Archive for May, 2021

On this Memorial Day …

May 30, 2021

 Remember all who gave their lives on our behalf
   … and thank those who are serving us now. 


May 29: COVID Dashboard

May 29, 2021

> Slight uptick in covid deaths

> Almost 1 in 4 teens 1st shot vaccinated

> Over 18 vaccinations still slowing




So, why are covid death rates higher in some states?

May 28, 2021

A common hypothesis is that there’s a strong correlation between death rates and the percentage of a state’s population that that is vaccinated.

The hypothesis seems reasonable, so I decided to to test it…


Below is a scatter chart of the 50 states … on the horizontal axis is the current vaccination rate (% of residents 18 and over who have received at least 1 shot) on the vertical axis is the past month’s covid death rate (deaths per million residents).


To the naked eye, the chart is more buckshot than correlation.

Arguably, there’s a slight positive relationship … with emphasis on “slight” since the R-squared is a mere .0325 … which is, for all practical purposes, not statistically different from zero.

Let’s dig a little deeper…


Below is a matrix that puts names names on the above dots.

The rows are vaccination rates — over 60% at the top (good), under 40% at the bottom (bad).

The columns are the  past month’s covid death rates — left is under 40 deaths per million (good), right is over 0 deaths per million (bad).

So, for example, the states in the blue quadrant have high vaccination rates and low death rates.

The states in the red quadrant have low vaccination rates and high death rates.

Those are to be expected.

But, there are a lot of states in the orange (high death rates despite high vax rates) and yellow quadrants (low death rates despite low vax rates)

click for a full-size, printable PDF


Let’s look at the top rows … the states that have vaccinated the highest percentages of their residents.


A couple of observations:

> Nearly all of the states in the top 2 rows (high vaccination rates) are Northern Blue  states … most with dense metro population centers.

> A majority of these high vaccination rate states still have high death rates … and, in aggregate, these states account for a disproportionate share of current covid deaths.

See Nums: 10 states account for 2/3′;s of covid deaths

> Most of the current high death rate states have had high death rates from the get-go … vaccinations  may have cut the death rate from previously high levels, but the states are still challenged.

> Two states — Massachusetts & California — have currently low death rates substantially below their pre-vax levels … likely attributable to vaccinations, but there may be other factors in play.


What about the bottom rows – the low vaccination rate states?


> Generally, states with low vax rates are Red states with dispersed populations … more rural … with many in sunnier Southern climates.

> Michigan and Wisconsin are outliers to the general rule … Michigan is particularly interesting since it has been one of the most locked down, masked states … yet, the state has a relatively low vax rate (which their wacky gov has laid off against supply constraints) … and still has a sky high death rate.


Bottom line: Covid death rates are a lot more complicated than simply tying them to vaccination rates.

Are the most vulnerable being vaccinated? What other factors are in play?

We’ll keep thinking about it … your thoughts?

Currently, which states have the highest (and lowest) covid death rates?

May 27, 2021

Cumulative death rates — since the beginning of the pandemic — are largely irrelevant.

What matters now is recent covid activity!


Yesterday, we pointed out that, in total, there were just under 22,000 covid deaths in the US over the past month.

Disaggregating that number…

10 states — which house about 1/2 of the US population — accounted for about 2/3’s of the total covid deaths in the past month.


The high death counts are not just a matter of states’ big populations.

The death rate in Top 10 states is running about 20% higher than the national average … and is about 50% higher  than in the other 40 states (79.7 deaths per million  versus 51.4).


Today, let’s dig a little deeper on the state death rates over the past month….

Michigan — which tops the above Top 10 list — had more than triple the national average rate of covid deaths over the past month (215 deaths per million versus  to 67).

Pennsylvania and New Jersey follow with more than 100 deaths per million in the past month.


Re-sorting the data, below are the 10 states with the highest death rates over the past month.


3 states that are in the Top 10 for number of deaths aren’t in the Top 10 for death rates: California, Texas and Ohio … suggesting that their high death counts are largely population driven

7 states (highlighted in light red above) are in the Top 10 for number of deaths and the Top 10 for death rates… suggesting that high death rates are a major contributor to their high fatality counts.

3 states that didn’t make the Top 10 for death counts, do make the Top 10 in death rates: Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland … raising obvious concern.


Flipping the data, here are the states that have had the lowest death rate over the past month:


Note that these low death states are relatively small,  geographically diverse and politically skewed (8 Red, 4 Blue).

Note: West Virginia made a significant downward adjustment to its reported  fatalities and is excluded in this ranking.

Click here for a list of all stats’ data

OK, enough for the descriptive data…

What’s going on with the recent death rates?

A popular hypothesis is that states with high vaccination rates have have low death rates  … and vice versa.

