Plague-proof the U.S. with nursing home and hotel pairings?

One of my bored-in-quarantine activities is mocking Facebook friends for their faith in various Utopian government-run schemes for winning the war against the evil coronavirus. Most of these schemes require a perfectly efficient government, the elimination of the Constitutional rights of healthy young people, and a perfectly compliant population (including the 22 million undocumented).

Usually they respond by defriending me, because the only thing more offensive than someone who doesn’t hate Donald Trump is a Holocough Denier. Occasionally, however, they’ll ask “What would you do, then?”

My first response is “I’m sure that ‘Do nothing’ would be a better plan than what U.S. state and federal governments have done.” Then I will disclose my favorite plan, which is to pair eldercare facilities with hotels so that all of the workers in a nursing home, for example, could move into the associated hotel as soon as a plague was declared, receiving battle pay for their 24/7 quarantine. In non-plague times the hotel could receive regular guests. Presumably there wouldn’t be too many left by the time the plague was upon us, so there would be hardly any non-staff guests to kick out. Any worker that didn’t want to suffer through the quarantine could leave, forfeiting the battle pay and, at least for the duration of the plague, the job at the nursing home.

The advantage of the above scheme is that nursing homes could be much better protected than they are now and have been during coronapanic. Currently, workers come and go every day, with no possibility of testing for the virus itself, and get a basic forehead temperature check when they report for work. A single asymptomatic infected worker could easily wipe out an entire nursing home. A second advantage is that it would be safe to run the rest of the society, including schools, for anyone under age 60 and in reasonably good health. Data from mass.gov:

It is true that some people younger than 60 died, but 98.3% had “underlying conditions.”

How much of a hit would an economy take it everyone over 60, plus those with a serious health condition, retreats into bunkers? Workers over age 40 are considered to be of such low quality by employers that the government has to force companies to hire and retain them.

I thought that this was an original idea, but of course a friend pointed me to an interview with Knut Wittkowski (“For 20 years, Wittkowski was the head of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at The Rockefeller University’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science”):

The ideal approach would be to simply shut the door of the nursing homes and keep the personnel and the elderly locked in for a certain amount of time, and pay the staff overtime to stay there for 24 hours per day.

It is essentially the same as my idea, but with cots instead of comfortable hotel rooms.

(The rest of the interview is packed with heresy against the Church of Shutdown:

Governments did not have an open discussion, including economists, biologists and epidemiologists, to hear different voices. In Britain, it was the voice of one person – Neil Ferguson – who has a history of coming up with projections that are a bit odd. The government did not convene a meeting with people who have different ideas, different projections, to discuss his projection. If it had done that, it could have seen where the fundamental flaw was in the so-called models used by Neil Ferguson. His paper was published eventually, in medRxiv. The assumption was that one per cent of all people who became infected would die. There is no justification anywhere for that.

Knowing that the epidemic would be over in three weeks, and the number of people dying would be minor, just like a normal flu, the governments started shutting down in mid-March. Why? Because somebody pulled it out of his head that one per cent of all infected would die. One could argue that maybe one per cent of all cases would die. But one per cent of all people infected does not make any sense. And we had that evidence by mid-March.

Scientists are in a very strange situation. They now depend on government funding, which is a trend that has developed over the past 40 years. Before that, when you were a professor at a university, you had your salary and you had your freedom. Now, the university gives you a desk and access to the library. And then you have to ask for government money and write grant applications. If you are known to criticise the government, what does that do to your chance of getting funded? It creates a huge conflict of interest. The people who are speaking out in Germany and Switzerland are all independent of government money because they are retired.

One third of all deaths in New York State were in nursing homes. One could have prevented 20,000 deaths in the United States by just isolating the nursing homes. After three or four weeks, they could have reopened and everybody would be happy.

That would have been a reasonable strategy. But shutting down schools, driving the economy against the wall – there was no reason for it. The only reason that this nonsense now goes on and on, and people are inventing things like this ‘second wave’, which is going to force us to change society and never live again, is that the politicians are afraid of admitting an error.

