Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Day 104: COVID-19 It’s Over, But How Do You Convince People That It’s Over?

 

The chart above is from the website Rt Covid-19 created by Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. The website purports to be tracking the effective reproduction number of the virus that causes COVID-19 by localities:

Most people are more familiar with R0. R0 is the basic reproduction number of an epidemic. It’s defined as the number of secondary infections produced by a single infection. If R0 is greater than one, the epidemic spreads quickly **. If R0 is less than one, the epidemic spreads, but limps along and disappears before everyone becomes infected. The flu has an R0 between one and two while measles sits in the high teens. While R0 is a useful measure, it is flawed in an important way: it’s static.

We’ve all witnessed that humans are adaptable. Our behavior changes, whether mandated or self-prescribed, and that changes the effective R value at any point in time. As we socially distance and isolate, R plummets. Because the value changes so rapidly, Epidemiologists have argued that the only true way to combat COVID19 is to understand and manage by Rt.

I agree, and I’d go further: we not only need to know Rt, we need to know local Rt. New York’s epidemic is vastly different than California’s and using a single number to describe them both is not useful. Knowing the local Rt allows us to manage the pandemic effectively.

States have had a variety of lockdown strategies, but there’s very little understanding of which have worked and which need to go further. Some states like California have been locked down for weeks, while others like Iowa and Nebraska continue to balk at taking action as cases rise. Being able to compare local Rts between different areas and/or watch how Rt changes in one place can help us measure how effective local policies are at slowing the spread of the virus.

Tracking Rt also lets us know when we might loosen restrictions. Any suggestion that we loosen restrictions when Rt > 1.0 is an explicit decision to let the virus proliferate. At the same time, if we are able to reduce Rt to below 1.0, and we can reduce the number of cases overall, the virus becomes manageable. Life can begin to return to ‘normal.’ But without knowing Rt we are simply flying blind.

“[I]f we are able to reduce Rt to below 1.0, and we can reduce the number of cases overall, the virus becomes manageable. Life can begin to return to ‘normal.’ ” The chart above suggests we are in a good place. Particularly when you see it has part of a trend line. The following graphs show the progress using the same calculation methodology from 4 weeks ago, to last week:

They last tweaked their model on 4/26 but re-ran the updated model against their complete dataset, so they are comparing “apples to apples.” Their model may be good or not, but it does seem to confirm observational data: the epidemic has definitely slowed in this country.

But do people really see that? Yes, a lot of people are anxious to get back to life. But are they feeling confident that doing so is the right decision? How do you persuade those that remain fearful that the “quarantine breakers” are actually common-sense individuals not just recklessly selfish?

This is going to be tough. The public has been fed a lot of data where the numbers rise steeply. As the body count mounts, and it will continue to do so, how do you get people to realize that things are winding down? Observational data is always the most powerful: “Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying eyes?” the old joke goes.

The President has shifted his focus away from the health crisis to how we get our economy back. That is a start. The people going to the beach and surrounding their capitols and city halls also contribute to the pressure to get back to work. But media and the progressives are highly invested in the narrative of fear. They will continue to amplify “confirmed cases” and obscure the fact that the rising case count is actually good news so long as the rate of serious illness and death continues to fall. Testing confirms the prevalence but not the severity of this illness.

Keep an eye on hospitalizations in your area. If hospitalizations continue to fall, it is really over. Ask your social and church groups when they think it will be ok to meet in real life? Prompt their questions about how to interpret what their eyes are seeing.

One by one, we emerge into the light.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Excellent information, Rodin. And it actually makes sense. It also gives me hope. Let’s hope the general population gets it and we can move ahead!

    • #1
    • May 3, 2020, at 8:29 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. David Carroll Thatcher
    David CarrollJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fascinating.

    • #2
    • May 3, 2020, at 8:48 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. RightAngles Member

    …the epidemic has definitely slowed in this country.

    But do people really see that?

    Unfortunately, they won’t if the media won’t disseminate the information. We’re in the bizarre situation of having politics actually causing those on the left to root for the virus and to try to make everything as scary as possible, even going so far as to squelch positive news.

    • #3
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    more wisdom from Walter Williams:

    Dr. Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a military historian and a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, Fresno. He has written two articles relevant to today’s society. Last October he published, “Members of Previous Generations Now Seem Like Giants,” and he recently wrote, “Is America a Roaring Giant or Crying Baby?”

