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March 16, 2020


"A good time for a primer on exponential and logistic growth, no?"
Exponential growth and epidemics (YouTube)

"Will the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 recede as the weather warms up, as flu viruses often do? Maybe so, according to a preliminary study by Chinese researchers. That would be terrific news.

Basically, the researchers analyzed how the epidemic evolved in various Chinese cities taking into account the weather in each. They also compared how the virus proliferated in countries with relatively lower seasonal air temperature and lower humidity (e.g., Korea, Japan, and Iran), which experienced more severe outbreaks with its spread in warmer and more humid countries (e.g. Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand), where the outbreaks have been more limited."
Coronavirus Epidemic May Be Slowed by Warm and Humid Weather: The U.S. may get a respite from COVID-19 this summer.

Immediate afterthoughts, so as not to tamper with the OP:

1. On rereading, I was unfair to the TEDx listener. He wasn't impervious, like the older guy, he was just holding onto a hope that things weren't going to be as bad as some people think.

2. GftNC and Hartmut have mentioned, in another thread, the "rules" for commas. Whatever the rules are, for commas above all there are lots of gray areas, some in this OP, and habits that vary, within a very elastic framework, by era, author, dialect, etc. Feel free to pick at the examples here if that floats your boat. After all, for some of us it's entertainment.

I’m sad and sorry that this is going to be a dark cloud on their memories, as the Depression was for my parents’ generation. But as with my parents’ generation, one of the first things we can do is to try to help each other, and that includes keeping our spirits up.

Amen, and well said. Grammar and punctuation, books (I recommend Joe Abercrombie for witty escapist fantasy reading), music, anything and everything that can bring pleasure or even joy. You may have noticed that I have a tendency to post funny stories and anecdotes, despite in many ways being of a somewhat melancholy temperament.

I keep thinking of that Yeats verse:

For the good are always the merry,

Save by an evil chance,

And the merry love the fiddle,

And the merry love to dance.

This is an evil chance, but we can still try to spread good things, and maybe even merriment.

The hospital staff in Iran certainly know how to keep the spirit up - even more inspirational since the situation is pretty dire over there to put it mildly:


"SEATTLE — U.S. researchers gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday — leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges."
Coronavirus vaccine test underway as U.S. volunteer gets first shot

Going to be at least twelve months, much more likely 18, before any vaccine (assuming we can find one which proves effective) could be available in bulk.

And that’s if things happen much faster than is normal.

This explains the modificati9n of the UK government strategy:

Perhaps our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over. In the most effective mitigation strategy examined, which leads to a single, relatively short epidemic (case isolation, household quarantine and social distancing of the elderly), the surge limits for both general ward and ICU beds would be exceeded by at least 8-fold under the more optimistic scenario for critical care requirements that we examined. In addition, even if all patients were able to be treated, we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US.
In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days, with the refinement of estimates of likely ICU demand due to COVID-19 based on experience in Italy and the UK (previous planning estimates assumed half the demand now estimated) and with the NHS providing increasing certainty around the limits of hospital surge capacity.
We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time. The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound.

The whole paper, which is very accessible to a layperson (ie me), is well worth readin.

That was a good paper and it's good to see that the UK strategy has at least some thought behind it. I assume the discussion of this is what led Boris to give his 'old folks die, thanks and tip your server' speech


Still, the arrogance astonishes. frex, you can't have that strategy in Northern Ireland and the other strategy in the Irish Republic. Similar disjunction between England and Scotland. If he were a leader, he could have tried to bring them up on it and made it a British Isles thing, but that would have required him to move beyond the knee jerk response.

And I do what everyone else is doing. Still, I wonder if what the UK populace does will be different than other countries.

If Johnson's benign neglect approach works, he'll be considered brilliant for avoiding all the hassle seen other places. But if, as seems far more likely, there are major problems, his name will be mud. And that's even if he manages to achieve something tolerable on Brexit, which isn't going away just because in person diplomatic meetings have become problematic.

Got word today that my company is closing their offices - not going out of business, just everybody will work from home - until at least April 27th.

Donated to my first help-out-the-gig-workers go fund me thing today. They're trying to raise $20K for waitstaff and bartenders in about a five-town area. It's gonna go pretty fast.

