Archive for the ‘Coronavirus – Covid 19’ Category

Psaki: “Why do you need to have that information?”

July 28, 2021

Ordinary people are confused … and docs say that they are flying blind.
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It’s hard to follow the data when there’s no data presented … just assertions from oft-wrong political-scientists who command “just trust me”.

Case in point, as reported by USA Today

Last Friday, Jen Psaki — Biden’s press secretary — was asked for data about Covid “break-through infections” — cases of people getting re-infected with Covid even though they have been fully vaccinated.

When Psaki tried to duck the question, the reporter pressed her for a specific answer.

“Why not just provide the number? Are you trying to hide something?”

Psaki shot back, “Why do you need to have that information?

Say, what?

The reported countered: “For transparency, in the interest of the public, and for a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work”.

Frustrated, Psaki simply moved on to another topic.

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This was a stark example of what Biden-Harris might call a ”root cause” … a root cause of public distrust and, maybe even, of vaccine hesitancy.

Loosely quoting Jerry Maguire “Show me the data!”

Did Fauci disclose his conflicts of interest to Trump?

June 21, 2021

Yesterday, we posted: A scientist shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard.

Following up on that theme — that science and the scientific method are inherently good, but that science can be compromised by “bad actors”….

I haven’t heard or seen the headlined question raised by anybody on media.

Specifically, as it relates to the highly plausible (i.e. likely) lab-leak source of the virus:

> Did Fauci brief Trump on gain-of-function research, it’s ethical and safety issues, and Obama’s EO putting a moratorium on U.S. based research and research funding?

> Did Fauci indicate to Trump that he (Fauci) was on record as a strong advocate for gain-of function research?

> Did Fauci tell Trump that gain-of-function research was being done in the Wuhan lab … specifically on coronaviruses?

> Did Fauci admit to Trump that research grants approved by him (Fauci) may have been channeled to the Wuhan lab via an intermediary which was known to support gain-of-function research?

> Did Fauci warm Trump that if any of the above became public, the U.S. might be held partially culpable if the Wuhan lab was the source of the virus?

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It’s easy to conclude that the answers to all 5 questions are NO.

If the answers to any or all of the questions was YES, then…

> Trump would have been unlikely to have picked Fauci to lead the covid task force

> Trump would not have jumped on the lab-leak hypothesis so quickly and so forcefully.

Knowing what is now being discovered (in writing and on video) about Fauci’s conflicts of interest, wouldn’t you think that Fauci — the noble scientist — would have self-disqualified?

Hmmm

 

Tell me again why I should trust “the science”…

June 18, 2021

Prominent scientist admits that info was withheld because it lent credence to Trump’s claims
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Yesterday, we posted: A scientist shreds Fauci’s “attacking me is attacking science” canard.

Today, let’s throw another log on that fire…

NBC News published a nice recap of the lab-leak controversy.

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So, what changed since since early 2020 when a gold standard scientific journals published a letter from 28 scientists dismissing the lab-leak hypothesis as “unfounded” and “debunked”?

The article points out that the was scant data to prove (or disprove) the lab-leak hypothesis at the time … and, given China’s stonewalling, there isn’t much more data now.

According to NBC interviews with virologists:

While public discussion of a potential lab leak has shifted significantly in recent months, as more people pay attention to a theory that was originally promulgated by former President Donald Trump and his followers, the scientific evidence has remained unchanged, according to interviews with five virologists who have experience in microbiology, infectious disease ecology and viral evolution.

So, what changed?

The politics.

The shift reflects how some scientists who previously avoided the topic or were quick to dismiss it are grappling with enduring uncertainties about the virus’s origin, free from the politicization that clouded such discussions during the Trump administration.

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Alina Chan was one of 18 scientists who published a letter in the journal Science last month calling for a more in-depth investigation into the virus’s origin.

She bluntly told NBC:

Chan said there had been trepidation among some scientists about publicly discussing the lab leak hypothesis for fear that their words could be misconstrued or used to support Trump fueled accusations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab in the city where the first Covid-19 cases were reported, was connected to the outbreak.

Said differently, if Trump said it, it’s probably wrong … and, even if it’s true, it’s “noble” to withhold evidence and public support.

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Bottom line: “Science” may be be pure and worthy of being followed … but some “scientists” not so much.

That raises a dilemma: How to “follow the science” if scientists are distorting — either through omission or commission?

That question may linger long after covid is a distant memory.

“Pandemics naturally thrive most in big cities”

June 11, 2021

So, don’t paint suburban and rural locales with the same herd immunity paintbrush.
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In a post earlier this week post, we concluded:

Covid transmissibility is, in the final analysis, a local dynamic.

So, a national vaccination rate may be an interesting barometer, but it’s not determining.

Said differently, some communities will likely reach the herd immunity threshold, even if the entire United States does not. Source

Specifically, viral spread in dense urban areas has little relevance to sparsely populated rural areas.

To provide some added context to that last point, let’s flashback to one of our early-on covid posts …

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Originally posted April 6, 2020

Previously, we recapped the IHME Murray Model — the coronavirus forecasting model that was foundational to the Coronavirus Task Force’s thinking.

The model’s developers make clear that the model does not consider either population density, household size or the utilization of public mass transit.

In other words, it doesn’t consider the effect of urbanization.

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I expect that the model will be refined to consider the urbanization variable since Dr. Birx keeps saying “we’ll be drilling down to the county level” …  and since some pandemic historians note that pandemics naturally thrive most in big cities.

Here’s what they’re talking about…

(more…)

Why are so many old people still dying of covid?

June 8, 2021

With an 86% vaccination rate, shouldn’t fatalities be closer to zero?
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I still think that the covid death rate, while itself a bit fuzzy, is still the cleanest covid severity metric.

So, I’m trying to understand why covid death rates — which have dropped  from pandemic highs  — are stubbornly hovering near 600 per day.

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Who’s dying?

One might expect them to be relatively young and unvaccinated.

Certainly not vax-prioritized seniors, right?

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Let’s look at some data…

The CDC doesn’t report the demographics of daily new covid deaths … or, at least, I can’t find it.

So, I’ve tried to decompose the cumulative data that is reported…

Below is data for February 2021 (about 6 weeks into the vax rollout) and May 2021 (the most current) … and, calculated data for the period between those 2 dates.

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Cumulatively since the start of the pandemic, the 65 & over cohort accounted for around 80% of covid-related fatalities.

OK, that’s not new news.

Most notably, the senior cohort has still been accounting for a 75% share of covid deaths over the past couple of months.

Said bluntly, the vast majority of covid deaths are still among those 65 & over.

What’s going on?

Are all of these deaths are coming from the 14% of seniors (roughly 8 million) who haven’t been vaccinated?

