Covid 8/6: The Case of the Missing Data

Last time: Covid 7/30: Whack a Mole

Testing. One could sum up the entire failure on Covid-19 as a failure of testing.

We have failed to test individuals. We have failed to ramp up testing capacity fast enough. We have failed to deliver test results within the time frame necessary for them to stop the spread of the virus. We have failed to allow other forms of testing that could help us greatly.

We have also failed to test everything else. We still don’t reliably know how this virus is transmitted. We still don’t know what actions are safe or risky. We don’t know the right mask designs. Our knowledge of which drugs work is spotty at best. We don’t know how many people are actually immune or how that works. We don’t know if our vaccines work. We don’t know how people respond to different policies and options. We don’t know almost anything. 

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Unifying the Simulacra Definitions

Epistemic Status: Confident this is the perspective I find most useful. This is intended to both be a stand-alone post and to be the second post in the Simulacra sequence, with the first being Simulacra Levels and their Interactions. It should be readable on its own, but easier having read the previous post.

Simulacra levels are difficult to understand.

This is not without cause. This is complex and bizarre stuff.

Simulacra levels are a map of the metaphors we use to create metaphoric maps of both territory and the map itself.

The text that coined the term Simulacra levels does not help matters. The term was first referenced locally by Ben Hoffman in this post, but this was not the original source.

The original source of the term is a super-dense work of French philosophy. It requires the reader to pause after every sentence. It’s not clear that a proper review would be shorter than the book itself. 

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Covid 7/30: Whack a Mole

Last week: Covid 7/23: The Second Summit

It seems clear that positive test rates, and with them new infections, have peaked in the Southern epicenters.

Unless and until something changes, forward looking risk will continue to improve in the South and West. The Midwest and Northeast, however, are still getting worse.

The two additional big unknowns of school and winter remain on the horizon. So does the election. So it’s very much too early for celebrations.

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New Paper on Herd Immunity Thresholds

Previously: On R0

This new paper suggests that herd immunity could be achieved with only about 10% infected rather than the typically suggested 60%-70%.

They claim this is due to differences in connectivity and thus exposure, and in susceptibility to infection. They claim that the best model fit for four European epidemics at 16%-26% for England, 9.4%-11% for Belgium, 7.1%-9.9% for Portugal, and 7.5%-21% for Spain.

This being accurate would be excellent news.

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Covid 7/23: The Second Summit

Last week: Covid 7/16: Becoming the Mask

The news continues to be cautiously good.

Positive test rates are likely peaking. Deaths are increasing slower than one would have expected, and could well peak a few weeks from now without having risen much further.

This, in context, is what success looks like.

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Fresh Bread

Learning to bake bread was a top quarantine activity for many. For too long, I neglected to post the method my wife and I have been using for years. It’s time to fix that.

This recipe is quick and easy, it’s flexible, and it’s absolutely delicious.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other preferences, or for variety, but this is pretty awesome.

The core comes from the book The New Artisinal Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

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Covid 7/16: Becoming the Mask

Previous week: Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates

Two weeks ago I predicted a surge in Covid deaths starting on July 2 and picking up on July 7.

On July 6, the rolling 7-day average of Covid deaths reached a local low of 480.

Seven days later that average was 721, almost exactly 50% higher. It’s since pulled back slightly to 696.

No doubt holiday delays are a small portion of that story, and helps to explain why things didn’t pick up until after the holiday backlog was gone, which I failed to anticipate at the time. That is a small part of this story, but only a small part.

The good news is that, once again, things are getting worse slower than I would have anticipated two weeks ago. We might be remarkably close to turning the corner.

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Covid-19: Analysis of Mortality Data

Data source: The CDC, my spreadsheets are here and here which should be easier to work with.

Previous Covid-19 work here that is potentially relevant these days: Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death RatesCovid 7/2: It Could Be WorseCovid-19: My Current ModelOn R0Taking Initial Viral Load Seriously, On “COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons”

Something very bizarre seemed to be happening with the death data.

This post attempts to figure out what the hell is going on. The obvious first explanations didn’t seem to fit the data.

It now looks like the main effect discussed is mostly delays. This is mostly deaths that are pending – it really does take months and months, somehow, for us to figure out what killed a substantial fraction of those who die. Thanks to a screenshot in the comments I was able to compare data from different snapshots, and confirm this.

Thus, we can treat most of this as a fun little exercise that still revealed a bunch of interesting and useful stuff along the way. The C.D.C. seems to have put out a report on this years ago, here.

I’ve chosen to mostly leave the rest of this post unedited, to reflect the thinking process. I think it’s important to learn from such things, to get better at analyzing things and figuring things out.

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Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates

Previously: Covid 7/2: It Could Be Worse

When I posted the link on Twitter, I joked that we already knew this week’s headline.

It turns out we didn’t. Not quite yet. I’m waiting on that one until next week.

Here’s what I said last week about death rates not picking up:

June 18 starts the surge in positive tests that represents the full second wave. June 23 represents when it accelerates. My default assumption has been one week to test positive, and about two weeks after that to see the average death.

That would mark the surge in deaths to start around July 2. In other words, today, with things picking up speed on July 7.

So no, this isn’t weird. Not yet. But if there is no spike in the next seven days, then that’s pretty weird. If that actually happened, I’d look more carefully at hospitalization data, which I usually disregard as not worth the trouble. But mostly I’d be terribly confused. The infection fatality rate seems to clearly have fallen, but why would it have fallen so much so quickly now that a surge in infections doesn’t kill more people? Quite the tall order.

Today is July 9. There was no rise in death rates starting on July 2. The holiday weekend shifted a bunch of reporting forward a few days, so tracking changes this week has been wonky. Death rate only picked up on July 7-8, and much of that was delayed reporting. Death rate this week is only slightly higher than last week’s.

It needs to be said up front. This is really weird. It’s not as weird as it looked before the last two days, but it’s still weird. I’m not going to back away and pretend it isn’t weird. Time to further investigate and break down potential causes, along with other news.

First, let’s run the numbers.

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Spoiler-Free Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

Previously: Spoiler-Free Review: Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (plus a Spoilerific section)Spoiler-Free Review: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

This review of a giant open world game is being written on July 7. That’s three days after the review of Witcher 3 was posted.

You can guess it’s not going to be a ringing endorsement.

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