Archive for the ‘COVID – Return to Normalcy’ Category

Walenshy on rapid tests … then and now.

January 18, 2022

Last week, we spotlighted a NY Times article “The C.D.C. Is Hoping You’ll Figure Covid Out on Your Own”.

Author Zeynep Tufekci asked:

Why, two years into the pandemic, are people are grasping to know whether they should see a grandparent or an elderly relative or go back to work if they are still testing positive?

Why are we still trying to figure this out on our own?

Of course, the primary root causes are a new, fast-moving, ever-changing virus … and haphazard science, heavily politicized, that can’t seem to converge on a coherent “theory of the case”.

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Now that Biden’s test kit program is about to launch, this part of the article has specific relevance….

Deep in the article, Tufekci  channels CDC Director Walensky to provide a clear explanation of covid testing … and an example of the politicization.

According to Tufekci…

Back in 2020, when Walensky was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, she co-authored a scientific paper titled “Saliva-Based Antigen Testing Is Better Than PCR Swabs”.

Some snippets from that paper:

> PCR tests can detect tiny amounts of the virus, so they do a great job of “diagnostic testing” — determining early-on if you are infected and may require isolation or treatment.

> But, PCR tests can “return positives for as many as 6-12 weeks … long after a person has ceased to need medical care or pose any real risk of transmission to others.”

> Said bluntly: PCR tests do a good job of diagnostic testing but a rotten job of “surveillance testing” that zooms in on whether a person is contagious to others.

> “The antigen tests are ideally suited for surveillance testing since they yield positive results precisely when the infected individual is maximally infectious.”

The reason is that antigen tests respond to the viral load in the sample without biologically amplifying the amount of the virus. PCR tests do amplify the virus in the samples and sometimes detect and report inconsequential “left over” viral fragments.

> A rapid test turns positive if a sample contains high levels of the virus, not nonviable bits or minute amounts — and it’s high viral loads that correlate to higher infectiousness.

With respect to viral transmission: “False negatives” on rapid tests are a benefit since “those are true negatives for disease transmission”

Again, a PCR test is positive if any amplified viral content is detected.

An antigen test may be negative if the virus is present but the viral load is very low … consistent with a low likelihood of viral transmission.

> But, antigen tests may be slower (than PCR tests) to detect the early onset of an infection, especially if symptoms haven’t materialized, since the viral load may be low but building.

> So, confirming a suspected early stage infection is best done with a PCR test or with a series of rapid tests, say, every other day for a week.

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OK, that’s what Walensky said back in fall of 2020, before her shift from “scientist” to “political scientist”.

Now, she’s saying:

“We actually don’t know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you’re transmissible during the end of disease”

Has the science changed … or, the scientist?

Hmm

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P.S. Walensky’s entire 2020 paper is worth reading.

NYT: “CDC hoping that we’ll figure Covid out on our own”..

January 13, 2022

Yesterday, we spotlighted a Washington Post  editorial  headlined

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The essence of the editorial:

As Covid-19 swept the world one year ago, the United States under-prioritized the need for data and the tests that produce it.

The data-deficient response to Covid-19 is why this pandemic’s been so deadly, so disruptive and so costly.

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Putting it more viscerally, the NY Times says:

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Some snippets from the Times article:

The government’s haphazard and disorganized Covid response has put the whole country at risk.

We aren’t expecting officials to have crystal balls about everything, but…

The highest-ranking public health officials are making statements that seem more aimed at covering up or making excuses for ongoing failures, rather than leveling with the public.

it’s so disappointing to enter 2022 with 2020 vibes, scouring for supplies, trying to make sense of official declarations that don’t cohere, and wondering what to do.

Why, two years into the pandemic, are people are grasping to know whether they should see a grandparent or an elderly relative or go back to work if they are still testing positive?

Why are we still trying to figure this out on our own?

My question: Why has it taken the WaPo and NY Times so long to notice that “the science” has been letting us down.

WaPo: “Flying blind is no way to survive a pandemic”

January 12, 2022

Finally, I agree with a Washington Post editorial.

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Amid the omicron spike, the recent uproar about testing and quarantine rules has spotlighted the current unscientific nature of “the science”.

Biden’s scientific team offers up simultaneously contradictory points of view, small scale ad hoc studies that incite reactionary course reversals, and no logical, fact-based “theory of the case”.

In the words of Rajiv J. Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation:

“The United States has been flying virally blind.”

More specifically, Shah argues:

Data is the secret weapon that has helped beat every disease outbreak over the last century.

