« Fred Willard RIP | Main | Comparisons »

May 17, 2020


And I made that post because of this

Yes, by the finance minister of Cambodia, BUT, I wonder if this accounts for the supposed relationship between malaria and hydrochloroquine? And I wonder if there is anything to it or if some one seized on it and turned it into a grift?

So far as I can tell, this:

It seems that the infectious malarial agent, a parasite called “Plasmodium” has some points in common with coronavirus, such as a genome made of ribonucleic acid (RNA). This shared point may have led to the beginnings of immunity to COVID-19 among those who have had malaria.

is utter tosh. Most viruses have RNA genomes. All known cellular organisms have DNA genomes, including Plasmodium.

Thanks for the useful reminder. Like I said, a finance minister. But the SEAsia rates do raise a question, don't they?

I think I've mentioned this before, but I believe that the anti-vaxxers obsession with mercury in vaccinations causing autism is actually based on an observation that symptoms of mercury poisoning resemble autism. This has been both disproven (mercury doesn't cause autism) but the basic observation was the start of a lot of grifting. I'm curious if this observation is similarly why talk of hydrochloroquine surfaced.

It became viral only after Jabbabobk heard it somewhere and spread the 'news', so one would have to look at his source and whether that has direct connections to know grifters (i.e. beyond mere headline gripping media).
[I hope that does not count as bringing politics into the thread. It seems to me that at least initially Jabbabonk had no direct financial interest in it but was simply gullible.]

True, but it wasn't like they just chose a drug out of thin air. It blew up because of the recommendation, but how did that drug, out of all the others, get chosen?

possibly of interest

it calls for widespread testing and contact tracing, which potentially raise political issues, which aren't to be discussed in this thread. and i support that.

for here, I'm only interested in the feasibility of paths forward which are economically sustainable and don't require the deaths of 1,000+ people a day for the forseeable future.

...but how did that drug, out of all the others, get chosen?

As I recall, it started with a French study by a rather unconventional and controversial doctor:


...but how did that drug, out of all the others, get chosen?

There was some prior published work that
hydroxychloroquine had at least marginal anti-viral effects.

Thanks, maybe a bout of apophenia on my part...

From the other post:
AFAIK, we're not worried about free-floating virus particles...

Analyses I have read suggest that if the SARS-CoV-2 virus were a problem as a free-floating virus, it would be much more contagious. The virus for measles, which can remain infectious in free-floating form, has an R0 in the 15-to-18 range. The SARS-CoV-2 R0 seems to be in the 2-to-3 range.

Epidemiologists ask such odd questions. In the course of reading assorted academic papers, I read one that fitted three different transmission methods for plague -- pneumonic, rats/fleas, human lice -- to known historic outbreaks, the Black Death in Europe in particular. When they got done, an R0 of 3 and a lice-rich environment did the best job of predicting outcomes like duration and mortality.

That’s lousy.

We're just getting to the phase of the pandemic in the US that really scares me. As anyone who's ever played with one of the zombies-as-epidemic models online knows, the disease hits the cities, then spreads along the major transportation corridors, then eventually moves into the real rural areas. The rural health care system in the US has been falling apart for decades. Practices like social isolation are harder. The health conditions associated with bad outcomes are more common. From history, we know the 1918 flu was much more lethal in most of the rural areas than in the cities. "John died in the buggy on the way to town to see Doc Smith" stories were common.

"John died in the buggy on the way to town to see Doc Smith" stories were common.

I need to do more reading about the 1918 epidemic. But did Doc Smith have a remedy (obviously not a cure) for John in 1918? I wonder how much medical intervention helped during that pandemic. (Time for me to go find out!)

@Michael Cain -- I remember reading stories of people falling dead in the streets during the 1918 pandemic.

And yes, for me too this is one of the biggest things keeping me from sleeping at night, for the sake of how the summer is going to go in the US.

I live within twenty minutes of a good hospital, and I'm an hour or so from Portland and even closer to Lewiston, where there are well-regarded hospitals. (I obviously still don't want to get COVID-19! But if I do, I will be within easy reach of medical care.)

