Lankhmar“, and “The City of the black toga”/”The City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes” is infused by where Leiber lived in the later tales (though my ’70’s paperbacks insisted Lankhmar’s “Street of Gods” was inspired by Telegraph Avenue across the bay in Berkeley).

            I invite you to read “From Lankhmar to the Tenderloin“, from a 1991 issue of Science Fiction Eye (which I first read from the print version in a corner of the Dark Carnival bookstore, which is where I met a very frail Fritz Leiber)

    • DinoNerd says:

      Restaurants are supposed to only provide take out

  53. ryubyss says:

    the coronavirus, even more than most things, will punish poor people. white collar workers will get to work from home. service workers will not. those who cannot afford to stockpile food will (I think) suffer. I wonder if this could kickstart a leftist revolution or at least an attempt at one, not immediately but in the next couple of years. many far leftists would love that to happen and could try to instigate one.

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      I highly doubt it.

    • Erusian says:

      I doubt it. Plagues generally get seen as exogenous and at any rate it’s more a failure of the Chinese health system than American. Also, living standards tend to rise for plague survivors once the disease burns itself through. And unskilled people will have access to some higher paying jobs due to disease risk in the short term. Wages are a negotiation and coronavirus increases working class bargaining power vis a vis purchasers of labor.

      More broadly, revolutions tend to happen because of economic disruption, a weak state, and a lack of legitimacy. Anti-capitalist movements specifically tend to spawn directly as a result of economic disruption, which is why the 1920s was such a fertile time for Communism, Fascism, and other less remembered movements like the Social Credit types. And frankly, the last two decades have been pretty placid by comparison. 2008 was bad but the 1920s had a worse crisis than 2008 every other year for a decade.

      • ryubyss says:

        More broadly, revolutions tend to happen because of economic disruption, a weak state, and a lack of legitimacy.

        I don’t know about the weak state part but we have the other two (or will soon).

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          Compared to early XX century Russia, you have none.

        • Erusian says:

          I seriously doubt you could even charitably describe the US state as weak. And I don’t think the economic disruption or lack of legitimacy is as severe as all that. (Keep in mind, it would be legitimacy of the US system, not Trump specifically.) Even if it were, a strong state with the other two is a recipe for a failed revolution.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think a lot depends on how much the rich throw the poor to the wolves or not.

      Mitt Romney is now publicly calling for Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal for the duration of the emergency, which is kind of a head trip in and of itself but is also a very smart move – if the poor are actually seen as taken care of as well as possible during the crisis I think that blunts a lot of the potential outrage.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        The IRS (and SS) and state tax authorities know generally what everyone’s job is and how much their income generally is.

        I’d much rather the poor with non-essential jobs get $2000, than everyone get $1000.

        Not only is this cheaper, but it helps those who need the help the most.

        If I got an extra $1000 it would go right into the bank, or at this point possibly right into the stock market. There would be no trickle down for those who need it.

        • Loriot says:

          Yeah, the only reason to do $1000 for everyone instead of the needy is that defining who the needy is highly controversial and takes resources.

        • JayT says:

          There are a lot of people making median income, or more, that live paycheck to paycheck. They are arguably more in danger of permanent effects due to no pay than the poor. A poor person could just not pay the rent and suffer few consequences, a middle class person unable to pay the mortgage might have their whole life turned upside down.

          • acymetric says:

            This is understating the impact of not paying rent by rather a lot. Banks are also generally more willing to work with mortgage holders going through a temporary difficulty than landlords (banks aren’t actually eager for people to foreclose on homes, they would prefer to keep the mortgage payments coming in).

          • Toby Bartels says:

            @acymetric : Landlords would rather not evict people either, because they’d rather keep the rent coming in. I agree with your overall conclusion, however, because banks have bigger pockets and can ride out the storm better than a lot of landlords.

          • JayT says:

            I should have said “fewer” consequences. Obviously, losing out on your pay for even a month is a very trying thing for a lot of people. That said, neither one is going to be kicked out any time soon, so the next month the immediate issue isn’t a loss of housing. I was thinking of things like credit scores. If the lockdown goes past April, I’m not sure anyone will really be doing well.

    • zzzzort says:

      Economic effects will hit the poor hardest, but the health effects will will be worst for the oldest, who tend to be wealthier. I guess this depends on your expectations about the course of the virus and response which will have the biggest impact.

      You could imagine a cold-hearted leftist advocating for keeping businesses open both to support wages and to kill off the bourgeoisie/junkers/boomers/etc. but mostly the response has been calls for paid sick leave and other forms of monetary support.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Disease breakouts simply don’t lead to societal collapse in the absence of external invasion. We’ve seen this worldwide. Heck, the Black Death killed a third of Europe but didn’t collapse European governments.

      The Native Americans that didn’t go to war with the United States mostly came out of the horrors of meeting European diseases for the first time pretty okay (e.g. the Pawnee), although again, you’re talking a massively powerful external force at the same time.

      I may have forgotten one, but in a generic sense, massive disease epidemics are not societal transformers.

    • Well... says:

      Can someone explain to me the rationale behind why someone in an American city or suburb (rather than out in the cut or somewhere where supply chain is otherwise unstable anyway) should stockpile food or really anything else right now?

      • acymetric says:

        If your tolerance for exposure risk is 0 or approaches 0. It isn’t that there will be no food, it is that you won’t want to go out to get more at the risk of catching the virus while you’re out.

        *Outside chance of all stores being completely shuttered by government order, I suppose.

        • Well... says:

          The number of people whose tolerance is 0 or near 0 (the elderly, people with serious illnesses, etc.) seems to be much smaller than the number of people stockpiling.

        • Garrett says:

          Alternative possibility: you’re worried that *you* might be forced into quarantine/isolation at which point you won’t be able to go out and get stuff.

          • albatross11 says:

            In descending order of importance (IMO):

            a. Having your kids home from school and university and nobody eating meals out/at the work cafeteria means you need a lot more food at home. Being stuck at home makes you want to do stuff like baking at home, too.

            b. Things that are being panic-bought are potentially going to be out later, so you’d better buy them now so you’re not stuck with no toilet paper or no milk/bread/rice. If you see hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes on the shelf, you should grab a bunch because you know you won’t have another chance to get them for awhile.

            c. If the spread of COVID-19 continues, the risk of going shopping increases day by day. You’d be safer minimizing your shopping trips, but that means stocking up on stuff so you don’t have to go to a store half a dozen times next week.

            d. The authorities may impose a shelter-in-place order that forbids you going out for anything but essentials, and maybe there’s stuff you’ll really wish you had.

            e. The grocery stores near you may shut down or reduce hours due to lots of sick workers or inability to get supplied.