It is a good thing that this guy is retired. He is definitely never going to get funding again!)

It is probably too late to do anything about coronaplague, but I wonder if we could implement this system in time for the next virus that turns out to be smarter than humans. I’m not sure that it would cost any money to have it ready to go. One thing that is cheap during a plague is hotel rooms. I would think that a hotel near a nursing home would be happy to have a contract guaranteeing them 75 rooms paid for during the duration of any plague on condition that they evict the general public. Who pays for the hotel rooms during the plague? Medicare! They’re going to be saving a ton of money during a plague due to the deaths of beneficiaries and the shutdown of ordinary health care, so let them use some of these savings to isolate the nursing home workers.

28 thoughts on “Plague-proof the U.S. with nursing home and hotel pairings?

  1. You’re the man, Phil — you spotted this farce back in March when you did the numbers on the Diamond Princess. Everything after that is just piling on. Meanwhile here in NYC the weekly farmers’ market was being run as if in preparation for the Normandy invasion. Lots of young people with walkie talkies were running around placing tape on the ground to make sure people maintained their 6 ft distance. The customers, typically young and affluent some wearing masks that looked as if they had been designed to protect against mustard or chlorine gas, looked grim and frightened as if they were about ready to charge Omaha Beach, rather than request a bag of arugula or buy a slice of banana bread. Each stall was placed probably 10-20 yards from the other arranged like an obstacle course restraining entry and movement and the farmers were behind plastic shields. All goods were bagged and one could not pick for himself. Meanwhile about a mile away in Chinatown the place is starting to return to normal with stores opening, some packed with customers, all masked with cheap blue masks but no social distance, customers allowed to pick for themselves, other stores the merchants sweeping up as if they will open in a few days. Now isn’t this it in a nutshell, the healthy, young and affluent frightened like little rabbits while the working class small merchants with marginal businesses in the best of times eager to open and make some money and their customers eager to return to normal?

  2. ‘One of my bored-in-quarantine activities is mocking Facebook friends for their faith in various Utopian government-run schemes for winning the war against the evil coronavirus.’

    Why am I not surprised? but what surprises me is that you have facebook friends at all! Having said that, given the quotes you extract from your facebook conversations, you seem to be happy to ‘friend’ basically anyone, no matter how dimwitted they might be.

  3. There are several countries that have managed to get coronavirus transmission down to just about zero, but I’m not aware of any that managed to protect their nursing homes while also having the virus widely circulating in the surrounding community. Your hotel idea (combined with not intentionally sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes) probably gets the closest, but I think it’s really hard to draw this division between isolated and non-isolated people.

    Given the failure of our federal and state governments to meaningfully resolve the situation, maybe private companies can step up. Perhaps a coalition of businesses that want to have employees safely working together in offices can together manage a collection of apartment buildings, shuttle buses, and office buildings, and do the same sort of health monitoring and compliance tracking that Asian governments are already doing for entire countries. We would then be able to have places like restaurants and bars reopen to people living in one of these certified-safe communities.

    • Ryan: That’s an excellent idea. If Apple can spend $5 billion on its headquarters building, why can’t it spend another $5 billion on an adjacent apartment complex? Say that the building is open to anyone who agrees to stay within this “double bubble.” If people are old enough to have families and can’t live in the company apartments they’re probably too old to be critical employees, so the work can go on more or less as before.

  4. He is being deplatformed and ridden out of town on a horse with no name. YouTube has removed his video and Rockefeller University has socially distanced itself from him in a most concerted fashion:

    https://nypost.com/2020/05/16/youtube-censors-epidemiologist-knut-wittkowski-for-opposing-lockdown/

    “They don’t tell you. They just say it violates our community standards. There’s no explanation for what those standards are or what standards it violated.”

    “Anything that goes against [World Health Organization] recommendations would be a violation of our policy and so removal is another really important part of our policy,” CEO Susan Wojcicki told CNN.”

    https://www.rockefeller.edu/news/27872-rockefeller-university-releases-statement-concerning-dr-knut-wittkowski/

    “Wittkowski was previously employed by Rockefeller as a biostatistician. He has never held the title of professor at Rockefeller.”