Or, are the vaccines’ effectiveness rates being overstated — and not preventing  90% of fatalities, as promised?

Hmm.

Something just doesn’t smell right…

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I wish the CDC, et. al,, would start reporting more meaningful data.

Case in point: I’d like to see daily covid deaths broken down by age (seniors young adults, teens, kids) … and by their vaccination status.

But, as usual, I won’t hold my breath.

COVID origins: Vanity Fair “smashes the scientific consensus to smithereens”…

June 4, 2021

… by following the money, outing bureaucratic infighting and connecting the dots.
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Yesterday, Vanity Fair — hardly a right-wing, conspiracy-minde rag — published a “must read “ article:

The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins

The article is relatively balanced politically (including the obligatory swipes at Trump), thoroughly sourced (with names) and documented (with links), very logical and well argued.

Note: The article is long and very detailed.  If you want a quick read (or are pay-walled by Vanity Fair, here’s a PDF version (complete with my highlighting).

VF’s overall conclusion:

Throughout 2020, the notion that the novel coronavirus leaked from a lab was off-limits.

Those who dared to push for transparency say toxic politics and hidden agendas kept them in the dark.

Specifically, VF builds the case supporting the lab-leak theory of covid’s origin … and reports how China “doves” within the government and self-interested, grant-funded scientists tried to shut-down consideration of a possible lab-leak explanation.

Here are some highlights…

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Hostility to “open inquiry”

> National security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public.

> Investigators inside the U.S. government  were operating in an environment that was politicized and hostile to open inquiry.

> Investigators were told “not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19” because it would “‘open a can of worms’ if it continued.”

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A “conflicted” scientific community

> Conflicts of interest, stemming in part from large government grants supporting controversial virology research, hampered the U.S. investigation into COVID-19’s origin at every step.

> Many leading scientists had either received or approved funding for gain-of-function research. Their conflicted status played a profound role in muddying the waters and contaminating the shot at having an impartial inquiry.”

> If the pandemic started as part of a lab leak, it had the potential to do to virology what Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did to nuclear science. It could mire the field indefinitely in moratoriums and funding restrictions.

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A gain-of-function bureaucracy

> Investigators were told not to say anything that would point to the U.S. government’s own role in gain-of-function research … because that would make clear that “there is a huge gain-of-function bureaucracy” inside the federal government.

> In one State Department meeting, officials were explicitly told by colleagues not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it.

> Inside the NIH, which funded such research, the P3CO approval  framework was largely met with shrugs and eye rolls.

If you ban gain-of-function research, you ban all of virology.

Ever since the moratorium , everyone’s gone wink-wink and just done gain-of-function research anyway.

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About the Chinese military…

> On January 15, five days before President Joe Biden’s swearing in, the State Department released a fact sheet about activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, disclosing that:

  • Researchers there had collaborated on secret projects with China’s military and “engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.”

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Oh my…

Again, the entire article is worth reading for details and context.

Original online article   Highlighted PDF

See also: Fauci: “Doing gain-of-function research was worth the risk of a pandemic.”

Fauci: “Doing gain-of-function research was worth the risk of a pandemic.”

June 3, 2021

Rhetorical question: Why isn’t this getting more media coverage?
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According to The Weekend Australian (channeled thru Townhall)….

In October 2012, Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote   in the Journal of the  American Society for Microbiology  that “continuing gain-of-function research (on coronaviruses) is worth the risk of a pandemic”.

Say, what?

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To put the quote in context…

> Gain-of-function (GOF) research modifies viruses to make them more transmissible and more dangerous (i.e. lethal) to humans.

> Ostensibly, the research is (was) done to understand how the mutations can occur … and to fast-start development of preventive therapeutics and specific antidotes should they occur.

> Prior to 2014, GOF research was conducted in the U.S. in both military and private (e.g. university) laboratories.

> At the time, there were broadening ethical concerns that such research could be weaponized … and posed a public health risk (i.e. accidental release of the virus)

> In 2014, President Obama — nudged by  a handful of reported laboratory “accidents” — issued an executive order banning GOF research in the U.S. and the funding of such research.

> But, of course, Obama’s EO had no force to stop GOF research outside the U.S., say, in China.

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OK, that sets the stage…

Again, Fauci is on record as a proponent of GOF research:

In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?

Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario – however remote – should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.  Source

That was in 2012

In 2014, Obama issued his EO banning U.S. involvement in GOF research.

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Subsequent to the 2014 EO, the NIH (i.e. Fauci) continued to fund internationally-based scientific research.

No problem with that, except …

Despite Fauci’s initial denials and obfuscations, it is becoming increasing evidentially apparent that some of the Fauci-approved NIH grants made their way to the Wuhan labs and — given the fungibility of research grants — likely supported their GOF research.

To be fair: (1) The potentially problematic Wuhan grant amounts were small — reported to be under $1 million (2) the grants were funneled through an intermediary not-for-profit (the EcoHealth Alliance), and (3) arguably, there were implied restrictions on the grants’ usage and a presumption that grantees would operate in compliance.

Nonetheless, (1) the grants were made under Fauci’s signature, (2)  they were channeled to Wuhan and (3) Wuhan was doing GOF research.

Said differently, Fauci has deep self-interest in positioning the pandemic’s source as a “natural evolutionary species-jump (from bats)” … and pooh-poohing the possibility that the source was a predictable lab-leak (with his fingerprints on it).

Otherwise, Fauci and the NIH have complicity in triggering the coronavirus.

Hmm.

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So, the question that I’d like somebody to ask:

“Dr. Fauci, given a covid fatality rate of more than a million deaths globally — and over  600,000 deaths in the U.S. — do you stand by your 2012 position that gain-of-function research on coronaviruses was  worth the risk of a pandemic?”

My hunch: His views have “evolved”…

Fauci: “Doing gain-of-function research was worth the risk of a pandemic.”

June 1, 2021

Rhetorical question: Why isn’t this getting more media coverage?
============

According to The Weekend Australian (channeled thru Townhall)….

In October 2012, Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote   in the Journal of the  American Society for Microbiology  that “continuing gain-of-function research (on coronaviruses) is worth the risk of a pandemic”.

Say, what?

==============

To put the quote in context…

> Gain-of-function (GOF) research modifies viruses to make them more transmissible and more dangerous (i.e. lethal) to humans.

> Ostensibly, the research is (was) done to understand how the mutations can occur … and to fast-start development of preventive therapeutics and specific antidotes should they occur.

> Prior to 2014, GOF research was conducted in the U.S. in both military and private (e.g. university) laboratories.

> At the time, there were broadening ethical concerns that such research could be weaponized … and posed a public health risk (i.e. accidental release of the virus)

> In 2014, President Obama — nudged by  a handful of reported laboratory “accidents” — issued an executive order banning GOF research in the U.S. and the funding of such research.