      • JayT says:

        I wouldn’t say I’ve “stockpiled”, but I have bought way more than I normally would, and that was so I wouldn’t have to go back to the store for a couple of weeks, in the hopes of lowering my exposure.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          We are gradually reducing our stockpile, combined with infrequent shopping trips.

      • gudamor says:

        If you’re sick, you should avoid going out in public. Grocery shopping tends to be done in public. You should therefore have enough stockpiled to be able to avoid going out while you’re recuperating.

        • SamChevre says:


          It isn’t to protect you from starving: it’s to protect other people from you needing to go buy groceries while sick.

          • Well... says:

            But what if you’re not sick? Should we all be expecting that we’re going to get sick and that nobody else in our house will be able to go out and get groceries?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Well…, yes, you should be prepared for the possibility you will get sick. And if you do get sick, everyone else in your house should be assuming they also have it and might be contagious even if they don’t yet show symptoms.

          • Well... says:

            Let’s say I get sick then. Worst case scenario my wife goes grocery shopping with gloves and a facemask on, while I lie on the couch and supervise my kids’ hour of TV. I suppose I see why it’d be more expedient to stockpile, but I still don’t see the need for it, and I’m still confused about why the hoi polloi, who normally don’t do much in the way of prepping for outside chance scenarios, suddenly are willing to rush out and spend a bunch of extra money hoarding things that are probably still going to be available down the street.

            My hypothesis is someone on Social Media said “if you’re smart you’ll do this” and that meme spread like a virus.

          • Matt M says:

            spend a bunch of extra money hoarding things

            If you’re buying mostly things you would normally buy anyway, and if you are still able to consume them before they perish, you aren’t really spending any extra money or “hoarding” anything.

            You’re just, like, pre-buying.

            My hypothesis is someone on Social Media said “if you’re smart you’ll do this” and that meme spread like a virus.

            I mean sure, this is definitely a thing that happened. And then spread to mainstream media as the local news shows up in the parking lot of your Wal-Mart with a report on “EVERYONE IS BUYING STUFF! THERE’S NOT MUCH LEFT!” which makes it even worse.

            But even so, pre-buying is never really a bad idea. There’s really no harm unless you’re buying excess perishables that will rot before you consume/freeze them.

          • albatross11 says:


            If this all blows over in a month, it will just be a little longer till we need to buy laundry detergent or rice or something–there’s not a big cost here! As long as you’re not buying weird stuff you’d never use, and you’re not buying stuff that will go bad before you use it, you should be fine.

          • Doctor Mist says:


            Worst case scenario my wife goes grocery shopping with gloves and a facemask on, while I lie on the couch and supervise my kids’ hour of TV.

            FYI, according to this:

            The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if anyone in your house has tested positive, everyone in the house should self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days or longer until the patient has no more symptoms and tests negative.


            The CDC recommends that infected family members stay in one room away from others as much as possible and use a separate bathroom if available. Visitors should also be kept away from the house.

            The door to the sick person’s room should be kept closed and only one family member should attend to that person, according to CDC guidelines.

            The person caring for a sick relative should also leave food outside of their room and when the caregiver enters the room both people should wear facemasks.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          How hard is it to call the police non-emergency number, state that you’re sick and in self-quarantine and have run out of groceries, and ask them to deliver some?

          • Evan Þ says:

            (A) Will the police in fact do that?
            (B) If so, will they do that without embarrassing the person who called them, and without pretending they smelled drugs to get an excuse to search the person’s house?
            (C) If so, will they pick out good groceries, abiding by the person’s dietary preferences?
            (D) If so, does everyone know they’ll reliably do that?

            I live a couple miles from Kirkland, in the center of the US outbreak. There’s a real possibility I’ll be sick and in self-quarantine any day now. And I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The only way to find out in advance is to call them in advance.

            Given they are the legal authority responsible for enforcing quarantines, they have every incentive to do A, B and C.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Evan: Do you have friends of neighbors that can bring you groceries?

            anonymousskimmer: The police will skip responsibility for this unless some other power forces them to.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            In which case call city hall, the fire department, the grocery store *itself* (who actually would be incentivized to deliver, even if they don’t have a delivery service).

            Eventually you’ll talk to someone who is willing and able to help.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Edward Scizorhands, yes, I personally have friends. And I’ve got a few weeks’ worth of groceries, so I don’t need to be a burden to them and expose them to my hypothetical viruses.

            But “call the police” would not have even entered my mind, among other reasons because the local authorities haven’t ever mentioned it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My grocery store does delivery. If you’re in self-quarantine, order the delivery and ask them to leave the groceries on the doorstep. That’s probably easier out here in the suburbs, though. I don’t know if I’d want anyone leaving my groceries outside in the city.

          • Nick says:

            My grocery store does not deliver, I don’t have any friends in the area, and I live alone. My current plan is to just not get sick.

          • Randy M says:

            Hopefully such a call would start a chain of events ending in you getting groceries; also, hopefully it wouldn’t actually be an officer of the law showing up unless you live in Mayberry. Most likely they are either going to point you to the stores delivery line, or pass on your request to a local church or other service club. I know my church as mentioned having people volunteer for such.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            You’re at home in quarantine. As long as they ring the doorbell or knock the groceries won’t spend more than 30 seconds on your doorstep.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I know, I was just thinking about the people who live on the sixth floor of buildings with multiple occupants. I hear they have a lot of problems with getting packages in general.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Are package thieves scared of Coronavirus? I wonder if anyone would dare steal a package off my porch if I had a big sign saying “QUARANTINED” on my door.

            Also, so many people being stuck at home ruins the M.O. of porch pirates.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        There is the non-trivial chance that your suburb may become a hot zone. Even if 1 in 1000 has it, you’re talking about a pretty high chance someone in the grocery store either today or yesterday had it.

        Quite frankly at this point I’d be stockpiling ammo, because if you don’t get it now, there’s a non-trivial chance you won’t be able to get it for quite a while. Would rather not get caught with my pants down. There is a very low chance of actually needing it, but localized breakdowns of order can happen occasionally(though not often under pandemic), and it might take a day or four before the National Guard shows up.

    • Hoopdawg says:

      It’s (hopefully) going to kickstart a shift towards a more socially-minded state.
      There won’t be a collapse on the scale that leaves people starving. Not from this virus, and not if the state can do something about it. Which it obviously can, and which it will find much easier to actually do during an exogenous crisis.

      For preludes to revolutions, look for wars.

    • AG says:

      I’ll tell you, I had to tell my technicians yesterday that they had to put in for vacation or sick time to get paid while they’re not allowed to go to work, and that did not go over well at all. (Especially since a few of them had already burned a lot of sick time earlier in the year on family emergencies and, you know, the health problems that already come with being elderly.)