Wife and I had a conversation about re-setting our expectations for retirement - whether I'd be able to retire as planned, what we'd be able to do and not do when that time comes, whenever it comes.

I took a gig for a private party this Saturday. My wife looked at me like I was crazy. We don't have the kind of relationship where either of us tells the other one what they can or can't do, but I think I pushed the envelope on this. At least behind a drum kit I'll be a couple of feet away from anybody else.

I agree with Janie, this is going to make - is already making, has already been making - a very large dent. And is probably going to continue doing so. I don't think anyone really knows how big, or how long it's going to last.

I know it sounds flippant when I say don't freak out, but it's actually important that people not freak out. Try not to make decisions out of a sense of panic, try not to let anxious thoughts take over your mind. Find things that make you happy, that give you a sense of constructive agency in your life, that connect you with people, and try to focus on those.

Stay well, everyone. I promise to bring hand sanitizer to the gig, and I probably won't be taking any more. There probably won't be any more to take for a while.

If Johnson's benign neglect approach works, he'll be considered brilliant for avoiding all the hassle seen other places...

That approach has already been abandoned/drastically modified - thanks to the paper which I posted above.

Janie, a really thoughtful piece. Thank you.
Nigel, a very timely article. Thank you, too.

McKinney Taylor went remote at 5 PM yesterday. We started moving in that direction last Thursday. Like Janie, we have enough old, boring food stuff to get us by for quite a while and we've done our share of shopping in the last week or so. It's interesting what people were and were not buying a week ago: Pringles, but not dried beans or rice or powdered soups. That's all changed now.

Going forward, ISTM the big picture is pretty much a binary proposition: either we adjust or we don't. The mortality rate, well short of the Spanish flu and unlike the Spanish flu will fall most heavily on the elderly, particularly the elderly who smoke or used to smoke. Younger people with heart or respiratory defects are likely more at risk. For the rest of us, and assuming the professionals have it right, a huge number will become acutely but not profoundly ill, miss work or whatever for a week or so, and go on.

As Russell says, letting fear drive our decision making only makes things worse. We can't make the elderly young again and we can't cure chronic systemic defects. We can ride out the initial wave--which seems more like a 60-120 day run than mere weeks as a lot of local governments are wishfully planning for--by helping out wherever we can and, again, as many others have said, mitigate by keeping our distance.

At some point, we are going to have to return to work. There is only so much food on the shelf and in the supply chain. We need power, water, fuel, etc. What we have on hand won't last more than a few months, if that long. Necessity, as it usually does, will drive our eventual response.

One change that is here until an effective vaccine comes along is that the many elderly who do not contract CV, or who survive it, will have to remain pretty much recluses, which will necessitate tracking these folks and ensuring they have the necessities and whatnot. That will not be a small task.

How deeply will this affect our collective psyche? Difficult to say. It could well be that when most people realize they aren't at risk, a lot of today's anxiety will be forgotten. Hard to say.

Again, Janie and Nigel, thanks for taking the time to bring these matters up.

Best wishes to all.

I'm, as noted, isolated. The highlight may be that, stasserting last night, I am being invited by my creative friends to shows and concerts online for local artists and musicians. Venmo is the mechanism to pay and it's somewhat, but not entirely, like busking online. Way better organized by some folks that are incredibly successful and talented.

I hope this survives the moment.

i went to the grocery store Saturday and most things were well-stocked; certain categories had been wiped out clean, and some picked over pretty well. but on the whole, not bad.

our store will let you order online, and they'll pack it up for you. then you drive up, load up and drive off. i thought, hey, that'd be a nice way to get some stuff that i forgot. so i went through the process on-line, got to the end, where i choose my pick-up time. and... all the time slots are taken until next Tuesday.

so, i guess i'm going to have to shop the old fashioned way - over my wife's protests.

As Russell says, letting fear drive our decision making only makes things worse. We can't make the elderly young again and we can't cure chronic systemic defects. We can ride out the initial wave--which seems more like a 60-120 day run than mere weeks as a lot of local governments are wishfully planning for--by helping out wherever we can and, again, as many others have said, mitigate by keeping our distance.

We can also vote the Republicans out of office. They didn't cause the virus, but their response to this, and to so many other things, has been to make things worse.

