PSA – How To Find N95 Masks

If you, like me, are puzzled by the wide variety of mask manufacturers you’ve never heard of and have also heard that not all masks being sold as N95s actually are of that quality, here’s some reliable help.

The CDC has a list of approved mask manufacturers.

Project N95 has evaluated a large number of manufacturers and masks and has aids to find the mask that’s best for you. You can order masks through them.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns and Money

Well, This Is A Nonstarter

Russia has released a text of a proposed treaty with NATO for security assurances in Europe. It’s short. It’s also not going to happen. The short version is that Vladimir Putin, as he has been saying, wants a sphere of influence in which smaller countries are vassals of the Russian Empire and other major powers agree to stay out.

Russia has been massing troops around Ukraine in a threatening way while claiming that nothing abnormal is happening. Putin has made a few speeches lately that are consistent with this morning’s text. The question is why he feels an urgency to make this happen now.

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How Much Longer?

With so many people still contracting covid, filling up the hospitals, the fourth wave now, and vaccinations too, we must be getting to a point where there will be no more people to get sick, right?

I’ve had that intuition, but I know it’s mixed with my desire for the pandemic to be over, so I ran some numbers.

From my latest spreadsheet calculations on November 29, I get a figure of about 133 million Americans susceptible to the virus. This is going to be a very approximate calculation, so don’t worry about those three weeks.

There are other inaccuracies in that number, including that I assumed a that 20% of vaccinations have gone to people who have already had the virus. I recently saw a more reliable estimate of 25%. There are also imponderables, like how many have become susceptible because of waning immunity from infection or vaccine and how many, idiosyncratically, haven’t mounted an immune reaction to the vaccine. Then there’s the degree to which Omicron can escape previous immunity. All that makes the 133 million figure larger and the times longer.

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It’s Not Easy To Get Back To The JCPOA

Between April and June of this year, Iran’s talks with the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany with the EU as well) progressed to a point where an agreement on reinstating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iran nuclear deal) was in sight. Then Iran had an election and had to reorganize under a new government. Last week that government came back to the talks.

Participants in the talks have been admirably restrained in their comments on the Iranian proposals, and no specifics are available, but reports are that Iran’s proposals retained all the concessions made by other parties while eliminating all concessions made by Iran. Agreement among the P5+1 has been remarkable that Iran overplayed its hand. Talks restarted yesterday (December 9) with a perhaps more restrained Iran.

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Will Russia Invade Ukraine?

Nobody knows. But Russia has been deploying troops around its border with Ukraine, particularly around the Donbas, the area where Russia has been carrying on a small war since late 2014. Earlier that year, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine.

The latest buildup, according to military experts, looks like it could be in preparation for a major invasion of Ukraine. But why? A great deal of speculation is possible on the basis of official Russian statements and history. It’s hard not to be snarky about some of this – Vladimir Putin seems to live in a land all his own, part pre-1905, part World War II, part nuclear age. Living in a land of his own, however, doesn’t mean that he can’t precipitate a war, so I’ll avoid snark.

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Get Vaccinated!

Back in September, I developed a simple model to predict how many more Americans would die from COVID-19. Over this long weekend, I updated the model with numbers from the New York Times on Friday, November 26.

As I entered the numbers and watched the changes, I had questions about some of my assumptions, so I won’t post the whole spreadsheet the way I did in September. I think the bottom lines are no worse than any other projection. Across the US, 133,859,829 people remain susceptible. That’s 40% of the population. We need that to be closer to 10%. In September, the number was 147,194,141.

Although unvaccinated people have been filling hospitals, their numbers are not enough to make a big difference in those remaining susceptible to the disease. Additionally, evidence is mounting that having been infected with the virus produces less, shorter-lasting immunity than vaccination does.

I did not do a formal sensitivity analysis, but watching the numbers in the spreadsheet change made it clear that vaccination is the biggest factor in decreasing the numbers of susceptible people. Over the next few weeks, we will see large numbers of children vaccinated, which will help, but children in the age group newly opened for vaccination number about 33 million.

South Africa has one of the best surveillance programs for the virus, and they have found a new variant, which the WHO has called Omicron. None of the things that we want to know – NOW! – are available, and they won’t be available for weeks. Omicron has many more mutations than previous variants, which means it’s been hiding out somewhere as those mutations piled up.

Which means that the earlier variants weren’t as transmissible as Delta. One of the things I am watching for is Omicron’s transmissibility relative to Delta. If it’s much less, it won’t replace Delta, no matter what its other characteristics.

Here’s a good summary of what is known about Omicron. And here’s WHO’s update. What you need to do is the same as before – get vaccinated, mask up, use testing before getting together with people. And tell your legislative representatives we need to vaccinate the world.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money