But a lot of the state is far more rural than my area, in terms of distance from population centers and good hospitals.

Yet from the start there has been agitation in Maine to keep the rural counties open, because (among other reasons), "there's no coronavirus here." Our cases began very heavily in Cumberland and York counties, with no or almost no spread in the north at the start. Now there are cases recorded in every county, deaths in only about half, still heavily south-skewed.

And people don't think "Well let's keep it that out of my area," they apparently think that because it isn't there, it isn't coming there. So they have church services -- outdoors, yes, but sitting side by side and holding hands, the open and patronize restaurants, the go to the Bangor Mall where there are lots of people....

And off we go.

Slow spread doesn't mean no spread. Maybe we need better jingles.

I will add that though Maine is huge in land area by New England standards, it's small compared to the western states. Unless the virus starts knocking people dead in a few hours after symptoms appear, even people in the least populated parts of the state should be able to get to where there's medical care -- if all the parts of the system keep working, and if they care to seek it. Big ifs, I'm afraid. Hopefully the shutdown over the past couple of months has bought us something, in the "flattening the curve" sense.

Back in the early 90s, a friend and I played a game we called Projections. Trying to guess what the impact of the fall of the Soviet Union would be. We were, at best, moderately successful in spotting some things. But it occurred to us to try something similar now. So here's my take on the economic** fallout from the pandemic.

I think the pandemic will have a huge long term economic impact. But a very different one, depending on where you are. And specifically on how your national (and, in the US, state) government dealt with it.

In Europe many (most?) national governments are subsidizing closed businesses most of the cost of their payrolls, on the condition that they not lay those people off. The businesses will still be hurt financially -- rent, just for one. But the fraction of bankruptcies should by far lower than in the US. And, when they open up again, their overall economies will be in OK shape, because their consumers won't have bankrupted themselves just surviving. Indeed, the biggest impact to European economies will likely be to businesses which do a significant amount of exporting to the US, or provide for significant numbers of US tourists.

Because the US economy will be hit far harder. Lots and lots of small and medium sized businesses will go under. And there will by (already are) a lot of pretty big ones seriously downsizing as well. And that's before you fold in the impact of all those people who have had little or no income during the lockdowns. (The one-time payments authorized so far are, to be kind, paltry. Not to mention slow arriving.) Even if not, quite, bankrupt, and even when they finally have jobs again, people are likely to be spending far less while trying to save more. Not that they will be able to rebuild whatever wealth, not to mention retirement savings, they had previously. But they will be trying hard.

In short, we really are looking at a reprise of the decade-long Great Depression. We may come up with an exit strategy this time around. After all, we have the 1930s experience to show us some things which don't work -- for those capable of learning from (or just learning at all about) history. But I'd hate to bet the ranch on it.

Gloomy as hell, I admit. But that's how I see it playing out.

** We can argue separately about whether economics is anything like a science -- and so fulfills the title of this thread.

5 sailors on the Teddy Roosevelt caught the Coronavirus again about 5 weeks after having recovered from the infection.

Does not bode well for the possibility of a meaningful vaccine.


I need to do more reading about the 1918 epidemic

America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. Cambridge University Press 1989, 2003. Originally published as Epidemic and Peace, 1918

Written by my dear friend and teacher, Al Crosby.

I live within twenty minutes of a good hospital, and I'm an hour or so from Portland and even closer to Lewiston

Portland, Oregon, and Lewiston, Idaho? Maybe if you drive really fast!


Thanks, bobbyp.

Oh, bobbyp, don't be so provincial. ;-)

My father's parents were both widowed by the 1918-9 flu epidemic in London. Then they got together and the result is this post, among other things.

God moves in a mysterious way...

It's interesting that at least in my anecdatal experience, the 1918 flu was kind of lost in people's memories. Maybe they never got a handle on it in the shadow of the war, and/or just wanted to forget that it had ever happened.