  5. Thanks for the Sp!ked interview link. I think he’s right. He has a tremendous amount of courage to keep talking about it as passionately as he has been doing. We have destroyed the economy of the Western world because of a virus that kills people in their 70s. That’s not the real reason why, though. The real reason is climate change.

    It’s also very interesting to total up the known numbers of passengers, crews and reported deaths on all the cruise ships. From the wikipedia page, I get approximately 37,051 people and 77 deaths, or 0.00207, 2/10ths of 1%.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_on_cruise_ships#Average_age_of_cruise_passengers

    “A report from Cruise Lines International Association from 2019 states the average age of cruise passengers is 46.9 years, while the largest age bracket is 60–69 years (19%) followed by 50–59 years (18%).[407] Research from 2001 studying the epidemiology of passenger mortalities on two cruise ships, indicated a median age of 65 years of cruise participants. It also stated, that between April 1995 to April 2001 “there was an average of one death every six months per ship”, with an average of 800 passengers on each ship.[408]”

    The Diamond Princess is one of the most thoroughly investigated with 3711 people on board, 3618 tests administered, 712 cases and 14 deaths. 0.0038, and Diamond Princess was particularly hard hit. Here are all the deaths:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_on_Diamond_Princess

    “Two passengers died on 20 February[67] and a third on 23 February, all three of whom were Japanese citizens in their 80s.[68] A fourth passenger, an elderly Japanese man, was reported on 25 February to have died.[69] The fifth fatality, a Japanese woman in her 70s,[5] and the sixth fatality, a British national in his 70s, both died on 28 February.[70][6] A 78-year-old Australian national, who was evacuated from the ship, died on 1 March in Australia, making him the seventh.[7] A Hong Kong national from the ship died on 6 March, making him the eighth.[71] A Canadian man in his 70s died on 19 March, making him the ninth death.[72][9] Two Japanese male passengers in their 70s died on 22 March making them the 10th and 11th deathes.[10] A Hong Kong woman in her 60s died on 28 March, making her the twelfth death.[11] The thirteenth fatality is a Japanese passenger who died on 9 April.[12] The details concerning the passenger’s age and gender were not disclosed according to their family’s wishes.[73] Another Japanese man in his 70s died on 14 April, making him the fourteenth fatality.[13]”

    For a couple of hundred billion dollars we could have turned every nursing home and assisted living facility in the United States into a Class V cleanroom and let life go on with some moderate interventions, but instead we’ve destroyed the world for a generation to come.

  6. “Holocough Denier”

    LOL.

    We could all take a lesson from the Israelis and insist on more Ipcha Mistabra attitude in our public policy discussions.

    If youtube is taking its marching orders from WHO on matters of public policy debate, isn’t this foreign interference in out elections?

  7. Evil but it looks to me like the nursing homes were set up to get a high body count to back up the freak out. Sick patients intentionally sent to homes. PA top health bureaucrat took her mother out of a home and put her in a hotel early just as things were getting hot.

  8. What do you propose for all the age 55-60 and older people who are at high risk? Your plan is just a different quarantine setup. All the older people have to stay at home and quarantine. And they have to stay isolated for a very long time. So all the mature adults and managers in most businesses have to quit work or try working from home. Hope you think this works, I do not.

    Same for those nursing home helpers. How long will they have to stay locked up? Or do you have a second hotel where workers rotate quarantine in/out for 14 days before going on duty? This thing looks pretty complex and like a very long war to me. And if people relax and let their guard down over the summer things could get bad again this fall. We just do not know…

    What is the end game? A vaccine? Herd immunity?

    • bill: You raise a good question, but if we let the virus burn through the under-60 population, the period of isolation for the old-old and vulnerable should be a lot shorter than what it is under the current system (years?). In the places where the virus ran wild, the epidemic seems to have burned itself out about 10 weeks after people noticed it. So let’s say 10-12 weeks of isolation?