> But, of course, Obama’s EO had no force to stop GOF research outside the U.S., say, in China.

=================

OK, that sets the stage…

Again, Fauci is on record as a proponent of GOF research:

In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?

Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario – however remote – should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

Scientists working in this field might say – as indeed I have said – that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.  Source

That was in 2012

In 2014, Obama issued his EO banning U.S. involvement in GOF research.

==============

Subsequent to the 2014 EO, the NIH (i.e. Fauci) continued to fund internationally-based scientific research.

No problem with that, except …

Despite Fauci’s initial denials and obfuscations, it is becoming increasing evidentially apparent that some of the Fauci-approved NIH grants made their way to the Wuhan labs and — given the fungibility of research grants — likely supported their GOF research.

To be fair: (1) The potentially problematic Wuhan grant amounts were small — reported to be under $1 million (2) the grants were funneled through an intermediary not-for-profit (the EcoHealth Alliance), and (3) arguably, there were implied restrictions on the grants’ usage and a presumption that grantees would operate in compliance.

Nonetheless, (1) the grants were made under Fauci’s signature, (2)  they were channeled to Wuhan and (3) Wuhan was doing GOF research.

Said differently, Fauci has deep self-interest in positioning the pandemic’s source as a “natural evolutionary species-jump (from bats)” … and pooh-poohing the possibility that the source was a predictable lab-leak (with his fingerprints on it).

Otherwise, Fauci and the NIH have complicity in triggering the coronavirus.

Hmm.

=============

So, the question that I’d like somebody to ask:

“Dr. Fauci, given a covid fatality rate of more than a million deaths globally — and over  600,000 deaths in the U.S. — do you stand by your 2012 position that gain-of-function research on coronaviruses was  worth the risk of a pandemic?”

My hunch: His views have “evolved”…

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!

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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.

image

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).

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

Shocker: Mask policies fraying teacher-student relationships…

May 25, 2021

Shoulda seen this coming, right?
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Predictably, these incidents have started spreading like wildfire: teachers being called out for bullying, hypocrisy and irrationality.

The first incident that caught my eye:

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Source: DailyMail.com

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.

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Calculate your BMI here

 

Do you personally know anyone who has died from covid?

May 11, 2021

Specifically, immediate family members or close friends?
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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”.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Hmm.

MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?

April 13, 2021

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
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This is a relevant excerpt from a long ago prior post (May 2020)
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Why have I centered on Daily New Deaths (DND)  as my key metric?

First,  saving lives is our paramount objective, right?  If yes, it should be our focus metric.

Second, I think that most other metrics that are being bandied about are quite problematic.

Counting deaths — while a bit macabre — is a more reliable process than counting, say, the number of infected people.

Sure, I’d like to know the number of people infected with COVID-19.

But, unless everybody — or at lest a large statistical sample — is tested, the number of confirmed cases is subject to lots of statistical issues.

Most notably, who is being tested and who isn’t? What about the asymptomatic “hidden carriers”? What are the criteria for confirming a COVID infection? What about false positives (and false negatives)? How to standardize the reporting processes across states? How to keep governmental units from fudging the numbers?

Importantly, if testing increases, then confirmed cases goes up.

Is that an indication of more virus spread or just a reflection of more testing?

I sure can’t tell.

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Again, counting fatalities is probably the most reliable metric.

Fatalities are discrete events – so they’re countable.

Still, even deaths may have some counting imperfections.

For example, many non-hospitalized people die and are buried without autopsies.  Some may be uncounted COVID victims.

On the other hand, some people may die and be diagnosed with COVID infections. That doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID killed them.  That’s especially true with COVID since it’s  most deadly for people with other health problems.

And, as we stated above, the definition of COVID deaths has changed:

COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and that, along the way, “present” was redefined from “confirmed” to “presumed”

Further, COVID deaths are a function of two drivers: the incidence of the virus … and, the nature, level and timing of therapeutic healthcare.

Said differently, more effective therapeutic healthcare will dampen the death toll.

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Bottom line:  “Daily New Deaths” is the number we should be watching.

If it shows a consistent downward trend, then we’ll know we’ve turned the corner.

If it stays stable (at a high level) or turns upward, we’ll know that we’re in deep yogurt.

 

Biden: “We’re bringing back science.”

March 22, 2021

But, Fauci has said:  “Trump was saying what we were telling him.”

So, why isn’t Biden listening to his chief political-scientist’s affirmation that Trump, too, was listening to the scientists?

Sounds like Biden isn’t listening to his chief political-scientist.

Hmmm…

Good time for a flashback… 

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Originally posted on Sept. 13, 2020 with a timeline of who said what, when they said it … and how Trump responded at the time

Last fall, Bob Woodward set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people.

Biden: “Clear evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty”.

Trump: “Listening to the scientists, and didn’t want to prematurely cause a panic”.

How to settle the question?

Let’s start with what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to truth-tell on the matter:

click to view 4-minute video
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By Fauci’s own admission, Trump was “following the science” … contemporaneously channeling what Fauci and other “scientists” were telling him at the time. 

Let’s dig a little deeper on that and look hard at the timeline…

(more…)

More: Fauci confirms “Trump was saying what we were telling him”

March 19, 2021

MUST READ: Originally posted on Sept. 13, 2020 with a timeline of who said what, when they said it … and how Trump responded at the time.

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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people.

Biden: “Clear evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty”.

Trump: “Listening to the scientists, and didn’t want to prematurely cause a panic”.

How to settle the question?

Let’s start with what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to truth-tell on the matter:

click to view 4-minute video
image

By Fauci’s own admission, Trump was “following the science” … contemporaneously channeling what Fauci and other “scientists” were telling him at the time. 

Let’s dig a little deeper on that and look hard at the timeline…

(more…)

Biden: “Trump blundered, I’m saving the day”

March 12, 2021

In fact, Operation Warp Speed was much more than fast vaccine R&D. Biden’s claims are, at best, disingenuous.
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Biden frequently makes 2 related Covid-specific claims:

1. “There were no vaccines available when I took office and not enough to vaccinate America.”

2. “The Trump administration didn’t have a plan for getting people vaccinated.  We had to start from completely from scratch.”

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The first claim —  not enough vaccine ordered — is indisputably false

Let’s start with the pre-approval vaccine commitments made mid-2020.

As part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration entered into contracts with multiple drugmakers … while their potential vaccines were still in clinical trials.

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: 100 million doses (two-dose regimen)
  • Moderna: 100 million doses (two-dose regimen)
  • J&J: 100 million doses (one-dose regimen)
  • AstraZeneca: 300 million doses (two-dose regimen)
  • Novavax: 100 million doses (two-dose regimen)
  • Sanofi-GSK: 100 million doses (one- or two-dose regimen)

In all, the amounts agreed to under these pre-commitment contracts totaled about 800 million vaccine doses, or enough for more than 450 million people. Source

The Pfizer vaccine was approved on December 11, 2020.