All my grandparents lived through it, but no one ever mentioned it in their reminiscences. My grandfather who fought in WWI died in 1926, and my grandma talked about him a lot, and her pride in him, but never once mentioned the epidemic.

I asked my mom about this a few weeks before she died, when she was still coherent enough to talk about the current situation, which had a huge impact on her -- until her last couple of days, she went for six very difficult weeks with no family visitors allowed in the nursing home. She said she did remember her mother talking about the flu. But she herself was fading so much by then that I didn't get much detail from her.

I don't think George Bernard Shaw mentions it once in the fat volumes of letters I have of his. Or in any of the prefaces.

Here's a twitter thread about this topic that I bookmarked a couple of weeks ago. Fascinating stuff. (lj, sorry, this isn't directly the science. Is history a science? ;-)

Maybe they never got a handle on it in the shadow of the war, and/or just wanted to forget that it had ever happened.

I have more to learn (obviously) and these are questions I wish I had known enough to ask my grandmothers. I didn't know either of my grandfathers, both of whom lived through the pandemic, and both of whom died of other causes (which may have been preventable or curable if they were in the same shape today).

The first half of the 20th century was a mortality s*it show throughout the world. There was WWI, there was influenza, there was revolution, there was WWII, there were Nazis, there were Bolsheviks, there was mass starvation (purposeful), the Nukes. There were horrors galore. In the US, there were the Jungle Book factories, the Triangle fire and similar stories, there was The Great Depression (including the Dust Bowl), the Red Scare, the World Wars, the flu, the factories, etc. Not to mention the Radium Girls, and such things. Our parents all wanted it to be better with the post-WWII new world order. And it was. Belief in science, technology, transportation, hands across the water, civil rights (struggle, but good will too), safety net, international cooperation. That post-War period is something my parents believed in with all their heart as being hard-won, and its something that prolonged lives until we have record numbers of nanogenarians.

Polio? My parents' generation worried about that big-time - sent kids elsewhere when an outbreak occurred. But there came about a vaccine for it. Scientific innovation, and careful public health led us into complacency. But not entirely - until a few years ago, people were planning for another scourge.

Vaccinations! Knowledge! Science!

I was about to say more, but that would be political. Somehow we got from 2016, when reason, science, and a plan for pandemics existed, to 2020, where it doesn't. Don't want to go further with this idea.

Janie, lit is fine!

I think it was LGM that observed that there was nothing much in the way of literature that came out of the 1919-20 Pandemic. They also mentioned going back to John Dos Passos 1919 (the second book of the USA trilogy) and, thanks to Michael Cain's comment, I'm thinking that Dos Passos' style in that book actually reflects the feel of the pandemic, even though he doesn't talk about it at length. The book is basically a pastiche, with different ways of narrating that jump from one to another.

I'm now thinking of William Carlos Williams, a poet who was a doctor during the pandemic? Will try and find some of his poetry this week

Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter.

My father's parents were both widowed by the 1918-9 flu epidemic in London. Then they got together and the result is this post, among other things.

God moves in a mysterious way...

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my maternal grandmother’s parents died of the flu in October of 1918 along with their newborn baby, all three within days of each other. They left behind five orphaned children. My grandmother was adopted by a couple who moved her from Youngstown, OH, to Philadelphia, where she met my grandfather.

Yet another post made possible by the misnamed “Spanish Flu.“

Totally forgot about that. thx sapient

The first half of the 20th century was a mortality s*it show throughout the world.
Our parents all wanted it to be better with the post-WWII new world order.

And now, those who lived thru the first half, and desperately wanted something different as a result, have passed from the scene. To be replaced by those of us who grew up in "something different", and don't grok how bad the first part was.

For example, for us WW II prison camps are some combination of The Great Escape and Stalag 13. The awful reality of the war just isn't real for most of us. Similarly the Great Depression -- some good movies, but no grasp of how hard life was for everybody.