      Someone on the radio mentioned applying for unemployment at this time? Is that really a viable option, since they’re not actually laid off? Could they apply for part time work (since it seems that grocery is now in a place to hire, the local Costco was definitely increasing hours)?

      • Jake R says:

        For unemployment the thing to look up is called “constructive dismissal” and I think it varies by state. It most commonly comes up when someone’s hours are cut back severely to the point they have been effectively laid off.

  54. addastra says:

    Question about talking to roommates about coronavirus: how do I give my housemate the coronavirus talk? She doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously, is inviting (very social) people over and going out. She thinks I’m over-reacting to coronavirus; at the same time she says she “understands abstractly” that it will grow exponentially, etc., but “can’t conceptualize it”. We have a good relationship and I don’t want to waste my “weird credit” with my roommate or she’ll ignore me, but my girlfriend’s parents live in the same city and we’re freaking out. For context, roommate is a 30yo CS/stem person, international, wealthy, non-political but organic/hipster-leaning.

    • Loriot says:

      Maybe show her stories about what it’s like in Italian hospitals?

      • MrApophenia says:

        That’s what worked for me. When I explained to my family that Italy is basically a sneak peak of where we are likely to be in a week or two, that got their attention.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’ve seen lots of people saying this, but I don’t understand why. We had our first cases before Italy did, we were actually ahead of them in deaths for a bit.

          We’re simply not seeing a similar curve.

          • mitv150 says:

            I mentioned this same issue downthread. You get a similar curve between U.S. and Italy if you call day 1 for each of the U.S. and Italy at something like 150 cases. If you set day 1 for each based on 1 case or 10 cases, you get wildly different curves between the countries.

            Basically, in the 52 days since the U.S. confirmed it’s first case, there is a 12 day period of confirmed cases that matches a section of Italy’s confirmed cases.

            I don’t think either exercise is terribly instructive, as discrepancies in testing rates gives me very little confidence in the ‘confirmed cases’ data.

          • Viliam says:

            The curves are not exactly exponential, so you can nudge the result in the direction you want by choosing the right metric.

            Judging by the tweets, if your metric is “how many deaths X days after death #1”, USA is better than Italy; if your metric is “how many deaths X days after death #100”, Italy is better than USA. The second metric seems a bit more robust to me maybe, but I suppose the proper conclusion is that the curves are very similar.

            (Note: here I am blindly trusting the arguments made in the tweets; I didn’t verify the numbers myself.)

            By the way, speaking about misleading statistics, I wonder how much young people should feel comfortable after learning that almost all deaths were very old people, when the fact is that many people in Italy die because the hospitals are overwhelmed, there are fewer respirators than people who desperately need them, and in triaging old age counts against you. In other words: we decide not to spend scarce resources on old people, and then report the outcome as “well, old people are simply more likely to die from the coronavirus” as a force of nature.

            (I assume that old people would still be more likely to die even if resources were allocated by fair lottery. But the ratio could be less overwhelming… the question is, how much.)

          • mitv150 says:

            if your metric is “how many deaths X days after death #100”, Italy is better than USA.

            AFAIK, the U.S. hasn’t yet hit 100 deaths.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            We’re simply not seeing a similar curve.

            Might be a testing issue.

          • Eigengrau says:

            That data tracks deaths, not cases. Cases are more important as they indicate the number of hospital beds needed. Italy is likely seeing more deaths than average due to the lack of medical treatment available.

            Luckily the US has a much higher ICU bed capacity than Italy. That will buy you a few more days.

            I threw this together last night to track per capita cases:

          • matthewravery says:

            “First confirmed infection” is a data set of one. “100th confirmed infection” is a data set of 100. Given that we don’t perfectly observe cases, “Case #100” is a better point of comparison than “Case #1”. Not perfect, (or even necessarily good or useful, given the vagaries of testing and asymptomatic cases) but better.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I’m actually less interested in whether the specific graphs between Italy and the US line up, and more in the fact that a bunch of medical experts keep saying the US is in the exponential growth stage and we’re almost certainly going to wildly overrun our hospital capacity in some regions of the country the same way Northern Italy did.

            The lack of testing probably does mean that exercises in trying to line up confirmed US cases against anything are futile because that’s an almost meaningless number.

          • Clutzy says:

            The lack of testing probably does mean that exercises in trying to line up confirmed US cases against anything are futile because that’s an almost meaningless number.

            I sort of agree, but I do kinda think the testing portion of this has been way overblown. The testing kits in South Korea have extremely high false negative rates (some places have it quoted as high as 49% false negative), but they are able to contain it well with the other measures really pulling the weight much more. Testing is helpful in that it helps us measure if we are winning or not, but it doesn’t really help you win, and in the case of some of the tests, it could actually be anti-helpful if the false negative rates are really as high as some estimates.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Which is why deaths are the most significant, because deaths (unlike cases), can’t be misread (either good or bad) by tests.

            If the US does in fact have five times the number of cases that we think, that’s good news, because it means it’s substantially less virulent here (for whatever reason).

            Because at the end of the day, all we really care about is preventing Americans from dying. The number who get a moderately bad chest cold is basically irrelevant. The number of total cases matter because x% need constant medical care for a couple of weeks and recover, and if we do become overwhelmed, some of those may die who otherwise wouldn’t have.

          • EchoChaos says:


            I don’t disagree. But those are almost certainly related numbers.

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t want to waste my “weird credit” with my roommate

      Dude, this kind of thing is why you build up your weird credits in the first place. If you aren’t going to cash them in now, what exactly are you waiting for?

      • yodelyak says:

        Also yes, this. If you use your weirdness points in places where you will soon be proved correct, you don’t become a weirdo, you become a prophet. Use your points, dammit.

        • woah77 says:

          Seconded. If you’re a “prophet” not only did you not end up spending them, but you will get a great allotment for the next thing.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I read it as “I am willing to spend my weird credits, but I only get one chance to spend them, so help me do it right.”

    • yodelyak says:

      I think there’s a three-part thing to do. One, show her the McCardle story in the WashPost about how exponential growth means there isn’t any warning except the warning you (may) get from public health officials who understand exponential growth. Two, show her the list of tech clubs that have canceled everything (listed at Three, show her the latest out of Italy, ideally something with a few numbers, like 1000 deaths / day or what not, but mostly with the visceral story of doctors deciding who to save.

      Maybe also think about who in her life is in an especially vulnerable demographic, and get her better angels on your side. She can save a life as a blood donor, but only if she’s healthy. She can do a lot for small businesses she cares about by buying from their online stores (especially gift cards she will not use for a while), and encouraging others likewise, but only if she’s healthy enough. She can be available to go nurse relative-that-she-cares-about if they get sick, and drive them to a hospital and stay with them if the hospital can’t see them right away, but she can only do that if she’s healthy enough herself to get around.