Spoiler alert: It’s not vaccination rates.

Stay tuned … we’ll dig into the Vaccination – death rate relationship tomorrow.

May 27: COVID Dashboard

May 27, 2021

> 1st vax shots drop to 700,000 / day

> Deaths hovering between 500 and 600 per day




Nums: 10 states account for 2/3’s of the past month’s covid deaths…

May 26, 2021

I’ve been digging into the surprisingly slow decline in the daily covid rates.

Let’s start with some state-by-state data…

Relevant time series data is hard to find, but I was able to find month ago cumulative covid deaths by state that I could match against current cumulative totals to calculate the number of deaths in the past month.

And, the answer is…

In total, there were just under 22,000 covid deaths in the US over the past month.

Data check: That’s about 750 deaths per day

10 states — which house about 1/2 of the US population — accounted for about 2/3’s of the total covid deaths in the past month.


Of course, the death count is a function of states’ population and their death rate (usually reported per million residents).

So, highly populated states  states are heavily represented in the Top 10, e.g. Florida, California, Texas and New York.

But, it’s not just a matter of population.

The death rate in Top 10 states is running about 20% higher than the national average … and is about 50% higher  than in the other 40 states (79.7 deaths per million  versus 51.4).

A couple of the Top 10 states had death rates that were below the national average: California, Texas and Ohio.

So, their presence on the Top 10 list can be mostly attributable to population.

Conversely, a couple of Top 10 states are still on fire…

Leading the pack: Heavily locked-down Michigan — which tops the Top 10 list — had more than triple the national average of covid deaths over the past month (215 deaths per million versus  to 67).

Pennsylvania and New Jersey each had more than 100 deaths per million in the past month.


So, what explains the variance in death rates across states?

Spoiler alert: It’s not vaccination rates.

Stay tuned … more to come.

May 26: COVID Dashboard

May 26, 2021

> Vaccination rate slowing after initial teenage surge

> Death rate continues slow decline




Shocker: Mask policies fraying teacher-student relationships…

May 25, 2021

Shoulda seen this coming, right?

Predictably, these incidents have started spreading like wildfire: teachers being called out for bullying, hypocrisy and irrationality.

The first incident that caught my eye:


The name-calling is unacceptable … and the teachers premise “I don’t want to get sick and die” is laughable.

“The science” has said all along that kids have a low risk of catching and transmitting covid.

Vaccinated kids pose zero risk — with or without.

On the other hand, obesity is very high covid risk factor.

BMI Categories
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obese = greater than 30

The kid showed restraint by not pointing out that — if the teacher was really concerned about her health — she might accept some personal responsibility for her well being and  speed dial Jenny Craig.


Calculate your BMI here


May 25: COVID Dashboard

May 25, 2021

> Death rate continuing slow decline

> Initial surge of teen vaccinations waning

> Vaccine stockpile growing … over 80 million doses




May 23: COVID Dashboard

May 24, 2021

> Approx. 1 in 5 teens have been vaccinated

> Cases declining faster than deaths 9which are still hovering slightly under 600 per day)




Yep, the candy bar is getting smaller … it’s inflation’s evil twin: “shrinkflation”

May 21, 2021

Many companies masking inflation by holding prices … but shrinking products

I used to remind students that there are two ways to increase prices: (1) you can just increase nominal price (i.e. “sticker price”) or (2) you can hold price constant and offer less product (i.e. increase the “unit price”).

For example, assume that a 5 oz. candy bar sells for $1 … that’s 20 cents per oz.

Shrink the bar to 4.5 ounces, hold the price per bar at $1 and it’s 22 cents per oz.

Presto … an 11% “effective” price increase … with customers probably none the wiser … and the Feds reporting: “inflation in check”.


You’ve probably noticed that gasoline and lumber prices have been soaring.

A gallon is a gallon … and an 8” board is an 8” board.

So,  those products show up clearly as inflation.

But, many companies can mask their price increases by shrinking their products by less than a “just noticeable difference”.

For example. Red Flag Deals reports that Costco has cut the size of its private label paper towels from 160 sheets to 140 sheets.

No harm, no foul, right?


That’s a 12.5% reduction in quantity and a 14.3% price increase

Assume that a roll is priced at $5 before and after the size change. The effective price before the size reduction was 3.125 cents per sheet … after, it’s 3.571 cents per sheet … that’s equivalent to a 14.3% price increase.

And, it’s not just Costco.