As a result, we're free to nitpick the flaws (and there are some) in the institutions and knowledge systems that our parents and grandparents built to try to stop a recurrence. (See particularly but not exclusively those of a libertarian bent. And I'll step back from politics now.) It's easy to spout idiocy like "diseases like polio and measles were passing from the scene anyway; vaccines were just a scam" . . . if you have no memory of your friends ending up crippled or dead from them.

To put it another way, the triumph of our parents' and grandparents' generation was to reshape the world to make it better. The tragedy was their failure to build educational institutions which would make sure subsequent generations understood what motivated them.** And without that, the institutions that they built were allowed to wither . . . even when they were not actively dismantled.

** There were some pretty appalling racist reactionaries in those earlier generations. But you wouldn't see them out publicly proclaiming that "Hitler wasn't wrong on some things." Even if they personally believe it, and some did, they knew it was instant political suicide. Whereas today....

To put it another way, the triumph of our parents' and grandparents' generation was to reshape the world to make it better. The tragedy was their failure to build educational institutions which would make sure subsequent generations understood what motivated them.

You and I are on the same page, for the most part, wj, but I will place my disagreement with you on the other thread.

You and I are on the same page, for the most part, wj

Well, stranger things have happened. 😁

but how did that drug, out of all the others, get chosen?

It’s been around for many, many decades, is in widespread, cheap and plentiful supply, and does have broad anti microbial activity - so basically was worth a try despite it’s potentially severe side effects.

The hype was hugely damaging, as it resulted both in a huge number of extremely badly designed clinical trials, and prevented a large number of trial taking place for more promising treatments at the height of the first peak of the pandemic.

Have there been significant new critical cases and deaths in the past two weeks?

I just looked up the reported deaths on the NBC website, where they have breakdowns for specific states as well as a national number.

It looks to me like we are *not* seeing the avalanche of new deaths that we feared there would be. Even if you assume certain states are undercounting, the case rate and death rate have dropped dramatically.

New York was clearly an outlier, with a death toll apparently higher than all the other states' death *combined.*

(Here's the graphic I'm looking at: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/coronavirus-deaths-united-states-each-day-2020-n1177936)

So... what's going on? Are we still in a gap between new exposures and new cases/deaths?

Or: did we succeed in flattening the curve beyond our wildest dreams?

Is it possible that the first wave of the virus was particularly lethal, and that - thanks to the shutdowns - that particularly lethal strain was pretty much stopped in its tracks? And that the strain(s) still circulating are a less-lethal variant - still bad, but not nightmare-bad?

I've never heard of a virus adapting that fast, but I'm wondering why we have not yet seen much of a second wave, despite so many parts of the country re-opening starting about 2 weeks ago.

Those are complicated questions to which we really don't have any good answers.

Certainly the virus does nor appear to be mutating in any particularly significant ways; mass sequencing means that we'd spot any such thing pretty quickly.

What has adapted much quicker is human social behaviour. Even without lockdowns, the amount of social mixing of all kinds has been curtailed dramatically. And that probably remains the case in states which have in whatever manner eased their lockdowns.

Casey, i suspect a few factors:
1) Almost none of the country opened much before last week.

2) Where things did open, people mostly are hesitant to go out. Even many of my most vocal set us free acquaintances are not going to a restaurant.

3) The death rate will likely continue to decrease as the treatment protocols are improved. Even without virus specific drugs, the most effective ways to treat the symptoms seem to have improved.

4) The people who are venturing out are likely the healthier, younger cohort. The secondary transmission to more vulnerable people would likely take longer to show up.

All of those are what I glean from the wash of "information" we get daily. Others may have different conclusions.

Here in Japan, rather than lockdown, they are pushing 'reduce your social contacts by 80%'. While that is fuzzy, it does create a reduction and keeps people in mind of the virus. As Marty points out, all the reopening in the world isn't going to make any difference if people arenYt going to go out.

To the extent that I can understand anything about this, I think that Marty's analysis is right.

Virginia's graph. It's very encouraging, although I know we're not yet out of the woods. It's encouraging enough that people are, to a limited extent, talking about doing something slightly more social than zoom. Slowly.

Sorry to have messed up the end tag there.

the most effective ways to treat the symptoms seem to have improved.

