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My Contribution to KOVID Konfusion

...is this article at a health and science site called Stat: A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data

The site seems sane and credible, and most of the stories about COVID-19 are fairly typical; that is, it's not some dodgy sensationalist site. And the author has credentials: "John P.A. Ioannidis is professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University and co-director of Stanford’s Meta-Research Innovation Center."

He believes the evidence on which decisions are being made is "a fiasco." And if it's seriously overestimating the danger, then

...locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.

You can read it for yourself at the link above and make up your own mind. Well, no, I guess it won't work that way, because the author doesn't know, either, and one can still say "Better to do too much than too little."

Up to a point.

Comments

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grumpy

My GA came in to help me set up the online teaching for next week. He's an old fashioned conservative guy whose dad is the president of an old fashioned conservative college. So he's not a typical PhD student anywhere. We both had done the math, and, as he told me, 150 dead is 1.5% of 8000 cases - which is .5% more than die from the flu annually. I told him not to share that information with anyone - we have become 'deniers'! Neither of us can see why they don't just quarantine the old.

Stu

There is certainly something to that line of thought, Grumpy. If there could have been some sort of real mobilization of any kind earlier it would have been good.

Meanwhile, I'm at home listening to Robert Cray and do intend to be praying the rosary a little later.

AMDG (for Janet)

grumpy

They keep saying 'there could be a million dead if we dont do x, y and z.' Everyone is focussed on those hypothetical numbers and not the actual numbers.

Even the only dog to die so far of Covid19 is a Hong Kong Pomeranian who is *17* years old. If Olivier and Brexit live to be 17 I will thank God for it.

Rob G

More konfusion:

https://www.accuweather.com/en/health-wellness/new-study-says-high-temperature-and-high-relative-humidity-significantly-reduce-spread-of-covid-19/703418

There's no reason we should "trust" the weather to solve the problem, but, as one guy says in the piece, at least it's not working against us. I'm sure that if this had hit in the middle of a cold winter it would be a lot worse.

Stu

It will be snowing here today :(

Mac

Good news for us subtropical residents.

Marianne

Not so good for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, we're in the first month of autumn here. :(

Another interesting piece in MIT Technology Review yesterday, "This blood test can tell us how widespread coronavirus really is":The new coronavirus has killed more than 8,700 people, which is about 4% of the 214,000 confirmed cases, making for a shocking death rate.

But the real fatality rate among everyone infected by the virus is certainly lower, and possibly much lower. The reason epidemiologists can’t say for sure is they don’t know how many people are infected but never go to the hospital or even have symptoms. In essence, modelers are missing an accurate denominator of the death-rate calculation.

That’s a huge problem for setting policy. John Ioannidis of Stanford University, writing March 17 in the publication STAT, argued that the true death rate could be less than that of the seasonal flu. If so, “draconian countermeasures” are being decided amidst an “evidence fiasco” of “utterly unreliable” data about how many people are infected.

Currently, the US and other countries are ramping up efforts to test people quickly. That diagnostic test, called PCR, looks directly for the genetic material of the virus in a nasal or throat swab. It tells people with worrisome flu symptoms what they need to know: Are they infected with the new coronavirus right now?

The new type of test asks a different question: Has a person’s body ever seen the germ at all, even months ago?

If someone has been exposed, their blood should be full of antibodies against the virus. It’s the presence, or absence, of such antibodies to the virus that the new test measures.

The Icahn team, led by virologist Florian Krammer, says the new test could help locate survivors, who could then donate their antibody-rich blood to people in ICUs to help boost their immunity.

Mac

I confess that I've been wondering whether I have it. I got a cold some weeks ago, which followed a more or less normal for me pattern, except that it never has quite gone away. Very far-fetched that I would have it, but suppose it is actually very widespread and not a big deal for most people. Possibly my continuing mild symptoms are just allergies, which I have never had but which could, like so many problems I've never had, be appearing in my old age. Some mighty dull conversations have taken place between my wife and me about the continuing quest for a comfortable sleeping position.

Janet

Have you seen one of those charts comparing symptoms for covid-19, colds, and flu? Stopped up head and stuffy nose aren't really symptoms of the plague. I am suffering my usual love/hate relationship with Spring. The time I most want to be outside makes me sick-ish. I go outside anyway, when the rain allows.

As far as the article goes, the thing is, I don't know, you don't know, nobody knows, nobody can give it more than an educated, or semi-educated guess. There hasn't been anything like this since people became as mobile as we are. (It's probably Nixon's fault since he is the reason we have planes flying to and from China ;-) ).

Now Italy has more deaths than China? Given the disparity in population, and the fact that it started there much later, that's pretty scary. And Washington State? Their first case was before the first case in Italy, and they have had 66 deaths, many of those in nursing homes, compared to over 3K in Italy. It's very hard to understand.

