Covid 7/22: Error Correction

Delta has taken over, and cases are rising rapidly, with a 58% rise this week after a 65% rise last week. There’s no reason to expect this to turn around in the near term. 

Three weeks ago, in One Last Scare, I ran the numbers and concluded that most places in America would ‘make it’ without a big scary surge from Delta. It’s time to look at what went wrong with that calculation, which I believe to be a failure to sufficiently integrate different parts of my model.  

Then there’s the question of what we are going to do about this, and whether we are going to destroy some combination of free speech and the ordinary day to day activities that constitute our lives and civilization, perhaps indefinitely, in the face of this situation. Such collateral damage has the potential to be far scarier and more deadly than the direct threat from Covid-19.

Let’s run the numbers.

The Numbers


Prediction from last week: Positivity rate of 4.7% (down 0.1%) and deaths unchanged.

Result: Positivity rate of 4.4% (down 0.4%) and deaths decline by 5%.

Other Result: Positive test counts rose by 58%, versus 65% last week. 

I do not understand the divergence between positive test rates and case counts that we see here. This implies that the number of tests is scaling with the number of cases, but that wasn’t true earlier, and also there’s a lot of testing that takes place out of an abundance of caution or to provide the necessary evidence and/or paperwork in various contexts, where the tests clearly wouldn’t scale. So this is weird. 

In any case, it seems pointless in this context to make a positivity rate prediction instead of a case count prediction, since it doesn’t tell us what we want to know. Thus, I’m switching to predicting case counts.

There’s no reason to think cases won’t continue to rise in the near term. Control systems should be kicking in and Delta has mostly completed taking over, so the rate of increase should continue to slowly decrease. I’m going to predict a 50% increase, down from 58% this week and 65% last week. 

Prediction for next week: 360,000 cases (+50%) and 1845 deaths (+10%).

Predictions will be evaluated against data from Wikipedia, after correcting for obvious data anomalies.


June 3-June 97208179154312883
Jun 10-Jun 163686119613142254
Jun 17-Jun 235294438312632066
Jun 24-Jun 305504597061861901
Jul 1-Jul 74593296121281528
Jul 8-Jul 145323986891451764
Jul 15-Jul 214343417321701677

There’s no sign yet that people are dying from the new wave of cases. Most of the rise in cases came in the last two weeks, so we wouldn’t expect a dramatic increase yet, but seeing a 5% rise over the last two weeks is still at least somewhat reassuring that what we’ve seen in places like the UK, where the IFR was dramatically reduced versus previous waves, will also happen here.

If we don’t see a big rise in deaths within the next two weeks, that will be both very surprising and quite excellent news, as there will have been enough time for at least some of the new cases to have resulted in deaths. By three weeks from now we can be confident what new normal we are dealing with, at least as long as the hospitals have sufficient capacity. 

The cases remain the story. 


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
Jun 17-Jun 2323,85412,80126,4566,46469,575
Jun 24-Jun 3023,24614,52131,7736,38875,928
Jul 1-Jul 727,41317,46040,0317,06591,969
Jul 8-Jul 1445,33827,54468,12911,368152,379
Jul 15-Jul 2165,91339,634116,93319,076241,556

Last week was a 65% increase, and this week was a 58% increase. Delta has now mostly taken over, so differences are some combination of reporting, timing and testing details, seasonality changes, and control system adjustments. We should expect some people to alter their behaviors by now, and that will accelerate as cases pick up.

Either way, we have a 60% increase week over week as the new baseline, which would represent R ~ 1.4 based on the old assumption of a five day cycle. That remains consistent with the 2.2 multiplier on Delta versus a 1.4 multiplier on Alpha, plus the control system having adjusted to be stable under Alpha.


Vaccination rates are now roughly stable at about 500k/day, so about 1.5mm people/week going from unvaccinated to vaccinated, or about 0.4% of the population, and a resulting 1% or so decrease in R. If we think Delta is still on a five-day cycle, that’s 1.5% less case growth each week. If Delta is on a three day cycle, it’s 2.3% less case growth each week. More on that in the Delta section.

The good news is that we are seeing more Republicans stepping up and telling their constituents to get vaccinated. That, combined with the threat from Delta, should help, despite the efforts of the Ministry of Truth. More discussion in that section.

Not Necessarily the News

When X is reported on the news, we learn at least three claims to evaluate:

  1. X happened.
  2. X was noticed. 
  3. X was news.

Depending on your prior knowledge and model, the same news report can change your world model in opposite directions, and often people get this calculation wrong.

If you see a plane crash reported and you know the media reports most plane crashes, that’s bad news, but it’s not importantly bad news, and it at least means there wasn’t worse news crowding it out. If you see a plane crash reported and don’t know that crashes always get reported, it’s good news because you learn crashes are rare enough to be news.

This brings us to this week’s reports of infections taking place at a wedding.

This led to a bunch of reactions that were at core like this one:

Which in turn is doubtless causing a lot of this:

One could also observe that one person dying, or six being infected, was news, and worry perhaps even less than before, given how many weddings there are.

Then again, there was also this, in the comments last week:

Twice is at least suspicious, and these two do seem to be close together in a meaningful way. So it’s at least a little bit news. 

Similarly, we have the headline that 27 vaccinated people (it says “nearly 30” but actually it’s 27) in Louisiana died of Covid. The vaccines are so effective that 27 deaths was news, which is rather good news. If you run the numbers on Louisiana, I find roughly 900 deaths in the ‘vaccine era’ starting some time in March, so we’re talking roughly 3% of all deaths, from a group that includes most of the old people for most of that time. Yet I saw people freaking out about this, or wondering whether or not or how much they should be freaking.

We also got more data on the Dutch music festival, where it seems 5% came back infected. It seems the festival was ‘not entirely open air’:

It also involved most everyone being unmasked in surrounding bars and restaurants. So the result here is not surprising, nor is it a warning about the dangers of outdoor events, or of anything but the usual rule of ‘don’t do stupid stuff.’

Delta Variant

I always wonder in cases like this, how did they think a number like 83% gets distributed, and do they think a very slightly unequal distribution is somehow scarier or worse? Similarly, was going from 50% to 83% in two weeks unexpected somehow? 

If you assume we started with a 50/50 split with Alpha versus Delta, and then there are three serial intervals since July 3, you get 79%. So this is very close to what you would expect based on my baseline estimates (with no loss of effectiveness from the vaccines, or very little), which is interesting in light of the discussions on Delta potentially being faster, which I’ll talk about next.

BNO Newsroom offers this graph for easy reference, which has >50% in the July 3 bucket and thus has growth almost exactly in line with expectations. And the previous two week period was a slower takeover than one would have expected from the same model:

Also, OurWorldInData turns out to graph this the same way it graphs everything else, and I find their presentation very clean and easy to read:

An interesting and hopeful theory that came up was that Delta might be spreading so quickly in large part because it is faster. Under this hypothesis, rather than there being an average of five days between the time you catch Covid to when you give it to someone else, that interval could be as small as two days. That makes physical sense if the viral loads are much higher, as Delta would need less time to multiply in a new host before being able to spread.

