Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I Hate This Kinda Stuff

CTH has a new post up, and to me it epitomizes some of the really opinion stuff that I've been seeing on conservative sites: Wow, Good News – Latest COVID-19 Projections Show Peak on Saturday, and Total Deaths 60,000 (Same As 2017/2018 Flu Season).

Sundance is referring to the projections at IMHE's COVID-19 Projections. For the record, while I've long been aware of that site and its projection model, I have refrained from linking it or even--to the best of my recollection--discussing it. The reason is because I've always been skeptical of their model. I'm obviously not an expert in modeling, but I find the view that the US was relatively late to the pandemic and that the pandemic took some time to start spreading as a "community" disease to be persuasive. My understanding of this model is that it has always tended to the view that the virus has always been a community spreader. In my understanding, that would naturally lead to projections on the high side.

Agree or disagree with me--those are simply my reasons for shying away from IMHE's model. I cannot credibly make any projections of my own. My position has always been that, based on what we know about SARS-Classic and the increased infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2 and based also on the experience of other countries that have been slow to take quarantine measures, this pandemic really is a Big Deal. Of course I want the total mortality to be low, rather than high. But I believe that can only be achieved through action--not by trying to wait this thing out.

IMHE has become a bit of a boogey man for many conservatives who want to believe that this pandemic is not a Big Deal. Thus, sundance, in reporting that IMHE has lowered its projections to 'only' 60K, attempts to make light of 60K deaths:

[T]he total projected number of COVID-19 related deaths has been dropped to 60,000.  That’s the same impact as the regular 2017/2018 flu season.

Really? The 2017-2018 flu season was "regular"? Just yesterday, in Reminder: Covid19 Is Not The Flu, I addressed that "regular" flu season. In point of fact, the 2017-2018 flu season was one of the longest and deadliest flu seasons since 1918. In fact, it was the deadliest in 10 years--and it wasn't even close. Only once in the past 10 years has the death toll from the "regular" flu season exceeded 30K. At 60K, the 2017-2018 season was anything but regular. Here's how one expert who has been all over the media re Covid19 reacted to that supposedly "regular" flu season in September, 2018:

“That’s huge,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said.

Ultimately, honest really is the best policy. Especially when you're talking about life and death matters. Perhaps because the flu has, in point of fact, proved very difficult to deal with, we do tend to be a bit blas√© about it. Maybe this pandemic, which seems to piggyback on the flu, will lead us to reconsider that attitude.


  1. Granted, 60K isn't chump change.
    Still, Fauci etc. seem to care far more about such 60K numbers, than about the prospect of the collapse of a financial system which was already a house of cards to begin with, see C.H. Smith, at .

    1. aNanyMouse, thanks for that link. Man knows whereof he speaks.

    2. Any financial system is a "house of cards."

    3. Not like this one, since the '08 travesty.
      Knowledgeable traders etc., from Gary Savage, to Karl Denninger, to J.H. Kunstler, to J.M. Greer, to Michael Hudson, to Nouriel Roubini, and many others, have pointed to numerous factors trending the economic/ financial system toward instability/ pseudo-stability, esp. since the dot-com bust and Enron's collapse.

  2. Most Projections seem to be heavily politicized, and the really bad ones were used by various governors.

    I agree it’s worse than the flu, but it’s better than the 1918 influenza. I’m very unhappy with the stay at home, it’s not needed in some areas and is destroying the economy. Suicides due to economic devastation is a huge issue.

    My solution:
    1. Require masks for infected areas
    2. Hand sanitizer everywhere
    3. Enough medical equipment
    4. Lots of testing
    5. Do stay at home as a last resort, not first
    6. Lots of Quinine use

    1. Yes, it's far better than the 1918 flu. 1918 Redux is the big bugaboo of every epidemiologist--and with good reason. As I've noted before, in Osterholm's 2017 book he ranks the threats, and the big one is the flu--some avian flu that jumps to human to human transmission, which would make 1918 look like a picnic. None of the professionals thought SARS would ever become as virulent as this version is.

      I'm not sure your solution would work everywhere. In SoCal you don't have subways or other mass transit as in some other big cities like NYC and Chicago. Lots of transit workers dead in NYC.

