Covid 6/17: One Last Scare

The one last scare, from America’s perspective, is the Delta variant. If we can remain stable or improving once Delta takes over, then barring another even more infectious variant, we’ve won. If and where we can’t do that, it’s not over. 

That’s the question. How much Delta is out there already, how much worse is it, and will that be enough to undo our work? If it is, how long until further vaccinations can turn things around again?

Before I look into that, let’s run the numbers.

The Numbers

Predictions

Prediction from last week: Positivity rate of 1.8% (down 0.2%), deaths fall by 9%.

Results: Positivity rate of 1.9% (up 0.1%), deaths fall by 20%.

Prediction: Positivity rate of 1.8% (down 0.1%), deaths fall by 9%.

I think the deaths drop likely reflects variance in reporting, so while it is definitely good news I do not want to predict a further large drop from a number that is likely to be somewhat artificially low. For positivity rate, we seem to have shifted to a regime of rapidly declining numbers of tests, especially in areas with declining infection rates. Thus, it’s quite possible that the positive test rate will stop reflecting the state of the pandemic. I still expect the number to keep dropping a bit, but it wouldn’t be that surprising if it stabilized around 2% from here on in with improvements reflected mainly elsewhere. 

Deaths

DateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEASTTOTAL
May 6-May 12826106913928554142
May 13-May 19592119412778113874
May 20-May 2661594812796313473
May 27-June 252783811704562991
June 3-June 97208179154312883
Jun 10-Jun 163686119613142254

It seems like we can safely say that last week’s measured death count was too high and should have been more in the 2500-2700 range, and we remain roughly on the previous pace of decline from May. This week’s number is likely slightly lower than its true value, with some deaths shifted from this week into last week versus when they would usually be measured. Note that the raw total was even lower, as I added back some deaths in California when they reported negative numbers on multiple days, which I cancelled back up to zero.

Cases

DateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEASTTOTAL
Apr 29-May 552,98478,77885,64168,299285,702
May 6-May 1246,04559,94570,74046,782223,512
May 13-May 1939,60145,03063,52934,309182,469
May 20-May 2633,89034,69448,97324,849142,406
May 27-June 231,17220,04433,29314,66099,169
Jun 3-Jun 925,98718,26732,54511,54088,339
Jun 10-Jun 1623,70014,47225,7528,17772,101

[Chart note: Given our current situation, while they provide good perspective on where we’ve been, the full charts are not that enlightening anymore and are growing unreadable for all the right reasons. Unless people think it’s a bad idea, I’m thinking the charts should be narrowed to only show movement after some reasonable time. Maybe start on 1 April 2021?]

These are very good numbers. We see declines across the board. It’s not back on the old pace, but given the lifting of restrictions and the rise of Delta, that should be expected, and we still made more progress than last week by a large amount. 

They reflect declining numbers of tests rather than a big decline in positive test percentage, but at some point… that makes sense at equilibrium because you don’t need as many tests? There’s an argument that a 2% or so positivity rate is reasonable, in the sense that it means that a marginal additional test would have a much lower chance than that of detecting an infection that was likely asymptomatic, so it’s not clear more testing would be worth the trouble. 

It also likely means we are doing substantially less ‘surveillance testing’ where we check people without any reason to think they are positive, either out of an abundance of caution or to give them entry into events or travel. And we’re doing less testing in the places that are winning, versus the areas that are still struggling. Thus, we are taking the least likely to be positive tests out of the pool, which should raise the positive test rate. If we’re stable on that front, we’re making great progress.  

Vaccinations

Compared to what I expected, this continues to be good news. First doses do not appear to be declining much, which is impressive given how many of those eager to be vaccinated have already had their shots, and much of the remaining population is under 12. 

If we can sustain this pace indefinitely, with an additional 1% vaccinated every week, we will be home free soon in most places, regardless of how bad Delta is. The effects compound increasingly quickly over time. 

Delta Variant

Delta is rapidly taking over. How worried should we be?

First of all, if you are fully vaccinated, you should not be personally worried. Here’s the latest data (link to paper). 

The 94% number for one dose of Pfizer is almost certainly higher than the real value due to random error, but the other numbers are very consistently saying that the vaccinations are at least as effective against Delta as they were against Alpha. The symptomatic disease numbers are more worrisome, but remain what I’d consider acceptable, especially for mRNA. 

