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No clue: “Shelter-in-Place Orders Prevented Up to 370,000 Coronavirus Deaths, Study Says”

Why of course:

TWO MONTHS OF LOCKDOWNS this spring saved as many as 370,000 lives in the U.S., according to new estimates from researchers at the University of Iowa.

Source: Shelter-in-Place Orders Prevented Up to 370,000 Coronavirus Deaths, Study Says | Health News | US News

We have little certainty in why some states have – so far – had milder outbreaks and some have had huge outbreaks. Over time, it seems that the states with mild outbreaks are now gradually catching up, and now having large outbreaks.

The modelers make assumptions as to what works and what doesn’t work but they do not actually know – and the media has been unable to note this discrepancy. In my state, the Governor has taken to blaming the public for bad behaviors (based more on assumption than fact), and if they don’t comply, she threatens to lock everyone up in their houses again.

This study has made assumptions to model deaths – but do they explain why the death rate is now 1/5th what it was in March?

As noted on this blog, many areas had lock downs and face mask requirements mandated since mid-April but now see rapid growth in new cases. Yet these models assume the measures these areas took were successful. Were they really?

Harsh: if lock downs cost $7 trillion (estimates, hah hah), then it cost about $19 million per life saved.

Good news on coronavirus in the U.S. as of June 23, 2020?

Some good news, right?

Source: United States Coronavirus: 2,424,168 Cases and 123,473 Deaths – Worldometer

Deaths are often counted on the day they are recorded by public health, not on the actual day of death. Many states do not update data on the weekend. Hence, the 5-day pattern in the chart, above.

The feared exponential curve was short lived, perhaps due to counter measures. In my state, the curve went linear about two weeks before lock downs were put in force.

Source: United States Coronavirus: 2,424,168 Cases and 123,473 Deaths – Worldometer
Ratio of 7-day Average of New Deaths / 7-day average of New Cases This chart is for my state of Oregon.

This chart shows that over time, the mortality rate is decreasing. This could be because of:

  • More testing, and finding more not very sick cases.
  • An increase in more false positives. We are now testing many asymptomatic people who might be false positives. Due to Bayes Theorem, this could result in many positive tests that are not actually sick people. Asymptomatic people really need to be tested twice – but are probably not tested twice. Two positive results in a row eliminates most of the Bayes false positive problem.
  • The disease is spreading among a younger population who get less sick. Florida has seen its median age for patients testing positive drop to 37, which is down by about 15 years from where it was.
  • The disease itself has changed and is not striking people as hard as previously?
  • Insert your explanation here!

No one yet knows why we are seeing fewer hospitalizations and deaths per new cases discovered. One hypothesis is the increase in testing and finding more asymptomatic cases.

“The easiest thing to look at is case counts, which is not a perfect metric since you have to factor in increased testing,” UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford told SFGATE earlier this month. “We’re finding more asymptomatic cases now, so it’s not exactly comparable to March and April, when most detected cases were symptomatic. Now in May and June, we’re catching more asymptomatic cases so it can be hard to interpret since we’re finding more infections.”

Similar thoughts being said about Southern California’s spike in cases. That report features this frequently appearing inane quote:

The continued rise in new cases came amid the first weekend of more business sectors reopening, as bars, card rooms and some personal care services were given the green light to resume operations Friday, provided they take certain precautions.

Due to the incubation period – there is a lag between contact and symptoms or positive tests – a rise in new cases before and on your opening weekend is not due to your opening weekend. Yet the media keeps pushing this false correlation.

In my state, you could not get a Covid-19 test for March and April unless you were:

  • already hospitalized for pneumonia
  • lived in a skill nursing or elder care center and had all of the narrowly defined symptoms (100.4+ degree fever, shortness of breath, etc)
  • or had all of the narrowly defined symptoms and had been in close extended contact with a confirmed case.

By late May, anyone can pay a fee and get tested. My rural community now has drive up Covid-19 test centers – just call ahead for an appointment. They now encourage everyone with any illness symptoms or anyone who thinks they might have been in contact, to get a test. Obviously, we are now testing – and confirming – a lot of mild cases that never got anyone’s attention 2 months ago.

And a personal observation: March 3, 2020 I came down with a head cold. Within a couple of days I had muscle aches and pains and a bad headache and a mild sore throat. By March 7th or so, I developed a dry cough and had a fever of 99.4 (low grade fever for several days). The dry cough lasted until March 23d, went away for a few days, then came back as an even milder dry cough for a few more days before disappearing. The dry cough felt like a ticklish area at the top of the bronchial tubes. I had never experienced a dry cough like that before. In May, I described this to two doctors who both said it would have been nice if I could have been tested in March. One suggested I take an antibody test, but I declined in that the results are not – for now – actionable. And that the is false positive rate is extremely high when the prevalence of a disease remains low (as it is locally).

The media focuses exclusively on a daily body count and daily new cases, neither of which are useful to understanding what is going on – but they do make for scary, fear inducing, click-bait headlines. Basically, the news media’s pandemic reporting has been near worthless. That’s why I have maintained my own web page of charts for my state.

Any comments on this blog about Covid-19 or disease epidemiology are for Entertainment Purposes Only. I have no expertise in this subject and you should assume that I am an idiot and anything I write is stupid and that I probably cherry picked the data or don’t know what I am doing.

