A Few Relevant Numbers

Few people are publicly considering what the COVID-19 pandemic is doing to the American economy. Paul Krugman is not optimistic. I agree with him. The country will, arguably, have less money to spend in the future, although there are many caveats to that.

The right, in the past, has used crises to justify radical social changes. It’s time for progressives to do that. A Democratic sweep in November makes many things possible. Let’s assume that can happen.

To start, we need to know some numbers, to get a handle on the scale of things.

National Debt  $24.95 trillion

Deficit in 2019  $984 billion

Wealth of top one percent (Exceeds wealth of bottom 80 percent)  $25 trillion

Department of Defense 2019 budget  $686.1 billion

Department of State 2018 budget  $52.4 billion

Amount spent on policing 2017  $115 billion   Corrections  $79 billion

Community colleges   $126 billion*

Student debt  $1.5 trillion

Healthcare  $3.5 trillion


* Calculated from the report as 9 million students x $14,000 per student per year

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

Masks, Condoms, And Treaties

Some time back, I started a Twitter thread which I called “Adventures in Masculinity.” I wanted to bring attention to examples of masculine gendering where it was not needed to explain or talk about something but might go unnoticed. The thread is up to 86 entries now, with the last two example tweets having been deleted by their authors. I guess I need to do screenshots.

The Trump administration is masculinist and patriarchal in all things, with misogyny, racism, and xenophobia thrown in. It’s hard not to notice the photos of white men in suits sitting around tables or chatting with each other. I have tried to avoid such obvious things in my thread.

Recently, I’m seeing a throughline that may not be obvious that starts at macho self-presentation and links to the administration’s dislike of arms control treaties.

Read More

A Small Bit Of Good News

I’ve warned before not to believe one single publication until it is confirmed by others, but this study looks solid enough, and there’s another that partially confirms it.

One of the things that has worried me most about SARS-CoV-2 is that it may not provoke robust immunity. That would leave us all vulnerable to it forever, and it would be impossible to stamp out. These studies suggest that a vaccine is possible, or at least that having had COVID-19 confers immunity. There’s no data about how long that immunity lasts, though.

Science magazine has a readable summary of the research. I’ll summarize the findings.

  • Helper T cells, part of our immune system, recognize SARS-CoV-2 proteins and react to them, including the important spike protein that attaches to cells so that the virus can infect them.
  • The T cell response is strong enough to suggest a vaccine is possible.
  • In the second study, T cells from people who have not had COVID-19 responded to virus proteins. This may be because other coronaviruses, which cause colds, are similar enough to provoke the response.

You can bet that virologists working on vaccines are reading these papers, and the ones whose approach is immunization through viral proteins are feeling good about them. But it’s still a long way to a vaccine.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

CDC Projects 200,000 Deaths This Summer

The New York Times obtained a CDC document indicating the likelihood of 3000 new cases of COVID-19 a day by summer, and a total of 200,000 deaths or more.

The White House says

This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed

Additionally, White House officials say they are using a “cubic model” prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, led by Trump adviser Kevin Hassett. Hassett is the fellow who predicted a Dow Industrial average of 36,000 just before the tech crash. The “cubic model” is said to predict that deaths will drop to zero by May 15.

What We Don’t Know About SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus in the human ecosystem. Humans didn’t pay much attention to it when it was only in bats. It’s of great interest to humans now. Because it’s new to our bodies and societies, we know nothing about it. We are picking up empirical observations quickly, but it’s hard to put them together in real time, motivated by sickness and death.

Research is proceeding, particularly for testing methods for both the virus and human immunity to it, for a vaccine, and for treatments. Many questions are still open. We will hear bits and pieces from the research, but the bigger questions won’t be answered for some time. Read More

Criteria For Loosening Restrictions

Last week, President Donald Trump decided that the country must open back up. He issued a slide package about requirements for opening things back up. The next day, he issued three “LIBERATE” tweets, naming specific states. The purpose of those tweets seems to have been to encourage demonstrations against distancing provisions issued by those governors.

The demonstrations themselves seem to be centrally directed rather than spontaneous, and financially supported by the right-wing money machine. Read More

The Two Numbers I Am Watching Before Things Open Up

The best case would be R < 1 and herd immunity >70%.

R is the reproduction number, the number of cases that one case causes. R0 is the basic reproduction number, which is an idealization of how a disease spreads in a given population. Reff is a measured number for a particular situation. In looking at the models, I see R0 being used in ways that look like it contains other parameters as well. So I will just use R, which is the same as Reff. Using it without a subscript and the context will, I hope, indicate that it is totally situational. Read More

Looking At Data

The mathematical models are not the only way to make sense of the progress of the pandemic. Raw numbers can tell us a lot too. This is my favorite “how are we doing” set of charts. They can display active cases, confirmed cases, new cases/day, deaths, deaths/day, and recovered, for countries or US states and territories, in linear or log scale, raw or normalized for population. And now they have data by counties, too.  Sometimes I just take a quick look, other times, I look for a specific place or parameter, or just more detail. The data come from the Johns Hopkins coronavirus project. Read More

The IHME Epidemiological Model

There’s some uproar this week because the estimates provided by the model apparently most used by the Trump administration have been revised significantly downward.  I’m not clear on exactly what was done, but a revision is not entirely surprising.

Let me give some background on modeling generally and the model that the administration seems to be using. I say “seems to be using” because the White House task force has not been clear about what model is being used.

The model whose results have changed is the IHME model (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation University of Washington).  seems to be the primary model used by the White House response team. However, the figures President Donald Trump repeated in briefings last week of as many as 2.2 million deaths are the same as given by the Imperial College model. Dr. Deborah Birx has mentioned both the IHME model and what seems to be an internal model. Read More

What Do The Models Say About What Happens Next?

We are now isolating ourselves, at least the non-MAGA portion of the population. The numbers of cases of Covid-19 – and deaths – are mounting. What can we expect? What happens next?

Lots of us are wondering what comes next in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We already have an indication in New York City. At the same time, many states and countries are instituting lockdown measures that should decrease the numbers of sick and dead. I’ll use the Imperial College paper to discuss what is likely to come next. Read More