I don’t agree with every individual point, but this thread is mostly the reasonable bear case that Delta is sufficiently bad that we should be worried restrictions may come back and the pandemic might not be over in America. 

As I noted last week, statements like ‘watch the Delta percentage in your region’ have the implication it’s going to be less than 99% for all that long, unless there’s another variant we don’t know about that’s even worse – at this point seeing a larger Delta percentage, conditional on knowing the growth rate of cases, is good news. Last week the report was that we were at 6% Delta cases overall, so there was still uncertainty at what level of cases we could stabilize against it.

The consensus seems to roughly be that Delta is twice as infectious as the pre-London strain. This thread, for example, puts its likely R0 at around 7, versus 3.3 for the original strain, an ~50-60% increase over the currently dominant London strain. There are places in the country where that may be enough to cancel out the current vaccination rate, despite vaccinations ‘overperforming’ their headline numbers due to previous infections and the existence of young children.

Where are we right now in terms of Delta? Here’s the best data point I could find. Delta is the light green area in the first graph.

English strain peaked here around 70% of the pool and is now down around 45%. That implies that the average strain is more infectious than the English strain already. Which makes sense, if you assume the ‘Other’ group includes strains similar to P1 or Delta that have now crowded out the others, and that both P1 and Delta are more dangerous than the English strain. The major legacy pre-Alpha strains are gone so it stands to reason similar minor ones were also wiped out. 

This leaves us with a current mix of roughly (these are all approximations):

45% Alpha

25% Delta

15% P1

15% Other (that I will treat as P1)

How much more infectious will this pool be when it’s 100% Delta? Let’s accept the thread above estimates for now and assign points as follows:

1.4 Alpha

1.5 P1/Other

2.2 Delta

Total current infectiousness of pool as of collection of these sequences: 30%*1.5 + 45%*1.4 + 25%*2.2 = 1.63 = 63% more infectiousness than pre-Alpha values

Future infectiousness of pool = 2.2

Final outcome (assuming Delta is worst variant) = 2.2 / 1.63 = 35% additional infectiousness

On April 1, what was the pool like? At that point, we can put it at something like

Epsilon% Delta 

55% Alpha

3% P1

3% Other small things similar to P1 

39% Other similar to old baseline (1.0 infectiousness)

Total infectiousness of April 1 pool of sequences = 25% more infectious than baseline from mid-2020.

Total increase in infectiousness since April 1 pool = 1.63/1.25 = 30% additional infectiousness.

Thus, if we ‘believe the hype’ here, we have to survive another 35% increase, after a previous 63% total increase, the majority of which has happened since April 1. 

Currently we are vaccinating about 1% of people each week. Given we are already 50%+ vaccinated if you discount children, and what vaccines we are using, that’s something like a 2% improvement each week. If we can keep that up as a share of the remaining population, that will be cumulative. 

Right now, we are cutting cases in half every 3 weeks or so, which is about 4 cycles, so I’d estimate R0 at 0.84. Increasing that by 35% puts us at 1.14. That’s presumably high, because sequencing is delayed and thus the current Delta share is higher than in the above calculation. I don’t consider 35% a strict upper bound, but my mean estimate is more like 30%, and every little bit helps. 

Thus, it looks clear to me that most places in America are going to make it given the additional vaccinations that will take place, but some places with low vaccination rates will fall short. 

Alas, that does mean that it might be a while before the final restrictions can be lifted, and life returns 100% fully back to normal. We will be stuck in a kind of hybrid limbo, mostly involving performative mask wearing and other such annoyances. But that’s actually pretty close to fully normal, in terms of practical consequences for adults. For the kids, things could stay rough for a while, because people are really stupid about such things. I hope we can get the vaccines approved for the Under 12 crowd soon.   

Please Stop Asking Me About That Guy

That guy’s name is Bret Weinstein. If you already weren’t asking me about that guy, you can and probably should skip this section.

Enough people keep asking me about him, and there’s been enough discussion in which the things he’s claiming have been taken seriously, that I need write this section anyway, for the explicit purpose of Please Stop Asking Me About That Guy. 

