The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

April 18th US Covid Data

Our benefactor writes:

New format.

There are significant percentage increases in cases in lots of states. In terms of new cases, one-third are from NY. There is also a significant increase in deaths–again, possibly a restating of deaths at home in NY, not sure. Over half came from NY. The long tail persists. I’m having a hard time not seeing us reaching 60k deaths by end April.

Ian: Florida has re-opened its beaches. This is hilariously stupid and evil and is going to end so, so, well. Good thing Florida doesn’t have many old people.

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Open Thread


April 19th US Covid Update


  1. Joan

    Surely the bump is the Easter church-going cases, I would think, if they’re coming from places besides New York.

  2. bruce wilder

    In California, testing was thoroughly bollixed. The data on “new cases” is very hard to interpret because the testing regime has been compromised on so many levels.

    The protocol in place since the beginning has been to test only those manifesting definite symptoms, and in early days not even those. Then, a tremendous backlog of tests was allowed to develop — I saw one report that put the backlog as equal in number to the total of all tests completed in California — on the order of 150,000.

    Are there a lot of “new cases” coming into the count now that should have come into the count two weeks ago?

    Are the authorities releasing the data revising the history or not?

  3. bruce wilder

    Why is opening beaches hilariously stupid and evil?

    I am not following the reasoning.

    With appropriate distancing, which should not be hard to achieve in most Florida public beach locations, outdoors in sunshine in a warm climate seems to me to be a highly unlikely locale for transmission.

    What am I missing?

  4. Publius

    The US is doing pretty well compared to many other countries, especially in Europe. Those of you who are hoping for worse may be disappointed unless later waves of the virus are strong — maybe hitting the fools who are in denial or protesting shutdowns now — but don\’t think it will discredit Trump to his base, that\’s not how their psychology works. They will always, always blame \”government\” in the name of dismantling it. They will always, always blame \”liberals\” because it affirms their purity against a demonized foe. A million people could die, and it would not make a dent in their psychosis.

    All the covid deaths in my family and friend networks are in the US, and the white casualties\’ survivors are solid Republicans who are not going to change. The black casualties (the larger number) are just more dead African-Americans. This vicious disparity is considered a win on the right whether they admit it or not.

    The worst likely outcome that concerns me most is that short-term success at flattening the curve of virus deaths makes it run below the other curve no one\’s tracking but everyone knows: the lockdown-life psychosis curve. The more successful we are at isolating, the more successful we are at producing mental illness, which is partly exacerbated by economic distress and precarity, but even if that were generously shored up, people would still wear down simply because of mass narcissism and everyone being on the internet 24/7. Add liquor stores as essential services, more guns than people, etc. Where do you expect this to go?

    The crazy-ass white right will reach a breaking point and revolt against being locked down with their families where they are in fact a danger to themselves and others. If COVID deaths are fairly low due to isolation, it will feed their belief it is safe, and the cost of doing business is roughly the existing casualty rate of personal motor vehicles as the dominant mode of transport. You can hear the same from rural Alberta now — they\’re ready to throw grandma under the train to get free of their Freudian demons in close confinement. They\’d rather take their chances with the virus than have to be family together another night.

  5. Zachary Smith

    With appropriate distancing, which should not be hard to achieve in most Florida public beach locations

    It might work out fine with all the great sunshine and all. And it might not. Last I heard the US had a hefty population of people who don’t believe in any kind of rules. At least not when concerning themselves.

    Suppose you have a friendly game of Beach Volleyball upwind of you. Four or more people doing some heavy-duty breathing. How far away is enough?

    In still air that sneeze was measured as traveling 27 feet. Substitute a small breeze for the violent sneeze, and make the stream non-stop. Once again, how far away is “enough?”

    Or let’s suppose everybody is on their best behavior, and sitting in 6 foot grids. But a beach is linear, and every so often the wind will travel at right angles to the ocean. In a couple or three hour exposure to those breezes carrying the exhaled breaths of dozens or hundreds of people, what are their odds? Add some alcohol and boneheads to the mix, and what then?

    I swore off ocean beaches some years back – on account of the increasingly polluted ocean water. Adding Covid 19 to that doesn’t improve my view of a place where you also greatly improve your chances of getting premature leathery skin, or even skin cancer.

  6. Zachary Smith

    Broadway star Nick Cordero will have his leg amputated amid coronavirus battle, says wife Amanda Kloots

    I had never heard of this person, but the headline including ‘amputated leg’ and “coronavirus” really did catch my eye. Worse, the fellow is only 41 years old.

  7. Zachary Smith

    Spitting at someone is a universal insult. In Israel, however, spitting at Palestinians is an entirely different story.

    Now that we know that the deadly coronavirus can be transmitted through saliva droplets, Israeli soldiers and illegal Jewish settlers are working extra hard to spit at as many Palestinians, their cars, doorknobs, and so on, as possible.

    Needless to say, heaps and piles of US taxpayer dollars are funding those illegal settlers. Casual murder, burning crops, poisoning wells, bulldozing homes and schools and medical facilities. All on the basis of a 3,000 year old land grant. One mentioned only in a holy book written by themselves.