Data is what moves us from a panic-driven response to a science-driven one, telling us how to fight back and which tools are best.

But, as Covid-19 swept the world one year ago, the United States under-prioritized the need for data and the tests that produce it.

The data-deficient response to Covid-19 is why this pandemic’s been so deadly, so disruptive and so costly.

Currently, only a handful of countries (e.g. Israel, South Africa, Britain) are systematically collecting, analyzing and sharing data that is sufficiently comprehensive, precise and timely to help public health authorities and scientists make informed decisions about relaxing precautions or adapting vaccines and treatments.

Unfortunately, from a data perspective, the United States is in no better position to understand and stop a viral variant today than it was before the pandemic started.

The United States has not yet built a real-time system of viral surveillance that would allow comprehensive tracking of variants as they move through the population.

As it is now, the CDC pulls together viral surveillance data from a variety of sources, including its own facilities, state public health labs, and university and private laboratories.

The frustrating complexity and diversity of electronic medical records is an ongoing challenge.

The data sets are minimally standardized, key data is often uncollected, data file formats vary and data reporting is sporadic.

So, it can take weeks to build a complete and reliable picture of how a variant is spreading.

By then, it’s often too late and a newer variant must be battled.

The U.S. must take crucial steps to support a national viral surveillance network to defeat Covid-19 and prepare for the next pandemic.

Bottom line: It’s not surprising that there’s no over-riding theory-of-the-case, confusion re: pivotal factors (e.g. prevalence, transmission, re-infection, mitigation effectiveness) and a seemingly endless pandemic.

Covid: “Now, everybody knows somebody…”

January 11, 2022

Why it feels different this time around…
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A couple of months ago – during the last Covid spike – I opined that Covid was an abstract notion for most people since they hadn’t been personally and consequentially touched by it.

As evidence, I cited a broad-scale YouGov survey that found that, despite hundreds of thousands of covid-related death, 2/3’s of Americans didn’t “personally know anyone who had died due to complications from covid-19”.

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Sure, people had heard about people getting infected but “they” were either newsworthy celebrities or very distant relationships … distanced by 4 or 5 degrees of separation.

It was like a serious crime epidemic that hadn’t struck “my neighborhood”, let alone “my house”.

For sure that sense has changed …

For openers, we’ve now reached the point where everybody knows somebody who has been infected, and those “somebodies” are closer to home … they’re not a cousin’s neighbor’s son-in-law’s co-worker’s friend … they’re close friends and family … within zero or one degree of separation.

And, there seem to be more “batches” of “theys”, not single isolated cases.

Specifically, entire neighborhoods are getting hit … and once the virus penetrates a household, most family members get sick.

When they get sick, nothing seems to make sense.

Being fully vaccinated is proving to be a porous barrier to infection.

Within households, symptoms vary widely from person to person … seriously symptomatic people are testing negative … asymptomatic people are testing positive (when they can find a test!)

Go figure.

When it hits close to home like this, people seek reliable (and actionable) “what to do” answers … have less tolerance for misdirection, obfuscation and butt-covering bull-bleep.

It becomes evident to all effected that the government’s political-scientists — always assertive, occasionally right – are flying blind … spewing illogical, data-short guidance that confuses rather than clarifies.

As NBC News put it “The rapid spread of the variant has created a level of disruption in many Americans’ lives not seen since the early days of the pandemic. We have gone backwards.”

I think we’ve reached a turning point  … and, that’s a difference time around.

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P.S. Your read that right: NBC News … article is worth reading.

 

 

Covid death counts are still high!

January 7, 2022

The percentage of infections resulting in hospitalization or death has declined, but…

…. as I used to preach to students: a little number times a very, very large number is a large number.
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In prior posts, I’ve encouraged readers to stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths DNDs).

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

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It’s not news that the number of covid cases has skyrocketed.

These days, everybody knows somebody who has tested positive for covid … or, has suffered covid-like symptoms without a confirming covid test.

Our personal observations are captured in the reported aggregate numbers.

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There’s a tendency to characterize the spike in cases as low severity annoyances … minimizing the reality that covid-related deaths are still accumulating at the pandemic’s average rate.

Specifically, we’re currently averaging about 1,250 covid-related deaths per day.

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Let’s put the 1,250 in perspective …

> Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, there have been about 850,000 covid-counted deaths … that averages out to 1,300 daily deaths.

> At the 2 prior peaks — April 2020 and January 2021 — the daily death rate reached about 2,250 and 3,500, respectively.