Bret has made a huge number of overlapping extraordinary claims, with an extraordinary degree of both confidence and magnitude. It seems like most of the time that I get asked about ‘hey there’s this theory that sounds plausible what do you think?’ the source of that theory is exactly Bret Weinstein. He’s become the go-to almost monopolistic guy for presenting these things in a way that seems superficially plausible, which of course means he’s here for all of it.

It’s a variety of different theories about how everyone’s covering up The Truth Which Is Out There (if you think that link is unfair, his core claims include UFOs, a broad based conspiracy to censor and cover up The Truth, and many monsters of the week, so I dunno what to tell you). Some of his claims such as the lab leak are plausibly correct, but are stated with absurd levels of confidence. Others, stated with similarly absurd confidence, are… less plausible. This includes claims I do not think it would be responsible for me to repeat, such as so-called his “Crime of the Century.” Then he cries censorship and further conspiracy when he gets (entirely predictably and entirely according to clear established policies) censored on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. 

Look. I totally get it. After everything that’s happened, in the words of one commenter, if it’s a choice between the people who claimed masks didn’t work handing verdicts out from on high or ‘those three guys on that podcast’ and the podcast guys seem to have models containing gears,  why wouldn’t you go with the podcast guys? At this point, Fox Mulder would have the world’s most popular podcast and be a regular on Joe Rogan, he wouldn’t have Scully as a co-host, and damn if he still wouldn’t be making a lot of good points. Seriously, it makes total sense. 

Except that one can decline to take either side’s word for it, and think about the proposed gears, including the other gears and claims coming from the same sources, derive your guess as to what algorithms both are using to decide what to claim, and decide that neither of these options is going to be much of a source. 

I can’t even at this point. I finally unfollowed him when I noticed that every time I saw his tweets my mood got worse in anticipation, yet I wasn’t learning anything useful except how to answer people asking about his claims. I have wasted far too much of my life trying to parse ludicrous stuff buried in hours-long videos and figure out how to deal with all the questions people ask about such things, or to convince people that he’s spouting obvious nonsense when he’s clearly spouting obvious nonsense, and I will neither be paid for that time nor will I be getting any of that time back. 

That does not mean that all of Bret’s claims are implausible or wrong. Some aren’t. It simply means that the whole thing is exhausting and exasperating, many of the claims being made are obvious nonsense, and the whole exercise of engaging has for me been entirely unfruitful. One is not obligated to explain exactly why any given thing is Wrong on the Internet, and my life is ending one minute at a time. 

It definitely does not mean I agree with the decision by some platforms to censor his claims. While I do think many of his censored claims are wrong, it would be a better world if such claims were not censored.

If you want to engage with Bret’s claims after getting the information above, and feel that is a good use of your time, by all means engage with his claims and build up your own physical model of the world and what is happening. The right number of people doing that isn’t zero. The set of such people simply is not going to include me.

If you still want to ask me about that guy, my cheerful price for further time spent on ‘investigating, writing about and/or discussing claims by Bret Weinstein or his podcast guests’ is $500/hour, which also is my generic cheerful price for non-commercial intellectual work. If you’re paying, I’ll check it out. Otherwise, Please Stop Asking Me About That Guy. 

In Other News

Perspective thread on Covid from Sam Bankman-Fried, EA billionaire founder of crypto exchange FTX. Includes this bit of excellent practical advice:

And this slice of post-vaccination life, while waiting an extra day for a flight due to his negative Covid test having his SSN and his middle initial but not his full middle name on it:

Headline seems not to require further comment (WaPo).

California lifts restrictions on workers as of today. Will the masks actually come off?

New York lifts most remaining Covid restrictions.

Things are slow, but my experience so far is that nothing has changed. As usual, children get the shaft. Public transit (in particular, my ride to/from the city) continues to be much less pleasant in ways that make no physical sense. That’s the way it goes.

NFL isn’t forcing its players to get vaccinated, but it’s also not not forcing them to get vaccinated (WaPo). They’re going to make unvaccianted life quite inconvenient. 

Mastercard pledges 1.3 billion to buy vaccines for 50 million Africans. In response, America calls it ‘significant step,’ indicating we indeed remain funding constrained, then makes smaller pledge:

Another person does math on smaller and delayed doses, and reaches the same conclusion that actual calculations always do, that they would save many lives.