  8. Zachary Smith

    Oops – I thought I was still on the Open Thread.

  9. Stirling S Newberry

    I am currently working on pandemics, and from historical data the largest is the “black death” which entered Istanbul in 1347 and ravaged the continent of Europe from 1347 through 1353. In London out of a population of 60,000 current estimates are that 60% of them died – 36,000.

    The scale of many of the pandemics worse the current version, where only 160,000 have officially died. I will say that that number is low by at least 50% and more data comes in from a variety of sources. Many of those sources have reasons to underestimate the death from wanting to avoid telling the real death total because of superiors who will replace the person making the report (China) to not wanting to tell superiors that “open up quickly” strategies are in effect a death sentence for many of the victims. But then people who are underestimating the death are probably not involved in the actual dying itself, they have other concerns, I suppose. But what is interesting is that every pandemic has a different signature. Airborne ones are quickly caught while sexually transmitted diseases are much slower. The data on this is unfortunately not adequate for the current crisis.

    But what is useful to note is that the death rate will fall off from the top more quickly than it built up to it. Partially this is because the people who are most susceptible also tend to die off more quickly. Then there is a trough before those who are much less susceptible die. After that, the pandemic has killed everyone who had no antibodies to fight the infection.

    So in other words that is the good news – the bad news is that in every single pandemic people who have not been infected tend to believe that they are immune to the pandemic. One can see this in Scotland, where the plague had not yet most areas in 1349 but came in with a vengeance in 1350. In fact, these Scots gathered an army to invade southward because the English were dying and the Scots felt themselves unhindered by the Black Death. This was, in retrospect, a bad decision. That states under Republican administration are considering the same thing, is a repetition of the same idea.

    The other important question is whether rural and exurban counties have lower death rates. Again older pandemics can give clues to this. Since the antibodies will not develop unless the disease strikes, usually what happens is that it takes longer and slower, but the same result occurs. That is to say, urban districts will happen faster and sooner, but rural and exurban districts have the same casualty rate unless there is some reason for the difference between urban and rural. One example of this is cholera, which spreads along waterlines. This means that many rural districts that have a separate water supply will remain unscathed, but along central waterways, the cholera epidemic will hit though to a much less extent. It is painful to see how political considerations still affect the way the pandemic courses through a system.

  10. Stirling S Newberry

    BTW, I think your friend may want to increase the total a bit. 60,000 is low by my estimates. Not impossible low mind you.

  11. anon

    I’ve never been to Florida, but from the photos I’ve seen, the beaches look pretty crowded and packed, but maybe that was just spring break. Still, the beaches in Florida are not secluded in the same way Hawaii’s beaches are excluding the ones in Waikiki, and the governor of Hawaii continues to keep beaches closed.

  12. Stirling S Newberry

    The people want to go back to work and have fun. Since there is no obvious marker, it does not make sense to them to stay in place. It is stupid reasoning, but it takes longer to explain why. Super-spreaders are not in the minds at all.

  13. Eric Anderson


    Out here in rural red amurika?
    My entire County is a super spreader.

  14. It’s not a zombie gas, drifting about seeking inhalers.

    The spouse and I, though we live on the bay yesterday sought the oceanward side of what was once an island just to get a look at the open water. Though the parking lots were thoroughly closed and barricaded I know a little wheelchair access spot we could briefly look down the path through the salt grass and see the beach. Though merely ‘partly cloudy’ a borderline blustery day for the northcoast, wind gusting in off the saltwater 20 – 30 mph, maybe 40°F, I would venture there were no more than would be expected for the day though distant. 20, 30, 40 feet twixt strollers. Many masked. Grant these are apples and onions, Florida and New England, though being from Oregon and Montana I have a hard telling the difference, but I am kinda’ with Bruce on this, this is an awful lot like swatting a skeeter with a sledgehammer.

    But then again, my spouse’s immuno is pretty thoroughly compromised, and we are by default ‘socially distanced’, sheltering in place avoiding people and crowded indoor spaces. None of what is being asked of the public is an inconvenience. What is inconvenient is she may never get to walk that beach again, yesterday would have been a good day for it.

    To paraphrase something Einstein is reported to have said, these inconveniences are nothing compared to mine. It’s not a zombie gas, it’s a bug, and everyone is gonna’ get it. If people weren’t so fucking stupid, zombies, it wouldn’t be a problem.

  15. Astrid

    The not so good new Armando Iannucci show, Avenue 5, has the perfect description of what the beach goers and Republican protesters and rich assholes holed up in their logistics poor vacation homes are doing.

    They’re stupiding themselves to death.

    Just like a body’s immune system, it’s possible that this relatively mild pandemic will immunize for greater crises on the horizon, as SARS did for Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Or the patient society may have pre-existing conditions and will be permanently debilitated as a result. The US and Brazil looks to be my coworker with very poorly controlled advanced diabetes, but who dismissed COVID19 as “just the flu” because his dentist (“she has a doctorate”) told him so.