If this was the case, then what looks like much higher rates of infection in graphs, and in the type of analysis that was run last week, is a lot less scary, and the actual R will be much closer to 1 (in theory, in both directions) than I calculated. Doubling every five days previously would have meant R ~ 2, but if that’s two and a half cycles, then it means a much more fixable R ~ 1.31. What otherwise would look like a ‘we’re f***ed it’s over’ scenario might not be one.

What’s the evidence for this? We have this study out of China:

I am deeply confused how a serial interval can be negative. If I understand the words involved that means you spread it on to someone who gets their symptoms before you do? In which case, wow, that’s quite the rapid spread. 

It goes on to say this about R:

If R0 went from 2.2 to 3.2 in this type of setting, that’s less than a 50% increase from the original, so it’s only ‘in line’ with the 97% increase reported by Finlay in the sense that they both observed the same rate of increase in cases, except Finlay assumed the old timing of infections and this new study believes things have sped up a lot. Thus, what would have been 97% is now slightly under 50%. 

Their graphs are quite good. I wish more papers were 2 pages long with this much useful information:

I’m not fully sold, but it seems likely this is right. We are seeing super duper fast spread of Delta in some places, and not in others, and in some times and not others, such as when India went suddenly from an out of control epidemic to everything stabilizing quickly. Speeding up transmission makes all of that make a lot more sense. 

A comment last week pointed to this study of vaccine effectiveness against Delta. I believe it had already been incorporated into the claims assessed last week, but good to explicitly note the primary source. I’m reproducing the bottom-line sections in full, skip if you don’t want to dive into the details. 

In general, it’s potentially highly misleading to compare the vaccinated to the unvaccinated in the wild, because the two groups differ in a lot of ways. I’m not entirely sure which direction this goes, as the vaccinated start out with safer behaviors but then change behaviors based on being vaccinated. 

Here, we can compare measured vaccine effectiveness between different strains. The obvious worry then is that there could be a difference in which populations are dealing with which strains during this period, which could skew the results as well. These are not controlled experiments. One thing that makes me more confident here is that we see other adjustments and measurements that don’t seem out of whack.

The headline conclusion is then that mRNA vaccines retain 88% effectiveness against positive tests. If we accepted this figure, we’d then need to translate that into a measure of how often such people transmit. With milder cases and lower viral loads, the presumption is that they don’t transmit as effectively, but the flip side is that milder cases mean we might be missing a larger percentage of cases, so the 88% number might be high for that reason. It also might be low or high for several other reasons.  

Here’s CellBioGuy in the comments at LessWrong:

Most of the variance remains in the difference between measurements in different places, but I think all of it points to roughly the same place anyway.

The numbers will come in somewhere in the range where fully vaccinated groups won’t have outbreaks unless they partake in a lot of what I call ‘stupid stuff,’ which is basically (some combination of most of) packing lots of people tightly into indoor spaces without proper ventilation for extended periods. However, it also would mean we’re close enough to the edge that if everything went fully back to normal, we’d need more people vaccinated than we can realistically hope for in the next few months or perhaps ever.

How worried should a vaccinated person be about Delta?

In terms of death, seriously not very much, vaccinated people don’t die of Covid and Delta doesn’t change that. Thread points to a few different claims about whether Delta is deadlier and by how much, but it’s definitely not enough to overcome the vaccinations or even put much of a dent in them.

The question is entirely one of the unknown unknown risks of Long Covid. Getting data on this, or being confident in a position, is incredibly hard, whether it’s on how big the Long Covid risk was to begin with, or how much the vaccines reduce that risk. It would be completely biologically bizarre if the risk wasn’t greatly reduced by the vaccine the same as everything else, but it’s still enough of a worry that one would strongly prefer not getting Covid, if that was an option. 

I wish I could do better than that, but I really can’t give one, given what I know. My guess is that we’re talking about a small but non-zero chance (3%?) of some amount of lasting effects of some kind for the vaccinated, most of which are minor and temporary, but yeah, who the hell knows.

For young kids, that’s even more true – the danger is purely Long Covid. There’s a good ‘what’s up with Delta and kids’ analysis up this week, although it doesn’t offer us anything concrete that’s new, and it points out that the Long Covid risks haven’t changed and that other diseases also have similar long tails, we just don’t talk much about them. And that even with unmasked schools and lots of vaccinations elsewhere, we’re not seeing an explosion in cases among those schoolchildren too young for the vaccine, as a percentage of the cases in the population when there’s a Delta wave in the UK:

It is well known that city living leads to more infectious diseases than non-city living, to a very large degree. There’s a small long tail for many of those diseases, where people develop long term problems. One of the periodic reminders, as we move into the next phase of the pandemic and beyond, is that if you are worried about Long Covid as a vaccinated person, why aren’t you completely panicked about living in a city? 

That brings us back to the calculations. The spread of Delta in the United States as a share of cases is exactly in line with the 2.2 vs. 1.4 difference from Alpha to Delta, as of earlier this week, which does not leave room for vaccines to additionally lose effectiveness. Then, if it turns out Delta replicates faster, that changes the math once again. 

One Last Scare: Re-Evaluation

This week, I was persuaded to add a post-mortem to my big We’re F***ed, It’s Over post from the end of 2020. Reading it over again, I believe the core logic of that post was solid – we were not capable of adjusting the control system sufficiently to contain a 65% more infectious strain in time given the expected rate of vaccinations. I predicted a 70% chance that we had such an infectious strain and that if we did, we would face this crisis and have no reasonable options. 

It didn’t happen. Instead we had a 40% more infectious strain, and faster vaccinations, which combined as that post’s model said it would, to prevent the wave. We did better than I would have expected even then, with cases coming down much faster, so there was even more going on than that. In any case, the prediction was too confident, and didn’t properly adjust for uncertainty over speed of vaccinations or seasonality. Perhaps there was even some degree of self-preventing prophecy when you combine it with others’ similar warnings. I do think giving the scenario less than a 30%-40% chance would have been more wrong than giving it a 70% chance, but that numbers over 50% were too high. 

This time around, I predicted:

It does look like masks will be around for a while, and might be making a comeback – Biden is considering reinstating them in many situations, or at least trying to do so, and many schools look poised to torture their students this way, and several jurisdictions (including Los Angeles and Las Vegas) are bringing back indoor mask mandates already on their own. 

We also aren’t seeing that many calls for anything beyond mask mandates yet, but I do see the beginnings of ‘schools can’t be open’ talk as well. I would like to think we’d never let that fly at this point, but perhaps we would, at least in some places. I do think that if you’re a parent in such a place, and they do try to put your kid in ‘remote learning,’ you should find an alternative even at an extreme cost, and if necessary consider moving.  