> Historically, the number of flu-related deaths averages about 250 per day during the flu season.

So, while the current daily death count is less than half of the count during the prior peak periods, it’s 5 times the average number of in-season flu deaths.

And, the numbers add up.

Since the prior trough in July 2021, there have been about 225,000 covid-related deaths … that’s about 1/4 of the total covid-related deaths to date.

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Bottom line: We’re not out of the woods yet, folks.

Stay focused on the daily death counts.

Postpone any victory celebrations until we get down to the 250 flu-related deaths benchmark … and stay at or below that number.

The question that I want somebody to ask Biden, Psaki or Fauci…

December 22, 2021

Our past couple of posts dealt with the omicron outbreaks at colleges and in pro sports.

Those venues share a common behavioral trait: practically all of the college students and athletes are fully vaccinated … yet, omicron is spreading fast enough that students are being sent home (potentially to spread the virus there) and sporting events are being postponed or cancelled.

In this week’s speech, Biden — a bit more restrained than usual —  repeatedly took shots (pun intended) on the the folks who are unvaccinated … still implying that the roughly 1/4 of adults who are unvaccinated are the predominant cause of the spread.

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So, the question I’d like some reporter to ask Biden, Psaki or Fauci is:

College campuses are relatively contained and controlled environments. 

College administrators have mandated vaccinations (reportedly with >98% compliance) and enforced strong mitigation practices, including masking.

So, how do you explain the surge of covid cases on college campuses?

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That’s not intended as an anti-vax question.

I’m both fully vaccinated (i.e. 2 shots) and “boosted”, so I don’t take Biden’s admonition personally.

But, I want to understand risks of my catching and transmitting the virus.

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P.S. For the “textbook” answer to the question, see: Colleges hit by surge in covid cases…

The essence of the answer: Waning vaccine effectiveness among “cohorts” of students who got vaccinated at approximately the same time … right before the school year started.

First colleges, now sports leagues encountering covid case surges…

December 21, 2021

Again, cohort vaccinations meet waning vax effectiveness to create chaos.
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Previously, we demonstrated mathematically that, because of vaccines’  waning  effectiveness, a near-100% vaccination rate slows, but doesn’t stop covid spread  … we  showed  how the underlying math largely explains the  surge  in covid cases on college campuses … and we warned that colleges might be sending infected students home for the holidays.

Well, colleges aren’t alone.

The Hill is among sources reporting that:

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Case in point: The NFL

During the first 2 1/2 months of the football season, from early September to late November, there were only about 110 players on (and off) the COVID-19 reserve list.

That number is over 100 again, and some teams are be being hit particularly hard.

The Rams list was 13 last week and continues to grow; the Browns have 15 players and their head coach out.

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According to the league, nearly 95% of NFL players are vaccinated.

But, just like colleges, the  contagion spike is largely attributable to the Omicron strain of the virus,  “cohorted vaccinations” and waning vaccine effectiveness.

On those latter points, glad to see somebody else has seen the light.

Zachary Binney, a sports epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University says:,

One possible explanation for the recent spate of cases is waning immunity from the initial vaccines. 

Lots of professional athletes likely got vaccinated around the same time, so their immunity could be wearing off simultaneously.

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The Hill points out: “For the NFL, the timing couldn’t be worse as many teams are playing some of the most meaningful games in the final weeks of the regular season.”

Specifically, teams may have to resort to playing 2nd and 3rd stringers in their most important games in the seasons.

Despite play-off and championship implications, the NFL had hoped  to play on without postponements or cancellations.

Already that hope has perished.

Saturday’s scheduled game between the Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Raiders was rescheduled for Monday.

23  Browns players — including the team’s starting quarterback –were on Saturday’s covid list.

Sunday’s scheduled game between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles was also postponed until Tuesday.

The Washington Football team had 23 players on the covid list, including its first- and second-string quarterbacks.

Sunday’s  game between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams was also postponed until Tuesday.

As of last Friday, the Rams had a league-leading 29 players on the covid list.

But, the Monday Night Football game between the Bears and the Vikings played on … even though the Bears had 16 players sidelined with covid, including its entire defensive backfield.

The Bears lost.

While there weren’t play-off implications for the Bears, there were for the Vikings

What a mess.

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P.S. And, what about the college bowl games and championship play-offs?

They’re at he intersection of the campus and sports’ covid case surges.

Ouch.

This year, college students may be spreading more than holiday cheer…

December 20, 2021

Caveat friends & family: they may come packed with the coronavirus.
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Last week, we posted: Colleges hit by surge in covid cases.