One price tracking site has noticed that the following products are among those that did the same in 2020:

  • Powerade (Was: 32 oz.; Now: 28 oz.)
  • Lay’s Potato Chips, party bag (Was: 15.25 oz.; Now: 13 oz.)
  • Nutella (Was: 14.1 oz.; Now: 12.3 oz.)
  • Puffs tissue (Was: 56 count; Now: 48 count)
  • Dawn dish soap, small (Was: 8 oz.; Now: 7 oz.)
  • Hillshire Farms Kielbasa (Was: 16 oz.; Then: 15 oz.; Now: 14 oz.)
  • Nathan’s Hot Dogs: (Was: 16 count; Now: 14 count)
  • Keebler Club Crackers (Was: 13.7 oz.; Now: 12.5 oz.)
  • Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper (Was 286 sheets; Now: 264 sheets)
  • Hershey’s kisses, family size (Was: 18 oz.; Now: 16 oz.)

As they say in marketing circles (and sometimes in court) … caveat emptor!

For more examples (pre-2020), see the list below…


May 21: COVID Dashboard

May 21, 2021

> Slim majority of 18 to 65 year olds vaccinated … pivotal demographic!

> 4 million teens (16%) have been vaccinated … not exactly a groundswell given vax availability

> Death toll still hovering around 600 per day … why not a faster decline?



NY Times: “Joe works tirelessly with an obsession for details … say, what?

May 20, 2021

Methinks the “old gray lady” doth protesth too much…

OK, so Pres. Biden speaks in a creepy monotone as he squints from at a staff-loaded teleprompter … and steps in “it” when he “disobeys orders” and swings extemporaneously on soft-ball questions from his fawning media.

Not to worry.

Last week, the New York Times reported that “Beneath Joe Biden’s Folksy Demeanor, a Short Fuse and an Obsession With Details”.

The Times concludes that quick decision-making is just not Biden’s style … and, that’s a welcome relief from Trump’s “shoot first” style.

The Times concedes that “Biden’s method of governing can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover.”

It’s not that he’s not willing & able to make decisions, it’s because he’s a deep thinker who has to feel comfortable with the details before reaching a decision that he’s comfortable pitching to the public in a finely honed teleprompter statement.

More specifically, “dozens” of current and former Biden associates told the Times:

  • The President’s mantra is ‘You can never give me too much detail.”
  • Advisers are “peppered with sometimes obscure questions, going beyond vague talking points.”
  • Biden sometimes loses sight of the bigger picture.
  • When frustrated with answers, he is prone to outbursts of frustration, often laced with profanity (but, of course, he “never erupts into fits of rage the way Trump did”).
  • He demands hours of debate from scores of policy experts.
  • He often takes days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others.
  • He needs time to process the material so that he feels comfortable selling it to the public.
  • He checkpoints decisions against campaign promises.
  • Biden stays in regular contact with a couple of historians: “four white men who are the ones the president goes to for a final gut-check before making a decision.”
  • He often calls aides as late as 10:30 or 11 p.m. as he gets ready for the next day’s speeches.
  • Aides say it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to prepare him to project his assured demeanor.

To illustrate Biden’s style, aides throw DHS Secretary Xavier Becerra under the bus, leaking:

Some advisers who are new to Mr. Biden’s orbit have been on the receiving end of his anger in recent weeks.

During a meeting on March 30 in the Oval Office, the president lashed out at Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, for failing to have answers to his questions about the agency’s ability to take care of migrant children, according to two people familiar with the exchange.


OK, so what’s the message that the Times is trying to convey?

> Biden is in charge, he’s the decision-maker … not Staff Chief Klain … nor Kamala … nor Susan Rice … nor Barack Obama.

> He is deep into the details of multiple complex issues … inclusive of alternative points-of-view

> He operates at game-speed … long hours in the White House, late night calls to aides.

> His “no drama” presentation style reflects his confidence and self-assurance.

> He obsesses over keeping his campaign promises (save for that part about being a bipartisan moderate.)


My take: Nice try by the Times to conjure an Ox-like alternative universe … but, c’mon, man!

May 20: COVID Dashboard

May 20, 2021
  • Cases (& testing) declining
  • Deaths hovering around 600 per day
  • Daily 1st vax shots under 1 million
  • Unused vax stockpile accumulating





Countering cyber-terrorism with equity math … say, what?

May 19, 2021

I’m still scratching my head over Team Biden’s public response to the Colonial Pipeline hack & shut-down.

Let me count the ways:

1. Biden: “The Russian government (i.e. the iron-fisted Putin) had no knowledge and no involvement.”

My take: Biden was probably confusing Putin with Sergeant “I See Nothing”  Schultz (from Hogan’s Heroes).


2. Biden, when asked if he approved the policy-busting ransom payment to terrorists: “No comment”.

My take: If you think that paying people to not work doesn’t disincentivize job-seeking, then it logically follows that paying ransom to terrorists does not incentivize terrorist acts.


3. Energy Secretary Granholm: “This is another good  reason to drive electric cars.”

My take: Does she have any idea where and how the electricity that fuels electric vehicles is produced?