    In other words, Hanson says, “The choice is ours whether America awakens as a roaring giant or a crying baby.” My prediction is that Americans, left to their own tendencies, will roar together as giants and will ignore the political and media crybabies.

    http://walterewilliams.com/todays-americans-and-yesteryears-americans/

     

    Also CDC weekly covid death stats show that peak deaths occured on April 11 and 18

    Look at table 1

    https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/index.htm

     

     

     

     

     

    • #4
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:04 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    That Rt has slowed under severe restrictions isn’t very enlightening information. We need to see how much we can push back into normal habits while sustaining a manageable Rt

    It’s too soon to declare the virus tolerable or contained. Arguably, many governors and administrators are backing off restrictions too slowly. But we don’t yet have data for how the virus spreads in normal commerce in American cities. 

    They could simply open the floodgates by cancelling all restrictions. There is so much concern among citizens and liability among businesses that life would not return quickly to normal even without politics or edicts involved. 

    Even so, administrators are understandably reluctant to restart everything at once. A high Ro combined with intense and wide-ranging social activity would make reimposition of safeguards futile. The starting numbers matter. That’s not to say lifting all restrictions is the wrong choice.

    • #5
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:13 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  6. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Interesting data, but there are some issues with this kind of state-by-state approach. First, a State isn’t really the relevant geographical entity from a virus transmission point of view…NYC and Upstate New York are totally different world, for example. 

    Second, the states or other geographical entities are not isolated compartments. People travel…not so much right now, but will increase as lockdowns ease. When people from areas that still have a lot of cases travel to areas that don’t, they are likely to increase the infection rate in the latter.

    It’s hard to tell how the various projection models actually work…the modelers don’t make it easy to find out…but my impression is that they are working mostly on an isolated-compartment assumption.

    • #6
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. Tex929rr Coolidge

    We stopped by the grocery store yesterday and I waited in the parking lot. Now, keep in mind that my county has one active case among 47,000 people. No one has even been hospitalized for COVID. Texas began reopening restaurants Friday. And yet more people were wearing masks than ever. The people who are convinced that opening up is a mistake are almost in a panic in my social media feeds. COVID could burn out completely tomorrow and it will still be a long, long, time until we are ever anything resembling our old normal. In fact, I predict that our public transportation will resemble Asia in the number of people wearing masks all the time. 

    • #7
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:26 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  8. Rodin Member
    Rodin

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Interesting data, but there are some issues with this kind of state-by-state approach. First, a State isn’t really the relevant geographical entity from a virus transmission point of view…NYC and Upstate New York are totally different world, for example.

    Second, the states or other geographical entities are not isolated compartments. People travel…not so much right now, but will increase as lockdowns ease. When people from areas that still have a lot of cases travel to areas that don’t, they are likely to increase the infection rate in the latter.

    It’s hard to tell how the various projection models actually work…the modelers don’t make it easy to find out…but my impression is that they are working mostly on an isolated-compartment assumption.

    All very good points. If I had my druthers I would have data broken out by SMSA and show daily hospital census for COVID-19. That would be the most information (in my view) for the pace and scope of the epidemic and what jurisdictions should be taking actions (if any) to control the general population as opposed to persons who become ill.

    • #8
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:28 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    Texas began reopening restaurants Friday.

    I hear some restaurants which legally could open are refusing to do so this early because to open for 25% capacity would not bring enough revenue to match the costs.

    There might be no escape from that problem, whatever politicians decide. So many people are reluctant to live normally that many businesses won’t see as many customers as they were used to.

    Heck, I’d be happy without a mask, but I wore one anyway just to enter our church for a minute because I didn’t want to deal with any nags.

    • #9
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Old Bathos Moderator

    The shutdowns lessened R but clearly the bug has its own rhythms which are far more controlling.

    NYC, Detroit and New Orleans offered the right demographics, density and whatever else that do not exist elsewhere. The low-income, foreign-born, poorer health, high density housing populations that work in meat processing plants appear to be those cities in microcosm.

    My home county in the Washington DC Maryland suburbs has a COVID death rate almost identical to Switzerland or Sweden despite varied policies among those jurisdictions.