Regardless of all that, I know that at the time I did not expect this amount of increase in case counts, and thus my model of the future was importantly wrong. What were the errors? What has changed?

First it’s important to know what hasn’t changed: I still have Alpha at 40% more infectious (1.4x) than baseline, and Delta as 120% more infectious than baseline (2.2x). Those estimates are doubtless not exact, but I haven’t seen any reason to adjust them. So that wasn’t the problem.

Nor was the issue (as far as I can tell) that vaccines have lost effectiveness. It does seem like vaccines are slightly less effective against Delta, but I continue to believe this effect is not a big impact. Vaccinated people remain very hard to infect and, when infected anyway, poor carriers with which to infect others. This shouldn’t have moved the needle enough to get noticed. 

This is reflected in the growth of Delta as a share of cases, which matches very closely what these numbers imply, and doesn’t leave room for them to be that off in either direction. Similarly, it looks like Delta plausibly replicates faster than we thought, but that probably also would mean it isn’t as infectious and has a lower R, or else the numbers don’t work out. 

Thus, I do not think the prediction error was about a misevaluation of Delta. I think the error was about a misevaluation of where things stood before Delta, and what people were up to. 

It’s that first sentence, where I start off R at 0.84, instead of factoring in the changes coming from the control system. With the decrease in masks worn and f***s given over the last month or so, combined with seasonality changes, the R without Delta likely went from 0.84 back to at least 1. That’s a 19% difference each cycle, or a 28% per week.

In the world where we had retained the behaviors that were cutting cases in half every three weeks, the current rates of increase would be more than cut in half, and it would be easy to see that additional vaccinations (and some amount of Delta burning out in the younger populations where it’s spreading the most) would reverse the problem before it got into crisis mode, even if our current case starts with R=1 exactly. 

However, we’re not in that world, and we’re starting from a higher baseline. That mistake compounds each week, and now only a few weeks later we are where we are, with exponential growth looming quickly. 

In short, I think this was mostly a pretty dumb mistake that should have been easy to spot – I knew in one place that we were adjusting things, and then didn’t make that adjustment when I did this other calculation. My models were insufficiently integrated. 

The prediction here is then saying something about what happens if we return to the behavior patterns we had when cases were declining rapidly. The extra vaccinations would be sufficient, in most places, to compensate for Delta. The problem is that we’re not doing anything close to that, haven’t for some time, and it would be a hell of a thing to try to return us to that state. Even if we could, that doesn’t mean we should.

That’s also a pretty easy call to make, when one puts it that way. Delta is likely a little over twice as infectious as the original. Over half the country’s adults are vaccinated. Of course that’s enough to compensate. Easy math is easy. 

Or, to do the rough calculation another way, Delta cancels out the vaccination of the first 55%-60% or so of the adult population, or the first 46%-50% of the overall population, if there’s no other source of immunity running around. We are currently at 49% fully vaccinated and 57% partly vaccinated, or effectively about 53%. So we’re still ahead, but we’re not that far ahead, and we definitely can’t go back to anything like normal unless we’re willing to accept the consequences.

From here on in, mostly the unvaccinated will be infected, and most of them will be young. Last week, we had 240k positive tests and vaccinated about 1.5mm people. With rapid weekly case growth, it won’t be too long before we’re giving immunity to our unvaccinated youth the hard way, via infections, faster than we can vaccinate people. It’s not the preferred solution, but it does work, and it works fast, especially since it tends to kick in about when other control systems also kick in. Which is why we see rapid increases time and again suddenly turn into rapid declines all of a sudden. 

The question is, to what extent are we willing to accept those consequences, versus willing to accept the costs of not accepting them? There’s no longer a reasonable expectation that if we kick the can far enough down the road that something will change, and the consequences of permanently kicking the can seem far, far worse than the consequences when the can is not kicked.

Speaking of which…

Ministry of Truth

So, this happened:

Google is blocking your access to documents, based on them containing the wrong statements about vaccines. While this turns out to (for now) likely not involve private documents, and only stop the sharing of information, you should presume both that your documents in Google Drive are not private when it counts, and also that you could lose access to them at any time, especially if they they are technically ‘shared’ as many of mine are. It’s not as scary as I originally thought, but it’s still scary.

I already knew about such issues, but this drove it home. More new is this (link to video):

There’s also this:

Mike’s full-post take on the situation is here

A call from the executive branch, for social media platforms to coordinate, and if you’re banned on one of them for ‘misinformation’ you need to be banned on all of them, or the government will take action to break up this private monopoly of a public platform. Also, they need to ‘work harder’ to ‘fight the spread of misinformation’ via censorship and bannings of this type, or again, they will take action to break up this private monopoly of a ‘public platform.’ If they don’t do that, they are ‘killing people.’ 

He tried to walk it back:

However, that’s not how the language works. It is how the language of power works, where one makes one’s statements as ambiguous as possible and states one’s message implicitly whenever one can, so that one can get the message out and then deny sending it. 

Meanwhile, from NPR via that column, the following definition of ‘misinformation’ when a Bad Person is providing the information:

Misinformation, it seems, could mean anything that gives an impression the Powers That Be dislike.

Such policies have often taken aim at anything that ‘contradicts the CDC guidelines’ or used other such principles, despite such guidelines often being obvious nonsense. 

So, that happened. As usual, think about this apparatus, and this move, in the hands of the outgroup rather than the ingroup, or the hands of the fargroup, if you think that it might possibly ever not be one of the worst possible ideas.

As gentle reminders from earlier in this epidemic, this ‘misinformation’ would at one point have included the fact that masks work, or that the virus could have come from a lab, or that we could expect to perhaps have a vaccine by the end of 2020, or if you go back to February that there was even a Covid-19 problem to begin with or that one should prepare for it, because that’s not only false, it’s also racist. Or that Covid-19 is airborne, or that surface cleaning wasn’t all that important. And that’s purely from the current pandemic and without thinking about what the outgroup would have done with those levers if it had the chance.

Under such a regime – or under the current regime that existed at the time, even – if my posts had been placed on social media, I’d have been banned from all of them many times over. That’s where things already are, now. What happens when ‘misinformation’ increasingly becomes whatever the executive or the media narrative decide they don’t like? And then the executive decides he doesn’t like those who don’t like them, or are saying politically inconvenient things? 

Many have noted that the call for government-directed censorship of social media is not only far along on the road to authoritarianism and the end of freedom of speech, it also doesn’t have much prospect of a big impact on its supposed target either. Link is to one such thread. It’s almost as if the government and ingroup establishment are using the ‘emergency’ and the excuse of the pandemic in order to further their goal of becoming the thought police and telling us what we can and can’t say to each other.

Things offline are not entirely better, but in the interests of illustration by example and a desire not to cause a distraction, I’ve censored the example I had previously put in this spot from the past week. Stay on target. 

