Full range of coronaplague opinions

From Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, via the Daily Mail:

Coronavirus could already have infected HALF the British population and been spreading in the UK since JANUARY, Oxford University study claims

‘We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys – antibody testing – to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,’ she said.

The Oxford university research offers a contrasting view on the disease to the study that is informing government policy. It was carried out by experts at Imperial College London.

‘I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,’ Professor Gupta told the Financial Times.

The Imperial study has led to the Government imposing the extraordinary shutdown on the basis that, without such rules, the disease could claim up to 250,000 lives.

Who wants to bet whether these “Oxford experts” get interviewed by the folks at the New York Times who say that Donald Trump should let the “experts” speak?

From Wuhan on the Hudson, on the other hand, “Coronavirus: New York Infection Rate Is ‘Doubling About Every 3 Days,’ Cuomo Says” (NPR):

The rate of new coronavirus cases in New York is “doubling about every three days” and is speeding up even more, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “That is a dramatic increase in the rate of infection.”

The new estimates are “troubling and astronomical numbers,” the governor said. He added that the apex of the curve of rising coronavirus cases in New York is still 14 to 21 days away, according to the latest projections. The governor also said New York is in urgent need of ventilators and other vital resources.

“We need the federal help, and we need the federal help now,” Cuomo said.

(If Federal help is critical and Trump has the discretion to allocate that help among states, perhaps Cuomo now regrets telling Donald Trump “good riddance” when he moved to Florida, thus escaping New York State and City taxes? When one quarter of the economy is the Federal government, is it helpful to state residents to pick a fight with the guy who has some amount of control over the $5 trillion?)

Facebook friends who voted for Hillary love Governor Cuomo, by the way. A sampling of perspectives:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. For all his state’s problems, and they are life and death problems….he still inspires, like a true leader does. No childish name calling. No race baiting. No ignorant rants. Just inspiration

Sick of the administration’s sideshow “press conferences?” This is what leadership looks like: honest, tough, authoritative, reassuring.

I am falling in love with Andrew Cuomo🥰🥰🥰 [The previous governor got/purchased some love from female Democrats as well, no?]

[Did Cuomo do anything tangible in terms of preparing hospitals, obtaining masks, ventilators, and PPE, starting social distancing before New York’s caseload blew up, etc., or has he been able to win hearts and minds with fine words only?]

COVID Denier Aaron Ginn needed to be kicked off Medium partly for spreading the heresy that coronavirus did not spread well in heat and humidity. Now there are heretics at M.I.T. New York Post:

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that 90 percent of COVID-19 transmissions that occurred until Sunday happened in regions with low temperatures — between 37.4 and 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Wherever the temperatures were colder, the number of the cases started increasing quickly,” Qasim Bukhari, a computational scientist at the university who co-authored the study, told the New York Times. “You see this in Europe, even though the health care there is among the world’s best.”

That pattern applies in the US too, Bukhari told the paper.

The outbreak has developed more slowly in Southern states like Arizona, Florida and Texas compared to New York, Washington state and Colorado, for example, according to Bukhari.

In California, the rate is somewhere in the middle.

Epidemiologists have seen a similar pattern with other viruses — including the flu, which generally follows a November-to-April trend in the Northern Hemisphere, Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said during a recent briefing, according to the Times.

The four types of coronavirus that cause the common cold also pick up in the winter and drop off in the summer.

At least two other studies have come to similar conclusions — including one conducted by Chinese researchers at Beihang University and Tsinghua University.

There you have it! Maybe it will kill most of us (Professor Cuomo). Maybe it has already done most of whatever it is going to do (Professors at Oxford). Maybe it will taper down to a manageable burn by June (MIT).

(Meantime, if we believe MIT, move to Florida, Texas, or Las Vegas and then leave the air conditioning off? Check the family law situation in those states before agreeing to any move, though! Florida offers “permanent alimony” while Texas offers “no alimony”. Texas and Nevada cap child support profits, unlike most states in the frigid COVID belt.)

Related: A February 9 tweet from New York City’s top public health official

21 thoughts on “Full range of coronaplague opinions

  1. As I said before, the UK should follow Iran’s example and start digging now. Otherwise their morgues may get overwhelmed.

    The De Blasio administration in NYC is much smarter than the UK academics.: they stopped providing drive-thru/walk-in COVID tests at all curbside stations yesterday. There are at least three local reports of largest hospitals building makeshift morgues or parking refrigeration trailers in the immediate vicinity.