    • ryubyss says:

      She thinks I’m over-reacting to coronavirus; at the same time she says she “understands abstractly” that it will grow exponentially, etc., but “can’t conceptualize it”.

      show her a chart.

    • Alejandro says:

      This video comparing Italian newspaper obituary pages before and after the rise of the epidemic made it visceral for me in a way that exponential curves did not.

    • J Mann says:

      True story: On Friday night, my right leaning brother in law thought it was a massive overreaction and was loaded to the gills with common flu and H1N1 statistics. On Saturday morning, we saw him again, after he had gone to the CDC website, which apparently includes a possible death range of 250,000+, and he’s now a convert.

      My sister is mostly frustrated that there wasn’t a day or two where he was somewhere in the middle.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        “If we have no chance to prepare, it is hitting about 200 million people at around a 1% death rate. 2 million dead people is a lot. That’s a 1/3 Holocaust just in the US.”

      • mwigdahl says:

        No one is as zealous as a convert.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      30yo CS/stem person

      Does she like spreadsheets? I saw this google doc some place

      I don’t know if that will help or hurt, showing that dropping from 25% to 20% 10 days earlier buys us 2 or 3 extra days at the end.

      Probably play around with that and copy it or edit it to make the numbers stark enough.

    • AG says:

      Start violently coughing the next time she has very social people over. /s

  55. theodidactus says:

    Counterpoint to what I just said above: What i’m seeing here (and in China) might suggest that it’s maybe more the middle class that wins, while the upper extremes and lower and lower-middle classes both get hosed.

    We all have to deal with terrible bosses in our lives, but substantially *NONE* of the middle and upper class folks I know have had to deal with a boss specifically ordering them TO come into work. I’m in law school, and maximum slack has set in here: because we’re mostly all privileged elites, we know that everyone can take a break for a few weeks, nothing will burn down or close up, and we can get back to work whenever things resume. Our seats are still available. Meanwhile my friends in the delivery business are being told to keep working, and many are afraid of losing their jobs.

    Similarly, what i’m seeing in my social network in the east looks a lot like what you’re seeing in italy: the already-comfortable are locking themselves in their apartment and playing video games and stuff. the previously-uncomfortable are starting to worry they’ll get left behind like in 2008, when this whole thing blows over. In 15 years, when everyone has forgotten when the coronavirus happened, exactly, this period could just look like a job termination followed by a resume gap, and that stuff sticks with you.

  56. matthewravery says:

    Not sure if anyone has posted this here, but I thought this deck was very informative:

    Alt link

    Dr. Lin’s twitter

    It had a lot of the data and analysis that (IMO) should be being broadcast and discussed on the 24-hour networks. He’s does a decent job at pointing out areas of knowledge where there is lots of uncertainty and where there is less uncertainty and what useful data we have. (Mostly from Wuhan and the Diamond Princess.)

    At the end, he even gives you a home-bake recipe for hand sanitizer!

  57. smocc says:

    I have a friend who lives in a major American city that is in a pretty general lockdown for the next few weeks at least. He has been making most of his living driving for Uber, but demand for that has already dropped significantly. I have suggested that he look into Door Dash, Instacart, etc. as he already has a car and demand for delivery might be higher than for Uber. Are there any other suggestions I can give him?

    • baconbits9 says:

      Possibly offer to pick up groceries for people? If he can sanitize things like the exterior of bottles/jugs/cans he could offer a service to pick up those types of goods, sanitize them and then deliver them to people.

    • 10240 says:

      Here a hypermarket already rations delivery for old or sick people because of the spike in demand. Perhaps ask a local hypermarket with delivery service if they are hiring delivery men.

      • Beans says:

        Is a “hypermarket” a thing in the Anglosphere? I’ve only seen the term used in Russia (гипермаркет).

        • Tarpitz says:

          UK English would be “supermarket”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a native English speaker from anywhere use “hypermarket”, though Wikipedia does have a page for it. French “hypermarché” is definitely a thing, though.

        • BBA says:

          I think I’ve seen “hypermarket” in the US, but it’s much less common than “superstore” or “big box” or just “Walmart” or “Target.”

  58. Well... says:

    Imagine a small town wants to boost their economy. They decide to elect a dog to the position of mayor. The dog is elected, and on paper at least he is the mayor. (All actually important mayoral duties are carried out by a more quietly-elected human.) After a rush of national interest, a few local businesses change their names to reflect that “this is the town where we have a dog for our mayor”. As tourists pour in, more economic activity grows out of this novelty governmental arrangement. Additional hotels and restaurants open, producing new jobs and opportunities. People move and settle in the town and it receives the boost it wanted.

    Is there a term for this variation on the broken window fallacy? (And, is it actually one?)

    • Randy M says:

      That’s just a publicity stunt.
      It would be broken windows fallacy if they actually tried to enact the dog’s policies somehow, and then pointed to economic activity that flourished in mitigating the harm done when they killed all the squirrels, cats, and small birds.

      • Anthony says:

        That depends. If Mayor Dog decreed bringing in more squirrels or cats so the dog residents could have more fun chasing them, there might be a net positive benefit despite some squirrels and cats getting caught.

    • baconbits9 says:

      It doesn’t sound like a broken window fallacy, more or less its a zero sum game. The ‘town with a dog for its mayor’ becomes a tourist attraction and brings dollars in, but those dollars generally are going to come from other tourist attractions receiving fewer visitors.

      • It isn’t zero sum. The reason the tourists come is that they enjoy visiting a town with a dog for a mayor, enjoy it more than wherever they would otherwise have gone, which is a benefit.

        • Anthony says:

          But unless the visitors increase their tourism, the towns which they would otherwise have visited lose their custom. Only if more people overall go touristing because of the town with the dog-mayor will it be a positive-sum change.

          • sentientbeings says:

            No, as the issue is one of allocative efficiency. Note that even your alternative example would probably fall into that category (you seem to have conflated diversion of funds to tourist activities with expanded consumption in that case, so it is hard to say precisely).

        • baconbits9 says:

          If you assume that tourists want a specific thing such as ‘I want to see a dog that is mayor’ and value that more than specific thing #2, such as ‘failing to see a dog as mayor I want to see a cat a mayor’ then yes. My guess is that what is being sold here is novelty, not highly specific wants that were previously unsatisfied by the market.

    • eric23 says:

      It’s not a fallacy. It could actually work for the first town that tried it. Much less likely to work for the second and such third towns…

    • Bobobob says:

      This is like the New Yorker cartoon contest. I’m trying to think of the perfect dog-related pun to sum up the situation, but sadly, I’m more of a cat person.

    • add_lhr says:

      This is apparently a thing in Japan – it’s called nekonomics according to Wikipedia. Famous example here.