The essence of the post:

> Almost all college students have been vaccinated …  the vast majority were all vaccinated circa. August, 2020.

> The vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time … down to about 50% at the 6 month mark.

> So, the vaccinees in the August cohort group are down to about 65% vax effectiveness

> And, the August cohort of vaccinees won’t qualify for booster shots until February

>Which means that about 1/3 of college students are walking around medically equivalent to somebody who is unvaccinated.

For the math details, see: If 100% were vaccinated, would we be out of the woods? … or, would we morph to a “pandemic of the vaccinateds”?

> And, the highly transmissible Omicron strain has hit many (most?) college campuses.

That’s a recipe for a covid surge — both on campus and more broadly since, as the WSJ reports:

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For example, Princeton is “encouraging” students who plan to travel home for the holiday break to leave campus as soon as possible.

The rationale: “Avoid students getting stuck on campus if they tested positive and had to quarantine”.

So, what’s the rub?

Clearing campuses could lead to broader spread of the disease.

“Sending students home as soon as possible is like wrapping up a ticking time bomb and putting it in the mail”.

So, what’s the answer to minimizing viral spread from the hot spot college campuses?

> Require “unboosted” students to get covid tests before they travel home for the holidays

> If they test positive, quarantine them on campus until they test negative

> When they test negative, send them packing .. and encourage them to re-test when they land at  home

Bottom line: If your student visitors don’t follow the above protocol, they may not be “ticking time bombs” … but the chances of them being virus-carriers are certainly greater than zero … and the odds may be significantly greater than zero.

So, don’t get complacent just because they’re “fully vaccinated” and have been sent home … again, caveat friends & family!

Update: COVID Dashboard

July 29, 2021

Since Team Biden seems to have its collective hair on fire, I thought it would be good to put things in context by looking at the data …

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From the jump, we’ve argued that the most reliable Covid metric is the death rate.

The COVID death rate is now below the average number of flu-related deaths during the flu season… and far down from past peaks.

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Vaccination rates stalled at 500,000 per day, down from 4 million per day at the peak.

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Over 90% of vulnerable seniors have been vaccinated; over 70% of people 18 and over have gotten at least one shot.

Over 10 million teens (42%) have been vaccinated.

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Draw your own conclusions re: whether it’s time to hit the panic button.

 

Beach Week Report: “Unprecedented demand, help wanted”…

July 26, 2021

Just back from our family’s annual summer week on the Delaware beaches.

Here’s what I observed this year:

> “Unprecedented demand”: That’s what the condo-rental agency headlined … and, it wasn’t just rate-jacking hype … full occupancy was evident … open parking spots were few and far between (and far away from destinations).

> Families galore: The beaches were crowded with frolicking families … always a pleasant sight to see … seemed remarkably normal.

> What COVID? There were very, very few masks  … and only a few tattered “keep your distance” signs that just hadn’t been taken down yet.

> “Help Wanted”: Every store, restaurant and service counter had a sign that warned customers that “due to a severe labor shortage, our service isn’t up to our standards so please be patient”

One pizza restauranteur lamented: “Kids just don’t want to work” .. young adults are just enjoying their government-funded summer vacations … the Eastern European teens & twenty-somethings  who usually staff the shops and beaches can’t get visas.

>”Demand management”: Marketing is alive and well.  To cope with the “unprecedented demand and labor shortage”, establishments are trying desperately to smooth demand across day-parts (think: early bird specials).

For example, to spread the workload for cleaning crews, our condo agency offered a partial refund if we’d accept a later than usual check-in (late Saturday evening or Sunday morning, instead of Saturday afternoon)) or a very early checkout (Friday afternoon or evening, instead of Saturday morning)

> Patience reigned: Admittedly, we stayed mostly cocooned in our condo and on its beach, but … when we got out, people seemed to be going with the flow … patiently waiting in line for service without whining or line-cutting … servers had great attitudes while hustling their butts off.

> “Thanks for working”: To the prior point, even cheapskates like me were tipping more than usual … and thanking workers for working.

I wonder if that will become a new normal…

Cleveland Clinic: “Natural immunity” is for real…

June 10, 2021

A hopeful sign for herd immunity
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In yesterday’s post, we observed:

The political-scientists still refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of covid survivors have developed protective antibodies.

The implication: The percentage of the population that has some degree of covid protection is higher than the current 64% of 1st-shot adults … probably way higher.

And, we cited Hopkins’ Dr. Marty Makary (who is right way more often than, say, Fauci):

More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection.