Roughly 2 weeks later, on December 23. 2020, HHS signed an agreement with Pfizer for an additional  100 million doses … with options to purchase an additional 400 Million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Source

So, Trump’s Operation Warp Speed delivered to the Biden administration orders and options for 600 million doses of just the Pfizer vaccine — enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans.

Add in just the pre-commitments to Moderna and J&J and the total swells to 800 million doses — enough to vaccinate 450 million people.

By inauguration day, almost 40 million doses had already been distributed to the states and the daily vaccination rate was passing through the 1 million shots per day mark.

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Since inauguration day, an average of about 1.6 million shots have been administered daily — a function of increased supplies (from manufacturers) and improved coverage and efficiency.

The supply flows have continued to increase.

How much of that is attributable to Team Biden’s claimed magic touch and how much of that is simply implementation ramp-up of Trump’s OWS plan?

That’s a question which naturally raises the second claim…

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So, is the second claim “no vaccination plan, starting from scratch” true?

While there may be some dispute about the depth and appropriateness of the Trump administration’s plan, there was one … and, by and large, it’s exactly the plan that Team Biden is implementing.

Let’s get specific…

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If I test positive for COVID, am I infected?

March 10, 2021

The answer may surprise you, and it has big implications for how individuals & organizations respond to positive Covid test results.
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Originally posted 05/27/2020

In a prior post, we reported that “Asymptomatics” are not rushing to get tested and provided some subjective reasons why that might be (e.g. no doctor referral, high hassle factor, privacy concerns).

OK, let’s up our game a notch or two and throw some math & economics at the problem.

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I’m a fan of “Freakonomics” … the popular call sign for a discipline called Behavioral Economics … the study of the rationality that underlies many seemingly irrational decisions that people sometimes make.

And, in my strategic business analytics course, I used to teach something called Bayesian Inference … a way to calculate probabilities by combining contextual information (called “base rates” or “priors”) with case-specific observations (think: testing or witnessing).

Today, we’ll connect Freakonomics and Bayesian Inference and apply them to the COVID testing situation…

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CDC guidance for vaccinated people…

March 9, 2021

Good news, common-sensical, scientifically-based … and, of course, politically-motivated.
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Yesterday, all media headlined CDC guidance for the steadily increasing pool of vaccinated Americans.

The political motivation: High risk seniors who are frustrated re: vaccine access and scheduling processes are asking: “Why go through the hassle of getting vaccinated if I still won’t be able to see my grandkids?”.

That vax-hesitancy is not good if the goal is to cut the Covid death rate and reach herd immunity.

Cutting to the chase: Based on the new CDC guidance, grandparents can now — without masks or socially distancing —  visit their grandchildren.

Of course, there’s plenty of fine print in the CDC guidance.

So. here’s what you need to know….

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Is herd immunity by the end of April possible … or pure folly?

February 23, 2021

The math says that it’s a stretch, but a real possibility.
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In a WSJ op-ed, Hopkins doc Marty Makary boldly asserted the possibility that “We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April”.

Immediately, Dr. Fauci — our nation’s chief political-scientist — hit the talk shows to hose cold water: “Maybe by Christmas, or mid-2022”.

Note: Mid-2022 is right before the mid-term elections. Hmm.

To calibrate Makary’s logic, I went back to re-read the article and run the numbers…

The essence of Makary’s logic is that people develop immunity to COVID in 2 main ways: (1) by surviving a COVID infection or (2) by getting vaccinated.

And, Makary concludes that we’re already approaching herd immunity.

How can that be?

Let’s work the numbers, starting with the herd immunity threshold: How many people have to be immune to achieve herd immunity?

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COVID: McKinsey report says…

February 19, 2021

Progress has instilled hope that vaccines may, indeed, save the world.
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McKinsey just released a COVID update that “reviewed the initial results from clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines and explored several remaining uncertainties”, including:

  • How many doses will we have and by when?
  • How will the logistics work for distribution and administration?
  • And, critically, will consumers agree to be vaccinated?

I thought the article was concisely informative and readable.

Here are my notes from the article…

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MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?

February 18, 2021

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
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This is a relevant excerpt from a long ago prior post (May 2020)
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Why have I centered on Daily New Deaths (DND)  as my key metric?

First,  saving lives is our paramount objective, right?  If yes, it should be our focus metric.

Second, I think that most other metrics that are being bandied about are quite problematic.

Counting deaths — while a bit macabre — is a more reliable process than counting, say, the number of infected people.

Sure, I’d like to know the number of people infected with COVID-19.

But, unless everybody — or at lest a large statistical sample — is tested, the number of confirmed cases is subject to lots of statistical issues.

Most notably, who is being tested and who isn’t? What about the asymptomatic “hidden carriers”? What are the criteria for confirming a COVID infection? What about false positives (and false negatives)? How to standardize the reporting processes across states? How to keep governmental units from fudging the numbers?

Importantly, if testing increases, then confirmed cases goes up.

Is that an indication of more virus spread or just a reflection of more testing?

I sure can’t tell.

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Again, counting fatalities is probably the most reliable metric.

Fatalities are discrete events – so they’re countable.

Still, even deaths may have some counting imperfections.

For example, many non-hospitalized people die and are buried without autopsies.  Some may be uncounted COVID victims.

On the other hand, some people may die and be diagnosed with COVID infections. That doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID killed them.  That’s especially true with COVID since it’s  most deadly for people with other health problems.

And, as we stated above, the definition of COVID deaths has changed:

COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and that, along the way, “present” was redefined from “confirmed” to “presumed”

Further, COVID deaths are a function of two drivers: the incidence of the virus … and, the nature, level and timing of therapeutic healthcare.

Said differently, more effective therapeutic healthcare will dampen the death toll.

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Bottom line:  “Daily New Deaths” is the number we should be watching.

If it shows a consistent downward trend, then we’ll know we’ve turned the corner.

If it stays stable (at a high level) or turns upward, we’ll know that we’re in deep yogurt.

 

Mask wars: How many masks are too few? Too many?

January 31, 2021

Sometimes, it’s hard to take “the Science” too seriously…
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Let’s trace this through the headlines, starting with March, 2020.

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click for video

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A couple months later, the nation’s Chief Political-Scientist had “modified” his position.

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Now on the cable news circuit, Dr. Fauci is raising his game and telling folks to wear 2 masks (like he does,even though he has gotten 2 doses of the COVID vaccine).

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But, other members of “the science” started staking out a higher ground: 3 masks.

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As might be expected, some other members of “the science” raised the ante to 4 masks.