    A complete re-opening would take place under changed circumstances. To put it crudely, a large portion of the highly susceptible among us have already been infected or killed. We now know that we must actively protect and isolate the rest. There is an awareness and behavioral and hygiene changes that did not exist before. There are treatments, better testing and a lot of new immunity out there. It will not be a return to March conditions even if all restrictions were lifted tomorrow.

    • #10
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:42 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. Hoyacon Member

    This is way over my head. But the usual question comes to mind: Does the slowing reflect the success of the measures being taken to flatten the curve?

    • #11
    • May 3, 2020, at 9:53 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Michael Levitt:

    I think the policy of herd immunity is the right policy. I think Britain was on exactly the right track before they were fed wrong numbers. And they made a huge mistake. I see the standout winners as Germany and Sweden. They didn’t practise too much lockdown and they got enough people sick to get some herd immunity. I see the standout losers as countries like Austria, Australia and Israel that had very strict lockdown but didn’t have many cases. They have damaged their economies, caused massive social damage, damaged the educational year of their children, but not obtained any herd immunity.

    There is no doubt in my mind, that when we come to look back on this, the damage done by lockdown will exceed any saving of lives by a huge factor.

    https://unherd.com/thepost/nobel-prize-winning-scientist-the-covid-19-epidemic-was-never-exponential/

    Me: Let’s stop over analyzing and trying to predict the future. It’s time for common sense and a sense of proportion.

    • #12
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    NYC, Detroit and New Orleans offered the right demographics, density and whatever else that do not exist elsewhere.

    This is an important consideration. The South has enjoyed a cool spell recently, but New Orleans has a climate utterly unlike that of New York City. Heat and humidity are not sure protections. 

    • #13
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:03 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    NYC, Detroit and New Orleans offered the right demographics, density and whatever else that do not exist elsewhere.

    This is an important consideration. The South has enjoyed a cool spell recently, but New Orleans has a climate utterly unlike that of New York City. Heat and humidity are not sure protections.

    New Orleans has a high rate of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

    Gumbo shrimp and Étouffée

     

     

     

    • #14
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:07 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Rodin Member
    Rodin

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This is way over my head. But the usual question comes to mind: Does the slowing reflect the success of the measures being taken to flatten the curve?

    Little we can do to prove the case one way or the other. The closest thing we have to a “control” are some parts of the country, e.g. South Dakota, or another country, e.g. Sweden. There will be a lot of attempts to make the comparison, but adjustments to data will be needed, e.g. population/density, and all of that will be subject to judgment. The model wars will continue.

    As remarked in the several comments, even if governments abandon all controls people’s behaviors will be different than before for some time, and some businesses simply won’t be coming back, so comparing before and after and trying to create correlations between infections and loosened controls is going to involve a lot of assumptions and speculation.

    • #15
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. Old Bathos Moderator

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    NYC, Detroit and New Orleans offered the right demographics, density and whatever else that do not exist elsewhere.

    This is an important consideration. The South has enjoyed a cool spell recently, but New Orleans has a climate utterly unlike that of New York City. Heat and humidity are not sure protections.

    Climate must have some relevance. California, Texas and Florida have had only a fraction of the rates of Michigan, NY and NJ. 

    • #16
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:11 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Old Bathos Moderator

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This is way over my head. But the usual question comes to mind: Does the slowing reflect the success of the measures being taken to flatten the curve?

    My guess is that politicians will be lining up to take credit for the difference between actual deaths and the initial horror story fantasy projections. The fact that the lockdowns were invariably too late, highly porous and hideously costly in the conditions, quality and spans of life going forward will not figure in the adulatory algorithms.

    • #17
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:18 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  18. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    Texas began reopening restaurants Friday.

    I hear some restaurants which legally could open are refusing to do so this early because to open for 25% capacity would not bring enough revenue to match the costs.

    There might be no escape from that problem, whatever politicians decide. So many people are reluctant to live normally that many businesses won’t see as many customers as they were used to.

    Heck, I’d be happy without a mask, but I wore one anyway just to enter our church for a minute because I didn’t want to deal with any nags.