So, some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus.

Some in “the science community” may be skeptical.

But, right on cue, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have reported out results from study that cuts to the chase.

Specifically, the researchers tracked 52,238  of Cleveland Clinic employees, recording their infection and vaccination status over a 5 month period.

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And, the data says…

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> 2,579 (5% of the 52,238 total sample) had been infected with covid

> 28,102 (54% of the 52,238 total sample) got vaccinated (2-shots of Moderna)

> Less than 1% of the employees who were vaccinated subsequently caught covid

Note: The report stated “There was a “steady increase in cumulative incidence among previously uninfected subjects who remained unvaccinated” … but didn’t provide a specific number.

The infection rate in the vaxed group was in line with prior effectiveness results … in fact. better than previously reported from clinical studies.

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Here’s the big news…

> 1,359 of the Cleveland Clinic employees had a previously confirmed COVID infection but did not get vaccinated .

> NONE of these unvaxed covid survivors got infected with covid during the study period

To say the least, that’s statistically significant!

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The implications:

> The effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine was confirmed (at a higher level)

> At least in this large scale study, covid survivors appear to be protected (at least over the short-term) whether or not they get vaccinated.

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In other words, the Cleveland Clinic study seems to lend credence to Dr. Markary’s conclusion:

More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection.

So, some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus.

If we’re not at herd immunity levels, we’re pretty darn close!

Don’t fret if Biden’s 70% goal isn’t reached…

June 9, 2021

Life is heading back to normal regardless.
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Biden-Fauci promised that we could have small family BBQs on July 4 if 70% of adults get at least their 1st shot of a vaccine.

It’s looking like we’ll fall short of Biden’s goal.

But, not to worry.

If you’ve been out recently, you’ve probably noticed that many (most?) folks don’t care what Biden & Fauci have to say any more.

Americans are responsibly easing back into life and guess what: case counts are dropping and covid deaths are dropping (albeit, slowly).

That’s an entirely rational approach since…

> There’s no magic number re: herd immunity or its close cousin: adult vaccinations.

There’s no specific herd immunity threshold.

Best evidence is Fauci’s constant rising of the herd immunity requirement from 60% to 70% to 80% to 85% to whatever he’s pitching on MSNBC today.

Said differently, there’s no covid  on-off switch set at 70% vaccinations.

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And, vaccination rates are only part of the story…

> The political-scientists still refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of covid survivors have developed protective antibodies.

Some number of unvaccinated people fall into that category.

The implication: Some 80% to 85% of American adults are immune to the virus: More than 64% have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection. Source

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> Transmissibility is not fixed: It can vary based on a population’s behavior, demographics and health.

We’ve seen this in action with Covid-19, which has spread far more quickly in some populations, as a result of differences in disease-mitigation efforts, housing density, age, occupations and both community and individual  health conditions.   Source

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> More specifically, transmissibility is, in the final analysis, a local dynamic.

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

Conditions in New York and New Jersey have little impact on, say, Wyoming.

Viral spread in dense urban areas has little relevance to sparsely populated rural areas.

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The bottom line: Don’t fret over Biden & Fauci’s faux thresholds.

Pay attention to conditions in your local community.

If the number of hospitalizations and covid deaths keep declining … then get on with getting on.

DISCLAIMER: I’m neither a medical professional nor a scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

If you can’t trust your barber, who can you trust?

June 7, 2021

So much for following the science …
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Welp, it looks like Biden’s goal of 70% adults getting 1st shots by July 4 isn’t the slam dunk that it initially seemed.

See Biden sets another low bar vaccination goal

With about a month to go, almost 12 million adults over 18 still have to get 1st shots to hit the target.

That works out to about 500,000 first shots per day … roughly the recent 7-day moving average of 1st shots … a number that has been declining and is being buoyed by teenagers (who don’t count against Biden’s target).

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Recognizing that the goal is in jeopardy, Team Biden has thrown its weight behind a new program.

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Last week, Biden announced “Shots at the Shop” an initiative bringing together 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons across the nation to serve as vaccination locations … leveraging the trust and significance they have in Black communities. Source

OK, I understand the need to deliver healthcare to underserved communities … and to use credible messengers.

But, this program raises some obvious questions…

(1) Do we really want barbers and hair stylists to be dishing out medical advice?

They’re probably as spot-on as, say, Dr. Fauci … but still, is that a precedent that Biden wants to establish?

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(2) Is it a good idea to have groups of unvaccinated people converging on barbershops to seek counsel … and maybe get vaccinated?