4. Biden when asked how U.S. will counter cyberterrorism: “More education”.

Let’s go into some detail on this one…

The first 3 are patently incredible on their obvious merits (demerits?).

The last, an off-the-cuff statement is another example of why Biden’s handlers don’t want him to answer questions.

For sure, U.S. needs more American students studying technical STEM subjects.

But, that’s, at best, a long-run fix that won’t provide much near-term protection.

Even then, there is a grand irony that Biden is casually promoting technical education at the same time that he’s supporting (or at least, not opposing) the “equity mathematics” movement that is advocating:

> The end of racially-toxic right answers and “dictated” solution methods … to be replaced by  free-form methods, approximate answers and “nice tries”.

> The elimination of advanced mathematics in high school …  to mitigate cultural disadvantage and keep all students at the same terminal level of proficiency.

With some American educators seriously considering those misdirections, I doubt that more education will counter the cyberterrorism threat either short- or long-run.

How many cyberterrorists do you think are rushing to enroll in equity-math courses?

If your answer is greater than zero, then I’m betting the under.

I’m all for mask freedom, but gotta ask…

May 18, 2021

What’s up with the covid cases and deaths data?

To be crystal clear: I’m thrilled that the mask mandate has been ditched … and, I’m supremely confident that it’s not coming back.

But, I’m puzzled by “the data” that “the science” followed to make last weeks surprise mask announcement.

So, let’s drill down …

Below is our standard chart of cases & deaths — indexed to November 1st ( just to keep the series plotted on a common chart).

Unpacking the numbers, covid-related deaths peaked at about 2,000 per day in January … and have ranged around 650 for the past 6 weeks or so.

For reference, a high flu season averages about 500 deaths per day during the roughly 4 month flu season.

My take: We shouldn’t declare victory against covid until the death rate drops below 500, for sure or, more conservatively, below 250.


I’ve longed argued that the daily death count is the purest metric of covid severity.

That said, let’s look at the case numbers that Biden , Fauci and Wolensky like to point to.

Note that cases peaked at about 200,000 per day right around Biden’s inauguration.

Then, case counts dropped quickly and sharply, almost miraculously, to under 100,000 … hovering around 65,000 for the past couple of months.

That is, until about a month ago … when case counts turned down again …  to its current level of about 35,000 … which Biden says justified “relaxed guidance”.

Source: Bloomberg

So why have case counts dropped so much since Inauguration Day?

It could be that Biden is a miracle worker … or, it could be that the vaccines are kicking in … or, it could be another reason.


Below is the JHU chart that tracks the number of daily covid tests.

Note how closely the number of tests and the number of confirmed cases seem to track.

In the month after Biden’s inauguration, testing dropped by 25% from about 2 million per day to under 1.5 million per day … and hovered there for a couple of months.

But, in the past month, testing has fallen to just over 1 million per day …. a 33% drop.

Source: JHU

Let’s recap …

> Testing peaked around inauguration day … and so did cases.  Coincidence?

> After a couple of months of level testing and cases, both data series turned down again in the past couple of weeks.  Another coincidence?

Maybe I’m missing something….

Fauci: Slim majority of NIH employees have been vaxed…

May 17, 2021

Finally, an answer to a question that I’ve been asking.

Frankly, when it comes to vaccine efficacy & safety, I don’t find testimonials from politcos, Hollywood celebs or sports stars to be very compelling.

The relevant info, in my opinion, comes from doctors and subject matter scientists: Have they (and their immediate family) been vaccinated? If yes, which brand of vaccine?

I’ve been frustrated getting credible numbers re: healthcare professionals. Best guess: 60% overall, 70% front line, 80% doctors.

See Why have so few healthcare workers been vaccinated?

And, there has been a data void re: employees at NIH or the CDC.

That is until now.

Last week, during a hearing, Sen. Burr asked Fauci and Wolensky a direct question: How many employees in your agencies have been vaccinated?

I wouldn’t think that there would be any vax-hesitants walking those halls…. so, I’d expect the number to be near 100%.


When asked, Fauci stammered, then said “a little more than half”.


That’s barely about the national average (which includes the media- labeled  “Neanterthal Trump supporters”)

Wolensky ducked the question: ‘There’s no Federal requirement for us to collect and report those numbers”.

Anybody remember Gore’s “There’s no controlling authority” defense for taking foreign campaign contributions?

English translation: “An embarrassingly low number.”

Here’s the 1-minute clip of the Q&A exchange.


For sure, the clip won’t find it’s way into any vax- inspirational PSAs.

But, it’s gotta give pause to people yet to be vaccinated if the vaccine is being shunned by a statistically significant number scientists who are working on the vaccines and constantly pouring over the data re: efficacy and safety.