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This would be funny if COVID weren’t such a serious matter.

The escalating scientific advice brought to mind a parody piece that The Onion ran several years ago.

Back then, razor companies had gone from 1 blade to 2 … to 3 … to 4.

Gillette razors only had 3 blades at the time and the company’s CEO was issuing a call-to-action  for his troops to innovate and  leap frog the competition: We’re Doing Five Blades!

Trust me, the parody is hilarious.

WARNING: Content is strictly adults only due to extreme profanity.
Definitely not for prudes or children.

Still interested? Click here

Still more on the COVID vaccines’ 95% effectiveness rate…

December 29, 2020

WHO says “no evidence that vaccines prevent people from getting infected”
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True, but no reason to go anti-vax.

Bias alert: I’m pro-vax and plan to get vaccinated as soon as I can.

In a prior post, we parsed the Pfizer study results … honing in on one of the study’s limitations: it only counted the number of participants who exhibited at least one COVID symptom.

Said differently, the study was silent on the number of participants who might have been infected but asymptomatic.

So, I wasn’t surprised when the WHO’s chief scientist quipped:

“At the moment, I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines, to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from getting the infection and passing it on,”

Based on the study’s design and results, I think that it’s reasonable to conclude:

1. The vaccines substantially decrease the probability of catching COVID and developing any symptoms … probably not by 95%, but by a very high number (say, 70%)

2. But, there is an undetermined (or unreported) chance of catching COVID but not developing any symptoms.

3. And, “the science” is still fuzzy on the likelihood of asymptomatic COVID infectees transmitting the virus to other people.

On the last point, some scientists say that asymptomatics are the primary transmitters of the virus.

Others argue that asymptomatics don’t develop symptoms because they have a low “viral load” … and, if their viral load is low, their contagiousness is low … so they’re not transmission threats.

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Bottom line: There’s little news in the headline that has gone viral … an no reason to fret.

I still plan to get vaccinated as soon as I can.

Does Fauci think before he speaks?

December 23, 2020

Loyal readers know that I’m no fan of Dr. Fauci.

It continues to amaze me that, despite all of his errant pronouncements and advice, that the MSM and half of America hangs on his every word.

This week, the media ubiquitous pop-doc went on CNN to reassure children that Santa is safe … that he (Fauci) personally vaccinated Santa and made sure that he was good to go.

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All right, I understand that it was all intended to be in good fun, but…

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What if the COVID vaccine had been launched sooner?

December 22, 2020

Bias alert: I’m pro-vax and plan to get vaccinated as soon as I can.
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On one hand, Trump has been justifiably basking in the success of his Operation Warp Speed program that encouraged and enabled pharma to speed up the development process.

It has been a sheer delight seeing the video loops of media pundits and “experts” looking ridiculous when previously dismissing the possibility of a vaccine by now.

See It’s official: Fauci whiffs, again!

Even Sen. Dickie Durbin — to his credit — stepped to the podium on the Senate floor to give Trump a shout-out for a job well done.

And yesterday, Biden conceded that “the Trump administration deserves some of the credit”.

But, headlines the past couple of days seem to be highlighting the logistical challenges, priority controversies and possible negative consequences of the COVID vaccines: “Man in Alaska Suffers Serious Side Effects”, “40% of Chicago Medical Staff Refuses the Vaccine”, etc.

So, I realize that I may be swimming upstream today, channeling a very provocative point-of-view that I saw offered up by Holman Jenkins in the WSJ:

Science triumphed but shouldn’t we have cut corners and moved faster?

Let’s drill down that…

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More on the COVID vaccines’ 95% effectiveness rate…

December 18, 2020

Probably overstated but, nonetheless, I’ll get vaccinated as soon as I can!
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It’s undeniable that Operation Warp Speed’s financial support and streamlined regulatory processes motivated rapid development of COVID vaccines,

That was largely predictable.

What wasn’t so predictable was the apparent sky high effectiveness of the early-launch vaccines.

Both Pfizer and Moderna report about 95% effectiveness.

Gotta ask: Are these effectiveness rates too good to be true?

In a prior post, we noted that  the 95% effectiveness is, indeed, sky high compared to previous flu and pandemic virus vaccines.

Today, let’s drill down on the 95% number…

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How do COVID vaccines’ effectiveness stack up against prior vaccines?

December 17, 2020

Answer: 95% is sky high compared to previous flu and pandemic virus vaccines.
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Today, let’s put the current COVID vaccines into perspective.

September 2019 White House report looked specifically at flu and coronavirus vaccines, noting that….

There is considerable variation from year to year in how much the flu vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the seasonal flu and flu-related illnesses.

Over the past 14 years, influenza vaccine effectiveness has ranged between 10% and 60%.

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Much of the variability depends on which viral strains predominate in a given year and, more specifically, whether the vaccine matches the viral strain that is circulating in a given flu season.

Although a mismatch between the vaccine and the virus circulating during a flu season reduces efficacy, vaccines still provide some protection against flu illness and decrease the severity of the illness, due to immunologic similarity between the viruses.

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When it comes to pandemic viruses

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So, who is social distancing and who isn’t?

December 14, 2020

The  “Covid States Project”  recently published their most recent survey of  how Americans  are (or are not) complying with the CDC’s COVID mitigation guidance (e.g. wash hands, disinfect surfaces, wear masks, socially distance)

In a prior post, we noted that  mask wearing compliance has steadily increased  to over 75%  (the light yellow diagonal  line running from the lower left to upper right corners).

But, “socially distancing” behaviors are declining … both the percentage of people avoiding contact with people outside their home (red line) and those avoiding crowded or public places (green line).

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More specifically, the survey indicates:

  • Education: Mask-wearing and social distancing is statistically unrelated to level of education
  • Gender: Women wear masks and socially distance more than men
  • Race: Proportionately fewer Whites wear masks than other racial groups; Whites and Hispanics tend to socially distance less than Blacks and Asians.

But, the differences among education levels, gender and race are relatively modest … probably within the margin of error.

There are a couple of identity characteristics that do show significant differences…

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Mask wearing up, cases up, deaths up … huh?

December 9, 2020

A team of northeastern academic researchers, doing a  “Covid States Project”,  recently published their most recent survey of  how “the human behaviors that have been shown to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 have evolved across the US since April, 2020.”

Said differently, they were evaluating whether or not people were complying with the CDC’s COVID mitigation guidance.

The researchers found that, since Spring, mask wearing compliance has increased from slightly over 50% to over 75%  (the light yellow diagonal  line running from the lower left to upper right corners).

Hmmm.

Mask wearing has increased to a relatively high level, yet the number of confirmed cases are spiking to record highs.