What's changed?

A friend in NYC got the virus. Treatment was stay home, isolate, drink fluids, meds for fever and body ache. Basically, what they'd tell you for flu. He didn't have respiratory symptoms, so no oxygen therapy.

I know there have been trials for some meds, other than that what's different now?

for the record, NC is one of those 'opening' states. but, restaurants and bars are not open for sit-down business (take out only). churches are still outdoors only. no haircuts, gyms, theaters or concerts.

the big changes are:

1) retail stores had their maximum occupancy officially raised from 20% of normal to 50% of normal.

2) you can officially leave your home for non-essential travel (the nearby lake was full of boats, but the beaches were still closed).

3) child care facilities are open for children of working parents (previously for children of essential workers only).

that seems like pretty small potatoes.

I know there have been trials for some meds, other than that what's different now?

I don't think there have been breakthroughs for less serious cases, but for hospitalized patients, I've read that doctors are learning to manage the disease to prevent having to use ventilators, which can have lasting ill effects. Blood thinners, placing patients on their sides instead of their backs, and such things. I saw a great article about this but am having trouble finding it. If I do, I'll link.

In other words, the mortality rate for hospitalized patients seems to be improving.

Here's one.

russell, my comment was based on the protocols in the hospital.
What I have read is that they are using various treatments to more effect, and the protocols have changed significantly since the first hospitalized patients.

The stay at home treatments are the same as any flu until respiratory issues set in. Although when I was tested they xrayed my chest and gave me prophylactic antibiotics to head off the pneumonia.

Just fyi, I tested negative for Covid but had pneumonia.

Pneumonia sucks. Hope you get better soon! And, glad about negative COVID.

Much better now thanks!

that seems like pretty small potatoes.

Number 3 is a large potato for working parents, assuming that they feel comfortable sending a child to childcare, which is a big assumption.

I think small steps are best. Virginia has taken some similar steps, although hair salons are also on the list (with restrictions). I think that the modest loosening will reassure people that the remaining restrictions aren't arbitrary.

Today's good news is that the Moderna mRNA vaccine seems to be potentially effective.

If it does pan out, I will be both surprised (it's a novel technology for vaccines), and delighted, as it's probably the easiest of the competing vaccines to produce in very large quantities, quickly.

Those are great responses, Marty and sapient, and they make a lot of sense, esp. the changes to in-hospital care.

Those are great responses, Marty and sapient

Agreed, thank you both!

IMO any positive step is a positive step, regardless of how small.

We'd all like to see the curve bending down faster than it is. I am nonetheless glad to see it bending down, at all.

I have a question:

If you look at the worldometers page, there are two headline statistics:

* 2% of active cases are serious, 98% are mild
* 14% of closed cases end in death

How are both of those things true? It seems... counterintuitive.

Thanks, CaseyL. The Washington Post article made me feel hopeful.

Much better now thanks!

Excellent news, Marty. And long may it last!

Wow, Nigel, that sounds very encouraging! Fingers crossed.

Number 3 is a large potato for working parents, assuming that they feel comfortable sending a child to childcare, which is a big assumption.


i meant 'small potatoes' in the sense that, despite what people say about "All those dumb states are reopening! Idiots!", it really isn't - at least this state isn't. it's just doing some targeted things here and there; "small steps" like you said.

and it can all be shut down again if things get worse.

One thing I heard on the radio this morning was that half of the COVID-19 deaths thus far in NJ were in long-term care facilities. That's shocking. Nationwide, they were said to account for a third of deaths so far. Even that's shocking.

Perhaps the most vulnerable have been dying at a very high rate, and now that's slowing down, which is affecting the overall numbers.

half of the COVID-19 deaths thus far in NJ were in long-term care facilities.

Same in California.


One nursing home owner's successful campaign against Covid in Connecticut.

Heard this guy interviewed on WBUR this morning.


Maria Farrell at Crooked Timber writing about chronic fatigue and COVID-19.

The best essay I've ever read.