      • Nick says:

        In January 2010, railway officials promoted Tama to the post of “Operating Officer” in recognition of her contribution to expanding the customer base. Tama maintained the station master’s job while taking over the new job, and was the first cat to become an executive of a railroad corporation.

        This is the diversity we need.

    • Buttle says:

      I do not know, but electing a dog mayor does not seem much crazier than appointing a cat railroad station master:

      Supposedly a smashing success for the station:

      The publicity from Tama’s appointment led to an increase in passengers by 17% for that month as compared to January 2006; ridership statistics for March 2007 showed a 10% increase over the previous financial year. A study estimated that the publicity surrounding Tama has contributed 1.1 billion yen to the local economy. Tama is often cited as part of a phenomenon known in Japan as Nekonomics (ネコノミクス, nekonomikusu, lit. cat economy), a play off the term Abenomics. Nekonomics refers to the positive economic impact of having a cat mascot.

      So, on second thought, perhaps the proper term is “inunomics”.

    • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

      The real life version is giving your town a stupidly long name.

      Longer versions of the name are thought to have first been used in the 19th century in an attempt to develop the village as a commercial and tourist centre (see below). The village is, however, still signposted Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, marked on Ordnance Survey maps as Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll and the railway station is officially named Llanfairpwll, a form used by local residents. The name is also shortened to Llanfair PG, sufficient to distinguish it from other places in Wales called Llanfair.

  59. noyann says:

    Relative numbers for SARS-CoV-2 for the general public.

    World (scroll to Current COVID-19 test coverage estimates)
    (Also good: frequency of the symptoms)


    Any other maps/dashboards?

  60. mitv150 says:

    I keep seeing the notion that the U.S. is 10-11 days behind Italy. This is based on the number of cases that Italy had on 2/23 compared to the U.S. on 3/5. I have seen this thought in several different versions.

    This seems off to me for several reasons.
    First, why is the comparison based on total case load rather than a percentage of population?
    Second, the U.S. had it’s first case a week before Italy and, until Feb. 22, had more cases than Italy. It was only after this that the Italy numbers took off.

    Is there any insightful thought process behind the notion that the “U.S. is 10-11 days behind Italy” other than arbitrarily selecting portions of the case load curve that are superficially similar? Doing this requires ignoring a significant portion of the U.S. case load data. Is there reason to believe that, given the relatively close match in the curves for the cited portion, the U.S. will follow Italy’s trajectory going forward?

    Or is the point of this comparison meant to be a cautionary tale that can be consumed quickly on Facebook and Twitter?

    • matthewravery says:

      I do think the media is struggling to contextualize things for us, in part because there remains tons of uncertainty about exactly how screwed we are. (It could be ‘Not much’!)

      We don’t really have any “useful” comparisons for our current situation because of (1) differences in the number and frequency of our tests, (2) differences in our interventions and their timings, (3) differences in our demographics, and (4) differences in our population structures.

      We’re much bigger than Italy and Spain, so one-to-one comparisons don’t seem particularly apt. We’re roughly the same size as Europe (depending how you slice it) but have half as many people. But we do have tons of people in dense cities. But those cities aren’t as dense as most population centers in Europe. But we tend to be older. We have outbreaks across the whole country, not heavily localized (as in China). We had very little testing for weeks (unlike Korea) and haven’t been able to control and track individual outbreaks, leading to (apparent) large-scale community transmission (unlike Japan or Singapore).

      So there aren’t really any one-to-one analogues out there, AFAIK.

      We also don’t know how effective social distancing campaigns will do in the US relative to other countries that have tried them. It appears that institutions (sports leagues, many employers, etc.) are successfully implementing policies to eliminate the most egregious opportunities for transmission, but I think the populace writ large is confused about what they should be doing. This adds further uncertainty about how successful, both about the efficacy of this type of countermeasure and the timing for their uptake.

      What this means is huge uncertainty bounds around projections. In the case of exponential growth, this means multiple orders of magnitude in your error bounds. Personally, I’m at “between 1,000 and 1 million dead” for my 90% bounds. (And in the space of writing this, I went from 99% to 95% to what you see now.) I’m sure the experts have better data and have built some useful mathematical models, but I don’t know that they’re going to be able to give estimate that are too much more precise than the above. Most of this shit is just unknown.

      All that said, I think the “two weeks behind Italy” thing is in reference to the parts of the curve where exponential growth became apparent, but I don’t really know.

      • mitv150 says:

        All of this makes sense.

        The official numbers are probably pretty confounded by the lack of testing and awareness initially.

        I took another look at the numbers, comparing U.S., Spain, Germany, and Italy on three day centers (because that happens to be how I jotted down the data).

        Each of these four countries shows pretty similar percentage increases every three days (something like 1.7x every three days). The difference is that both Italy and Spain each had 6 day periods where there was a massive spike (maybe due to increased testing?).

        But then there is reason to believe that, due to the stress on their health care systems, Italy and Spain have gotten behind in testing again and there real increase rate is higher.

        Given how sensitive the exponential growth timeline is to that rate of growth and how difficult it is to figure out that rate of growth, I’m taking the claim as a cautionary tale rather than an actual prediction.

        Conclusion: not enough data for me to draw a conclusion, but I’m skeptical of the 10-11 days behind Italy claim for all of the potentially confounding reasons (and more) listed above.

    • zzzzort says:

      For the initial period of exponential growth, the total size of the population doesn’t matter. Exponential growth is what you expect when the rate of additional transmissions is proportional to the number of infected people, without any corrections for saturating the number of people infected, double counting people who become infected from multiple sources, or having people already infected travel to the country. The cross over to community transmission as the major source of infection is why the early numbers are not exponential and not very comparable. The fact that the data fits exponential growth suggests these factors aren’t very important (which in turn means there’s still a lot of potential growth). Reporting I’ve seen suggests that if we get to the point where it does saturate it would be catastrophic (~million deaths).

      If you want to rescale by population it would increase the ‘number of days behind’ by about 6, but it wouldn’t change the time constant of the growth.

      The density of cases will be important in terms of local healthcare capacity (5,000 extra ICU cases is a disaster in the bay area, but a fluctuation across the country as a whole). This would show up as a different mortality rate, but in a way obviously dependent on the details of healthcare capacity and how the cases are distributed.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      zzzzort makes the good case for caring about total numbers: 1 lily pad will grow to 2 lilies pad will grow to 4 lilies pad no matter how big the pond is.

      But for things like disease spread, density and network effects really do matter. 1 sick person in a community of 100 isn’t the same as 1000 sick people in a community of 100,000, which is different from 1 million sick people in a community of 100 million. Those latter situations are much worse despite having equal proportions.