Vaccine Hesitancy

What’s actually going on with vaccine hesitancy (link to CNN post)? 

When we ask whether persuasion works, I mean, of course it works. The issue is that you’re not the only one doing persuasion, and also you’re not doing that great a job of it, in the sense that this thing has been massively botched several times over. Persuasion matters, doing it better matters, and what we got reflects how we did at it. And yes, every little bit helps and we might be close to a tipping point.

You know how uninterested we are in persuading people? Not only did we suspend the J&J vaccine over nothing, and recently put another warning on it over another nothing, we’re not even bothering to fully approve the vaccines, with all that this entails. Let alone the other low hanging fruit mentioned at the link. 

Kelsey puts this well:

Or even more bluntly:

Let’s not pretend we’re taking this seriously. Matthew also notes this:

This is no different than anything else. Vaccine persuasion is about persuading others that we are Very Serious People who have made the proper sacrifices, rather than asking what would work. 

A better question is, how much does persuasion at the margin, now matter? The persuasion that mattered most largely happened by January. Those who were persuaded by then mostly stayed persuaded and got their shots. Those who weren’t largely didn’t change their minds later. But why would they? Yes, some new evidence was presented that vaccines were safe and effective, but also the problem seems far less urgent now. Until that changes, it’s not like we did some great persuading and it didn’t work. 

One big piece of evidence is that most old people went ahead and got vaccinated

This looks like a world in which people are doing a calculation to decide whether to get vaccinated – they’re simply doing a different calculation, where the decision is less obvious, and those who most need the vaccine mostly still end up getting it.

This in turn implies that much of the remaining ‘hesitancy’ or even refusal isn’t ‘I’m never doing this no matter what’ and it’s more like ‘I don’t have enough skin in the game so I’d prefer to play it what looks to me like safe and/or not bother and/or not deal with the temporary side effects and/or continue signaling to my in-group.’  

Which is great news, because if Delta ends up everywhere, where chances of getting infected if you’re not vaccinated get very high, then one would expect a lot of people to cave and get vaccinated rather than accept getting infected. 

And that’s despite some pretty out there world models, even if you subtract Lizardman’s Constant:

That the same 50% of the unwilling believe both that vaccines have been shown to cause autism and that the US government is using them to microchip the population is suggestive that such people are not processing such statements as containing words that possess meanings. They’re simply taking the opportunity to say ‘rar, vaccine bad!’ in any way that’s presented to them. Thus, a lot of them believe both that the vaccines cause autism and also that they’re being used to microchip people. Unless the theory is that it’s the microchips that cause autism?  I kinda want to see the overlap in the crosstabs, I’m expecting to see a lot of it. 

Thus, my best guess is that about half the ‘hesitant’ are getable through some combination of things getting bad and us picking the low hanging fruit like approving the vaccines, and the other half likely require stronger stuff.  

Once and Future Lockdown

Could it happen again? Janet Yellen thinks so.

Nate Silver mostly disagrees.

Nate’s mistake here is to act as if a cost-benefit ratio is all that relevant to how decisions are made on Covid. Somehow we have decided that ‘forcing’ people to take the Covid vaccine is unacceptable, and that’s that. So our choices are instead forcibly disrupting people’s lives in the hopes that it helps, or not doing that. If things get bad enough, it makes perfect sense that we’d potentially see lockdowns but not vaccine mandates, and that those lockdowns likely won’t make exceptions for vaccination, because we’ve also made it unacceptable to check someone’s vaccination status in most contexts and places.

Where I think Yellen is clearly wrong is in expecting the places with low vaccination rates to be the ones that lock down. It’s almost certainly the opposite. If lockdowns happen, they will happen in the places with relatively high vaccination rates. Not the highest like Vermont, since they’ll have no need for it (probably), but in the various blue states that time and again have gone overboard with prevention. There’s zero appetite for locking down red states.

I’d hope there was zero appetite for locking down anywhere, but I am growing more worried about this possibility. It’s really stupid, because it wouldn’t work. Even if it did suppress Covid entirely in the local area, the moment you stop it comes back, so what’s the point? When will things change? Are you going to keep this up for years? 

I do see signs that there’s support for doing exactly that. Some of this is ‘avoid blame on a two week time horizon’ where the fact that the problem never goes away isn’t relevant, but some people really do support permanent ending of life as we know it. I don’t understand why they are so cool with this, it seems like the later stages of a Persona game or something, but it is what it is.

Meanwhile, Biden tells us our young children will be wearing masks, whether they like it or not:

I am getting really tired of this malarkey line about not interfering with ‘scientists’ as if they’re all identical clones who reach all the Officially Scientifically Correct conclusions, and thus one doesn’t have to take responsibility for decisions if you can cite one. You did it, sir. You.

Similarly, Washington Post reports that the Biden administration is debating urging a return to masking for the vaccinated. It would ‘have to come from the CDC’ but they’ve ‘taken a hands off approach to avoid interfering.’ 

So Biden says this:

…and pretends that this isn’t him giving the CDC an order.

Presumably, this is all an attempt to avoid blameworthiness for decisions that are sure to be unpopular, rather than a bizarrely wrong theory of the scientific nature of public policy. 

In Other News

Your periodic reminder that Gain of Function research needs to stop and this is a major test of our civilizational adequacy:

Alternatively, someone could come up with math that could possibly justify these kinds of risks. If someone has done so, I see no signs of that. 

Whereas you know what we’re not funding much, even now? Pandemic preparedness.

You’d think they’d wait for the current crisis to be over before failing to prepare for the next one. That is, you’d think that if you hadn’t been paying attention.

Eliezer also had another interesting thought:

As several people pointed out, as a legal matter you can’t actually ask such questions, so we’d put it in the pile of all the things you technically aren’t allowed to ask or consider that we all know employers ask about and consider all the time. 

Alex Tabbarok reviews The Nightmare Scenario. Report makes clear the book contains a lot of good concrete information, but nothing that would meaningfully change our model of what happened. Yes, that means all the things mentioned in the review were already in the model. I might read it anyway at some point, but my guess is I will decide that I won’t because I don’t have to.

Update on the Novavax vaccine.

In a strange display of the right thing being done, Taiwan approves a vaccine purely based on immunological data

While I am not looking into such questions in general Because Of Reasons, I did see this notice that one of the Ivermectin studies was withdrawn due to ‘ethical concerns.’ Where the ‘ethical concerns’ in question appear to be ‘massive fundamental discrepancies in the data’ which is a nice way of saying ‘complete and utter fraud.’ Figured I’d pass it along. How this impacts your model of the situation otherwise is up to you – among other things, I didn’t check to see how fundamental this evidence was to the case. 

Los Angeles resumes its mask mandate, including for the vaccinated. If it’s back now it’s hard to see what could happen any time soon to get it lifted. If you don’t like it, you may, like many others before you, finally want to look for another place to live. 