Responding to cleek's 12:49 is too much like politics, so I'm doing it in the other thread ("the future is a foreign country").

...half of the COVID-19 deaths thus far in NJ were in long-term care facilities..

That seems to be the common experience across France, Italy, Spain and the UK, too.

The care facilities have much the same risks, and far fewer facilities or protective gear than the hospitals. I believe NY made precisely the same mistake as the UK, and discharged patients into care homes to free up hospital space, even if they were suspected Covid cases, as long as they weren’t on oxygen.

A massive death toll followed two or three weeks later in the UK.


I'm trying to fix it, bobbyp, but I can't see what's wrong with it.

I tried to post the bare link, but apparently Typepad doesn't like that either.

Maybe there are too many dashes in the link, but also, my browser is giving me a demure little message saying that parts of the page aren't secure.

It's a link from a site called ScienceAlert: The Best in Science. It was a short squib entitled "Herd Immunity Won't Save Us From COVID-19"

Don't know about its veracity, but hey, the guy claimed to be a doctor. FWIW.

Let's try this.

The site is
and the file is

Why our blog software won't take it? Who knows.

Here's Why Herd Immunity Won't Save Us From The COVID-19 Pandemic

This is a great article:

...The four pillars of our strategy—hygiene, distancing, screening, and masks—will not return us to normal life, but, when signs indicate that the virus is under control, they could get people out of their homes and moving again. As I think about how my workplace’s regimen could be transferred to life outside the hospital, however, I have come to realize that there is a fifth element to success: culture. It’s one thing to know what we should be doing; it’s another to do it, rigorously and thoroughly...
... Culture is the fifth, and arguably the most difficult, pillar of a new combination therapy to stop the coronavirus. People tend to focus on two desires: safety and freedom; keep me safe and leave me alone. What Doyle says she needs her people—both staff and residents—to embrace is the desire to keep others safe, not just themselves. She needs them to say, “I’m worried about my sore throat, and I am going to stay home.” Or “I am O.K. with being reminded to pull my mask up.” That is the culture of the operating room. It’s about wanting, among other things, never to be the one to make someone else sick....

Thanks for managing to post this link.
I can claim no certified expertise on epidemiology, but I can easily see, as can anyone who as followed the non-crazy press lately, that the exposition of herd immunity is itself absolute bog-standard textbook material, and good lay-persons explanation to boot.

I haven't got to the headline argument yet, and probably I'm thoroughly unqualified to express an opinion on that; but something that opens like this is far beyond the capabilities of the usual Twitter/Fox pundit to write, no matter how much Vladimir Vladimirovich paid for it.

Herd immunity without a vaccine is by definition not a preventative measure.

Which is obviously true.
I suspect , though. that it might have been contemplated as an economic matter.

Noting that Moderna just launched a $1.3bn stock offering, it’s reasonable to question the amount of data they have released on their early stage vaccine trial.

Vaccine experts say Moderna didn’t produce data critical to assessing Covid-19 vaccine

A very good article.

Despite these caveats, I’m still hoping for their success.

I worry about sloppy science in the rush to get a vaccine, any vaccine, out to the public. The testing regimens are going to be rushed and shallow, with little time (if any) to look for adverse effects, esp. long term adverse effects.

I really wish we still had non-profit, publicly-funded research into this sort of project, so we could at least not have to factor in the profit motive as a criterion for releasing a vaccine to the public.

The research into Covid-19 should be interesting to read. Every doctor dealing with it keeps saying they've never seen a virus present in so many different ways - coughing! blood clots! covid toes! no symptoms at all until collapse! - I hope the researchers take the little dickens apart and figure out why it does what it does.

I ran across something today (and can't find the link; sorry) that their initial "promising" trial that they're talking about consisted of 6 (six!) people. Next up, a 600 person trial. Yeah, it's a start. But it's a damn small sample to get too pumped up about yet.

A good examination of the Stanford Santa Clara study:


I'm glad I was only duped by that study for a very short time. Even then, I didn't draw the conclusion "Let's open everything back up! It's fine!"