      But being spread out helps, too. 100 out of 10,000 people in Seattle being sick doesn’t scare me much if I’m on the East coast. I will never directly interact with them.

    • 10240 says:

      Second, the U.S. had it’s first case a week before Italy and, until Feb. 22, had more cases than Italy. It was only after this that the Italy numbers took off.

      The period when there were only a handful of cases is not very informative, because it is influenced too much by random chance. E.g. in Italy, the first 3 known cases were quickly isolated and didn’t spread. The main outbreak was independent of them, and started (or at least was discovered) several weeks later.

      • mitv150 says:

        That thinking seems accurate, but I’m not certain it’s complete. Consider the following:

        1) What is the number of cases that should be used to make a comparison of timelines? The common comparison with Italy is 150 cases. Why this number and not 25 or 400?

        2) Given the initial restrictions on testing (at least in the U.S.), how much of our data is driven by infection rates and how much is driven by testing availability?

      • noyann says:

        The period when there were only a handful of cases is not very informative, because it is influenced too much by random chance.

        Right. You’d need a day with the same relative (I sense a growing obsession with that) numbers of infected, corrected by the relative number of tests done by then. Then, maybe, some meaningful differences in curves may be seen.

      • zzzzort says:

        You just need enough cases that the trend empirically fits an exponential. If you use 400 you get the same result.

  61. mitv150 says:

    Looking for contrarian and/or counter-intuitive Covid-19 thoughts/arguments. They don’t have to be novel, but just ones that people aren’t talking about as much.

    For example…

    Regarding quarantining, shut-downs, etc., I’m seeing a lot of people saying “better to over-react than under-react.” They say this without considering the massive economic fallout of overreaction. There is massive economic fallout to under-reaction and just-the-right-amount-reaction as well, of course.

    On the guy with all the sanitizer – if he bought that sanitizer from random markets in the middle of nowhere and assisted in distributing it to parts of the country where it couldn’t be found, he was doing a real service. I don’t know enough of the details to know whether he was doing this – but there is a real and significant difference between price-gouging and arbitrage.

    I saw an analysis that suggested that Covid-19 saved an order of magnitude more lives than it took in China, due to the reduction in pollution.

    • Bobobob says:

      I don’t know if it’s counterintuitive, but the fact that millions (tens of millions?) of people are going to be working from home over the next couple of months is going to have a huge effect on attitudes vis-a-vis teleworking and urban decentralization. As in, “hey, if I can work from home for this NYC company, why do I have to live in NYC and pay NYC rent?”

      • mitv150 says:

        Good point – a friend of mine also pointed out the following:

        Half of the nation’s school children are at home right now. What if they find out they learn better at home? My kids have assignments from their teachers, but no actual lessons as of yet.

      • John Schilling says:

        As in, “hey, if I can work from home for this NYC company, why do I have to live in NYC and pay NYC rent?”

        You’re assuming that expanded telecommuting will in fact work just as well as regular commuting.

        If it doesn’t, millions (tens of millions?) of people are going to find that they’ve been quietly sidelined from key decisionmaking processes by the core meatspace team, resulting in a realignment of de facto leadership vs. individual contributor roles. With lots of complaining by the people on the short end of that stick.

        • Bobobob says:

          Right, but what if key members of the core meatspace team also work remotely? I have encountered that situation at other jobs.

          Maybe, to phrase what I said better, managers and staff who haven’t worked from home for years (or ever) will discover in the coming weeks how sophisticated modern teleworking has become. Not perfect, by any means, but much better than the state of the art five or ten years ago, and supported by a much more entrenched high-speed internet infrastructure.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right, but what if key members of the core meatspace team also work remotely?

            The definition of “core meatspace team” is the ones that aren’t working remotely.

            There will be some environments where literally everyone is remotely, or everyone save the nominal manager to the same effect. But if there’s three people in the same room, then they’ll have an easier time coming to a consensus than any of the online participants, because body language etc matter and the sophisticated teleworking systems are as you note not by any means perfect at substituting for that.

            Depending on how strong that effect is, the set of people in the office (even if it isn’t the nominal manager) could wind up making all the decisions and getting all the credit because everyone else sees themselves as lone dissenters to an established consensus. Still making useful individual contributions, but leadership and related power dynamics rearranged by the new circumstances.

          • Bobobob says:

            I dunno, I can imagine a situation where one mid-level employee acts as the core meatspace nexus for a distributed leadership team. Kind of like Tank in the first Matrix movie.

            (Though it occurs to me that if one employee is the meatspace nexus, he is by definition “not” the meatspace nexus, since he can presumably do his job anywhere outside HQ. Call it the Meatspace Paradox.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Right, but what if key members of the core meatspace team also work remotely?

            I asked my brother about this – could he not work from home? And he said he could, except it doesn’t work for what he has to do (production management in pharma manufacturing). They have to be on-site because you really can’t run bulk manufacturing remotely (right this minute, they can’t manufacture paracetamol fast enough because of the demand, plus the disruption to their supply chains).

            So there are definitely jobs where it’s “I have a work laptop and technically I could be doing all this paper-shuffling at home but in reality I need to be on-site to oversee things or else”.

        • noyann says:

          You’re assuming that expanded telecommuting will in fact work just as well as regular commuting.

          For this, the infrastructure needs a little more resources.

        • voso says:

          My intuition is that most people have their productivity bottlenecked by their conscientiousness, and that commuting to an office is one of the only ways most of these people can keep it together enough to be productive.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            So we could learn the wrong lesson from this. Responding to a crisis also increases conscientiousness. Maybe everybody works from home just brilliantly, but when the crisis passes and we try to continue working from home, it flounders.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I was already a fully remote worker and my productivity has crashed because I cannot help reading up about coronavirus every time I am at a computer.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think for both WFH and schools, it’s not going to matter much. Those who oppose it don’t really care much if it works. NYC companies often aren’t willing to do expansion just outside NYC even when there’s no reason that wouldn’t work and offices are half the rent. (there was some post 9/11 expansion to Jersey City, but financial companies moved only their lower-paid back-office people there). For schools it might make a difference on the margin with homeschooling, but that’s about it.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      On the guy with all the sanitizer

      I would agree with you if we were talking about the people who truck bottled water into disaster zones after a hurricane or something and jack up the prices. If it were not for their actions, there would be no water, so, sure the “price gouging” incentivizes people to fill a need that would otherwise not be met. For the hand sanitizer guy, he’s the one creating the shortage by buying it all up. Not the same thing.

      • mitv150 says:

        Agreed if he actually created a shortage – do we know he did? Or is this just piling on?

        There is certainly is a world in which buying all of the sanitizer in Walmarts throughout some rural section of the country and selling it to San Franciscans via Amazon is a net good and not a net bad.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Agreed if he actually created a shortage – do we know he did?