Program proponents say: “You don’t have to be tethered to a hospital”

Hmm.

I don’t know about your’s, but my barbershop is small-spaced, indoors and not-to-be confused with a sterile operating room.

Bluntly, I avoided my barbershop like the plague during covid until I got fully vaccinated.

If I knew that it was a hang-out for the unvaxed, I would have continued my avoidance.

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(3) When did the vaccines suddenly become easy to store, easy to prepare and easy to administer?

Up to now, we’ve been told that (a) the vaccines need to be kept frozen at sub-zero temperatures (b) need a couple of hours of medically precise preparation (c) must be administered within a few hours after being thawed.

I started to wonder how it was possible for small, low volume retail pharmacies to to handle the constraints.

A medically-attuned friend advised me that (a) shipment batch sizes were reduced from about 1,000 doses to about 100. (b) some pharmacies already have deep freezers … others can get them for about $2,500 each (probably with some gov’t subsidies offsetting that amount) (c) pharmacists are well-able to safely perform the thaw and shoot process.

That’s pharmacies (and pharmacists), but it still begs the question …

Barbershops and barbers?

Excuse my skepticism, but this program just doesn’t sound very scientific to me.

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P.S. Some of the above vaccine storage & prep constraints are less limiting with the up-to-now problematic J&J vaccine.

But, that opens a bigger can of worms that we’ll address in a future post.…

WaPo: Biden’s goal of 70% by July 4 looks out of reach …

June 7, 2021

…. as the pace of shots slows drastically.
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Not my words, straight from the Washington Post  … here’s the data … 11.5 million shots needed in 28 days … below current running rate.,

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June 3: COVID Dashboard

June 3, 2021

Now that the Memorial Day holiday is in the books and data reporting seems to have caught up…

> Daily confirmed case counts below 20,000; deaths still hovering around 600 per day.

Implication: The CFR (case fatality rate) has soared to around 4% (chart below) … why?

> Vaccination rate still falling despite … and that number is buoyed by teenage vaccinations (now over 6 million)

Note: about 13 million adults over 18 need to get 1st shots to hit Biden’s target of 70% by July 4

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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

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May 27: COVID Dashboard

May 27, 2021

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

> Deaths hovering between 500 and 600 per day

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May 26: COVID Dashboard

May 26, 2021

> Vaccination rate slowing after initial teenage surge

> Death rate continues slow decline

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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

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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)

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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?

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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

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

May 18, 2021

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

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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….

COVID Deaths pass grim milestone: 600,000

May 17, 2021

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May 16: COVID Dashboard

May 16, 2021

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Freedom to breath (and smile) again…

May 14, 2021

Thanks to a couple of inspiring “coincidences”.
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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.

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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

MASKS OFF ! MASKS OFF!!  MASKS OFF!!!

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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?

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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?

Wrong.

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.

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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

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COVID: Daily Dashboard

May 12, 2021

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COVID: Daily Dashboard

May 11, 2021

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1st vax shots down 65% from early peak…

May 10, 2021

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

May 9, 2021

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

May 8, 2021

Daily new deaths sticky at ~700.
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Awash with vaccine … shots still plummeting.

May 7, 2021

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Did rationing priorities induce vaccine hesitancy?

May 6, 2021

A story of messaging and first impressions.
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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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?

Hmmm.

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

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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
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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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Supply > demand, herd date slipping, stockpile growing …

April 30, 2021

Cases and deaths stubbornly sticky.
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Herd date slipping as 1st shots continue to drop…

April 29, 2021

Cases and deaths stubbornly sticky.
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VAX: First shots continuing to drop … stockpile growing

April 28, 2021

Slowing demand (aka vax hesitancy)? J&J pause?
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April 27: COVID Dashboard

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April 27: COVID Dashboard

April 27, 2021

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April 26: COVID Dashboard

April 26, 2021

Herd immunity date slips as daily shots’ rate (total and 1st shots) declines
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April 23: COVID Dashboard

April 23, 2021

Vaccination Rate Dropping (Total & 1st Shots)
Herd Immunity Date Slipping into June
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April 21: COVID Dashboard

April 22, 2021

Heads-up: 1st shots decreasing as a percentage of total daily shots … so, herd immunity date slipping into June.

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April 20: COVID Dashboard

April 21, 2021

Heads-up: 1st shots decreasing as a percentage of total daily shots … so, herd immunity date slipping into June.

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April 20: COVID Dashboard

April 20, 2021

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