Do they know something that they’re not telling us?



P.S. I’m fully vaccinated (Moderna) … and don’t regret my decision.  Now, I’m rooting for high mRNA vaccination rates, but not holding my breath.

Why aren’t more healthcare workers getting vaccinated?

May 17, 2021

Specifically, what’s the percentage of doctors who have gotten vaccinated?

Let’s start with a basic fact: Frontline healthcare workers (very broadly defined) — along with long-term care patients — were the top priority for initial (and continuing) covid vaccinations.

But, according to a recent KFF-Washington Post survey …

Despite their first-dibs on the vaccines, only a 52% slim majority of “frontline healthcare workers” have gotten vaccinated.

That’s hardly a mobilizing inspiration for folks who are still unvaccinated, so let’s drill down on the numbers.


According to the KFF-WaPo survey, the combined vaccination rate for healthcare workers varies widely by it’s component parts.

Only about 40% of administrative and “patient care” healthcare workers have gotten vaccinated.

But, about 7 in 10 “diagnosis & treatment” professionals (think: doctors & nurses) have gotten vaccinated.

The latter is an important number since doctors and nurses (a) have had ready access to the vaccine (b) are most likely to be frequently and directly exposed to covid, and (c) should be the most “in the know” re: the vaccines efficacy & safety.

So, the pivotal question: Is 70% a high number that should inspire confidence or a hard ceiling on the percentage of the broad population’s likelihood of getting vaccinated?


Anecdotally, whenever I bump into a doc, I ask if they’ve been vaccinated, which brand, what about their staffs”?

So far, in my very small sample, all docs have been vaccinated (Pfizer or Moderna), as have the clear majority of their staffs.

Among the vax-hesitant staffers, the resistance rationales: (1) current workplace protocols have, for a year, kept them from being infected so why fret now? (b) their personal health considerations prevail (e.g. immune system disorders, current or hoped-for pregnancies ) and (c) they “wait & see” uncertainties about the long-run effects of the vaccines.

The latter could be a bit worrisome: Do they know something that we don’t know?


For what it’s worth …

I’d like to see the numbers broken down by “doctors only” and all other “prescribers & treaters”.

In fact, expecting the doc’s number to be closer to 100%, it (along with a parade of doc testimonials) should be center-stage in an marketing program to cut vax-hesitancy.

That would be more compelling than a showcase of politicos and celebrities.

COVID Deaths pass grim milestone: 600,000

May 17, 2021




May 16: COVID Dashboard

May 16, 2021




Freedom to breath (and smile) again…

May 14, 2021

Thanks to a couple of inspiring “coincidences”.

Earlier this week, I was gifted the  best-seller “Breath”.   I finishing reading it yesterday.

The book’s central premise:

The way we breath is important to our health … and 90% of us  breathe incorrectly, causing or aggravating a laundry list of chronic diseases.

The author provides the research support for several attitudes and techniques for better breathing … and better health.

Not surprising, wearing masks wasn’t on his list of remedies for bad breathing.

I was struck by the irony: Wearing masks for a year may have sheltered us from covid … but, may have also created a stockpile of unintended future heath problems.

Oh my.

Then came the big announcement.

The nation’s chief political-scientists had an overnight epiphany regarding masks and advised: fuhgettaboutit.

Literally overnight, “the science” spun on a dime.

No more masking for eternity.

No more double or triple masking.

The new “guidance”: stow your masks … but don’t toss them in case the political landscape shifts, and our politically-sensitive scientists change their minds.

I like the long overdue direction, but it’s a head-scratcher.

There was no  scientific evidence provided that we hadn’t known for weeks (or months).

So what motivated the change?

The obvious: A variant of the old “wag the dog” technique.

Given a crisis on the southern border, a labor force getting paid to stay home, a heating up of inflation, a hijacked gas pipeline, and a Middle East that’s on fire …  maybe Team Biden just wanted to re-focus the spotlight.

Or, maybe I’m just being cynical…

May 14: COVID Dashboard.

May 14, 2021






Was your home a covid petri dish?

May 13, 2021

Early on in the pandemic, it was noticeable that:

(1) covid was spreading among locked down families — especially high density, multi-generational households and

(2) workers in some open businesses  — think: grocery stores — weren’t experiencing pandemic levels of covid consequences.

Said differently, people confined to ostensibly protective “bubbles” were getting infected … but customer-facing workers weren’t.

Is this just Fauci-shunned non-projectible anecdotal evidence … or a relatively broad based truth?


Casey Mulligan  — a University of Chicago economist — studied that question and recently published his results in a research paper:

The Backward Art of Slowing the Spread? Congregation Efficiencies during COVID-19

Conventional public health wisdom held that  lives would be saved by shutting workplaces and schools and telling people to stay home.