  2. Coronavirus cases are starting to take off in (warm) Louisiana, perhaps the crowds gathered for Mardi Gras celebrations a few weeks ago now starting to show symptoms.

  3. “When one quarter of the economy is the Federal government, is it helpful to state residents to pick a fight with the guy who has some amount of control over the $5 trillion?”

    Good point. There’s a quote going around:

    What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the President responded, ‘I would like you to do us a favor.’

    – Pamela Karlan, Dec. 2, 2019 (opening statement at Trump impeachment hearings)

    Regarding the Oxford study, I feel like you’re suffering from a bad case of confirmation bias. Have you actually read the study? The Science Media Centre (UK) provides comments by experts on the study, along with a link to the study itself. The study itself begins as follows:

    Our overall approach rests on the assumption that only a very small proportion of the population is at risk of hospitalisable illness.

    If you’re using the study as evidence that the virus isn’t serious, that seems like a pretty big mistake.

    If you’re using the study (which is unpublished and not peer-reviewed) as evidence that nobody knows anything, that seems like epistemological nihilism.

    • OK, Russil. Guess you are venting.
      What should I told my mother-in-law? The old lady saw the Kowloon (九龍) riots of 1967 and nearly lost her baby, my dear wife.
      What should we’ve told her, Russil? Please tell me what I should have sacrificed. Have a heart?

    • It is nihilism (“the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless”) to say that nobody will know how serious coronavirus proves to be in the U.S. and U.K. for another few weeks? The fact that so many celebrities (the only people who can get tested without being almost dead) are positive yet have mild symptoms suggests that the Oxford assumption is reasonable. And their assumption that about 1% of infections will result in a “severe” illness isn’t that different from the model that some U.S. hospitals are using (see https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-model-shows-hospitals-what-to-expect/ for “percentage who need to be in an ICU (2%) or on a ventilator (1%)”.

    • Regarding Karlan’s comment about the president she didn’t vote for, I think this is just a restatement of “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” (popularized by President Gerald Ford, notable for deregulation and also being on a World War II aircraft carrier set on fire by a typhoon (see https://www.navyhistory.org/2013/02/lieutenant-gerald-ford-and-typhoon-cobra/ ))

      Why do states like New York that are properly run by Democrats want a huge Federal government and huge Federal taxes? If the Federal government is taken over by improper management (Republicans) voted in by Deplorables, now they have to beg for services. With a role for the Federal government more like what is outlined in the Constitution (and correspondingly much lower Federal taxes), New York could raise state taxes and run its own universal health care system, its own universal basic income system, etc.

    • M: My apologies, but I’m not following what you’re saying. Could you rephrase?

      Philip: epistemological nihilism. That is, when faced with the question of determining the truth (epistemology) – in this case, whether the Covid-19 pandemic is a serious threat or overblown – you seem to be throwing your hands in the air. Imperial College and Oxford are both venerable British institutions, so if they disagree with each other, we have no idea what’s going on, right?

      “The fact that so many celebrities (the only people who can get tested without being almost dead) are positive yet have mild symptoms suggests that the Oxford assumption is reasonable.”

      A implies B, B is true, therefore A is true? This is a logical fallacy. (If B is false, then A is false, but B being true does not show that A is true.)

      If you’re impressed by anecdotal examples, the example that immediately comes to mind is Amy Klobuchar’s 52-year-old husband, who was hospitalized after coughing up pink froth.

    • That’s ugly on the 52-year-old. Even more shocking: Senator K says that she decided not to use her elite status to snag a test… https://www.postbulletin.com/news/politics/klobuchar-gives-update-on-husband-hospitalized-with-coronavirus/article_b9456db2-6e1d-11ea-b8c6-575cdbfbea2f.html

      I stand by the assertion that right now there is not enough data for anyone to predict anything with confidence.


      shows Germany nearly half as infected (total number) as Italy, but with 45X as many deaths. I cannot think of a “scientific” explanation for that.


      provides some additional evidence for the Oxford assumptions being reasonable. In a population of 3,700 with near-ideal conditions for transmission (enclosed Diamond Princess cruise ship), only 37 required intensive care (about 5% of the 712 with a positive test result). That’s an older population than the U.K. general population.