Las Vegas brings back its indoor mask mandate as well. Las Vegas seems like the place maximally in need of such a mandate, given all the travel and all the poorly ventilated completely enclosed spaces designed to trap you inside for indefinite periods. In that one case I at least kinda get it. 

You know who isn’t masking? Democratic politicians fleeing Texas on a private jet in order to deny a quorum and prevent the state government from functioning. Three of whom then tested positive for Covid.

(There was previously a thread here about people in the UK facing legal trouble for going outside to remote locations ‘to avoid detection’ but it appears likely it was fabricated.)

Australia enters this week’s Sacrifices to the Gods competition, to crack down on those who put us all in danger:

Via MR, some notes on Peru, and they may have won the Sacrifice to the Gods competition on sheer sticktoitness. It’s impressive stuff. Other non-Covid stuff after is wild too.

Also in the UK, escalating quickly: Not only First Doses First, Second Doses Too Early Actively Dangerous and Scandalous:

California’s entry isn’t going to get it done, but it’s still quite the display of self-harm:

So her friend has Covid, and is being told to travel back to California so she can get tested locally, because out-of-state tests don’t count for tracking purposes. Explain again how our policies are trying to contain this virus. 

MR looks at a report on Oaxcana’s (in Mexico) precautions for travelers. Everything except the masks is clearly useless sacrifices. Tyler speculates that this makes it easier to otherwise be open. That’s possible but my presumption as per usual is that nothing as sensible as that is going on here.

Everything that is not compulsory is forbidden. Everything that is not forbidden is compulsory.

Our Covid prevention efforts, all of them, well OK most of them, in one tweet, including the part where the explanation for the beds probably isn’t true and they’re just a terrible design for no real reason:

One person with a cameo tests positive, and that’s it. Show’s done. Them’s the rules.

Finally, if this is his official platform and he confirms he wants to build more apartments, I hereby endorse Nate Silver to be the next Mayor of New York.


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65 Responses to Covid 7/22: Error Correction

  1. Daniel Michael says:

    I believe looking at the situation in Europe is very helpful for understanding what the US is about to experience; Cyprus, Netherlands, UK, Spain, etc.

    The reality is that without NPI’s (which there is no intent to keep in the longterm), Delta will spread to everyone, including the vaccinated. To make matters worse, Delta is sufficiently infectious that it will continuously reinfect people over a long enough time horizon.

    This is a unfortunate for three primary reasons:
    1) the possibility of long-covid (highly uncertain what this actually means)
    2) Lots of people will still die. If Covid infects (ie) 50% of the US population over the next 12 months, even with highly effective vaccines, many people will die/screw up hospital resource allocation.
    3) Given we are now in a future where hundreds of million/billion+ people will certainly get covid in the next few years, the threat of new variants is highly concerning.
    To see how poorly this can go for us, I recommend reading about Marek’s disease's_disease

    There is nothing to be done. There is nothing to wait for. This is unfortunately the new reality.

    You should feel sad. You should mourn. The spread of Delta is akin to an atomic bomb being dropped.

    Lots of people said (pre-Delta) Covid is endemic and we will need to learn to live with it. The situation of Alpha compared to Delta is night and day. Covid would have been endemic under Alpha to the extent there would be no Covid-zero, but essentially Covid was defeated. With Delta (and the future possibilities it brings out), Covid will continue to kick our ass for the foreseeable future.

    A lot of people marginalize Covid by saying it will become just like the flu. The flu is F*cking terrible! and frankly, our society cannot handle simply creating another “flu” at this point in time.

    • TheZvi says:

      That last sentence is the one that counts. Can we handle it or not? Objectively, it’s a worse world with an extra disease in it, but it need not be a fundamentally different one. That’s up to us.

    • myst_05 says:

      The flu isn’t pleasant but the vast majority of people didn’t worry about it as of 2019. It was just a mild inconvenience in life, not something to actively be scared of. Personally I was a lot more worried about getting cancer (as unlikely as it is in young age), than about getting the flu. So yes – we can definitely afford another flu if we stop being wimps about it. Post-vaccination COVID is just about equivalent to the flu in otherwise healthy adults.

  2. Jordan Bentley says:

    Any thoughts on what’s going in with New England? I plotted vaccination rate vs. 14 day increase in cases from the NYT data a couple days ago, and despite having the highest vaccine rates we are seeing a surge in cases. Massachusetts has one of the highest vaccination rates but is is having a massive surge.

    • TheZvi says:

      The control system adjusting to the vaccination rate prior to Delta, combined with the vaccination rates not being THAT different? But in general the accelerations can’t be Delta alone, they’re too big…

      • Jordan Bentley says:

        By control system do you mean social/governmental responses?

        The only other factor I can think of is that we had a rainy 4th of July, so maybe there were a lot of indoor gatherings? If that’s the case then hopefully we will see the pattern slow or reverse very shortly, but it seems like too big of an increase to be explained by that alone. Could 4th of July + Delta cause this big of a jump?

      • TheZvi says:

        Control system includes but is not limited to governmental actions. A lot of what changes are private decisions and actions.

        July 4th could have mattered but is clearly not central to what’s going on given the data we’re seeing.

  3. Dragoncowman says:

    Zvi, thank you as always. Your analysis brings light to the abyss

    Would be curious for your thoughts on the following two important delta questions that I have not seen well addressed

    1) Delta risk for those who had covid previously but did not get vaccinated

    2) Risk of reinfection with Delta for those who already had Delta (I know this one is prob to early)

  4. Zvi, you need to improve your BS detector if you think the Olympic beds have anything to do with preventing amorous activities. That tweet is exactly the right mix of funny and prurient to spread virally without being true and that’s the sort of thing one needs to watch out for.

    • TheZvi says:

      I loved it as a metaphor and concluded too good to check. If it had been consequential whether it was true, that would have been different.

  5. cherisium says:

    Re: “the gods demand their sacrifices,” please don’t take this racist horseshit at face value:

    Here’s the only tweet from @metpoliceuk mentioning this person:

    And no results on Google for ‘andrae moncrieffe acid.’ The inclusion of this fake tweet seriously discredits the entire thread of purported incidents.

    • cherisium says:

      Checking some others: “brandishing bacon” is fake, the Essex Police has tweeted about increasing diversity, but I can’t find any record of them waiving CV reqs for minorities, and no records of anyone named “Pham Trai” anywhere in Kent, discrediting the one you directly linked to. Going out on a limb and saying probably every tweet in that thread is fabricated.

    • TheZvi says:

      OK, I’m convinced on the other cases and have taken this one down. Thank you for catching the error.

  6. wearsshoes says:

    I think that the “9% who want to be microchipped” is less indicative of a true belief system, as it is a mild refutation of the Lizardman *constant*; certain topics, especially those with memeable or politicized content, will attract a much higher proportion of sarcastic and/or insane responses than 3%.