  3. Taiwan
    Hong Kong

    All have mass transit systems and are coping well.

    In Taiwan Free Hand sanitizer is at the train / subway stations, everyone required to wear masks, and lots of sanitizing measures. 120 or so measures I understand.

    1. OK. Of course they all took very aggressive measures to screen travelers, as well. And perhaps we should be doing that, too--domestically.

  4. Ok, I understand your point about 60,000 flu deaths as not ordinary. What about the fact that ’authorities’ are directing anyone who tests positive for COVID and dies is to have their cause of death listed as COVID. Further Powerline has a post up with an interview of a Mn state senator and Doctor who explains that the medical authorities in Mn have instructed doctors to ascribe the cause of death to anyone who dies from anything to COVID if they were exposed to a person who tested positive without the decedent being tested.

    All of that to say, the death count we have now is overstated by some amount. I am not trying to imply that the disease is not serious; I'm just saying that there are folks with their thumbs on the scales for nefarious reasons.

    1. I'm not familiar with the whole situation. Obviously the medical authorities have to set rules for how to count deaths, and it's not always easy to make a determination. But it seems very obvious to me that most people with comorbitities are not at death's door when they contract COVID--COVID pushes them over the edge, and so it makes sense to ascribe death to COVID.

      As for the situation in MN, that state has 39 deaths ascribed to COVID out of a national total just shy of 15K. We can assume that most are probably correct described that way--the rate of infection in MN is far too low to find exposure to someone who tested positive for each of those people.

      There's another reason for the MN decision which you obscure. You state:

      ascribe the cause of death to anyone who dies from anything"

      whereas Powerline quotes the doctor as describing the rule as applying "e.g., if a patient died of pneumonia".

      There's a reason, and without reading the actual letter, I suspect that the reason for the MN directive is related and relatively benign--that it has to do with situations in which there is some doubt. COVID is regularly described as a type of pneumonia by non-experts. It was first described that way in China. Given the low number of deaths so far in MN, I can agree that the authorities should be careful in what they direct, IF the letter is as described--and I suspect that it is NOT totally as described by Hinderaker. That said, I will state my view that much of the COVID coverage has been wrongheaded and uninformed, especially by Hinderaker.

      Further, you appear not to have read anything that I've posted regarding cause of death in Italy and in NYC. These are the two hottest COVID spots outside Wuhan--well, maybe Spain, too. What researchers have found is what appears to be very serious undercounting of COVID deaths--typically described as pneumonia by health workers who are overwhelmed with work.

      Please read:

      If those stories are correct, then the death toll has been systematically underreported--not for what you might call "nefarious" reasons but for the sake of tending to the living rather than the dead in overburdened situations.

      Obviously the Left in the US wants to construct a narrative of disaster and culpable negligence by Trump, and inflating numbers could be part of that. But just as obviously there are many conservatives who have thir "thumbs on the scales" without examining their own motives. They are reacting in a defensive, protective way which is understandable but not laudable.

    2. This is important, so let me expand--because I Hate This Kinda Stuff.

      I just got back from my early morning Senior Shopping Run. I've just listened to the MN State Senator embedded at Powerline. Gray states:

      "a MN state senator and Doctor ... explains that the medical authorities in Mn have instructed doctors to ascribe the cause of death

      In fact the Senator and Doctor says nothing of the sort. What he says is that he got a 7 page email "coaching" him (his characterization), NOT "instruct[ing]". IOW, it's advice, not a directive. Is that appropriate? Arguably, yes. In a situation in which the overwhelming majority of COVID cases attack people with comorbidities, some clarification as to "appropriate" ways to ascribe death (again, his choice of words) would in fact be appropriate.

      I should point out that the doctor/senator did not once actually quote from the email he received. It does not appear--in whole or in part--on the Powerline site.

      Again, I'm not naive. This discussion with the Senator/Doctor took place in the context of lockdown type actions in a State where COVID appears to be hardly a factor at all. There's no reason why MN can't test all 39 of those people. I don't doubt that some such states--lightly populated and relatively unaffected--may wish to inflate their numbers a bit to get more federal money. But we're talking about a state that's reporting only 39 deaths, compared to a national total of 15K so far.