    • Yes Russil, I will rephrase. My family is obviously sacrosanct to me. (Is it common, right?) It so happened that my family is not 100% American, yet it is very dear to me. My parents-in-law had a horrible life experiences that I had to understand, and frankly it took me a while to absorb, concentration camps and all.
      The nihilism can only goe so far in the face of what is an actual tragedy. Won’t you agree? If you have been lucky in your life, you are blessed.

    • Russil and Phil:
      Please be very kind and gentle of the people you are judging. People can be hurting, so please no heroic assumptions. People are soft: lock someone up in a communist labor camp for just 2-3 weeks and see them soften up. If you have no experience with torture chambers, please STFU. Please, please do not judge harshly. There are no heroes. I beg you, please be understanding!

    • OK guys, I will share something that I ‘ve never done before. But good news: you don’t know me.

      My wife had nightmares until she was well in her mid 40s, and she would sometimes pee our bed and I would carry her in my arms to the window so that she could see a US banner on top of a library next to our building. Is that cools with you, retards?

    • “I stand by the assertion that right now there is not enough data for anyone to predict anything with confidence.”

      To me, the data seems pretty clear: the virus is spreading exponentially. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ Every three days, there’s been as many Covid-19 deaths in the US as in all the time before that. So far, US measures to limit the spread of the virus have been haphazard, I expect that’ll continue to be true for at least another week, and there’s a roughly two-week incubation period. So I predict that the number of Covid-19 deaths in the US will continue doubling every three days for the next three weeks. By April 15, the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the US will be more than 120,000.

    • Modus tollens, alright: if B is false (high lethality in celebrities), then A is false (high lethality in general). Isn’t that what Philip implied?

  4. Phil:
    You are married to a Russian, right? As far as I can tell, “married” means being together. For myself, “married “means being with a yellow (HK) girl for the rest of my life no matter what comes our way. Problems with that, Phil? Please rant here/

  5. Yes, I think I see what you are saying, Phil. I believe we are on the same page, and please forgive me,. I know you understand how my family feels. If anything, am very sorry, Phil.

  6. The private market proles being left unemployed, illiquid, insolvent, and rapidly depleting their savings while those with access to the never-ending government spigot pick up real assets at fire-sale prices.

    Couldn’t have seen that coming. Nope. Never in a million years. Never seen that play run before. (see Voucher Privatization in former Soviet Union, 1991-1994 & Rise of the Russian Oligarchy)

    Not bitter – just bored really.

    Let’s get on with the Weimar-style collapse or just katastroika so we can get to vassal-feudalism and welcoming our new overlords.

    BTW- the $10T figure on fiscal stimulus + Fed purchases comes out to $2.5b per CV-19 victim (based on my projected 4,000 total US deaths for the incident).

    Just for perspective, the 9/11 Victim Fund was a mere $2.3mm mean payout per vic (although the pair of 20-year wars certainly made the total government response closer to $2.5b figure).

    Far more efficient to distribute the corporate largess in a week than over 19 looong years, though. This week’s events show a scary amount of learning from both 2001 and 2008. Not on how to avoid disaster, but how to generate outsize profit from irrationality and innumeracy.

    Welcome to Costco. I love you

  7. Cuomo is a fascist:

    1 ) He prefers slave labor to the free market. Prison labor was used to make the state’s hand sanitizer that he bragged about.

    2) He wants to nationalize industry. He wants the President to invoke the war powers act to take over industrial manufacturers and force them to make ventilators. This is command economy socialism to a degee that even Mussolini was uncomfortable with.

    Cuomo’s actions end up being dramatic but counter-productive. Knowing that their investment will be expropriated by Little Benito, no sane capitalist wants to build up a ventilator business to meet demand, so that the state can take over the business once it has a chance to make a profit.

    Cuomo loves being the center of attention. New York goverment is intrusive, ineffecient, intrusive, and corrupt. The leaders of the state and city of New York have managed to wreck their respective economies by overreacting to a bad flu season. Now they want to be in charge of milking the taxpayer to incompetently deal with the situation they created by their heavy handedness.

    It is not the illness and death from coronavirus that is the problem — it is our collective overreaction.

  8. Very unfair comments about NY, Phil. NY only collects about 12% of one’s income or in total about $48 billion in income tax (for 2019). You don’t really think that they can afford to go out and buy masks and ventilators with that kind of money? Especially given that since 1 March they have had to devote substantial resources to enforces the plastic bag ban? And who is going to go out and buy the ventilators when up until a week ago the Mayor was busy either running for president or out in I don’t know Georgia or something campaigning for the Bern? I think you owe the Empire State a big apology.

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