But, Mulligan found the opposite to be true:

Micro evidence contradicts the public-health ideal in which households would be places of solitary confinement and zero transmission.

Instead, the evidence suggests that “households show the highest transmission rates” and that “households are high-risk settings for the transmission of [COVID-19].

How can this be?

Mulligan argues that after the first months of the pandemic, organizations that adopted prevention protocols became safer places than the wider community.

Schools, businesses, and other organizations implemented a range of prevention protocols – from adjusting airflow to installing physical barriers to monitoring compliance to administering their own testing services  – that households did not, and perhaps could not

But, households were bubble-fortresses isolated from the virus, right?


Few households were strictly “bubbled off” completely.  The bubbles were routinely breached.

One or more members of practically all households would venture out to work or run errands — being exposed to the virus.

If the outside venturers happened to catch the virus, the other household members would be close-contact sitting ducks.

Without the business-level precautions, penetrated homes became veritable petri dishes for the virus.


Mulligan’s conclusion:

Officials forgot that organizations are rational and look for cooperative solutions that improve the welfare of the group, such as reducing the risks of communicable disease.

Gee, who would have thought that self-interested private enterprises would be more creative, more efficient, more practical and more successful than government bureaucrats’ ivory-tower edicts..

May 13: COVID Daily Dashboard

May 13, 2021




Ouch: I just paid $3,700 for $1,200 of lumber …

May 12, 2021

And, apparently I’m not alone.

Team Biden says not to worry, their lucrative pay-to-not-play poli-finance money-printing isn’t impacting the labor market or inflation.


I just got 2 shocks that suggest the contrary.

We’re in the process or re-siding part of  our house — just replacing some badly weathered boards.

The carpenter warned me that lumber prices were thru the roof.

Today, he handed me the bill.  A small load of cedar siding cost me $3,700 — just for the materials.

The carpenter said that a couple of months ago, it would have cost $1,200.

That’s completely consistent with news reports of a tripling in lumber prices due homebuilding demand and supply shortages. Source


More broadly, the BLS reported today that the CPI is up 4.2% year-over-year … the sharpest YOY rise in over a decade … you know, back in the Obama-Biden years.  Is history repeating?


Note: “Energy Commodities“ prices were up almost 49% … and that’s before a CNN prediction that “Coming this summer: Gas stations will be running out of gas.”



I always liked to ask my Trump-hating friends which they were most opposed to: the peace or the prosperity?

With prices soaring and former workers reinventing themselves as government-funded couch potatoes … and the Middle East literally exploding … we now have both less prosperity and less peace.

Maybe the Trump-haters think that’s a small price to pay for fewer mean tweets.


P.S. And, I haven’t even mentioned the southern border … or faux school openings.

COVID: Daily Dashboard

May 12, 2021




Do you personally know anyone who has died from covid?

May 11, 2021

Specifically, immediate family members or close friends?

From the jump, I’ve opined the obvious: the people most likely to be vax-enthusiastic (the inverse of vax-hesitant) would be (1) those who are most vulnerable to dying if infected and (2) those who have been personally touched by the loss of a family member or close friend.

Since I’m age-qualified for the first category, I rushed to get vaccinated … as have about 85% of my fellow 65 and overs.

Nonetheless, I’ve been intrigued by the 2nd category — those who have a close friend or family member who has been hospitalized or died.

With almost 600,000 covid-related deaths, you’d expect that there would be a lot of folks in the “know somebody” category, right?

I don’t want to jinx my family and close friends by saying it, but (thankfully) I don’t personally know anybody who has been hospitalized or died of covid.

I wondered if I was just a lucky anomaly, so I started asking friends the headlined question.

After some head-scratching, most either answered “no” … or had to go a couple of “degrees of separation” to ID a victim … that is, go down a couple of layers to “friends of friends” or “some guy in the neighborhood”.

Expanding  from my very small sample, YouGov did a broad-scale survey and found that 2/3’s of Americans are like me, and don’t “personally know anyone who has died due to complications from covid-19”.


So, for two-thirds of the population (minus those in the vulnerables’ categories) … covid has been more of an abstract notion than directly personal consequential .

So, it might make sense that these people might be less vaccination-energized than folks who have been more directly impacted.

If true, that might be a partial explanation for some of the oft-talked about vaccine-hesitancy.


To that point…

YouGov also found that 43% of Biden voters have lost a close friend or family member…  only 1/3 of Trump voters have.

That’s a statistically significant difference!


Maybe vax-hesitant Trump supporters aren’t just dumb rubes as the MSM reports … maybe they don’t live in dense metro hot spots… do enjoy relatively healthy (outdoor) lifestyles … and, as a result, have not been as deeply touched personally by covid.