  7. enolan says:

    Anecdote re infections in fully vaccinated people:

    I finished my course of Pfizer vaccinations months ago, and I’m currently on the tail end of what I’m pretty convinced is a covid case, despite a negative PCR test. My symptoms were pretty severe and pretty covidy – fever, severe cough, congestion, shortness of breath when doing trivial things like cleaning the cat litter, reduced lung capacity (I could sing for much less time without running out of breath), mild difficulty breathing. The PCR test was a self administered anterior nasal swab – the technician hands you the swab from inside a little enclosed booth they sit in and instructs you in how to do it. The official procedure is 10 seconds per nostril, around half an inch inside, but I was counting in my head and she told me to stop at around 5 seconds. It took ~68 hours to get results, presumably they’re overloaded. Nasal swab tests have a higher false negative rate in low viral load patients (, and you’d expect a vaccinated patient to have lower load. That combined with the sort of half-assed swab procedure makes me pretty confident this was indeed a false negative.

    In the week or so before symptom onset I went unmasked to two restaurants, a (fairly quiet) cocktail bar, and a nightclub. The nightclub is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do in terms of airborne pathogens – a crowded enclosed space where everyone is dancing and breathing heavily and you have to shout to be heard. I imagine the place has a pretty heavy HVAC system, otherwise it would be obscenely hot in there, but they *probably* didn’t bother adding any extra filtration.

    Noticeable symptoms started on the 14th, four days after we went to the club, peaked the 15th or 16th, everything except a mild cough was gone the 21st. My housemates have some symptoms that could be nothing, or nocebo, or a very light infection. They’re all fully vaccinated too.

  8. Basil Marte says:

    “It would ‘have to come from the CDC’ but they’ve ‘taken a hands off approach to avoid interfering.’”
    This sounds like there is (perhaps intentionally) severe confusion about roles. Attempts to dodge blame …don’t count in the sense that if the role confusion weren’t there, the blame-dodging game would be impossible to play (the outsider “audience” wouldn’t buy the arguments of one or the other side). Is the CDC an agency (which makes decisions and acts) or an “expert” advisor (which provides information to an external decisionmaker)? I’ll note in passing that the former setup can multitask, whereas the latter has a problem where “the eye of Sauron can only look at one thing at a time”.

    The government of Hungary is officially endorsing a mix-and-match policy. Unlike most EU countries, they approved the Sinopharm vaccine and gave it to lots of people of all ages, including the elderly, and thus were almost continuously one of the most-highly-vaccinated EU members. Unfortunately, it turns out that particularly in the elderly, this vaccine produces an underwhelming degree of immunity (at least, as far as measurable antibody concentration is concerned), thus over the last month there have been increasing noises about a third shot (for those who got this type of vaccine), and conditional on there being a third shot, using a different type. With Hungary not being supply-constrained anymore, the official favorite is Pfizer.

    • TheZvi says:

      Yep, totally with you here – it is intentionally ambiguous whether and to what extent Biden can and does tell the CDC what to do, or the play wouldn’t work.

      Hungary getting this right (both early and now) is good to hear. Already being outcasts of a sort does have its advantages in such spots.

  9. myst_05 says:

    “If this was the case, then what looks like much higher rates of infection in graphs, and in the type of analysis that was run last week, is a lot less scary, and the actual R will be much closer to 1 (in theory, in both directions) than I calculated.”

    I’m confused by this paragraph. If Delta has a shorter incubation time, doesn’t it still have a higher R0 by proxy? Or does R0 only measure something like the odds of an infected person spreading his virus around during contact, so if the odds are the same but the incubation time is lower, R0 is lower than previously expected? That would be technically correct, but doesn’t this simply mean a different metric is more useful than R0, rather than thinking that Delta is less scary than before?

    • TheZvi says:

      R0 means how many people each infected person will infect in turn. Say every week you go from 1 person infected to 4. If that’s because R0 = 4 but it takes a week to spread to them, that’s hard to deal with since you have to cut infections by 75%. If, however, it’s 1->4 because the cycle is 3.5 days, so one person infects people during that time who then infects others in turn, then R0 is closer to 2 (1->2->4) and cutting risk in half will do the job (not quite, but you get the idea).

  10. Quixote says:

    Zvi, in this post and in several prior ones you have mentioned the importance of not reinstating lockdowns and of focusing any new onerous restrictions on people who have not been vaccinated rather than imposing universal restrictions. I pretty much agree and have been saying the same to friends and family when I communicate with them. Beyond this though, have you taken any action to talk to the channels that actually make these decisions? E.g.
    -Have you called or emailed your city council person?
    -Have you called or emailed the public advocate?
    -not asking about the mayor, he’s worthless
    -Have you called or emailed your state senator?
    -Have you called or emailed your state representative?
    -Have you called or emailed the governor’s office?
    Note I don’t mean calling and presenting yourself as any kind of expert, just making a normal constituent call, “Hi I’m [name] I live in your district, I work in [industry. preferably one they know provides some disposable income] and I have [opinion] for [short reason that takes less then 60 seconds to articulate].

    • TheZvi says:

      No. I have no expectation that this would be an impactful course of action, and also I don’t currently live in NYC which is where I’ll be for the bulk of the pandemic from here. Nor have I told others to take such actions. Convince me that it does anything?

      • Quixote says:

        Lots of advocacy and member orgs spend a lot of time effort and money trying to get their members to call their legislators about issues. Since they could be spending the same effort / marketing budget asking for more donations, they do this at a real cost. If you’re an efficient markets guy (I’m not) then this should convince you its real and effective.

        If you are someone who thinks that expert consensus about special issues is generally correct, then advocacy experts seem to say that calling your legislatures is marked less effective than writing a huge check, but more effective than anything else a random private individually are likely to be able to do. I do find this point somewhat persuasive.

        In terms of “proof” like published peer reviewed papers (or even well researched Atlantic / New Yorker articles) most of the research I could find on constituent calls was focused on the national level; I couldn’t find anything on the city / state level. In general they seemed to say that on highly polarized issues national pols follow the party line and ignore other factors. On issues that have strong polling they follow the polls, on issues that don’t have extensive polling the preponderance of constituent calls is used as a proxy for polling and they follow that trend. This would tend to point to a higher effeteness of calls at the local level since high quality polling on local issues is rare.

        Also consider A) its relatively low cost, someone can make 3 calls in less time than it takes to watch a short video on 1.5 speed B) people should make decisions as if other similarly situated people are making the same choice. If a whole bunch of professionals call about an issue that will be impactful, even if you personally making a call is not.

  11. Dave Baker says:

    I’ve seen some speculation that when it comes to delta covid, the vaccines remain highly effective against severe disease but are not very effective at preventing infection. One of the pieces of evidence cited is this outbreak on a British aircraft carrier, in which 100 fully vaccinated crew tested positive out of 1,600 crew:

    Curious about your thoughts on this; the number does seem higher than I’d have expected.