Once I fully understood that the number of positives they got fell within the possible range of false positives for the test they were using, they lost me. But it's still interesting to read what might have pushed them to put something that stupid out.

I don't know if the Santa Clara study is egregious enough to be considered fake news, but here's something on how much fake news is going around about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.


Ultimately, I think this is where a lot of people who are not necessarily inclined to spread or believe misinformation/disinformation still end up being part of the problem:

“They don’t know what to believe, so they’re not going to believe anything. Not believing anything can be as pernicious as believing fake news.”

looks like there's a potential treatment for the inflammatory syndrome that COVID seems to spark in kids.

Curious what the coders here think of this critique of Neil Furguson's Imperial Model:


And, while looking for more analysis out of curiosity, I ran into this (note: first time I came across the site, yes I see the site name and didn't know it existed before, so reader beware):


It would be interesting to verify the claim of lack of transparency in releasing the original code.

As the article notes, that's precisely the same treatment for Kawasaki. The title makes it sound like it was just discovered. Not busting you, just lamenting the fact.

I'd also note that in the particular case of IVIG prices, it's a really good window thru which to see why healthcare pricing is so f**ked up in the US (though I'm not telling you anything new)


20 years ago, the cost was about 250$ US, but insurance charged us 2500$ that had to be negotiated down.

IVIG is collected from donations, so this is a great example of something whose cost could be lowered if there were a government system for collecting the blood and plasma (maybe some folks have experience with donating plasma as a uni student), the cost could be reduced if the profit motive was removed.

More info

bc - the discussion you want of the code and models for Neil Ferguson's work is probably here in the extensive discussion in comments:


...and I find the people there asking the proper questions of the reviewers as well. I think the reviewers come off worse than does Ferguson in the back-and-forth.

bc, I don't know how familiar you are with the UK media landscape, but the Telegraph which was known as the Torygraph, (but this has changed seehttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/02/telegraph-no-longer-torygraph) Still, I think generally posts news that is designed to support the Conservative party. Not as bad as Fox and because the Conservatives are split, you can get some interesting dissonance. There's also the fact that the current PM was a writer for the paper, and responsible for 3 sanctions against the paper

perhaps GftNC and others over there could give a better rundown of the current state of affairs, but it would seem they are trying to scapegoat Ferguson's work in order to shore up the government. I'm certainly willing to consider the discussion, but given the fog around some of the decisions and the fact that the current UK government is struggling to justify is certainly something to add to the mix


"but given the fog around some of the decisions"

Fog? In London? UNPOSSIBLE!1!!

Well, obvs I can't comment on code, modelling etc (heretofore admitted innumeracy etc), but another rightwing publication, the Spectator, says this, among other things, about the Ferguson controversy:

No model should be above questioning.

We should, though, pause well short of that article's conclusion, which suggests throwing out all papers based on the code should be retracted and 'all academic epidemiology be defunded', which risks putting one and one together and making 11,000.

Ferguson’s model has not led the UK down a drastically different path from that of many other countries – indeed, it only recommended lockdown relatively late versus those used by other countries. It likely contains errors, but it’s hardly a huge outlier from the international consensus. Those looking for anything to show lockdown is an error should search for another straw to grasp.

We should, though, welcome the efforts to test and even to tear down the Imperial model. This is what the scientific process is – a spirited and often fractious public debate, a battle place of ideas. It is rarely as high-minded and public-spirited as those who place it on a pedestal would hope.

Peer reviewers savage a paper because it contradicts their own research, or because they’ve guessed who the author is and can’t stand them. Institutions battle for fame and for funding. People hold grudges. Personality, like politics, doesn’t stop at the water’s edge – good work comes out of dubious motivations.

Science also doesn’t stop at the journal or at peer review. The disastrous MMR study on autism by Andrew Wakefield may have been boosted by supporters in the media, but it was published in a peer-review journal. The drug thalidomide passed all appropriate scientific and medical checks. Continued scrutiny might not be nice, but it can save lives.

The comments to this entry are closed.