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Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

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Gallup says that 90% regularly wear masks…

November 24, 2020

So, if masks work, why are COVID cases soaring?
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COVID cases are soaring … and while the infection-to-fatality rate has dropped significantly, the daily tally of new deaths has been creeping up.

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CDC Director Redfield has testified:

Face coverings are the most powerful public health tool” the nation has against the coronavirus and “might even provide better protection against it than a vaccine.

The COVID death rate will be cut in half if mask compliance were 100%

With that in mind, a recent  WSJ article on “COVID" Fatigue” had a chart that caught my eye.

The high red line below  is the percentage of people who claim that they regularly wear masks when they leave home.

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Bottom line: Gallup says that over 90% of respondents claim they wear masks in public settings … that’s up from 80% who said so in May.

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Connecting the dots: Redfield says masks are more effective than vaccines … and, the vast majority of people say they regularly wear masks … but, cases are soaring.

How can that be?

(more…)

So, how risky is a Thanksgiving gathering?

November 23, 2020

Let’s throw some math at the question…
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It’s not a conscious thing, but these days, our brains are constantly running risk assessments:

  1. What’s the likelihood that I get exposed to COVID?
  2. What’s the likelihood that I get infected?
  3. How bad will it be if I do get infected?

Unfortunately, “the science” hasn’t been providing us with much useful “data to follow” on those questions.

So far, the best data is on question #3: How bad will it be if I do get infected?

CDC: 95% survivability rate if over 70 … higher with no symptoms, no co-morbidities or younger.

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Those are pretty good odds, right?
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Today, let’s look at question #1 — the likelihood of getting exposed to the virus, say, at a Thanksgiving gathering.

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The temperature – COVID connection …

November 15, 2020

A team of researchers at Goldman Sachs turned on their regression machines and found a compelling relationship between outside temperature and CODID case confirmations.

Goldman’s bottom line: As temperatures get colder, the incidence of COVID cases increases — pretty dramatically, regardless of local COVID mitigation policies.    Source

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Goldman points out that’s not surprising since:

Most other coronaviruses (i.e. the common cold), along with various influenza strains, are heavily influenced by temperature and seasonal effects (hence “flu season.

Why is that?

  • Researchers have found that the human immune system weakens in cold temperature, making people more vulnerable to viruses
  • Cold weather forces more people to be indoors more often, making them susceptible to infection if a  “carrier” breaches their poorly ventilated “bubble”.

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My add: Note that 72 to 80 degrees is the sweet spot.  That’s the temp at which most people turn off their homes HVAC systems, reducing the circulation of any airborne contaminants.  Hmmm.

Seriously: Why the push for a national mask mandate?

October 29, 2020

Biden has made it a focus of his campaign … and, the politico-scientists  are all in.
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For the sake of argument, let’s just accept the WSJ observation that:

Some studies show that widespread use of masks can reduce spread.

Even if masks are only incrementally helpful, they are among the least economically costly and burdensome options for reducing COVID spread.

OK, so there’s potential upside and no significant downside

With that in mind, a recent  WSJ article on “COVID” Fatigue” had a chart that caught my eye.

The high red line below  is the percentage of people who regularly wear masks when they leave home.

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Bottom line: Gallup says that 91% of respondents said they wear masks in public settings … that’s up from 80% who said so in May.

Let’s dig a little deeper on those numbers…

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Lessons learned from the White House COVID outbreak…

October 28, 2020

Now that the dust has kinda settled from the White House COVID outbreak, it’s a good time to step back and take inventory of lessons learned.

For what they’re worth, here are my takeaways:

> Screening — via temperature checks & rapid tests — doesn’t protect against viral breaches.

There are 2 stark realities:

  1. The tests are blunt instruments that are highly susceptible to false negative results.
  2. It only takes 1 infected person (i.e. an “index case”) to start the viral chain reaction.

So, other defense mechanisms (e.g. keeping a safe distance — especially from unmasked strangers) are absolutely necessary.

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> Applying a Grandma Homa adage: Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it initially seems.

On a practical level, the WH outbreak wasn’t all that bad.

From what I’ve heard or read, about 30 people ended up testing positive, but …

  • Nobody died (which is slightly better than the 99% overall survival rate)
  • Only 2 people were hospitalized (Trump & Christie)
  • Nobody is showing any after-effects now — especially a re-invigorated Trump who seems to have benefited from a couple of full night’s sleep.

As a doctor-friend of mine likes to say: “Getting infected isn’t a death sentence”.

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> The key: Find it fast and hit it hard!

The biggest advantage that the White House guests had was that they had ready access to re-testing via methods more reliable than the rapid tests … and, Trump’s infection lit a fire under all attendees to get tested, pronto.

That’s probably the best example yet of self-identified contact tracing.

Everybody who got infected (whether at the event or elsewhere) “found it fast”.

And, at least in Trump’s case, they “hit it hard”.

For months, Trump had been headlining the importance — and speedy development — of effective therapeutics.

When talking vaccine development, he usually added “… and therapeutics”.

Little did he know that he’d become a poster-child for the cause.

Whether it was the Regeneron or the uber-steroids that he was dosed, it’s indisputable that the combo of therapeutics got him on his feet and back in action at record speed.

Bottom line: Find it fast and hit it hard!

My view: Fast & hard is a resolute principle whether the disease is COVID … or, from our family experience, breast cancer … or, any other life-threatening disease.

 

Even more unsettled (and unsettling) science…

October 20, 2020

After the WHO & CDC have done a couple of u-turns (and full 360s) on masks, what’s the current “truth”?

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Let’s start with a basic question, how is COVID transmitted?

Initially, the science community (think: Fauci channeling the WHO and China’s disinformation) told us not to worry … that COVID was not transmitted human-to-human.

Then, we were told that it was transmitted human to human (to human) … via large droplets that contaminate surfaces (think: countertops and doorknobs) and hands … and transfer by handshaking and face-touching.

We bought into that … we started washing our hands and cleared store shelves of hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants (which are still in short supply).

Then, we were told that COVID is transmitted via large droplets that are delivered when infected people cough, sneeze and spray-talk on us.

That conclusion ushered in social distancing and masks went from “won’t help, might hurt” to “best line of defense”.  Most recently, CDC Director Redfield — apparently auditioning for a role as the village idiot –testified that wearing a mask is more of a viral deterrent than vaccines.

Then, a short-lived CDC guidance revision threatened to upset a big apple cart.

Here’s the back story…

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“What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science”

October 15, 2020

Bias, overconidence and politics can sometimes lead scientists astray.
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That’s where the WSJ comes out in an essay by Matt Ridley — author of “How Innovation Flourishes”.

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Mr. Ridley makes a couple of transcending points:

> Organized science is indeed able to distill sufficient expertise out of debate in such a way as to solve practical problems. But, science is a flawed and all too human affair.