    • Dave Baker says:

      Here’s a further example of the kind of claim I’m thinking of:

      • TheZvi says:

        I mean when someone says “vaccines don’t prevent infection” full stop, I stop looking at what they have to say after that. My life is too short.

      • Dave Baker says:

        Sure, I don’t think Winsberg is being reasonable in drawing that inference (or really what he’s doing is overstating his views; elsewhere he grants that the vaccines might be ~50% effective against infection). My main question is what you think about the numbers in Malta that he’s citing, and whether there’s a way to explain them that accords with the typical ~90% view of vaccine effectiveness against infection.

    • Triskele says:

      I know it probably won’t work exactly like this IRL, but…have you thought about what percentage 100 out if 1600 is? Pretty much as advertised for mrna vaccines.
      Quick googling doesn’t give any more updates on the situation, which is probably good news. If by now you know differently, let me know.

      • David Speyer says:

        The advertised rate is a 90% reduction compared to the number of unvaccinated people who would be infected. So, if you think that this is as advertised, then you believe that 1000 crew, or 62%, would have been infected on an unvaccinated ship. This seems high to me; only 17% of the Diamond Princess passengers were infected.

      • Humphrey_Appleby says:

        David Speyer: Diamond Princess was COVID classic. Delta is a lot more contagious. I don’t think we can draw a reasonable inference from fraction infected on Diamond Princess.

      • Triskele says:

        My point was that 94% reduction would leave the ship with 96 ‘breakthroughs’ or whatever we’re calling it. Which is pretty much what you see. I’m not in the navy but expect there’s a lot more face to face communication and grouping necessary than on a recreational cruise ship.

    • TheZvi says:

      Not Necessarily the News. It’s higher than one would expect but it’s also the highest number observed. With superspreaders and random chance, and the close quarters involved in such ships, this happening once doesn’t seem that out of line or change my take much.

      • David Speyer says:

        Yes, that’s a good point.

      • Dave Baker says:

        Seems plausible. My hope is that the main explanation for the general rise in cases in vaccinated countries is just that no one is social distancing anymore, so of course there’s going to be a lot of new infections from that for a little while.

  12. andyman says:

    Can you remind me what “the control system” is, which you refer to nearly every week?

    Also what does a Sacrifices to the Gods competition mean?

    • TheZvi says:

      The Control System is the tendency of people, both as individuals and their governments/authorities, to adjust their actions to the current state of the pandemic. So when things get bad, people do less risky things, and when things are good, people do more risky things.

      A Sacrifice to the Gods is a costly symbolic gesture that doesn’t work, and which is known to not work, to prove one’s piety. (There’s no formal competition.)

      • Error says:

        Some time ago, I think you said you planned to flesh out the Sacrifices to the Gods concept in a dedicated post. I don’t remember seeing it. I get it, but I grokked it from context over the course of reading your covid posts. It would be nice to have something to point others to.

      • TheZvi says:

        Yep, it’s still on my To-Do list but I want to get it right and a permanent explanation is tricky to get right. I want this done before I end the series.

  13. Craken says:

    The GoF risk calculations may get us into the deep end of the deep state pool. Biotech is dual use–civilian and military. And this certainly includes GoF research. I despise Fauci, but his GoF research program in China may just be a form of cooperation intended to minimize risk of a full-blown bio-weapons arms race. Unfortunately, problems like this are not mathematically tractable, Yudkowsky notwithstanding.

    The withdrawn Ivermectin study was the major supporting evidence for its efficacy against Covid. The remaining studies, in aggregate, show no effect–and are themselves of very variable quality.

    The first commenter (Daniel Michael) forgets that we can still create more effective vaccines versus Delta. Is there even reason to rule out combinations of the current vaccines performing this role? This might not prevent endemicity, but it could prevent the vaccinated from suffering Covid infections that entail any risk of illness. Also: the numbers on Delta’s infectivity for vaccinated/unvaccinated are yet unclear.

    • Lambert says:

      Are bioweapons viable for great powers? I’d expect them to be of limited utility for the same reason that chemical weapons were post-WWII. (tactically, the front lines are too fluid and soldiers have CBRN gear; strategically, there’s no reason to expect it to be less ineffective than carpet bombing German cities was)

  14. J says:

    Looks like Israel just further downgraded their outlook on Pfizer vs Delta to 40%:

    I can’t find the actual report though. Maybe it was released in Hebrew?

  15. Roman Kuksin says:

    From my argument with a friend who seems to use this article to justify the idea to stop wearing the mask outdoors. Particularly he finds Not Necessarily the News chapter the most compelling. I’m not sure that the author makes the suggestion THE DATA IS FINE WORRY ABOUT COVID LESS. But I’m pretty sure it made such an impression on my friend.

    So with the risk to strawman the author, I’d like to point on a couple of problems with the Not Necessarily the News part:
    1. It has rather sophistic than scientific rhetoric. Its logic is based on a chain of questionable assumptions. The claim that having a news report about covid spreading outdoors is evidence that covid doesn’t spread outdoors is based on assumptions that the news-reporting model is simple and well understood. Another assumption: there is no difference in plane crashes and mutations of a novel virus as if plane crashes have similar manifestation to viruses (e.g. noticing open-air covid infection is as easy as noticing a plane crash). It also assumes that COVID is as static as planes’ reliability (planes are crashing at roughly the same rate for 100 years and covid must act in the same stable way). It assumes that all these things won’t change tomorrow. And regarding the whole article, it assumes that people are competent in gathering and analyzing infection statistics. Given that every mentioned assumption is in itself debatable the resulting strength of these arguments is very low. From a scientific perspective, it shouldn’t really skew one’s priors on whether COVID is spreading outdoors.
    2. The section doesn’t really try to answer if it is worth keeping cautious in regard to COVID after being vaccinated. It seems to have the answer and is rationalizing why the answer is good. If you care about being accurate you should look for reasons you might be wrong. The habit of inventing another sophisticated reason why you are right is called Confirmation Bias.
    3. The cost of the mistake is high. Yes, it may be unlikely for you to get covid. And it maybe doesn’t cause permanent brain damage (evidence that it does is weak). There is no strong proof that you will get fucked up by covid, claiming otherwise is unscientific. But it still may fuck you up. And you really don’t want to get fucked up by it. So demanding bulletproof evidence that covid is dangerous will not serve you well in the case if covid is really dangerous. Hence the position YOU MUST PROVIDE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE THAT COVID IS DANGEROUS TO MAKE ME WEAR THE MASK is irrational. My recommendation is to demand overwhelming evidence for safety claims and weak evidence for danger claims. Safety protocols must be biased towards safety. You don’t want weak evidence that this thing doesn’t explode.

    • Seb says:

      I kind of feel that both you and your friend have read into Zvi’s comments whatever you both wanted to see in them.

      Not going to speak for him, but that’s my impression.