      (I don’t like to use the term “herd immunity” because that is a technical term that gets everyone upset. Better just to say that the virus does run out of easy targets for infection and spreading.)

  9. Maybe or maybe not. We just do not know know how this thing will Evolve. Summer and time will tell us more. The real issue is we have chaotic leadership and little or no science being used in planning what we do or why.

    • bill: I don’t know what difference “leadership” makes to the coronavirus. We are told that female leadership results in superior outcomes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Wilm%C3%A8s is the prime minister of Belgium and, when she took office was celebrated for identifying as “female”. Yet Belgium has the highest rate of plague death in Europe. (Like most politicians, she has no training in science, but I’m sure she follows scientists more carefully than Donald J. Trump!)

  10. we need to concentrate the sick in centers. we also need work campuses. Private enterprise is untrustworthy so we must have socialism on a national level. We will need a sickness police with extrajudicial powers to indefinitely quarantine suspected sick people.
    All websites must be scrubbed clean of unscientific lthought. Science is about believing what the consensus of experts say.

    Christianity is a broken cross to bear. We need Karma with a western tilt.

    What’s worst are my upstairs neighbors, the Franks. They are really starting tp get on my nerves.
    They got two sets of grandparents up there!

    But at least the Franks are civilized Israelis. You should see how the Yiddish-speaking people behave!

    In the end, all but essential workers will take comfortable train cars to a work campus or concentration center.

  11. Your “Deaths by Age Group” graph worries me because the data-points do not all refer to the same population of tests (or so it appears) in which case the graph is strictly illegitimate. That is not to say that it does not convey the right picture, but it does appear to compare incomparable data.

    Please advise if I am wrong.

    • Bernie: If you don’t think the data are meaningful, the good news is that these are the data from which our governor decides which of our Constitutional liberties we may still exercise!

  12. Phil, I hate it when you support positions I don’t like with actual data, illustrated with charts and color-coded graphs. When you do that, it makes it a real chore to disagree with you, and I just don’t have the energy right now to accomplish that chore. I look forward to the day when the coronavirus is behind us (or at least under control) so you can return to writing about airplanes, helicopters and flying. Lon in Santa Monica (a Facebook Friend who has not defriended you)

  13. This is the real issue. It is a medical problem. Our half a**ed health system is designed to make money but little else. This crazy expensive system is completely failing. It is full of doom and fear mongers and few real scientists who can collect data and read results and make rational conclusions. And don’t even talk to me about the terrible doctor manager who are supposed to be leading. Then we have a political system that does not listen to anyone or follow society rules. Lying has become a art form. So we are in chaos with no social rules and safe behavior breaking down. Every local area is going tribal and selfish and only doing what is good for the locals. Mad Max may not be far away…….

  14. In a gradual evolution over the next couple of months, Trump is going to be blamed both for reacting too slowly in initial response to the virus but also for shutting the economy down. They will call it a “disproportionate response” and a “mistake” and attribute it to his long list of character flaws. The emerging consensus is that the optimal strategy is to blame Trump for initially mishandling the crisis but also for acting overbroadly and recklessly when he did act. Then the hurricane response will be placed atop all that.

    I state this without proof for the moment, but it is the growing consensus among Democrats seeking to redirect blame for throwing the economy off a cliff. In the next couple of weeks the Democrats are going to be working to fine-tune that messaging, to apply pressure for additional stimulus and recast the situation as Trump’s fault from end to end.

  15. And for good measure why is our great medical system NOT doing any case management of home quarantined and sick COVID 19 patients to keep them out of the hospitals. Why not send out nurses and doctors to homes to check BP and O2 and lung sounds? Why not give home sick people O2 and broad spectrum drugs to help healing and improve antibody response before they get too sick? And maybe schedule lung xrays for those that sound bad before they call 911?

    Where are the real doctors who want to practice good preventative medicine??????

  16. Maybe the best post and comments ever. I just cx’d my NYT subscription in favor of following the links here.

    • Paul: Thanks, but I think that means my idea is not only not original, but also that some folks in France figured it out a month before I did and two months before I published it. No patent for me!

Comments are closed.