This element of separation is the most troubling thing to me. I think it might help, might be necessary, and I'm pretty sure it's prudent for us old folks to stay home, but separation, by and large is the tool of the enemy, and forsaking the assembling of ourselves together has been advised against pretty strongly. I'm not saying they shouldn't have cancelled public Masses, I am just saying that it puts us in a vulnerable position.

My main reason for thinking that slowing the disease down is not the old--I mean, I am not afraid to die--but I have a granddaughter who sometimes has to go to the hospital with respiratory problems because of her lack of two good lungs, and when she gets there, she goes to the head of the class. Even on a day when nothing special was going on, someone has come in the room and asked if they were through with the respirator because another patient needed it. They don't have enough respirators for a normal day, and they already have at least one Covid-19 patient there. So one day she may show up at the hospital, and no help will be available. I am sure she's not alone.

The reason this is so long is that it is the first time I have been able to sit down at my computer. Somehow, being home 24 hours a day, I seem to be busier than ever.

The only thing we can know, really, is that we should be serious about prayer.

AMDG

grumpy

I agree Janet. I know I go back and forth in an annoying way. But there's a guy I know who runs a Baptist seminary in Hong Kong. He's not a right wing or a left wing nutjob. He's an academic who gave up normal academic status to run a Baptist seminary in HK. I started discussing it with him months ago, back in January. He tried very hard to dissuade me from thinking about the camino this year. He was hearing what the Chinese had to say about it, before it came here. One sentence he wrote has stayed with me: 'there is so much we don't know about this virus'.

I know its annoying that I keep saying different things. You see the 'rational' side of my mind says the figures are pretty low. Eight thousand could be a blip in the flu figures. The intuitive side of my mind agrees with you and the seminary president.

grumpy

Janet, Im not sure if Byz Caths have the same readings as Westerners, but on Sunday we had a bit of Hebrews for the Epistle. Our priest wrote us this letter today:

I am very sorry to announce that, in keeping with the directives of the university and of both our Melkite and Roman Catholic bishops, we will be discontinuing our schedule of Byzantine liturgical services at Malloy Chapel until further notice.

As Bishop Rhoades said in his announcement of the cancellation of liturgies in the Roman Catholic diocese, it is a very heavy cross to be deprived of the celebration of the Eucharist. But, recalling our epistle reading from last Sunday, we can find comfort in holding fast to our confession that Our Lord and High Priest, Jesus Christ, continually intercedes for us at the heavenly liturgy and constantly includes us, in all our present circumstances, in his self-offering to the Father. So, let us "hold fast to our confession" (Heb 4:14) and, be assured that, despite our inability to physically celebrate the liturgy together, we can still "approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16).

Let us keep fervently praying for one another and for our suffering world in this time of great trial.

Mac

The "rational" side of my mind says "??????!!!!!?????" I don't even go back and forth, just sort of look blank. I toss around possibilities but I don't put a lot of stock in any of them. I guess the one more or less consistent thing is a contrarian streak.

"we should be serious about prayer." Amen. :-)

No, I haven't seen any charts, just descriptions of symptoms. The one thing that's always mentioned, and which I haven't had at any point in this, is fever, so I don't have any real concern.

Your concern for your granddaughter is certainly very much warranted.

Marianne

separation, by and large is the tool of the enemy, and forsaking the assembling of ourselves together has been advised against pretty strongly. I'm not saying they shouldn't have cancelled public Masses, I am just saying that it puts us in a vulnerable position.

Amy Welborn has a post today, with this:I’m very glad people are realizing how important the Mass is to them, and grateful to priests and parishes doing what they can to make it available. But perhaps this is also a good time for those in pastoral ministry to dig deep into 2000 years of Catholic tradition and present the faithful with the WEALTH of Catholic spiritual life and devotion that nourished Catholics over the centuries, most of whom did not have the regular, direct access to the Mass that we in the 21st century West have enjoyed. Highlight the liturgical calendar and all the associated elements – the liturgy of the hours, saints feasts and celebrations, devotions – all of which developed in the context of real, everyday, ordinary life, helping people grow spiritually and see God in their daily lives in every circumstance. ...

In one of my kids’ former Catholic schools, they still prayed the Angelus at noon – the church bell would ring, and where ever they were – even on the playground, the kids would stop and pray.

Why not bring back the Angelus in a big way? Like…nationwide? We can look at the map Eric Simmons made of the slowly growing, then cascading darkness as public Masses disappear (more on that later) – and we can be justifiably grieved at that. But (remembering that private Masses are happening everywhere) – why can’t we look at that map and say – we might be living in that sort of darkness, but can we let bells ring through that darkness? Put out the word to those who don’t know about it – this is the Angelus, this is where it comes from, this is how to pray it. And we’re going to pray it. At noon in our city, every Catholic church is going to ring the bells, and when that happens, let’s all stop and pray – together, even as we are physically apart.