Zeynep thread about how vaccinating the vulnerable changes things, you should know this already.

Yes.

Not Covid

Words of wisdom thread from Sarah Constantin.

Front runner in NYC mayor’s race Eric Adams comes out in favor of multi-hundred person virtual classrooms, since in-person learning is unnecessary. Prediction markets and polls did not budge. He’s more likely to win than ever. Nothing matters. 

Dominic Cummings wants to know the probability China will take over Taiwan in the next five years, because private conversations suggest 50%+, and asks what he should read. A relevant Metaculus market is here, but the right answer is of course a prediction market with actual money involved. I’ve asked Polymarket to throw up a market, hopefully we’ll have something soon, but it’s always tough getting interest in markets that don’t resolve for years. 

This week in how we all actually die news, two apt observations:

And also:

And:

This matches my recent experiences. Among smart people who have looked seriously at the problem and are acting in good faith, I see broad near-universal agreement that this is a huge problem, with the main differences being between the ‘this is a huge problem but we can probably figure something out that holds onto the majority of the future’s value, and it’s unlikely that we all die’ camp and the ‘this is a huge problem and we are all very doomed with no apparent way out, we’re all very likely going to die’ camp, with a small not-that-reassuring third camp of  ‘our civilization is sufficiently inadequate that the tech won’t get that far, so we’re all going to die but not from this’ and perhaps a fourth even less reassuring camp of ‘we are all going to die but have you considered that humanity dying out is good actually?’ 

For what it’s worth, I am in the second camp, and think the probability of doom is currently high, partly for the reason explained in this thread: Not only do we have to do a hard thing, we have to do the hard thing correctly on the first try, or there won’t be a second try.

Here’s some survey results asking workers in the field for how likely we are to be doomed, and how often we are doomed due to ‘we didn’t get it to do what we intended and thus were doomed’ versus ‘we did get it to do what we intended and we were doomed anyway.’ There’s a wide range of probabilities. 

The thing that all the camps have in common is that no one has great ideas as to what to do about this. If I had great ideas that I could implement, I’d be working on pivoting to working on them, and there are people eager to help me with that if I did find great ideas, but I don’t have any so far, hence I’m not doing that. 

One reason to be very concerned is that when we look at our failures in Covid, including especially our inability to not do obviously terrible Gain of Function research, we see the exact kind of failure modes that are likely to get us all killed (Eliezer Yudkowsky), as the local incentives push people towards highly unsafe actions for such mundane reasons as getting a paper published. Thus, one way to work on the problem could be to do so indirectly, by changing such incentives and cultures more generally, and providing proof-of-concept examples of how such things can be done. For example, by getting Gain of Function research banned, and noting what it took to do that so we can do it again.

This dive into the weeds gives an up-to-date picture of what is generally considered the most central and scary challenge. Our best current AI techniques are radically opaque, current interpretability work is making very very little progress relative to the size of the challenge, and things like deception and mesa-optimizers are hopeless to address if you can’t understand your AGI’s internal cognition at all. Work on interpretability is urgently needed and is one of the things one could usefully do. 

Anthropic was founded recently by former members of OpenAI for that explicit purpose of interpretability work, and we need as much such work as possible. The fear is that any such organization often does what OpenAI did, and turns mostly into an engine for creating more AI capabilities while giving us one more player to worry about in terms of avoiding a race situation where everyone builds their AI as fast as possible without time for safety work lest someone else do the same and get there first, and thus making the problem doubly worse. 

Here are some other ideas, not related to MIRI, if you’d like to look through more of the field. Whatever the solution, it’s likely going to require understanding the AIs a lot better than we currently understand the AIs we have now. 

Supporting organizations such as MIRI in the hopes that such work will figure out something worth doing, or doing one’s own study of the problems involved, or helping more people understand the situation, all seems net useful, by all means do that, but none of it constitutes the kind of plan we would like. Figuring out a good plan, if you are capable of it, would be immensely valuable, and there is a lot of support standing by to help with a good plan if one is found. Working on the problem directly, even without starting with a plan, also seems worthwhile.