      Loud mouth governors in very populous Dem states (Cuomo, Pritzker), OTOH, have at this point have strong reasons for NOT wanting the death stats to spiral out of control--their lack of preparedness and public statements are under scrutiny and can't be easily passed off on Trump. They want to be the heroes who kept the death count lower, not the scoundrels who let the death count spiral out of control.

      To extrapolate from the MN situation to the national level is completely unwarranted.

    3. Big diff between "coaching" and "instructing", between specific factual circumstances in a pandemic situation and just "anything". The coaching may be inappropriate--I can't offer more than that at this distance. But it may be appropriate and may have been magnified in the context of concerns about a shutdown.

    4. When my father died in 1997, my mom did not have an autopsy performed. They ascribed the cause of death as myocardial infarction, which is probably a good guess.

      My point is that death certificates are probably accurate on the whole, but as with all aspects of life, we don't live in a perfect world.

      As long as doctors aren't compelled to knowingly list a fake cause of death, I'm okay with their best guess.

    5. And, in principle, I have no problem with state guidelines. States have their own responsibilities for accurate reporting and record keeping. As long, as you say, doctors aren't compelled to falsify.

    6. You and I are typically on the same page with most matters.

    7. Let me state first that I am neither an epidemiologist, a doctor, nor a lawyer. I am a well-informed layman. Next, let me say that I constructed my reply to your post early this morning when I was doing my reading for the day.

      I plead guilty to inexact wording of my response; for that, I apologize. I read nearly everything that you post, including the links that you refer to in your reply.

      Now some context, I am an underwriting representative for a non-profit Gospel radio station. My wife and I own a lady's boutique that does very well when opened and is currently closed. We are very fortunate compared to friends and acquaintances who are restauranteurs or small shop owners, probably as a result of adopting 95% of Dave Ramsey's philosophies on handling money. That said, the consequences of the unprecedented actions on US business is staggering.

      We have twin actions against American business at the moment—the genuine threat of the COVID virus. And the intellectual establishment who could seem to care less about the pain inflicted on innocent people, many of whom share their political goals if it leads to Trump's defeat. This is just as real and as evident as the COVID virus.

      Given this, it seems to me that it is more likely than not that there are folks who are goosing the death numbers in favor of COVID. That does not mean that the steps taken, generally, to this point were unnecessary. However, I believe that failure to quantify death tolls accurately will result in a longer shut down and more devastation to American business. Understand for the folks who are politicizing this tragedy see that as a feature, not a bug.

      I don't' understand how you can not take note of the twin threat and be in favor of anyone seeking to mitigate the political one. I believe that it is wrong or worse to suggest that doing so undermines the seriousness of COVID. I appreciate you and the work you have done to educate me and others on COVID and the other areas of national news that pique your interest.

      One link that kind of points to the 'goosing' of the death numbers is this one, I stand ready to be told it doesn't mean what if feels like it said to me when I read it.

    8. Good news: It doesn't mean what it felt like to you when you read it. In fact, it sounds very much in line with what the Doc from MT quoted by Bebe says about standard practice in filling out death certs. It is explicitly intended to offer guidance "where a laboratory confirmation is inconclusive or not available." This seems totally proper to me.

  5. Has a couple of articles about the forecasts.

    Powerline just had one about the Ferguson effect (after the London Econ forecast).

    My take:

    1. Initial models in deaths were off by at least x10
    2. There was some politics pushing this view (I don’t understand why)
    3. Death counts is inexact (agree with everyone in over and under counts issues)
    4. Masks seem to help reduce contagion due to coronavirus
    5. There is still a lack of testing and tracing in the us.
    6. There is a shortage of masks in the us
    7. Herd immunity is an unknown, but we should know more soon
    8. Quinine etc Treatments are not proven yet, but we should know more soon
    9. Some states in the us over reacted with stay at home orders
    10. Some areas are being hit much harder (ny), than others
    11. US Stores are rapidly changing how they do business to decrease risk to workers (clear plastic barriers, etc)
    12. Mask wearing is increasing in the us

    1. The latest Powerline post is the kinda stuff I hate.

      I have no particular brief for Ferguson. You don't find me touting any model. Further, I have consistently maintained that most of the estimates I have seen fail to take fully into account 1. that the US may have been infected later than most countries and therefore reacted earlier, and 2. what I have called the 'human geography' of the US makes it different than most other countries and that that needs to be taken into account. Those two factors mean that I have always been biased toward a cautious optimism re death counts, while also warning how serious this disease is. If Trump were to let up too soon and allow a second breakout, the results would probably be worse, and no one would cut him any slack for a desire to help the economy.