    I’ve been in two restaurants since the ban was lifted and each had about 20 percent of normal volume. Each was in a county allowed to open at 50 percent of normal volume. Some weird stuff – all the condiments were in throw away containers and one place even handed out picnic packs for cutlery. Since this started I’ve been tipping excessively even for takeout as I figure servers can’t earn much at such low volume.

    • #18
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:19 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    NYC, Detroit and New Orleans offered the right demographics, density and whatever else that do not exist elsewhere.

    This is an important consideration. The South has enjoyed a cool spell recently, but New Orleans has a climate utterly unlike that of New York City. Heat and humidity are not sure protections.

    New Orleans has a high rate of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

    Gumbo shrimp and Étouffée

     

     

     

    So does Houston.

    • #19
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:20 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. MarciN Member

    We’re in an extremely difficult situation as consumers. Ralph Nader, nut that he sometimes is, rose to fame and fortune in 1965 with the publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed. His main point remains valid, that we as consumers do not have the knowledge to navigate the highly specialized world of consumption safely on our own. We have instead come to rely on outsiders to tell us whether products are safe for us. We hedge our bets by keeping informed of what’s going on out there and trying to be smart and using our God-given common sense, but we are truly dependent on experts as to the safety of the products we purchase or use. The experts are not giving us clear signals right now, and that clarity will be a long time in coming.

    Looking at the active world of recalls and lawsuits, this is not a new problem. It’s just a much bigger and frankly much more threatening problem as the business community has ever faced. This problem is everywhere for them including their relationship with their employees and suppliers. The government and business world have already gone down this road with the vax and anti-vax movement, and the only reason we have vaccines today is that the federal government stepped in and indemnified the manufacturers. As a consumer, I’m not happy about that for many reasons. But it points to the fact that with unlimited liability out there for businesses, we could be heading into a deep recession. The good news is that we have Donald Trump and his sidekick Larry Kudlow at the heart of this mess. I feel confident that they will get us all out of this because I know these two are able to see the whole picture here.

    I read a wonderful book in the mid-1990s that has stayed with me ever since. It was written by Edward Grefe and Martin Linsky: The New Corporate Activism. This book has been on my mind frequently the last few months because I don’t think the American business world has ever faced such a big challenge as it faces right now. This book would give leaders a roadmap to recovery. It tell businesses that they need to keep in touch with their customers and they need to stay ahead of their customers’ concerns. Easier to say than to do, I know. :-)

    The bottom line is that recovery will take an enormous amount of intelligent interaction with consumers. I was fascinated to read in the recovery plan for Marriott that from now on there will be microbiologists in the C suite. :-) The successful big companies have always pulled their customers into their board rooms. That’s why they succeed on the scale they do. Marriott will be one of the companies others look to for guidance. They will be one of the brightest lighthouse beacons for America. Godspeed to them. :-)

    • #20
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. tigerlily Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    We stopped by the grocery store yesterday and I waited in the parking lot. Now, keep in mind that my county has one active case among 47,000 people. No one has even been hospitalized for COVID. Texas began reopening restaurants Friday. And yet more people were wearing masks than ever. The people who are convinced that opening up is a mistake are almost in a panic in my social media feeds. COVID could burn out completely tomorrow and it will still be a long, long, time until we are ever anything resembling our old normal. In fact, I predict that our public transportation will resemble Asia in the number of people wearing masks all the time.

    I hope you’re wrong but I fear you’re right.

    • #21
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    A couple of observations. We still don’t know what the true infection rate is, so this might be a function of the number of tests per capita. But there are a lot of reasons to expect different outcomes in different areas.

    Interestingly, most of the “red” states in the last graph account for much of the nation’s protein supply. Whether this is a function of the industrial process, or of the characteristics of the people who do this work for a fraction of the wages paid 40 years ago, I don’t know.

    • #22
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    We have have 50 states which means 50 ‘experiments’

    Let’s see what works and what doesn’t.

    Some states will make trivial mistakes, others will make non trivial mistakes.

    Scientific method meets federalism.

     

    • #23
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    A couple of observations. We still don’t know what the true infection rate is, so this might be a function of the number of tests per capita. But there are a lot of reasons to expect different outcomes in different areas.

    Interestingly, most of the “red” states in the last graph account for much of the nation’s protein supply. Whether this is a function of the industrial process, or of the characteristics of the people who do this work for a fraction of the wages paid 40 years ago, I don’t know.