> Scientists are fallible.They are not omniscient demigods whose opinions automatically outweigh all disagreement.

> There is no such thing as “the science”.  Rather, there are different scientific views that need to be tested and debated.

More specifically…

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NYT: “Pandemic will be over sooner than expected”

October 14, 2020

Begrudging credit finally given to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed
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Donald G. McNeil Jr. is a science reporter who has covered epidemics and diseases for the NYT since 1976.

He confesses that he has been “a consistently gloomy Cassandra, reporting on the catastrophe that experts saw coming: that the virus would go pandemic, that Americans were likely to die in large numbers.”

His view now: After taking the obligatory Trump-shot that, “with stronger leadership, the death toll would have been far lower”, McNeil concedes that:

Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year.

Why the sudden gush of optimism?

(more…)

Even more unsettled (and unsettling) science…

October 8, 2020

The CDC does another u-turn, turning a near-full 360 on how COVID is transmitted.

Spoiler Alert: It has to do with masks.
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So, how is COVID transmitted?

Initially, the science community (think: Fauci channeling China’s disinformation) told us not to worry … that COVID was not transmitted human-to-human.

Then, we were told that it was transmitted human to human (to human) … via large droplets that contaminate surfaces (think: countertops and doorknobs) and hands … and transfer by handshaking and face-touching.

We bought into that … we started washing our hands and cleared store shelves of hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants (which are still in short supply).

Then, we were told that COVID is transmitted via large droplets that are delivered when infected people cough, sneeze and spray-talk on us.

That conclusion ushered in social distancing and masks went from “won’t help, might hurt” to “best line of defense”.

That’s where we were, but a short-lived CDC guidance revision threatened to upset a big apple cart.

Here’s the back story…

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Did Trump “lie” and “cause” thousands of deaths?

October 7, 2020

That’s likely to be a major charge that Harris will be repeatedly lobbing at Pence in tonight’s debate.

For background, let’s reprise a past “must read” post that drilled down on Woodward’s “bombshell” book … which provided fodder for Harris-Biden’s campaign mantra.

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Bob Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people … and, that confusion and delay resulted in “thousands of unnecessary deaths”.

The Biden campaign quickly shifted gears from “Build Back Better” to “Trump lied, people died”.

Really?

Bottom line: Save for the dramatic impact of the audio tapes, Woodward’s “bombshell” is old news that has been debunked by the science (and scientists) … and the data.

Specifically, the NY Times ran an  article dated April 11 that detailed practically all of Woodwards’s “scoops” … and subsequently “the science ” — voiced by none other Dr. Anthony Fauci — and “the data” provided context, explanations and refutations.

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Let’s start by flashing back to our April 13 post that analyzed the Times’ story…

Note: Trust me, the analysis is as relevant today as it was in April.  It’s long, but IMHO, well worth the reading time. 

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Which scientists to believe & to follow?

October 7, 2020

Over 6,000 public health scientists and medical practitioners have declared for Focused Protection.

Their full Declaration is a MUST READ… and, it’s only 1 page.

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Here are the key points being declared

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CDC: 95% survivability rate if over 70 … higher with no symptoms, no co-morbidities.

October 2, 2020

Pres. Trump has tested COVID-positive… here are his medical odds.

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Last week, the CDC updated its so-called Pandemic Planning Scenarios.

English translation: They revealed the key parameter settings for their “Current Best Estimate” of COVID outcomes.

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Buried in the details (and minimally reported by the MSM) were IFRs — “infection fatality rates” … the odds of dying of you get COVID-infected.

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Here’s the key exhibit from the CDC report.

There are 3 sets of numbers presented: a best case, a worst case and a “best estimate” (where “best” might be more appropriately called “most likely”).

Below, we’ll decode the numbers.

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Let’s focus on the far right column — the “current best estimate” of the IFR — the  “infection fatality rate”.

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The rates are very low … indicating that the likelihood of dying from COVID is very, very low … even if a person gets infected.

Let’s make those numbers a bit more understandable…

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The 3rd column is the ISR — the “infection survivability rate” … the inverse of the IFR.

For example, if you’re in the 50 to 60 age group and you get infected, there’s  a 99.5% chance that you’ll survive … that you WON’T die.

Even in the most vulnerable age group (the over 70 crowd) the probability of surviving a COVID infection is over 95% … over 07% in the best case and over 91% in the worst case (see charts below).

The 4th column — the F-Odds — are read, for example, that the current best estimate is that 1 in 20 infectees who get infected succumb to the virus.

The grain of salt: COVID deaths are a reasonably accurate number .. but the number of infections is a wild guesstimate given the unknown number of asymptomatic infectees who don’t get tested.

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Flashback: Ohio Gov. DeWine tested negative … after testing positive.

October 2, 2020

Not a surprise according to Bayes’ Theorem
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According to the NYT and many other sources…

As part of a screening by the White House, Mr. DeWine first received an antigen test, a newer type of test that provides faster results but is less accurate than traditional laboratory testing.

He tested positive for Covid-19

He was later twice-tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory.

That test result was negative for the Covid-19.

DeWine’s experience is a classic “false positive” … to be expected based on Bayes’ (Statistical) Theorem.

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Let me explain…

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If I test positive for COVID, am I infected?

October 2, 2020

The answer may surprise you, and it has big implications for test & trace.
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In a prior post, we reported that “Asymptomatics” are not rushing to get tested and provided some subjective reasons why that might be (e.g. no doctor referral, high hassle factor, privacy concerns).

OK, let’s up our game a notch or two and throw some math & economics at the problem.

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I’m a fan of “Freakonomics” … the popular call sign for a discipline called Behavioral Economics … the study of the rationality that underlies many seemingly irrational decisions that people sometimes make.

And, in my strategic business analytics course, I used to teach something called Bayesian Inference … a way to calculate probabilities by combining contextual information (called “base rates” or “priors”) with case-specific observations (think: testing or witnessing).

Today, we’ll connect Freakonomics and Bayesian Inference and apply them to the COVID testing situation…

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The most incredible COVID statistic…

September 25, 2020

I’ve heard or read this stat several times:

29 large universities including Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina, and Illinois State had reported some 26,000 cases by Sept. 9 yet no hospitalizations.

I used to frequently remind my students that incredible means not credible … and, this stat certainly sounded incredible … so, I largely ignored it.

But, when the statistic was repeated in the WSJ, I decided that it was worth looking into.

Here’s what I found…

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Biden demonstrates how NOT to wear a mask…

September 22, 2020

For the can’t-make-this-stuff-up file
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Remember a couple of months ago when the WHO, CDC, NIH (Fauci) and Surgeon General were advising against wearing masks?