I know that Fox News has done an about face, and now the government is asking for a stimulus package (and where that money will actually go is debatable, since Trump's executive department has been decimated and his cabinet is full of yes-men and grifters). But that doesn't erase who these people are, and have been, and what they did to our scientists and experts.

We should freak out enough to remember what's what.

The order, pickup works pretty well. I do my weekly shopping that way for those things I get all the time. I went to Stop and Shop the other night at 11 pm for some specific things, I dont know how I feel about old peoples hours they have now. It feels like getting all of us together to share our diseases.

This was the Republican response. Seems they finally got the word that their elderly base are the ones who will be dropping dead.

Oh, sorry. No politics in this thread. I'll go away now.

i just realized i can get most things tomorrow... from Amazon.

Not so fast with Amazon:


They want to hire 100,000 in America to meet demand, but of the virus spreads among their warehouse workers, what then?

True, their are millions of hospitality workers looking for jobs as of this week, but ...

I made an attempt to purchase some electronic gear from Amazon this morning (the university is switching to all-online teaching), but they could not promise delivery before the beginning of April. Clicking on same-day delivery evoked an error message. No dice; I cancelled the order, and I'll be heading over to Best Buy later this morning to see what they have.

Thanks to Marty for the Venmo tip and to russell for mentioning at least one way to get a little cash to people who live on tips. I've passed these ideas on to my young folks, who go out a lot and are worried about the people they're not helping support.

Ditto gym memberships. Apparently some gyms are freezing membership payments, so that members aren't paying when they can't go. But members are turning around and saying, don't freeze me, I want your establishment to survive and be there when it's okay to come back. I'm sure some of them will and some of them won't, but it's cool that people on both sides of the payment transaction are trying to help each other out.


My personal shopper says that a lot of shelves are still bare at our store. But he brought me some eggs, yogurt, and fresh greens. Never have I appreciated sealed pastic containers in quite this way before. ;-)

worried about the people they're not helping support

I seem to be multi-tasking to a degree that's making my comments only half-coherent. But I suppose the meaning is obvious. If all you can get is take-out, you can't support bartenders, waitstaff, etc. in the normal way.

Amazon has announced they are limiting fulfillment to household staples and medicine until Apr 5. Hiring 100k workers in Hope's of being close to normal after that.

"Overlooked is the good news coming out of China, where the latest report shows 16 new cases and 14 new deaths, suggesting that the number of deaths in the currently unresolved group will be lower than the 5.3 percent conversion rate in the cases resolved to date. In my view, we will see a similar decline in Italy, for reasons that I shall outline in the remainder of this article.

From this available data, it seems more probable than not that the total number of cases worldwide will peak out at well under 1 million, with the total number of deaths at under 50,000 (up about eightfold). In the United States, if the total death toll increases at about the same rate, the current 67 deaths should translate into about 500 deaths at the end. Of course, every life lost is a tragedy—and the potential loss of 50,000 lives worldwide would be appalling—but those deaths stemming from the coronavirus are not more tragic than others so that the same social calculus applies here that should apply in other cases." [But be skeptical of any news coming out of China.]
Coronavirus Perspective

Here in Georgia they are now allowing bars/restaurants (many are closing voluntarily) to sell beer and wine with their take out orders, a lot of the places that haven't closed are doing take out and delivery only.

Here in Georgia they are now allowing bars/restaurants (many are closing voluntarily) to sell beer and wine with their take out orders,

Just like the TSA suddenly deciding that 12oz of hand sanitizer isn't a terror threat, the crisis exposes BS restrictions on our lives.

And probably adds a new set also, too.

Someone pointed out that the Trump turnaround from "HOAX VIRUS" to "somewhat sane" is timed exactly in coincidence with Trump getting his Karmavirus test result.

Suddenly, quite a few regulations are seemingly not so important after all. Like Massachusetts deciding that medical workers don't have to have an MA license if they already have one from another state.