USCCB? Help us out here?

grumpy

Yes Marianne, but its very hard on those of us who live alone (so glad the lodger is here this year!) to lose Church (first and foremost), their place of work, the gym, the beauty salon, the bar.

I don't set any stock by my opinions on this. I know that Im a pillow taking the shape of the last person who sat on me. Today David French's newsletter had Coronavirus in the subject so I opened it, and he says he did a survey of the liberal and mainstream press, and none of them gives a hoot if we call it Chinese flu or Wuhan cough or whatever.

I cooked a vegan curry for the lodger and me, because he's now eating bread and jam. I went to Meijers to get mustard greens (I was doing curried black beans with spinach and greens, very tasty). That's a step or two down the social ladder from the supermarket I frequent (which don't have mustard greens). It was not crazy, but it was packed like its packed on NYE morning, or the days before Christmas, with everyone leaving with a trolley full. There was no TP on the shelves, but it was being unloaded from a fork lift, and the aisle was full of people in baseball caps going to get some and making wry jokes about 'just in case.'

On amazon one firm is trying to sell a roll of toilet paper for 36 dollars shipping. There's some very snarky remarks about that.

To me, a much crazier thing than the TP craze is the dozens of emails I have received from every firm I ever bought anything from online, saying 'we care about you during the corona virus outbreak.' Heist Panty Hose and Merrell shoes, to name but two, and Eirie Insurance, care about me during the coronavirus pandemic. Ive had maybe a hundred such emails.

Marianne

I've been following Caitlin Flanagan's Twitter feed this week because she's in lockdown in L.A. and her tweets about it make me smile. Like today's about the horrors of the lockdown for some folks there:Here in LA you can’t get your roots colored, your Botox injected, your fine lines lasered or your elective procedures scheduled.

“At 50 you get the face you deserve.”

Brentwood could be full Dorian Gray in 6 weeks.

Grumpy

Dont joke Marianne! I have not done my own hair for 35 years and when I eventually the bathroom is going to look like a blood bath.

In related news A male senator named Lindsey Graham Said we should not be given $1000 because you could not just spend $1000 in a store. He should ask his wife. I could spend $1000 in 20 minutes in the single boutique in this tiny Midwestern town

Stu

I am finding much of what is written here - Janet, Grumpy, Marianne (not you, Mac ;-) comforting to read. Amy Wellborn post too. Along with the rosary today with the pope and so many others, I am heartened that my priest here seems to be going online a few times a day on FB to pray and talk to his flock. Blessings to all of you during this troubling time.

Janet

Grumpy, those emails are both annoying me and cracking me up. They all say they care so much about me.

I was wondering what ordering food from Amazon would be like, so I looked up lettuce, and found a head for $29.00.

AMDG

Janet

While we were praying the rosary (We prayed along with the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist--boy do they pray fast!), I was thinking about the way the virus looks--that ball with all the little protrusions, and thinking about the round world with all the prayers going up from it.

AMDG

Grumpy

I looked up an historical reference while watching the Crown and learned that Wiki cares about me

Janet

How sweet.

Mac

I'm not sure whether I'm pleased to read Janet's comparison of the virus to the world and its prayers. Nice idea but the virus looks creepy.

I've gotten a bunch of those emails, too, though not the kind of volume y'all seem to be talking about. Half a dozen or so, I guess.

Spending $1,000 in one store...offhand I can't think of a store where I could do that. Well, I guess I could buy a fairly nice computer at BestBuy for that amount. In days of old, an audio shop, but I pretty much have all I need in that line now.

Mac

Here's something from comments on a First Things piece that, if true, is significant:
---------------
Richard Malcom: There's a reason why Bergamo was especially hard hit by the virus.

Dale Matson: Richard Malcolm • 2 days ago
...And the reason Is?

Richard Malcolm: Dale Matson • a day ago
Tens of thousands of Chinese guest workers in textile plants in Lombardy.
---------------

Mac

And the piece itself is interesting. I know not everybody here (ahem) is a big fan of R.R. Reno and First Things, but I think he has a point here about the church closings. I saw this piece described elsewhere as advocating defiance of government edicts, but he doesn't actually say that, though maybe he means to imply it.

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/03/keep-the-churches-open

Mac

Caitlin Flanagan is funny, Marianne. And btw I did finish the article about Megxit. Very good, very fair. And of course also funny. I gather from it also that I didn't truly grasp the extent of the national breakdown over Diana. Or just how vicious the British press can be. Sort of explains why I've several times seen journalists depicted as scum in British tv shows.

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