At the time, among their arguments were that mask-wearing might give people a false sense of security — so they wouldn’t socially distance from others … that people would wear masks incorrectly — letting them slip down, breaching the protection … and that people would frequently touch their masks — transferring surface droplets to the “kill zone”.

I pooh-poohed that logic … until yesterday when I watched  Joe “National Mask Mandate” Biden give his speech in Manitowac, Wisconsin.

During the speech, Biden literally provided a demonstration on how not to wear a mask … and why their effectiveness may be overstated.

click to view the 30-minute speech
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Specifically

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Remember when Trump advised us to use scarves during mask shortage?

September 18, 2020

Of course, he was eviscerated by the med-science community and the mainstream media
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Flashback to late March when community spread of the coronavirus was ramping up.

The WHO, the CDC and US Surgeon General were advising against wearing masks … saying that they were, at best minimally protective, could exasperate the problem if worn incorrectly and would distract people from handwashing and social distancing.

“The science” was unsettled.  Scientists were unsure how the virus was transmitted. There were published peer-reviewed studies on both sides of the issue.

That said, the  real reason for the science community’s advisories: masks were in short supply and the supply chain was impaired by Chinese hoarding and off-shored manufacturing.

In a Task Force press conference, Trump cut to the chase … said the real reason was the need to supply hospital workers with masks first … and he casually opined that, in the short-run, folks could stop-gap by using scarves or other face coverings as a make-shift protective shield.

click to view video (90 sec.)
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Of course, Trump said it — and  he’s an MSM-certified idiot, so the media pounced:

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Of course, there’s more to the story…
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Did Trump “lie” and “cause” thousands of deaths?

September 14, 2020

Let’s drill down on Woodward’s “bombshell” (and Biden’s new campaign mantra)
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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people … and, that confusion and delay resulted in “thousands of unnecessary deaths”.

The Biden campaign quickly shifted gears from “Build Back Better” to “Trump lied, people died”.

Really?

Bottom line: Save for the dramatic impact of the audio tapes, Woodward’s “bombshell” is old news that has been debunked by the science (and scientists) … and the data.

Specifically, the NY Times ran an  article dated April 11 that detailed practically all of Woodwards’s “scoops” … and subsequently “the science ” — voiced by none other Dr. Anthony Fauci — and “the data” provided context, explanations and refutations.

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Let’s start by flashing back to our April 13 post that analyzed the Times’ story…

Note: Trust me, the analysis is as relevant today as it was in April.  It’s long, but IMHO, well worth the reading time. 

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More: Fauci confirms “Trump was saying what we were telling him”

September 11, 2020

MUST READ: This post was updated Sept.13 with a substantially expanded timeline of who said what, when they said it … and how Trump responded at the time.

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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people.

Biden: “Clear evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty”.

Trump: “Listening to the scientists, and didn’t want to prematurely cause a panic”.

How to settle the question?

Let’s start with what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to truth-tell on the matter:

click to view 4-minute video
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By Fauci’s own admission, Trump was “following the science” … contemporaneously channeling what Fauci and other “scientists” were telling him at the time. 

Let’s dig a little deeper on that and look hard at the timeline…

(more…)

Fauci: “He was saying what we were telling him”

September 10, 2020

Fauci diffuses Woodward’s “bombshell”

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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his revelation that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people.

Biden: “Clear evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty”.

Trump: “Listening to the scientists, and didn’t want to prematurely cause a panic”.

How to settle the question?

Here’s what Dr. Anthony “My Word is Gospel” Fauci had to say on the matter:

click to view 4-minute video
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By Fauci’s own admission, Trump was “following the science” … channeling what he and other “scientists” were telling him at the time. 

Let’s dig a little deeper on that and look at the timeline…

(more…)

How effective are vaccines?

September 9, 2020

Answer: Not as much as you might expect.
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Excerpted from a September 2019 White House report which looked specifically at flu and coronavirus vaccines ….

There is considerable variation from year to year in how much the flu vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the seasonal flu and flu-related illnesses.

Over the past 14 years, influenza vaccine effectiveness has ranged between 10% and 60%.

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Much of the variability depends on which viral strains predominate in a given year and, more specifically, whether the vaccine matches the viral strain that is circulating in a given flu season.

Although a mismatch between the vaccine and the virus circulating during a flu season reduces efficacy, vaccines still provide some protection against flu illness and decrease the severity of the illness, due to immunologic similarity between the viruses.

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When it comes to pandemic viruses

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More: What did Trump know, when did he know it?

September 4, 2020

Most important: What did he do about it?
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In a prior post, we channeled an op-ed authored by members of a team that wrote a September 2019 White House report … and then we drilled down on the report’s details.

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The report’s fundamental conclusions:

  • Large-scale, immediate immunization is the most effective way to control the spread of pandemic viruses
  • The current government-centric approach to vaccine research,  development and deployment is far too slow.
  • To provide adequate risk mitigation for pandemics, public-private partnerships are needed to speed up the development and deployment of vaccines.

So, how did the Trump respond to the report?

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According to the authors of the aforementioned WSJ op-ed

“The administration was well aware of the threat of a pandemic before the novel coronavirus emerged … and there was “immediate presidential action” to implement the reports recommendations.

Specifically, they report:

On Sept. 19, a few days after the CEA issued its report, the president signed Executive Order 13887.

The essence of the Executive Order:

It is the policy of the United States to modernize the domestic virus vaccine enterprise to be highly responsive, flexible, scalable, and more effective at preventing the spread of viruses.

This is a public health and national security priority, as viruses have the potential to significantly harm the United States and our interests, including through large-scale illness and death, disruption to military operations, and damage to the economy.

The EO created several initiatives to modernize vaccine production, including “incentives for the development and production of vaccines by private manufacturers and public-private partnerships.”

In other words, the September 2019 White House report and the EO that quickly followed laid the groundwork for Operation Warp Speed — perhaps, the most critical component of the coronavirus response, hastening the development and launch of therapeutic drugs and vaccines.

More specifically …

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Operation Warp Speed (OWS)

Directly from the HHS site:

Goal: Operation Warp Speed (OWS) aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.

Approach: To accelerate development while maintaining standards for safety and efficacy, OWS has been selecting the most promising development candidates and providing coordinated government support.

Rather than eliminating steps from traditional development timelines, steps will proceed simultaneously, such as starting manufacturing of the vaccine at industrial scale well before the demonstration of vaccine efficacy and safety as happens normally. This increases the financial risk, but not the product risk.

The federal government is making investments in the necessary manufacturing capacity at its own risk, giving firms confidence that they can invest aggressively in development and allowing faster distribution of an eventual vaccine.

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Bottom line: “Flattening the Curve” was intended to slow the spread of the virus to avoid blowing past hospital capacity while awaiting a virus-blasting vaccine.

Trump placed a big bet on Operation Warp Speed … and the clock is ticking.