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37 Responses to Covid 6/17: One Last Scare

  1. Humphrey Appleby says:

    IIRC the gamma variant (aka P1) represents a partial escape from immunity from prior infection (but not from mRNA vaccination). Unlike delta, which seems to escape neither vaccination nor immunity from prior infection. Insofar as the fraction of the population that is (unvaccinated AND lacking immunity from prior infection) is smaller than the fraction that is (unvaccinated), I wonder if gamma may not be more of a threat than delta, in terms of `one last scare?’

  2. myst_05 says:

    What do you think about the odds of a new variant (lets call it Epsilon) developing within countries that have a high vaccination rate to escape the mRNA vaccines? It seems that the mechanism for generating immunity via natural infection is substantially different from the mechanism for generating it via vaccines, which made it easy for the mRNA to work well so far. But once we get to a point where the virus is moving around wildly in the 30% unvaccinated, there’s an ever growing chance of variant Epsilon appearing and quickly starting to undo the entire progress on vaccines by being sufficiently evasive.

    Now… mRNA *is* easy to update for a new variant which is good, but the legislative and manufacturing logistics barriers seem to be complex enough that it would take 6+ months for the US to revaccinate with a booster shot if this happens. For other countries it would take even longer, as they don’t have mRNA plants on their territory, although some are trying to improve this. So personally I’m not worried about Delta – I’m worried about what comes next.

    Additionally it should be noted that Chinese vaccines seem to have very weak real-life performance, as evidenced by insane case rates in Mongolia and Chile which are supposed to have a 50+% vaccination rate. Mongolia could be explained by having no prior immunity but Chile is doing badly despite a high infection rate in the first two waves. So even if Epsilon never shows up, the rest of the world would still be in quite a bad shape until they can get their hands on Pfizer/Moderna.

    • TheZvi says:

      (I typed and deleted “I really hope they call the next variant Epsilon” multiple times in various forms. Cause… I mean, ‘cmon. But I’m pretty sure they already used it.)

      This idea that ‘mRNA vaccine’ is in a mysterious different category from other immunity keeps coming up, it’s not, it’s just more robust. So that would have to be something that gets around all immunity.

      My guess is would take us less than 6 months, but we shall see.

      Agreed that the Chinese vaccines are quite bad at stopping infections, and things there could get reasonably bad.

  3. A1987dM says:

    R0 = 7 and vaccine efficacy less than 86% would mean herd immunity will not be reached no matter how many people are vaccinated. That’s scary

    • Humphrey Appleby says:

      That’s assuming a homogeneous SIR model. If you allow for heterogeneity (especially in the network of social interactions) then the threshold is likely lower. Also, you are ignoring immunity from infection, which also contributes towards the herd immunity threshold. (And I assume that infection with Delta gives effectively 100% immunity to reinfection with Delta, though maybe not to infection with Epsilon).

  4. Dave Baker says:

    Good call re Weinstein. I feel like he didn’t used to be a crackpot, but maybe he always was and I just hate the sort of activists who cost him his old job so much that I was blind to his mental shortcomings until they recently became undeniable.

  5. Basil Marte says:

    The exact words they chose to faintly praise Dr. Walensky are weird. “an empathetic scientist”

  6. Catweazle says:

    @TheZvi thank you so much for the blog post, brilliant as always !!

    I’m one of those “lucky” Canadians who got AstraZeneca as their first dose. They’ve quit using AZ for first doses now – but I have a choice between AZ and Pfizer/Moderna for my 2nd dose.

    What would you choose if you were in my shoes? This is what I’ve got so far:

    2xAZ Pros: real-world severe covid protection very good, as proven by tens of millions in the UK. Safety profile well understood (1/600k VITT risk for 2nd dose). Double dose regimen accepted globally for vaccine passport (with the exception ofUS).

    2xAZ Cons: sub-par infection protection.VITT risk. Negative attitude of public health authorities (e.g. absence of US approval, negative recommendation in Canada). Negative attitude of media and public.

    AZ+mRNA Pros: German study on 25 (!!) individuals shows 4x higher antibody titers and much better pseudovirus neutralization, compared to 2xmRNA. No VITT risk. Very positive attitude of public health authorities. (Canada now recommends

    AZ+mRNA Cons: unknown if accepted for vaccine passport. complete absence of evidence of real-world efficacy, other than a few blood test results. Is health authorities’ positive attitude an example of evidence-free groupthink?