  16. Lex

    I spend a fair amount of time with doctors making educated guesses at treatments for my wife. Right now, all the doctors are iterating treatments on the fly and under great duress. It’s a facet of curve flattening rarely discussed but it’s critical. A vaccine is pie-in-the-sky at the moment; a suite of treatment options are not. But I’m the chaos of health system overload, it’s incredibly difficult to carefully develop and observe treatments. We’ll need those desperately for the later and second waves.

    The cleared/negative tests then testing positive again is troubling. Likely a result of what German studies observed in terms of the viral load moving into the lower respiratory tract and not being picked up by upper respiratory tract swabs. Clearly the politicians are hoping that this is “over” soon. It won’t be. And we keep wasting the time already spent not making appropriate preparations.

  17. Willy

    That 1/3 of the world’s reported cases are happening in a country with 4% of the worlds population seems lost on these people. New York metro alone has more reported cases than any other country on earth. That things would be much worse with even more “freedoms”, should be even more so.

    And then it’s beyond me why the PTB cannot figure out a way to limit the incidence while also maintaining at least some economy. Masks, testing, training, and enforcement anybody?

    Maybe I understand why these things are happening. I just cant imagine why anybody would willingly want to be so stupid in such public ways.

  18. Astrid

    These people have never paid a price for lying and incompetence. Truth may cause them temporary setbacks, but the most effective solution is just to punish the truthtellers and abetted by the MSM, let the bad thing quickly disappear down the memory hole.

    This has been their experience for the last 30-40 years, why would they change?

  19. Mark Pontin

    Willy wrote: “That 1/3 of the world’s reported cases are happening in a country with 4% of the worlds population seems lost on these people.”


    “And then it’s beyond me why the PTB cannot figure out a way to limit the incidence while also maintaining at least some economy. Masks, testing, training, and enforcement anybody?”

    Forty years of neoliberal government, selecting for ‘leaders’ who know only how to de-regulate, privatize, and help their big-money sponsors loot — selecting for people who do the opposite of govern, don’t want to govern now, and are incapable of it anyway.

    Stirling N: “But what is useful to note is that the death rate will fall off from the top more quickly than it built up to it.”

    Yes. But how will we know the top except retrospectively? True, it’s the 21st century and we could do mass-testing and contact tracing which means, I’m afraid, expanded data surveillance of the population.

    But see above. We’ll get the expanded data surveillance, I’ll bet

  20. bruce wilder

    The great pandemics of bubonic plague, which Stirling references, the Plague of Justinian that ushered in the Dark Age phase of the European Middle Ages and the Black Death that began in the mid-14th century and seems to have triggered the Renaissance beginning a couple of generations later, had as an epidemiological feature, reservoirs in divergent populations of rats, which kept the disease endemic and resulted in recurrence. The plague recurred many times in the first decades after 1346 with decreasing rates of infection and mortality. Natural selection played a part where antibodies could not, though recent or incipient famine was a factor in the initially maximally high mortality rates and the threat of famine eventually declined with the population.

    Smallpox, too, remained endemic and recurred. Its trick was to have several forms, at least one markedly milder but highly contagious in humans that kept it endemic. People could gain immunity from having had any form, including the very mild version known as cowpox. But, immunity in some never stopped recurrence, until systematic programs of inoculation spread immunity simultaneously to nearly everyone.

    Measles, we now understand, may have been a major factor in the post-Columbian pandemic of the Americas that wiped out so much of the indigenous population.

  21. Mark Pontin

    The story of the elimination of variola (smallpox) via ring vaccination is quite the story of what human beings can do when they cooperate —

  22. nihil obstet

    The elimination of smallpox is also recounted in the 2nd part of a really good medical mini-series called Pain, Pus, and Poison: The Search for Modern Medicines. The discussion of viruses starts at about the 41:14 mark of the second episode Pus.

  23. StewartM

    What Bruce said.

    I had myself posted late on a previous death on both the Black Death and smallpox, because their experiences show that the much-ballyhooed “herd immunity” isn’t much of an immunity at all, because 1) a LOT of people still die, not just in the first wave, but in subsequent waves; 2) it only works with individuals; for humans as a whole it takes natural selection a LONG TIME to pass on resistance to subsequent generations; and 3) the pathogen itself changes–with person-to-person diseases, the overall trend is by theory to less virulent forms but there will be ‘bumps’ along the road–so even if you get immunity to strain 1, strain 2 can come again and kill you. We’re already encountering individuals who have contracted CoVID-19 twice, in fact.

    The bubonic plague killed people for 300+ years in waves in Europe before it subsidized (due to a number of reasons); remaining cases were treatable with antibiotics. Smallpox was eliminated by vaccination. Modern medicine and sanitation have more to do with the elimination of the great pestilences than does ‘herd immunity’.

  24. StewartM

    “I myself posted late on a previous death”

    I meant ‘previous thread’, not death. Must have the latter on my mind.

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