      Having said that, Powerline and your #1 are off base.

      Ferguson's initial models--because I assume that you referring to Ferguson, since his model was early--was not off by "at least x10." As I've pointed out, his "model" explicitly assumed no action taken. But action has been taken. Everywhere action has been taken, death counts have been moderated. Ferguson's whole career has been largely predicated on the effectiveness of isolation measures, and he's right--but he recognizes their medical effectiveness comes at an economic cost. Economics isn't his job.

      All of the examples of Ferguson being wrong involve Ferguson providing a very wide range of possible outcomes, where the worst outcome didn't materialize. The others involve off the cuff statements that aren't backed by any modeling at all.

      No doubt Ferguson should be a helluva lot more careful in his public statements. No doubt his earlier studies that provided very wide ranges of possible outcomes also took into account many factors. It's called modeling or estimating for a reason, and it's not exact.

      For Powerline to use stuff like this that a journalist whose best known work is a book on racism in the Jim Crow South is not terribly helpful.

      I like to think that the two factors that I have used to caution regarding the various models is more helpful. In fact, I believe I've been shown to be right about #1, and that may be a reason Trump has suggested that the death count will be significantly lower. Trump has access to more facts than I do, so maybe he feels more confident going out on that limb. But, like me, he obviously--with all the facts that are being fed to him not only by Fauci but the full range of Intel and science sources at the disposal of the President--he clearly regards this pandemic as very serious and warranting pretty drastic measures. I regard Trump as a serious person and believe I have no reason to second guess him at this point. I believe the Barr video probably reflects Trump's thinking, as well. That means that Trump is fully on the job and understands all the variables.

    2. Re Watts Up With That. You need to specify the posts there that you like. They don't all agree with each other, being written by different authors.

  6. Some SWAG’s:

    1. Mask wearing will increase in us
    2. Stay at home orders will be modified, reduced
    3. Treatments efficiency will be known within a few weeks
    4. Testing will increase dramatically, with reduced time for results
    5. Medical equipment (masks, etc) will increase reducing shortages
    6. Use of masks to reduce spread will be more proven scientifically
    7. Death rates will be reduced due to improved treatments
    8. US will have enough Chloroquine (quinine) for widespread use / dosage
    9. At least 25% of small businesses will close permanently due to stay at home orders
    10. Saudis and Russians will stop their oil war
    11. World will go into a recession
    12. States budgets in danger, will not be bailed out by feds
    13. Lots of mfg will move out if China
    14. Warmer temperatures will reduce spread of Coronavirus, and this will be scientifically proven
    15. Trump wins war on immigration. Open borders is dead.
    16. Various bubbles will be broken
    17. Hospitality / tourism will be on life support till a vaccine is developed in 12-18 months minimum
    18. Vaccine is at least 12 months away
    19. Inflation will make a return, worldwide
    20. Medical gear / pharmaceutical mfg will be moved back to us
    21. EU will be more of a basket case
    22. Trump will get re-elected
    23. Europe will tighten border controls
    24. Several countries will have revolutions / change of governments due to Coronavirus bad management including starvation by governments

  7. Now we may be finding out that those death numbers aren’t accurate. This article in American Thinker is worth a read. A doctor in Kalispell, MT, talks about how death certificates can be written and how the cause of death noted can be wrong, especially when the deceased had underlying conditions, not just COVID-19. She goes on to tell of how those “cause of death” certifications end up in statistical databanks that can cause significant restrictions on our lives, our freedom.

    1. I Hate That Kinda Stuff. Despite the title, CDC has NOT confessed to lying about anything. Contrast that article to the Powerline post about MN. The MT doc says death certs are always pretty much guesstimates--as Joe also points out. She's OK with that--until it comes to COVID.

      My view is that in ordinary times the guesstimates all probably even out and end up giving us a reasonably accurate picture, for public health purposes. But in a pandemic it's reasonable to want standard practices established or recommended because we really want to get a handle on this exceptional circumstance.