Meanwhile, in Japan
Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a celebrated public health specialist who has served as a science adviser to the Cabinet and chaired the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), is also a Safecast advisor. In a recent Japan Times article he is quoted as saying, “Any patient who comes to the doctor, if they have a reasonable suspicion (of having coronavirus), and they want this testing, just do it…And what is the price? That comes later anyway.” The epidemiological study is necessary, but it is equally necessary to transparently alleviate people’s legitimate concerns. He notes the reluctance of officials to approve the outsourcing of COVID-19 testing because it’s not clearly “written into law,” a situation which often leads to government paralysis in Japan. Officials may agree in private that it should be done, but no-one wants to take responsibility for breaking the rules even during an emergency.Kurokawa strongly recommends streamlining the outsourcing of testing to university labs and the private sector.

It’s possible, then, that there has been (barely) enough testing in Japan to allow public health specialists to anticipate the eventual spread of the virus and to prepare the necessary hospital beds. But Kurokawa wryly notes, “Nobody knows.” Is it possible that there is a much larger rate of contagion in Japan which is not being detected? Yes, but the corresponding hospitalizations and fatalities have not been evident. If the numbers were growing exponentially like in most countries, it would seem hard to hide that fact. Is it possible that many Japanese, particularly elderly, are dying of pneumonia or other respiratory diseases which are not being diagnosed as COVID-19? It seems possible. Hospitals are not required to share such data, though, and autopsies are normally performed on fewer than 2% of all deaths. Recent funeral rite guidance has indicated, however, that because the deceased are generally not being tested for coronavirus, all who have died of pneumonia should be handled with the same precautions as if they had the virus.

That said, if there was a very large number of highly contagious cases serious enough for hospitalization, we might expect a corresponding increase in respiratory illness among medical workers, which so far has not been evident. Again, however, hospitals are not required to report this. At present, the lack of widespread surveillance testing cannot be reassuring regardless of the comparatively small number of COVID-19 cases reported here so far. We cannot exclude the possibility that Japan might yet experience an exponential growth in cases, and feel that under the circumstances it’s prudent to be prepared for the case numbers to explode in coming weeks. What’s the likelihood of that happening? Without reliable data, nobody knows.

Italy now had several hundred deaths (300-500) per day for several days in a row. That's fatalities not new infections.

Berlin is building an emergency hospital for corona cases with 1000 beds and hopes to finish it in 22-25 days.

Non-essential shops have been shut around here (the definition of essential is a wee bit odd though. It includes e.g. garden centers).

I think HOW bad it will be in the US now mainly depends on how quickly the testing can be scaled up.

Personally, I think that corona is just a warning shot and has demonstrated that the world is not up to the challenge of something really nasty yet. A viral version of the Black Death (and with the infectiosity of measles) would indeed be a Doomsday scenario.

Non-essential shops have been shut around here (the definition of essential is a wee bit odd though. It includes e.g. garden centers).

Funny, I was just thinking about garden centers last night. Seems like there would be a lot of stock, at this season above all (at least in the northern hemisphere) that would have to simply be thrown out if it couldn't be sold. And for the people who want the products, some of it has to be bought now (loosely speaking).

Also, maybe part of the thinking is that if people have to stay home a lot, and there might conceivably be food shortages, or at least difficulties in getting fresh food, people might want to plant vegetable gardens.

Even with my son shopping for me, the thought of people putting their hands on the fresh produce in the store gives me pause. (I saw a guy a couple of weeks ago eating a greasy chicken thigh, licking his fingers, pushing his cart......I mean, there are just too many idiots.)

"This site was set up hastily and in my spare time to provide visibility into the statistics driving the excellent and well-known Johns-Hopkins-operated site. Not only could it not exist without their ground-breaking and diligent work, it would immediately stop working if they stopped publishing their data."
COVID-19 Stats: Stats here are updated nightly around 6:15pm Pacific / 9:15pm Eastern / 0115 UTC.

CharlesWT, thanks for that site. I have been watching the Johns Hopkins site, but hadn't seen the other one you linked.

I realize there are lags in reporting and collating data, but the COVID-19 Stats site agrees with Maine's CDC site about # of cases (56), but not about recovered (Maine's site says 1 recovered, the Stats site says 0). I haven't dug deep enough into the JH site to see where there might be recovered numbers for individual states.

I've been watching parts of the Maine CDC director's news conferences, and I consider him a rock star. ;-) I hope he's as competent as he seems on TV. Plus, he's always accompanied by an ASL signer, who is fun to watch.

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