    Michael Levitt, Nobel laureate biophysicist, says the true infection rate doesn’t matter. 

    Don’t try to analyze it. What is your gut feeling?

     

     

    • #24
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:48 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Looking at the active world of recalls and lawsuits, this is not a new problem. It’s just a much bigger and frankly much more threatening problem as the business community has ever faced. This problem is everywhere for them including their relationship with their employees and suppliers. The government and business world have already gone down this road with the vax and anti-vax movement, and the only reason we have vaccines today is that the federal government stepped in and indemnified the manufacturers. As a consumer, I’m not happy about that for many reasons. But it points to the fact that with unlimited liability out there for businesses, we could be heading into a deep recession. The good news is that we have Donald Trump and his sidekick Larry Kudlow at the heart of this mess. I feel confident that they will get us all out of this because I know these two are able to see the whole picture here.

    I read a wonderful book in the mid-1990s that has stayed with me ever since. It was written by Edward Grefe and Martin Linsky: The New Corporate Activism. This book has been on my mind frequently the last few months because I don’t think the American business world has ever faced such a big challenge as it faces right now. This book would give leaders a roadmap to recovery. It tell businesses that they need to keep in touch with their customers and they need to stay ahead of their customers’ concerns. Easier to say than to do, I know. :-)

    The bottom line is that recovery will take an enormous amount of intelligent interaction with consumers. I was fascinated to read in the recovery plan for Marriott that from now on there will be microbiologists in the C suite. :-) The successful big companies have always pulled their customers into their board rooms. That’s why they succeed on the scale they do. Marriott will be one of the companies others look to for guidance. They will be one of the brightest lighthouse beacons for America. Godspeed to them. :-)

    Why do you trust Marriott? It’s a reputable brand. Did it happen overnight? of course not, it was decades of providing good customer service and trust and Marriott points!

     

    • #25
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I do think it’s significant that grocery workers have not been getting sick in droves, though the implications might not be as obvious as they seem. There are many variables. 

    • #26
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:56 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  27. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This is way over my head. But the usual question comes to mind: Does the slowing reflect the success of the measures being taken to flatten the curve?

    probably not

    politicians were worried about overwhelming hospitals.

    that never happened, even in NYC.

    People forget that only 3 percent of cases required hospitalization.

    More than half who tested positive displayed zero symptoms.

    The worst case was NYC and almost all the media attention was on NYC. We based policy on the worst case outlier.

     

    • #27
    • May 3, 2020, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  28. OldPhil Coolidge

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This is way over my head. But the usual question comes to mind: Does the slowing reflect the success of the measures being taken to flatten the curve?

    My guess is that politicians will be lining up to take credit for the difference between actual deaths and the initial horror story fantasy projections. The fact that the lockdowns were invariably too late, highly porous and hideously costly in the conditions, quality and spans of life going forward will not figure in the adulatory algorithms.

    Now how could you possibly think that will happen?

    • #28
    • May 3, 2020, at 11:01 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. OldPhil Coolidge

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    Since this started I’ve been tipping excessively even for takeout as I figure servers can’t earn much at such low volume.

    That’s what we’re planning to use our ridiculous $1200 stimulus checks for, if they ever come.

    • #29
    • May 3, 2020, at 11:04 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Interesting data, but there are some issues with this kind of state-by-state approach. First, a State isn’t really the relevant geographical entity from a virus transmission point of view…NYC and Upstate New York are totally different world, for example.

    Second, the states or other geographical entities are not isolated compartments. People travel…not so much right now, but will increase as lockdowns ease. When people from areas that still have a lot of cases travel to areas that don’t, they are likely to increase the infection rate in the latter.

    It’s hard to tell how the various projection models actually work…the modelers don’t make it easy to find out…but my impression is that they are working mostly on an isolated-compartment assumption.

    What percent of the population has not been exposed? My guess is very little. Most people have been exposed and/or infected. 

    All the flawed models assumed transmission rate > 2 or 3. We know in hindsight this was wrong.

    There may be an increase if we lift restrictions but that was the risk we took by imposing shelter in place.

     

    • #30
    • May 3, 2020, at 11:05 AM PDT
    • 4 likes