  8. I haven't spoken or barely interacted on Twitter for the past month. It makes me ill to listen to politicized Conservatives opine on a global pandemic. At all times arguing that 1) there is ALWAYS A CONSPIRACY afoot, 2) THEY KNOW better than medical/health professionals, 3) OF COURSE this is "political"...

    Half of them can't even see they're doing it. It's disgusting.

    1. I'm in broad agreement with your sentiments. I believe they mean well, but are unwilling to do the hard work to understand a complicated situation. As a result they opt for simplistic explanations, and that's a recipe for falling into conspiracy theory that's not fact based. Sure, there are conspiracies out there. There is also a pandemic that was started by an objectively dangerous virus that is novel and deadly. No simple solutions. Real knowledge is in desperately short supply.

    2. "No simple solutions. Real knowledge is in desperately short supply."
      As is often the case in human affairs.
      Only sometimes does smoking-gun evidence emerge, to quite clarify otherwise-ambiguous situations.

      We're rather fortunate, that this last year+ has furnished such smoking-gun evidence, on a major issue of public uproar, this being the Russia hoax.
      Rarely has such smoking-gun evidence emerged, *so soon* after such a big public uproar, as happened in this Russia case, when Mueller belly-flopped, and Horowitz so clearly vindicated Nunes' charges on the Big Ugly.

      (If Durham can cap this vindication, w/ a blockbuster Report along with big busts (esp. vs. the *bosses* of Saint SparkleFarts' FBI & CIA), the Dem establishment will be on its heels like never before.)

  9. I view a lot of the discussion of models as noise, since a lot is not known. Models are just guesses.

    Some US Liberal and Conservatives as trying to use this crisis for their advantage. The early we are all going to die seemed to have been used as a lever for a call for more Government. Pelosi (Liberal), tried to ram through a lot on her wish list. Some conservatives have been questioning the models, and that is part of the scientific process. Some liberals are trying to tar Conservatives as anti Science.

    On the Scientific Consensus being trustworthy. Climate Change (previously Global warming, Global Cooling) used a so called "Scientific" Consensus / Data to push a liberal agenda of more government. A lot of the data was found to be manipulated, for the narrative / political reasons. With this history in mind of using a "Scientific" consensus to further a liberal agenda, I appreciate the push back. What should be is more transparency in the data, models, sources, etc.

    The problem is a lot of science, or so called science, has become politicized. Economics is one of those areas, with a lot of economics heavily politicized. Peter Navarro, an Economist, and top advisor to Trump, is per Wikipedia "Navarro's views on trade are significantly outside the mainstream of economic thought, and are widely considered fringe and misguided by other economists" - From what I can tell, he seems to have his head screwed on right, straight shooter, and has been mostly right.

    On Medical Professionals:

    Trump, against the advice of "Medical Professionals" did the travel ban. Navarro seems to be pushing this.

    WHO has shown themselves to be highly politicized. CDC and FDA have their issues. China has been lying through their teeth on data, and "medical professionals" have just been accepting their data as good.

    On Quinine hydrochloride due to lack of double blind testing, use should be limited. I prefer Trump's approach, may be it will work, and it's better than letting people die.

    CDC and FDA on initial testing, with a NIH syndrome, and need for perfection, vs good enough.

    Questioning the efficiency of Masks, as a way to reduce this CoronaVirus.

    On a personal level, I am very worried about the economy due to over reach on stay at home orders, lack of requirements for everyone in infected areas to wear masks, lack of availability of masks and gloves, and lack of testing.

    The lack of information on what is best practices from Taiwan, and other countries that are doing a great job on dealing with Coronavirus also frustrates me. Taiwan has kept their economy open. Can this be replicated in the US, or is it too late? I don't know.

    Four personal anecdotes:

    - My wife's cousin in NJ, somehow picked up Coronavirus in March. His guess from eating at a Chinese Restaurant, a person next to him was coughing. He was in a hospital for a couple of days, and he could hear the person coughing next to him, he got no treatment, and finally left to get better at home. The lack of any treatment worries me. He is still having problems breathing I heard.

    - My wife's family has offered to ship masks from Taiwan. In 2003, during Sars, we shipped masks to them. People were wearing bras there, due to lack of masks. Overseas shipments are allowed for close relatives, such as siblings.