Web site attacks

This blog has received over 300 probing attacks from an IP address in Singapore that is owned by a well known Chinese electronics manufacturer.


While it could be “harmless” it appears to be probing the site for particular files (that do not exist). That does not seem harmless. As a consequence I have blocked an entire range of x.y.z.* addresses from accessing this blog. What little I can find suggests it is a “bad bot” run amok.

Why a shortage of toilet paper?

Toilet paper, like all paper, is made using a chemical engineering process. That means manufacturing is a continuous process that runs 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Raw materials go in one end of the manufacturing pipeline and paper comes out the other. In between there is pulp, liquids, hot slurries and hot paper before rolls of paper come out the other end.

When I was a volunteer firefighter, we had a tour of a local paper mill so that we’d have some familiarity with their facility, in case an emergency occurred. At one end of the building, they took in materials such as recycled cardboard and paper, plus wood pulp.

Paper products went through a de-inking process and another process to break up the fibers. Wood pulp went through another process.

These materials were bleached (to make white paper) through vast vats of chemical processing. Eventually the materials were formed into a wet slurry that was gradually compressed into thin sheets and dried, then rolled on to giant spools.

The huge rolls of paper were then removed and went through a slicer to cut to the required lengths.

This process ran 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and was only stopped, rarely, in case of break downs or required maintenance. Unlike manufacturing of widgets with discrete parts, paper is a chemical process where the liquid parts flow continuously through the system.

To accommodate changes in market demand for their paper products, the entire system would be sped up or slowed down – but never stopped.

From my reading, toilet paper manufacturing is pretty much the same process. Since toilet paper consumption does not vary much, industry has built paper factories designed to meet the normal, on going demand. There is little buffer in the system except for toilet paper stored in warehouses, distribution centers and on store shelves. There does not need to be a lot of buffer because ordinarily, demand is near constant. And we’ve built factories to optimally meet ordinary demand.

The Covid-19 epidemic caught many people off guard. Undoubtedly, those who may have bought TP weekly or twice a month now bought larger packages. Very quickly, the entire distribution buffer was drained – inventory moved from the distribution network to homes.

Additionally, the government’s messaging on “Stocking up” was very confused, inconsistent, contradictory, unclear and generally ineffective. Initially, the government said no one should stock up.

But by the 3rd week of March, the CDC’s official recommendation was that older people and those with underlying conditions (which is 40% of the population, combined) should stock up on supplies and avoid contact with all people. Thus, in fact, much of the population absolutely should have stocked up. Consequently, blaming consumers for stocking up is wrong – many may have figured this out well before the government – those at higher risk did indeed have to stock up and many likely did stock up in advance.

TP continues to be made at the same speed it has always been made – in fact, one maker says they’ve been able to ramp up their factory to about 20% more per day. But with TP in short supply, many consumers will launch a second round of buying, purchasing any available toilet paper.

With a limited ability to ramp up production, it may take time to refill the buffer – warehouses, distribution centers and store shelves.

UPDATE: Here is a related explanation of the toilet paper shortage – not caused by hoarding but by shift from industrial/organization use to home usage as businesses shut down.

Short version – there are two markets for toilet paper – industrial/organization and consumer. They have mostly different products in each segment. Consumer products are soft, two-ply, packages in small numbers of rolls. Commercial products sold to industry, restaurants, schools tend to be coarser, sometimes single ply, often sold in large packages and very large roll sizes – completely different products than consumer products.

When everything shut down there was a surplus of non-consumer toilet paper in the industrial segment – just as everyone was now going poo at home. Consumer product purchases increased by +40%, emptying the distribution network. While there may have been some hoarding, it was mostly a shift from industrial usage to consumer usage that caused the shortage.

That also explains why we were able to purchase toilet paper from a restaurant supply/distribution warehouse while all the usual consumer stores were out of stock. This week, most stores are having toilet paper in stock again, or at least during the first few hours of the day!

Climate: Eating vegetarian has little impact on your household carbon emissions

In spite of popular claims that eating vegetarian offers a dramatic reduction on your personal carbon emissions , the actual reduction is about 2%. Which means it is one of the last places you should focus your attention, in terms of having a meaningful impact.

I run a separate blog called Social Panic, focusing on how propaganda messaging influences our thinking. One trick to combat propaganda messaging is to practice what the late Dr. Hans Rosling calls “Factfulness”.  That means, basically, verifying what you are told. As he learned, almost everything the general public thinks they know, is actually wrong! (Read his book Factfulness to understand that issue).

We practice “Factfulness” when we try to verify claims. Let’s do it.

From the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan comes this chart showing an allocation for an “average” person:

From this chart, it sure looks like eating “Meat” has a large impact on your carbon footprint. Some in the climate advocacy community take this one step way too far:

which is a straight out lie!

The food pie chart is itself a small slice of a much larger pie. Many people, such as the linked climate advocate,  see charts like the above  and promptly misinterpret the chart, fail to understand that food is only one small slice of the household’s emissions, and falsely believe eliminating meat from their diet has a large impact on their carbon emissions.

Continue reading Climate: Eating vegetarian has little impact on your household carbon emissions