If so, the need to be vaccinated may seem less urgent.


COVID: Daily Dashboard

May 11, 2021




Kudos to teachers who have been teaching…

May 10, 2021

Don’t lump them in with the urban unions

First, some background….

Occasionally over the past year, I’ve had opportunity to observe my grandkids  online learning.

One “pod” of grandkids is enrolled in a private DC parochial school … the other pod is enrolled in suburban Baltimore County public schools.

In common, both the private and public schools relied heavily on virtual (online) learning.

For the public school kids, up until a couple of weeks ago, all course work was online.  Now, there’s a hybrid  mix of online and “at school” learning.

For the private school kids, hybrid learning kicked in very early (last fall) with a “bias” towards in school learning … but, the school provided an all online option for parents who resisted the at school option … and there were a couple of weeks when the school had to resort to all online.

OK, so what did I observe?


> First, teachers were faced with a formidable challenge.

For most (all?) instructing online was what’s euphemistically known as a “developmental opportunity” … that is,  something that they hadn’t done before and hadn’t been trained to do.

Early on, technical snafus were frequent and time-consuming, but they got worked out.

Teachers had to wear two hats — being prepped for both online and in person teaching … and, be ready to turn on a dime when administrators announced new rules & regs.


> Second, all of the teachers that I saw in action — private & public — consistently demonstrated a constructive, positive attitude online.

They were well prepared for each session, they took the technical glitches in stride and tried their best to keep all their zoomed students engaged.


> Third, teachers had to scale back the curriculum to deliver it online.

That’s not a criticism of the teachers … it’s a reality of online education.

We’ll have more on that in later posts…

1st vax shots down 65% from early peak…

May 10, 2021




Daily cases’ average drops below 40,000 … but CFR up to 1.8%

May 9, 2021




Shots drop below 2 million … 1st shots still plummeting.

May 8, 2021

Daily new deaths sticky at ~700.




Let’s put vax rates in context…

May 7, 2021

Less than 50% of Americans get flu shots!

Currently, over 80% of Americans 65 and older have gotten covid vax shots; almost 60% of adults over 18 have gotten jabbed …


How does that stack up to the take-up rate for flu shots?

According to the official CDC numbers …

> Over the past decade, annual flu vaccination rates among adults over 18 have ranged from 37% to 48% … averaging about 45%.

> Our covid vaccination rate is already about 15 percentage points over that average …. driven by the 83% vax rate among folks over 65 … which is about 20 percentage points higher than historic averages.


Note that only about 1/3 of adults 18 to 49 get flu shots … and it’s likely that the take-up rate is lowest among the younger adults in the 18 to 49 bracket?

All of this sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

But, geez, this is a pandemic and vax effectiveness rates are very high?

So, shouldn’t covid vax rates be much higher?

Well, they are for the most consequentially vulnerable group — those over 65.

But, for the others, vaccination rates seem to be reverting to the historic means for flu shots.

Which suggests that classical vax-hesitancy reasons — e.g. fear of needles and side effects, perception of invincibility — make be kicking in.

We’re all creatures of our past experiences, right?

Awash with vaccine … shots still plummeting.

May 7, 2021




Did rationing priorities induce vaccine hesitancy?

May 6, 2021

A story of messaging and first impressions.

Back in early February, Dr. Scott Gottlieb — a former FDA Commissioner — offered an observation that stuck in my mind.

In a WSJ op-ed, Gottlieb wrote:

One reason for the hesitancy may be that it was necessary to ration scarce doses at the start, causing many Americans to internalize the idea that some people may be more likely to benefit or more deserving than others.

Let’s unpack Gottlieb’s observation…

Initially, scarce vaccine supplies were aimed at the elderly in  long-term-care facilities (where the vast majority of covid deaths were accumulating) … and to covid-patient-facing healthcare professionals (especially those in direct contact with confirmed covid patients).

Made sense: Protect the most vulnerable and the most exposed.


But, what about people further down the priority pyramid?

For example, youngsters were initially told (by no less than chief political-scientist, Dr. Fauci) their covid risk was miniscule, so they should go to the end of the line.

English translation: Party on!

Now, people scratch their heads wondering why twenty-somethings are ambivalent about the vaccine.


Early on, vulnerable old-timers (like me) were getting bumped by an expanding list of mostly unionized “essential employees”.

The vast majority of these government-coined “essentials” were under 60 (i.e. low consequential covid vulnerability).

And, after the frontline healthcare workers, many of them were of questionable essentiality (e.g. virtual teachers who had made no near-term commitment to in person teaching).

See What do lawyers, prisoners and ‘the media” have in common?