          . . . Maybe?

          People pointed out in the last thread that he’s a very very small part of the market.

          But when he says that his strategy was to buy up every single bottle he could find, yes, at some point he is causing the panic.

          Stores need to stop people from clearing out their stock.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          You’re positing some kind of EMH violation by suggesting Walmart was leaving money on the ground with suboptimal logistics for some random guy to pick up.

          • John Schilling says:

            Wal-mart knew they would be visited by men with guns if they started charging $20 for a bottle of hand sanitizer. even if that was the efficient market-clearing price. This guy, thought he could get away with it. If he had, then that would in one sense have made the market more efficient (but see elsewhere about increased transaction costs eating up most or all or more than all of those gains.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            As John Schilling points out, the market is being made inefficient by the price-gouging laws that are more easily enforced against Walmart than random scalpers, but there’s another angle to it.

            If there were no price gouging laws and Walmart started charging $50 per bottle of hand sanitizer, people would hate it: Walmart would be trading goodwill with customers for a relatively small profit (the margins would be huge, but hand sanitizer is a tiny amount of their total volume). It’s possible that trade is not worth making i.e. it would cost them too much long-term profit as angered customers find elsewhere to buy their widgets. If Bob Gougeman buys up all Walmart’s hand sanitizer and sells it a huge markup, he’s facing the same reputation vs money tradeoff, but Bob’s reputation is way less valuable than Walmart’s: with $100k of profit, he can afford for people to hate him.

          • baconbits9 says:

            93 is largely correct, the difference has a lot to do with scalpers looking for one off profits and Wal-Marts looking for decades of profits across thousands of items.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Which is why the government should mandate price increases!

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Which is why the government should mandate price increases!

            Wow, that’s… usually people use the term “galaxy brain” sarcastically, but that’s actually kind of brilliant. I’m not saying it would definitely work, but I really want to see it tried. It’s like a unicorn, a case where price controls might actually make markets more efficient!

          • JayT says:

            I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as a see people complain about price gougers, and I keep thinking we need more of them, and what I came up with is that stores should charge the normal price for the first x number of the item in question, and then each item after that goes up in price. It seems that would satisfy both the people that have the gut feeling that price gouging is wrong, and would also preserve a large amount of the benefits gouging gives you.

          • Cliff says:

            charge the normal price for the first x number of the item in question, and then each item after that goes up in price.

            I like this idea. It’s amazing how easily panic-buyers are put off by higher prices. If they can buy it all now and use it up over time, why not buy it all? But if they have to pay double, they won’t do it. I was just at the grocery store and a lot of stuff was out of stock, but the fancy/expensive stuff was still available.

          • noyann says:

            You’d somehow have to make allowances for those who buy for a large family, group, neighbours, etc. And then you need controls for cheaters.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think you really would need that. For someone that really needs the item, they would be able to bring a family member along to double their amount, pay the inflated rate on the extras, or they would be able to go to a few different stores. It would be an inconvenience, sure, but not insurmountable. Also, you really wouldn’t have to worry about people trying to game the system because the whole mechanism is based around making it more difficult to buy extras, not impossible. So, if someone wants to spend all day driving around from store to store buying a single pack of toilet paper at each, more power to them. They won’t be able to buy enough to really dent the supply.

    • I saw an analysis that suggested that Covid-19 saved an order of magnitude more lives than it took in China, due to the reduction in pollution.

      The appropriate comparison would be how many lives would be lost to corona if they didn’t shut everything down.

    • It’s better to overreact than underreact because the more precautions we take, the sooner we can contain it and get everything back to normal. That doesn’t mean every place should shutdown everything indefinitely but it does mean err on the side of overreacting.

      I think it’s probably at that time where it’s contrarian to say I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as everyone thinks. Yes, that big exponential line is scary but that is sustained when no measures are taken. South Korea has shown that taking it seriously fast enables you to contain it. China has shown that drastic action does the same thing. Western governments are not as proactive as the former and less willing to take the actions of the latter. But it’s a difference in degree. So I think they’ll be able to get a hold of the Coronavirus before it gets to those really big scary numbers, but the lag is going to be more costly. But that’s more of a contrarian, tentative take than a confident prediction.

      • mitv150 says:

        I tend to agree that overreaction is better than underreaction, because it’s easier to recover from overreaction.

        I’m more getting at the point that I’m not seeing great analysis of the very real downsides to overreaction. In my facebook social sphere, people are seeing overreaction as “I didn’t get to go to a party or see a movie, and now I feel a bit embarassed because I stocked up on all this food,” and not “I lost my job because the restaurant closed and now I can’t make rent.”

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s better to overreact than underreact because the more precautions we take, the sooner we can contain it and get everything back to normal.

        Unfortunately, the more precautions we take, the sooner we will find ourselves highly motivated to reason “It has been contained and we can get everything back to normal” even though it almost certainly hasn’t.

        I’m seeing a lot of precautions being tentatively claimed as two-week or through-the-end-of-the-month things; that’s not going to be enough to eradicate the virus, and it’s probably not going to be enough to knock it down to the level that what should have been normal public-health measures can keep it contained. And it’s probably not the real plan, it’s the home contractor’s “two weeks” which has nothing to do with how long they really expect it to take to remodel your home and everything to do with what they expect will get you to shut up and go along with the program until they say oops, it’s going to be another two weeks. See also the thirty-minute airline flight delay.

        But, unlike airline pilots who already have you strapped into their airplane with the full power of the FAA behind them, these are elected officials – many of whom are standing for re-election in November. “He kept us all on lockdown for two months, when they promised two weeks and the TV news told us things had turned around in two weeks”, is not a winning campaign slogan.

        So we need a reaction that is properly calibrated to be both effective and sustainable. Overreaction and underreaction are both potential killers on this one.

        • Belisaurus Rex says:

          I think even two months is optimistic. One article ( claimed that flattening the curve would take ten years.

          Since we don’t have any better guesses, I’m going to quote the Revelations 9 which predicts five months. Crowned locusts is close enough to a coronavirus for me.

          1The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 3And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. 6During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

          7The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. 8Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 9They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).

          12The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

          • The point of the article is not that flattening the curve will take ten years, so we’re all doomed. He’s critiquing that idea. It’s dangerous to try and do these mitigation efforts that stop the disease. Instead, we should be implementing aggressive containment efforts:

            China has demonstrated to us that containment works: the complete lockdown of Wuhan did not lead to starvation or riots, and it has allowed the country to prevent the spread of large number of cases into other regions. This made it possible to focus more medical resources on the region that needed it most (for instance, by sending more than 10000 extra doctors to Wuhan and the Hubei region). Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, now observes less than 10 cases per day. The rest of the Hubei region registered no new cases for over a week now. It is possible to stop the virus!

