Modeling The Pandemic: How Many Will Die?

A while back, when it seemed like a lot of people were becoming ill with covid, I wondered how long it would take to get to herd immunity the hard way. It turned out that, although it seems like horrendous numbers are becoming ill, the percentages of the population were much smaller than I had intuited.

It’s time to do another calculation. IIRC, we didn’t have vaccines when I last did that calculation, and it was before Delta made its appearance. There’s not much talk about herd immunity these days because of Delta’s much higher transmissibility and maybe because it’s gotten mixed up in the “let it rip” crowd. I hope to write a post on R and those calculations one of these days.

I built a VERY simple Excel model. The point is to get a handle on the numbers, and two significant figures are good enough for that. If anything, it may overpredict deaths, which would be a change from our expectations of the last almost two years.

The state population numbers are from the World Population Review. The covid numbers are from last night’s New York Times tracking.

I converted the cases and deaths per 100,000 to percentages. I assumed that 10% of those vaccinated had been infected and removed that overlap. I also assumed that 10% of those vaccinated were still susceptible to serious cases of covid. I added the percent of cases to the adjusted 0.8 of vaccinated to get the immune %. The susceptible are thus everyone else. I multiplied the death percentage times the susceptible (this is probably the largest source of pessimism) to get the expected deaths.

The bottom line, expected deaths for the US, is close to 300,000, which will give a total close to a million dead from covid. That doesn’t count excess deaths from the overloading of the medical system. Combined immunities from illness and vaccination are not too different from the percent of vaccinations. The pandemic is far from over.

Photo: The Guardian

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Death From The Sky

On August 29, a Hellfire missile hit a target that General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured us was a “righteous strike” against the bombmaker responsible for the explosion at Kabul International airport that killed 60 Afghans and 13 American military personnel.

The New York Times and the Washington Post tell us that was not the case. They have identified the driver of the targeted white car as Zemari Ahmadi, a worker for the American aid group, Nutrition and Education International. Nine people besides Ahmadi, seven of them children, were killed in the strike. The fact that the two accounts were prepared independently, with different emphasis, suggests that the media accounts are more accurate than what the military has told us.

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Too Much Virus

This may be simple and obvious, but it’s worth saying.

The more virus there is around, the more danger to all of us, including the vaqccinated. That’s why nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) like masks and distancing are important.

The more virus you encounter, the more likely it is that one of those encounters will go well for the virus and badly for you. So when case numbers go up, it makes sense to take more precautions.

The reason that anti-vaxxers are often able to avoid having their children infected with measles is that there is usually no measles virus circulating. An immune system that can’t handle the virus is safe as long as it doesn’t confront the virus.

This ties into speculation on the endemic endgame for SARS-CoV-2, although I haven’t seen anyone consider it explicitly. We can, through a combination of vaccines, natural immunity, and NPIs, get the virus down to the levels we’re accustomed to with measles. At current rates, however, that will take years. It might be instructive to look at how measles cases declined after vaccination became available.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Moar Weapons For Moar Arms Control

This article clearly enunciates a particular strain of conventional wisdom and coats it in sugar.

Headline from Breaking Defense: A Nuclear Cruise Missile Could Be Vital For Arms Control And Nonproliferation Efforts

You too can have moar arms control and moar nonproliferation by making moar kinds of weapons and moar of them! The magic factor is called “leverage,” which along with “deterrence” is what moar weapons give you!

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Who Are The Blob?

Ending the war in Afghanistan brought out opposition that has been labeled “the Blob.” But who are the Blob?

The commonality among those being labeled the Blob seems to be that they want the war to continue. Many of them deny that but present arguments that a “small” military presence might be maintained. Most argue that the withdrawal was badly done but fail to offer how it might have been done better.

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Making Things Happen

As we try to look past the abysmal reporting on the evacuation from Afghanistan, one of the things that strikes me is the inability or unwillingness of reporters to visualize what is required to make things happen in the real world.

An evacuation takes coordination among an enormous number of entities – getting the right people in the right place at the right time, along with the airplanes and their fuel, which involves other airports, air controllers, logistics people keeping track of where the planes are, and the military personnel helping out – MPs are in almost every photo of those planes full of people, for example. And then there are the State Department people who are checking identities and preparing paperwork to get refugees into the US. I suspect that people from State are also helping to coordinate moving people to the airport from various locations.

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Boondoggle!

Vladimir Putin has proudly announced that Russia is developing superweapons that will get around the American missile defenses he sees as destabilizing the nuclear standoff.

Poseidon, also known as Kanyon and Status-6, is an uncrewed underwater vehicle that can carry nuclear weapons. Putin has threatened that it could cause a radioactive tidal wave that would destroy the east coast of the United States. It is said to be nuclear-powered, so that it can loiter around the seas and be brought into action rapidly.

The 9M730 Burevestnik, also known as SSC-X-9 Skyfall, is a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Like Poseidon, it is said to be able to loiter in the sky to be ready for its mission. Now it looks like Burevestnik has undergone, or is about to undergo, another test. Jeffrey Lewis kindly posted a Twitter thread explaining how they found the evidence.

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Trouble At The Pit Factory

The National Nuclear Security Administration, the part of the Department of Energy that designs and builds nuclear weapons, promised some time back that they would be able to build up to 80 new plutonium pits a year for nuclear weapons by 2030. In June, the administrator admitted that this won’t happen. Maybe by 2035.

The troubles that Los Alamos and Savannah River continue to have in dealing with plutonium suggest that it could be much longer than that, maybe never.

I wrote that up for Foreign Policy. Read the whole thing.

Photo source

Cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money

Modeling The Pandemic: Efficacy

I’ve had a vision of writing a magisterial series to clarify everything about the mathematics of the pandemic, but it looks more like I will, hit-or-miss, do one issue at a time.

I’ve worked with mathematical models for chemical reactions. The math is identical to that of a pandemic – coupled differential equations describing the transformation of one set of things into other things. In the case of the pandemic that transformation is

susceptible people -> infected people -> immune or dead people

Sets of coupled differential equations have become popular for such things since we have gotten enormous computing power. Solving them isn’t easy to do by hand. Epidemiology (and chemical kinetics) grew up with simpler equations to model their processes. And those simpler equations can be good for some things!

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Who Are The Unvaccinated?

I’ve wanted to understand the breakdown of the unvaccinated. How many are hard-core antivax and how many just haven’t gotten around to it for some reason? And who is in each category?

Here’s a source whose data I trust, but they’ve arranged the data in a particularly unhelpful way for my question.

They define a wait and see group, who want to “wait until it has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” before getting vaccinated and a definitely not group. The wait-and-sees are 12% of American adults, and the definitely-not 13%. The wait-and-sees have been decreasing, but the definitely-not have stayed at 13%.

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