    - You can buy masks off NewEgg, made in China. I still see no masks and/or disposable gloves in my local hardware stores.

    - The county next to me (Riverside) is requiring all people to wear masks, or get a ticket. LA City is saying wear a mask, or people won't be served.

    1. I agree. Thanks. Now go read the PapaD transcript--no guesswork!

    2. Follow this link, go down to the graph that shows number of days to double deaths on a timeline. Then you'll see why the lockdown. I don't say it should apply everywhere, but the concern is that if you let up and this thing really gets loose across the country--which I maintain it for the most part hasn't--then you could have real carnage. Consider--it's arguable that the doubling rate has slowed from 3 to 4, which is good news. But, with total deaths per day having reached where they are now, any doubling--5, 6, 7 days--is still concerning.

    3. I just updated my spreadsheet to look at real data on Coronavirus, US deaths around 2,000 per day, and the trends are worrisome in the US. Michigan is increasing like crazy on # of deaths. I can see the increase in number of deaths in the US.

      US probably has 14 1/2 Million infected, with 2 Million tested. % positives tested is at about 20%. Tests per day for the US is still only at 140,000.

      Some worries:

      Another piece on Powerline, where Singapore is back on lockdown. Seems some people got infected after using a wedding hall. Tranlation - easy to pick up from an infected area.

      Singapore is not requiring mask use yet. That surprised me. Singapore is 80 F, but has lots of AC use. So just having higher temps won't stop the spread of the virus. Singapore is now distributing masks, so my guess it will become mandatory within a few days.

      Daily Mail on Germany - A person was at a canteen sitting back to a person infected from Shanghai, and somehow got it, possibly when a person passed the salt.

      Bottom Line - highly contagious.

      Questions I have - is anything working to reduce the # of deaths in the US and Hospitalization?

    4. It's not just Singapore. This happened a few days ago, and HK also put in new control measures although short of lockdown.

      In the US social distancing appears to be what's working. But it's far from over.

  10. Wait a minute, MonsieurAmerica, I have to defend, to a degree, these conservative that you mention.

    There is good reason to be suspicious of the media, Dems and Deep State. Yes, this is a real crisis this time. But how many times has the boy (M/D/DS) cried wolf?

    Liberals always use a crisis to grab more power.

    Just so you know, I support the present social distancing/quarantine, etc. But, I find it curious that many procedures aren't medically necessary right now, but abortion still is.

    Two things that can true. There is a genuine crisis. Conservatives have good reason to be leery. And, I'll add a third one. It is legitimate to care about our economy

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Titan 28: Your original comment contained a link to a Gmail address, which I have edited out. The rest of the comment is as you wrote it:

      Closing schools and social distancing seem to work. The rest of what we did, dropping a hydrogen bomb on the economy, maybe wasn't such a good idea.

      Trump, who cares deeply about America, let himself be manipulated, it now appears, by academics, tried and true members of the ruling kakistocracy, all of them all in on the Imperial College model. Not one of them will lose his job. Not one of them is affected by these draconian measures.

      That gives me pause, bigly. Economic sidebar:

      If anyone thinks the globalists who dragged America into these present straits are going to feel the pinch, time to think again. World don't work that way.

      Again, I don't disagree on the seriousness of this virus. But one thing is clear: those brain dead hacks at the CDC and Homeland Security should have had a plan in place for an outbreak like this, so the president wouldn't have to wing it, which is what he did. What the heck do they do at CDC? Talk to plants?

      For cryin out loud, they've been making movies about something like this for 30 years!

    2. Titan, I broadly agree with everything you're saying here, with two caveats:

      Re the Imperial College model - as publicized in the MSM the important part was left out, namely, that the projection held only if no action was taken. Trump took action.

      Re the hydrogen bomb - the effect on the economy has been terrible, but I don't regard my self as expert enough in either epidemiology or economics to pronounce on what could have been done differently. One thing I am sure of: If any can be done to rectify it, Trump will do it ASAP.

    3. Titan, I have no idea how that gmail address ended up in your comment. Since I can't edit comments as such, all I could do was to reproduce it within my reply with the gmail address removed.

    4. That was fine. Thank you. It was my mistake.