  7. Name says:

    >https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10159653334879228
    Wish I could read this but it’s login-walled.

  8. Fantony Ouchie says:

    Meta comment: I think it would be good to avoid a failure mode when there’s an important vaccination/treatment-related concern raised by a person who can be in some ways associated with That Guy. Such associations will be very frequent, because That Guy – intentionally or not – took the role of Chief Contrarian Amplifier. It would be a pity to automatically dismiss a valid point because it can be eventually matched with somebody whose recent content is 80% useless (or a person who interacted with him).

    Alt-med/conspiracy circles are usually not worth the time due to the noise-to-signal ratio, but in this case my criteria are more charitable, as there are high uncertainty levels, the mainstream failed, and internet contrarians got some things right.

    • TheZvi says:

      People who want to popularize what they have to say have a choice to make on whether to appear on various platforms. Choices have consequences and provide Bayesian evidence, and there’s not much we can do to stop that.

      I am not going to automatically dismiss anyone for such an association, but it will factor into my prior because of course it does. If there is good *written* form to engage with, then I can choose whether to engage with that on its own merits.

      If someone wants their platform to do something superior to that, they need to express the proper levels of uncertainty and skepticism and magnitude for the claims involved, and filter who they choose to believe. Nothing else to do.

  9. mm says:

    Given your current knowledge on risks and coverage levels, should I get the second shot of Pfizer?

    I had only mild short-term side effects after the first dose (no fever, just some fatigue), so should I expect the second dose to be less risky and better tolerated compared to the default estimates?

    Should I take aspirin and NAC for two days or so to reduce some risks, e.g. the (hypothetical?) clotting and endothelial cell damage?

    Thank you!

    • TheZvi says:

      You should take the second dose. I am (1) frustrated (not at you, to be very clear, if you’re wondering I’m glad you asked) that there’s sufficient FUD that people continuously feel the need to ask this and (2) that I haven’t made my opinion on this sufficiently clear yet!

      So, for everyone out there: Yes, you should get vaccinated, and you should get your 2nd shot.

      • Injection says:

        Thanks – I’m also going to get the second shot, assuming that even in the pessimistic scenario, vaccine-related risks are smaller than Covid-19 risks * the infection probability.

        Any thoughts on the risk reduction with aspirin, NAC or other supplements?

    • TheZvi says:

      I mean they’ll make the temporary side effects less unpleasant, so presumably go for it if you care about that? But I wouldn’t worry about the other stuff.

  10. Matty Wacksen says:

    It’s kind of silly to say that a variant is “twice as infectious” because viruses don’t just have a “infectiousness” setting. How infectious something is depends on lots of factors. See e.g. this blog post https://cspicenter.org/blog/waronscience/the-british-variant-of-sars-cov-2-and-the-poverty-of-epidemiology/ which looks at how the “relative infectiousness” of a variant changed over time.

    • TheZvi says:

      Yes, we can all agree that this isn’t how any of this works, but also one needs to do Fermi calculations, and for that context I think it’s the best we can do. I may not be making the size of the error bars clear enough, but they’re wide.

  11. pagem says:

    Maybe it would be easier to convince a few of the top tier journals to stop publishing gain of function research first. This would immediately make that research less of a draw for the scientific community, and from there it would be easier to get a global ban. Just guessing the board of a journal would be an easier move than a coalition of governments.

  12. Craken says:

    The Powers consider eugenics to be much more evil than AI development. Yet, the eugenics is much safer, even when done by one’s worst villain (Mao). Also, eugenic efforts to increase human intelligence may be necessary to avoid the fate of annihilation by AGI. “Ah that our Genius were a little more of a genius!” Perhaps then we could transcend or evade the seemingly ineluctable drive of the logic of strategy–to end the anarchic condition of the international system–and present forms of internationalism are altogether inadequate to this task–without descending into a forever tyranny encompassing the globe. This would remove the most potent incentive to AGI development, the only one that could induce sane and intelligent men to engage in its development.