            China has learned its lesson: after the lockdown of Hubei, other regions implemented effective containment measures as soon as the first cases emerged. The same happened in Singapore and Taiwan. South Korea was tracking its first 30 cases very well, until patient 31 infected over 1000 others on a church congregation.

            For some reason, Western countries refused to learn the lesson. The virus spread in Italy, until their hospitals collapsed under the load. According to reports from the crisis region, resources became so scarce that older people or those with a history of cancer, organ transplants or diabetes were excluded from access to critical care. The US, UK and Germany are not yet at this point: they try to “flatten the curve” by implementing ineffective or half hearted measures that are only meant to slow down the spread of the disease, instead of containing it.

            There will be some countries that do not have the necessary infrastructure to implement severe containment measures, which include widespread testing, quarantines, movement restrictions, travel restrictions, work restrictions, supply chain reorganization, school closures, childcare for people working in critical professions, production and distribution of protective equipment and medical supplies. This means that some countries will stomp out the virus and others will not. In a few months from now, the world will turn into red zones and green zones, and almost all travel from red zones into green zones will come to a halt, until an effective treatment for COVID-19 is found.

            Western countries are failing but at some point, they are going to take more aggressive counter measures(indeed, it’s already started in some places). That’s why I think it’s going to be worse than China but not apocalyptic.

        • I’m not sure why it’s inevitable that this is going to last as long as you’re suggesting when South Korea has managed to control it without any lockdowns.

          • Loriot says:

            Presumably because South Korea managed to prevent the virus from spreading unchecked in the first place.

          • acymetric says:

            Somewhat cynically, I also think people in the US are in a bit more hysterics over it than S.K.

            I don’t expect things to start operating vaguely normal again here until there are 0 new reported cases for at least a couple weeks (note that this is different than seeing a decrease in total cases).

      • baconbits9 says:

        China has shown that drastic action does the same thing.

        I have really been chafing at this, and China released some economic data this morning so I’ll post it now.

        It is premature to say that China has shown dramatic action stops the virus until they get back up and running. The data they reported pretty clearly shows that their approach is short term at best. Retail sales were down 20%+ y/y, and industrial production fell 13.5%, in the US during the GFC retail sales fell 14% and industrial production fell 17%, so we are looking at a decline in one month that was as large as the 2 year decline during the financial crisis in the US (probably worse really since China was reporting growth of 6% 2019). I wouldn’t be surprised if these numbers were worse than the worst months of the Great Depression and there is no expectation of a quick recovery as China’s trade partners are going into lock-down/recession now. ‘We stopped the virus’ would be a cold comfort if they also kicked off a major depression to do so.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It also assumes that China’s numbers are accurate and they have actually stopped the spread. I believe that they have several major cities still on lockdown.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I saw an analysis that suggested that Covid-19 saved an order of magnitude more lives than it took in China, due to the reduction in pollution.

      Did the math for Bucharest and ended up with 1200 lives a year. If fewer die due to COVID19 in the city, we’re in the black.

      Started with a facebook political ad that said “pollution in Bucharest is claiming 4 years of everybody’s life”. Which sounds… reasonable, for the highest polluted city in Europe. Took a lifespan of 80 years and a population of 2 million and that’s what I ended up with. 1200 deaths a year due to long term pollution for that population… sounds sane.

    • zzzzort says:

      Don’t know about contrarian, but at least the silver-linings I’m rooting for:
      -Working from home (as already mentioned). Better for workers and better for the environment.
      -Alternatives to meatspace conferences and seminars, which in my field lead to a lot of travel.
      -Better hand washing practices generally, which might make the next few flu seasons better.
      -Permanently expanded sick leave. Better for workers, and better for public health.
      -Movement from toilet paper to bidets. Toilet paper is a gross concept, people.

      And in the outcomes I’m definitely not rooting for, but which may come to pass:
      -Fewer old people in critical positions. I think the world would be a better place if politicians and business leaders weren’t so old.
      -Lower cost of medicare and social security.
      -Redistribution of wealth, especially housing, from retirees.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        -Movement from toilet paper to bidets. Toilet paper is a gross concept, people.

        My wife got us an electric bidet for the master bath in our new house. You just press a button and it sprays you with warm water, runs a fan to dry, the whole works. It’s amazing. It’s like having your ass gently scrubbed by angels. Highly recommend.

        • Cliff says:

          I had a bidet, but I still had to use toilet paper. Maybe if it’s got an industrial strength blower and you just let the fan run… I don’t know.

      • Viliam says:

        Generally, people figuring out how to do things without having to meet in person is good for us introverts.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’d like to see my union’s semi-yearly convention go virtual. More people could attend that way.

      • AG says:

        I do not fucking trust bidets to stay clean. You ever look at a drinking fountain directly? And didn’t the studies show that air hand dryers aren’t very sanitary compared to paper towels?

        • acymetric says:

          Theoretically you would clean the bidet when you clean your bathroom. Do you trust your water faucets to stay clean?

          Water fountains aren’t inherently gross, its just that nobody ever actually bothers to clean them.

        • zzzzort says:

          Drinking fountains generally just have scale, which is not unsanitary. Generally if you look at the underside of a faucet you’ll see the same thing.

          To me, the idea of getting poop on my leg and being asked to clean it with just some dry toilet paper is viscerally unpleasant.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve been using toilets for twenty years and never gotten poop on my leg.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’ve always thought that if it were any other part of my body besides my butt that I got poop on, “just wipe it with some paper” would not be sufficient.

          • gudamor says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess I’ll clean poop off with just toilet paper regardless of the location, now. A real time saver!

          • acymetric says:


            As @Conrad Honcho points out, I think @zzzz(z.*)ort’s post was intended to point out that you are definitely getting poop on you somewhere, and for some reason we are much more tolerant of poor cleaning in that particular place than we would be about poop literally anywhere else, including probably mere inches away in either direction.

          • AG says:

            The idea that the bidet won’t result in poop-tinged water remaining on your skin (sliding down your bare legs when you stand up) that you have to wipe away with something anyways sure is optimistic. With dry-wiping, unless your shit was already more liquid than solid, you have confidence that you know where where any remnant are after you wipe (your crack or your hands), and it’s not getting spread to a greater area by lowering its viscosity, or splashing that you can’t control.

  62. EchoChaos says:

    What’s the name for the phenomenon where everyone runs to loudly shout that their preferred policy would’ve prevented today’s crisis de jure?

    For the current pandemic, Sanders folks are yelling for Medicare for All, nationalists are crying for more border controls and onshoring, introverts are asking for more work from home and social distancing, etc.

    This is not actually a post about whether any of these specific measures would work (although the subthread may end up being about that), but just a look at the “nev