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

April 19th US Covid Update

Our benefactor writes:

No new news. From other news sources, measurable numbers of deaths are happening at home in other states. No one seems to know if they’re being counted.

One important thing to note is that the amount of testing in the US is constricted. As a result, the numbers of confirmed cases are also constricted. It may well be, as the Atlantic argues in this article from the 16th (which you should read) that we just don’t know the number of cases.

But there is another way to interpret the decline in new cases: The growth in the number of new tests completed per day has also plateaued. Since April 1, the country has tested roughly 145,000 people every day with no steady upward trajectory. The growth in the number of new cases per day, and the growth in the number of new tests per day, are very tightly correlated.

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April 18th US Covid Data


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 19, 2020


  1. Stirling S Newberry

    Just as there is the weekly data, there is the weekend data. And that the weekend the data is less precise, to put it mildly, then the data during the workweek. As a result, while people are glued to their inter-tube connections on a daily basis, there is a reason why most sources contain a 7 day moving average. Monday and Tuesday will, therefore, be catch-up days and at least one from a given country has a spike to it which is related to the weekend/weekday schism in the numbers.

    This being said, at the moment we just have to deal with it.

    Another point to make is that several states will remove lockdown procedures, and it will seem as if everything will go well. Then 14 days or so later infections will spike. I suppose it means that if we put people in power who do not know what the infection rate means then enough people will die from sheer incompetence.

  2. S Brennan

    While some numbers seem hopeful, the mortality % still indicates that an effective treatment protocol is lacking.

    Lot’s of advice, [sadly accompanied by needless political-haranguing], on preventing infection but, deadly silence on early treatment at home and still…we lack a medical consensuses on a medical treatment protocol for early hospitalization. Who’s job is it to collect and collate hospital treatment/results? What is working, what is failing? All I hear is “experts” advising caution on treatments until all the “studies” are in.

    And yes, we need definitive, well vetted, long term, peer reviewed, well documented, clear-cut, conclusive, exhaustive, unambiguous, blind-controlled studies to arrive at the very best response but, those things take years and just like in WW II we don’t have the luxury of waiting for “perfect intel” before engaging the enemy at our gates.

  3. Stirling S Newberry

    An effective protocol starts with catching the patient early. The US has decide “freedom” is more important.

  4. S Brennan


    This is factually incorrect; “An effective protocol starts with catching the patient early”. Absolute bullshit, patients “caught early” are sent home without any protocol. Lazy thinking.

    And this is, the needless political-haranguing that I was referring to; “The US has decide[d] “freedom” is more important”.

    The US is being far more restrictive than Sweden but, for those unable to take off their political blinders, the US is an aviation crossroad with heavy ties to China and 386 international airports, compared to Sweden’s two international airports. The difference is a factor of 200 while our populations are a factor of ~40. By the numbers, ignoring the dead-end vs crossroad anglee, our rate of infection should be four times that of Sweden but, it’s not, it’s not even twice Swedens.

    It’s really sad to watch so many who are incapable, for even a moment, to set aside politics and do some very basic logic/arithmetic .

    A very sad statement on the mental state of the commentariat.

  5. gnokgnoh

    @SBrennan, what are you talking about? Sweden’s first case was Feb 4, their second case not until Feb 26. The U.S. first case was Jan 22 with rapid growth of cases in Washington. They’re effectively four weeks behind us, and their infection rate is already above .12% with a 10.7% mortality rate. Their rate of infection is already 65% of ours and climbing very fast.

    Just in the last three days the Swedish government has asked for powers to lockdown the country and they’ve already stopped all flights from EU countries. You’re cherry-picking an example to make what point?

    Stay home, stay safe.

  6. S Brennan


    You need to work on your 4th grade arithmetic…and 10th grade logic. Best wishes. Stay safe.

  7. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most one-on-one inter-country comparisons on coronavirus response are bogus for all sorts of reasons. There’s a huge amount of variance because a lot of this has to do with random encounters — even running a very tight ship, there’s still a chance that e.g. an eldercare worker will bump into an asymptomatic flight attendant by accident and *boom*.

    Most of the good or bad performance in this crisis with regard to casualty rates, aside from randomness, seem to be from factors laid down in advance. Austerity in Southern Europe has been deadly. Intransparency in China was initially deadly. The US’ broken health care system and general social conditions have been deadly.

    Adjusting death per capita is another dubious measure for comparison, by the way, because it means that in the above scenario (eldercare worker receives the virus from an asymptomatic flight attendant), a small country automatically does “worse” than a big country even if there are no differences in policy or social structure. The bad policy is therefore “being small”.

    In global terms, the thing that is creating controversy about Sweden is that it still extremely hard to interpret what is going on there, because while it is doing worse than its neighbours it is still overall middle of the pack in the developed world as a whole, the health care system has defied expectations in the time-to-maximum-capacity, the policy choice remains very popular, and so on. However, even if it avoids an exponential explosion, it is going to be very hard to transpose lessons for other countries. You probably can’t do what Sweden is doing in the UK because Sweden just has a more comprehensive and less austerity-afflicted social system and a social-democratic government for whom austerity is not a moral imperative. As well, it is not as though Sweden has taken no measures, it merely has not completely followed the imperative of a faction of mathematical modellers who are currently setting the policy agenda.

    Unless Sweden shortly has the big exponential upswing, it will take a longer time than expected to see whose hypothesis is correct overall, and because of all the difference, we may never know. FWIW I think the median optimal policy response has been the German one, at least for countries that responded late. But even those comparisons aren’t fair — like I said, a lot of the differences are deeply baked in in advance.

  8. bruce wilder

    Treatment protocols are notoriously hard to pry loose from superstitious minds. Tuberculosis begat all manner of self-promoting clinics. Simple hygiene occasioned epic battles in the 19th century, Galen forgotten. Remember Sister Kenney and polio? Iron lungs were the predecessors of ventilators. Doctors got stomach ulcers exactly wrong for decades. Scurvy, even after the curative power of fresh fruit was recognized, recurred because people could not translate that insight practically.

    As for containing the epidemic, we are flying worse than blind because the testing capacity is limited and the protocol for testing compromised. But, also because ordinary habits of social processes work against sense. How much transmission took place in crowded NYC emergency rooms? How much did lockdown in NYC reproduce the cruise ship model?

    And, how much does “success” depend on the weather?


    What did I tell you. I predicted Trump’s first rally would be The Villages on May 8. We’ll see. He’s presaging it with this tweet. I think he reads me.

    Congratulations to all of my many friends at The Villages in Florida on having done so well, and with such great spirit, during these rather unusual times. So proud of everyone! Mark Morse & Gary Lester have really stepped up to the plate. Hope to see everyone soon.

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