The message to the rest: You’re not essential (and really not that vulnerable) so so don’t clog the system.

The new message: The fate of the nation depends on you getting vaccinated.

The predictable reaction: Why wasn’t I important before?


More generally, people down the pyramid were  getting pounded with a clear message:

You’re not at risk … and, by the way, you’re not essential … so, there’s no pressing need to get you vaccinated.

Now, it’s their turn, and these people aren’t rushing the gates to their shots.


A couple of takeaways…

> First impressions “anchor” peoples perceptions … “adjusting” those perceptions is always a challenge … especially if they’ve been given time to harden.

> Solidifying perceptions requires strong, clear, consistent messaging … don’t signal people one thing on one day and another thing on another day.

> None of should be surprising… it’s straightforward behavioral economics.

1st shots still plummeting …

May 6, 2021




Biden sets another low bar vaccination goal…

May 5, 2021

Is he a slacker? Or, a math-denier? Or, does he know something that we don’t know?

Yesterday, Pres. Biden chest-pounded a new vaccination goal:


So, how ambitious is the new goal?

Here’s the back of the envelop:

There are about 250 million Americans over 18

70% of 250 million is 175 million

According to the once reliable CDC, about 145 million adults (over 18) have already gotten 1st shots

That makes the “go get” number 30 million 1st shots

We’re currently averaging just under 1 million shots per day.

So, it should take about 30 days to close the gap.

That puts us in early June… not July 4


So, what the heck is going through Biden’s mind?

> Is he intentionally setting a low bar (like the 100 million doses in his first 100 days) to ensure another end zone celebration?

> Did he just mouth the teleprompter wrong again (ala “no one earning less than $400,000 will pay a penny of taxes”)?

> Or, has he officially jumped on the new-new math that doesn’t have right answers?

> Or, does he know something that his advisors won’t let him tell us?



P.S. I’ve adjusted the official HomaFiles’ daily dashboard calculations to reflect Biden’s new goal.


Awash in vaccine … what to do?

May 4, 2021

Back in early February, Dr. Scott Gottlieb — a former FDA Commissioner — offered a projection that stuck in my mind.

In a WSJ op-ed, Gottlieb wrote:

After early challenges, vaccine delivery is keeping up with supply.

But by the end of March, the monthly vaccine supply may reach 100 million doses.

With improved delivery, at some point, perhaps in April, supply will start exceeding demand.

Sure enough …

For example, at a micro level…

Back in February when I was in the heat of my vax hunt, CVS “offered” covid vaccinations at about a dozen stores in Maryland.

I say “offered” because “availability” was scarce and scoring an appointment had about the same odds as winning lotto.

See VAX: I got mine … and it wasn’t easy!

Today, CVS offers shots at more than 100 locations … and the vast majority of them have vaccine available on any given day.


Aggregating up to the macro level, the CDC reports that the stockpile of doses “distributed” but not yet “administered” is over 70 million doses … and growing.


About 40 million doses are, in effect, being held in reserve for second shots.


Given the large, free flow of supply from Pfizer and Moderna, It’s not evident why these 40 million need to be sequestered for future use.

And, even if there is a just reason, it still leaves a stockpile of over 30 million doses … compelling evidence that supply is now exceeding demand … by a lot!

Which validates Gottlieb’s February warning:

The challenge won’t be how to ration a scarce resource, but how to reach patients reluctant to get vaccinated.

Yep, that’s where we are … and, it should have been anticipated.

Fewer than 1 million 1st shots…

May 4, 2021

Over the past week, the average number of 1st shots has dropped below 1 million … pushing the herd date into July



A long awaited return to (partial) normalcy…

May 3, 2021

Let’s get personal today…

Friends and family know that our 8 grandkids are the center of our universe.

As a sports-loving, doting grandfather, one of my favorite pastimes is watching the kids play  sports — any kind, anywhere.

For the past year, I’ve been banned from most of the kids’ games — even though they were played outdoors and I was willing to mask-up and socially distant (even after getting vaxed).

I’d occasionally scofflaw into games … hanging in the shadows … and occasionally wearing the other team’s colors so my player-grandkids wouldn’t get in trouble for violating the attendance rules.

Well, much to my delight, the dam broke this weekend.

Not only did I get to legally attend little league baseball and travel soccer … but, I — and practically everybody else at the games — followed the long overdue CDC guidance and pocketed our masks.

It was refreshing to breathe freely again (without my glasses fogging) … and morale-boosting to see people’s smiling faces again.

As moon-walker Neil Armstrong once proclaimed:

“It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For a couple of hours, things felt downright normal again.

Herd date slipping as 1st shots continue to drop…

May 3, 2021

60% of shots are 2nd doses … now only 1 million 1st shots per day … half of mid-April peak.



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