    I believe the corporate involvement in AGI work is a facade for national security interests. Is it possible these interests fail to understand the AGI threat? Some of the dimmer ones may analogize “their” AGI to “their” nukes. Obviously, their sense of possession in the former case is misplaced. Some may deem it a scifi fantasy–until proven otherwise–failing to understand the nature of the proof entails their instant demise upon the entity’s whim. Yet some Oppenheimer figure may be orchestrating the outsourcing to corporate labs, while fully registering the implications.

    As to China-Taiwan: like all of America’s dependencies, Taiwan is decadent and would make an easy victim without American intervention. Back in the late 90s, NATO ex-America didn’t have the logistical resources to save Kosovo from Serbia, as detailed in Tony Blair’s memoir. And that was just a few years after the Cold War ended. On Taiwan’s internal weakness see: https://scholars-stage.org/why-i-fear-for-taiwan/ Such intervention would create a difficult dilemma for China, given the risk of escalation to nuclear war. The most prudent invasion tactic would be to impose a fait accompli as quickly as possible. This might look like a vast onslaught of missiles to knock out air defense and command & control, followed by reasonably good air control, then air-dropping tens of thousands of paratroopers to attack strategic positions–all in a 24 hour period. China has at least 500 large civilian airplanes with capacity >100,000–in addition to military air assets.

  13. Alcibiades says:

    Your section on Bret is mostly free of substantive disagreement, and while I understand that is your intention so as not to engage, it leaves me a lot of room to speculate about what’s going on here. I assume:

    1. You are somewhat dismayed by the credibility of the lab leak hypothesis. You have previously stated that you worry certain types of Science will lose funding in the future over it. That is clearly the least that should happen. A crisis of this magnitude is a reason to redesign large parts of the system.

    2. Not sure what you think of the ivermectin claims. The research looks ok to me. Certainly better than rem-des. The dismissals are rarely that convincing (often relying on that Columbian study that was in JAMA,where the measured outcome was not really relevant).

    I would guess you are on level 3 here – concerned the anti-parasitic will jeopardize the vaccine effort, or just that it will give traction to someone who wants to. I really don’t think there is much chance of that.

    3. Which brings us to vaccine safety claims. A 3 hour podcast is maybe hyperbole by default, and one of the guests was quite sensationalist. But I do want to here the strongest case for worries about mRNA, even if I hope Bret returns to firmer ground going forward.

    You say you understand that the Mainline Institutions have failed, but I’m not convinced you have really internalized the implications.

    • TheZvi says:

      I am literally on the ‘this has spent many hours of my time in ways that raise my stress levels and I want that to stop’ train. Engaging with specific claims would do the opposite.

      I will say that your #1 is not my concern, which should be obvious given the previous two posts.

      I’ll also say that, simply because X has failed, doesn’t mean one has to engage with thing Y that is at war with X. It’s not only our institutions that have failed us.

      Beyond that, Please Stop Asking Me About That Guy.

  14. Worried-19 says:

    Is it true that the delta variant can be so easily transmitted through a fleeting contact? https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1406779894785351688.html

    If I recall correctly, the microCOVID team previously assumed that there’s “just” a 6 or 9% transmission risk per hour of unprotected contact with an infected person. How much should I now worry about passing people on the streets or having short conversations with a cashier/postman/doctor? If the delta variant so contagious, does it also increase the risks of surface transmission so much that I should get back to cleaning the groceries with a detergent?

    If Dr. Ding’s tweets are 20%+ true, and if Steve Kirsch is 20%+ right, the reality looks pretty grim. :(

    • TheZvi says:

      Not only is nothing here scarier than the assumptions I made in the post, it’s actually *less* scary, in the sense that he’s using 97% infectiousness vs. original, whereas I was doing math on 120%. He’s also using less dangerous Alpha, so it’s not a big difference, but it’s clearly a net win.

      The fact that unvaccinated people *can* be infected with brief contacts isn’t great, but mostly matters because Australia is trying for full suppression without mass vaccinations. This IS really worrisome for Australia. If you’re vaccinated, no, you should not worry about Delta very much.

      Regardless, you should not be paranoid about ‘passing someone in the street’ outside. Such infections are still like plane crashes – they happen, but they’re news.

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  18. qwertie says:

    There is a LessWrong thread for anyone who wants to discuss That Guy (Bret Weinstein, Steve Kirsch, Theresa Lawrie): https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7NoRcK6j2cfxjwFcr

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