    • Tom W says:

      I think it’s worthwhile to point out that, while the particular section(s) you take issue with don’t walk through the evidence in full detail to justify a thoroughly supported conclusion on their arguments, previous posts have done that and/or linked to places that have. A lot of the information here is presented with the expectation that readers have read previous posts, which makes sense–it’s hard to go through everything in detail, every time.

      And while you may be correct that outdoor masking against COVID, after vaccination, is the “safest” alternative, it may also be safest in the way that requiring anyone within 100 feet of a body of water to wear a life vest, in case they fall in and drown, is the “safest” alternative. We accept a baseline level of risk by going about our daily activities–the question is what do we do that meaningfully raises that, and is it worth it?

      • TheZvi says:

        This, basically. Not the expectation that you’ve read the past stuff, but a willingness not to reiterate the evidence each week, or to have every discussion and provide every angle every week. Long posts are long enough as it is.

        And the point is not that news is always evidence that something is harmless, it’s that one should update based on what you observe relative to prior knowledge and expectations. Bayes Rule.

  16. says:

    Does anyone know how long covid symptoms interact with athletic cardiovascular fitness? I have a pet theory that most or all long covid symptoms a negative shock which could be overcome with simple strength and conditioning training. People who use terms like “mesocycle” and “sports-related injury” are pretty capable of handling negative shocks to their fitness.

    • TheZvi says:

      I mean, basically I think… no? They don’t know?

      In general I’d love to get better data on this from almost any angle but basically find nothing, although there’s a study this week that I’m writing up that’s quite good.

  17. Michael B says:

    > As several people pointed out, as a legal matter you can’t actually ask such questions, so we’d put [vaccination status] in the pile of all the things you technically aren’t allowed to ask or consider that we all know employers ask about and consider all the time.

    Doesn’t mean you can’t advertise it at the top of your resume!

  18. Triskele says:

    My point was that 94% reduction would leave the ship with 96 ‘breakthroughs’ or whatever we’re calling it. Which is pretty much what you see. I’m not in the navy but expect there’s a lot more face to face communication and grouping necessary than on a recreational cruise ship.

    • cakridge2 says:

      Navy ships are in much closer quarters than, say, a cruise ship, so that would increase infectivity, but Navy crewman tend to be younger and more fit, so… maybe it washes out?

      If anything, it makes me feel a bit better about vaccines vs. Delta – maybe it’s 85-90% effective rather than 25-60%.

  19. David Gretzschel says:

    Please consider adding a “table of content” for such long posts. (if not in words, then in images!)
    A friend linked to this, regarding a specific claim (US congress voting/not voting on a 30 billion dollar preparedness program). So I had to like…. vertically scroll a lot. Only to never find the claim.
    If the headers were hyperlinked and listed above, wikipedia-style, that would be excellent.

    Of course, from reputation I know, this is all excellent content, but I am personally not such a Corona-nerd. Some of my friends are, and occasionally I want to know the gist of it.
    On the margins, making the content more accessible creates more people interested in the topic.
    And makes it easier for people to work with your information/analysis/claims/recommendations/predictions.

    Feel free to ignore this, if this is unreasonable or you don’t feel like doing any of that.
    Just thought, I might ask :)

    [also feel free to take offense, that I would tell you to “feel free”, as if you needed me to tell you… wait… that’s infinitely recursive. Uhm… please just interpret the above in the spirit it was intended.]

    • TheZvi says:

      Agreed that making things more findable in various ways would be good. I am time limited so my guess is this mostly won’t happen – if you go to the LessWrong versions of the post it does list the section headings but that might or might not be what you’d want.

  20. thjread says:

    Wonder how much of the increased spread from variants is just due to changes in typical symptoms. The ZOE study now has headache, sore throat and runny nose as the most common symptoms (, would be good to see more studies supporting or opposing this), none of which are on the UK’s list of reasons to get a COVID test (continuous cough, fever or loss of sense of smell).

  21. meltedcheesefondue says:

    >Australia enters this week’s Sacrifices to the Gods competition, to crack down on those who put us all in danger:

    >Drone spotted delivering cigarettes to hotel quarantine on Gold Coast

    I think that’s a very bad take, and undermines your whole “Sacrifices to the Gods” idea. It’s one thing to talk about policies that are themselves pointless or counterproductive; but quarantining is a reasonable policy that seems rational to implement.

    Once the gov has decided to implement quarantine (or a similar policy), they have some choices. They can rely on the judgement of the targets of the policy (the ones quarantining). They can rely on the judgement of the enforcers of the policy. Or they can implement rules that don’t need much judgment to enforce.

    There are issues with all of these approaches. The first can be undermined by idiots or defectors. The second can result in capricious enforcement (which might be both over-lax or over-severe – or both). The third can be overly rigid.

    So it seems that the gov went with the third approach. In that case, punishing defection from the rules makes sense, and might be necessary. The woman presumably agreed to certain conditions, that she then breached. At that point, it’s not relevant that she didn’t put anyone in danger; “breach the conditions you agreed to if you judge that there is no covid risk” is essentially giving a license for anyone to breach the conditions – the more stupid they are, the more likely they are to breach them.

    Of course we could also have smart bureaucrats adjust the rules to make them more rational as situations occur; this helps make the rules less stupid, but makes them (much?) more complex.

    Anyway, any choice of how to enforce a policy will result in edge cases with ridiculous outcomes; even if the policy makes sense and the enforcement approach was the best one.

    • TheZvi says:

      I agree that once the drone is against the rules you have to punish her for the drone, and the error lies elsewhere, but it’s not a way to say there wasn’t an error.

  22. Eric says:

    I’ve been closely following the pediatric mRNA vaccine trials, and just read that the FDA will be asking for more delay (actually: data from more participants and longer monitoring for delayed side effects) before granting EUA for under-12s to get vaccines. Apparently the EUA vs a full approval complicates off-label prescriptions (cite: ). Would you or your readers have any thoughts on how parents who prefer their children to acquire immunity via vaccination vs infection might try to navigate getting that outcome in spite of the dysfunction, before delta (or the like) gets us first?

  23. Alcibiades says:

    This blog has previously indicated that if That Man gets censored, he is more or less only getting what he deserves.

    This is the regime you asked for. Enjoy!

    • TheZvi says:

      That’s not how freedom works – the fact that a particular person happens to richly deserve something does not mean we sanction a general rule to deliver that something. Or that it’s a good idea to give people what they deserve, because it’s not about them. And I’ve tried to be very clear about that. Le sigh.

      • Alcibiades says:

        In your writings you seem to basically understand that the regime we live under is unfortunately BOTH mendacious and incompetent, which is a dangerous combination. On masks, on lab leak, on the risks of COVID-19 at every turn, from original complete denial to current hysteria. The WH censorship of ‘vaccine misinformation’ is only the latest example.

        What I believe you miss is that your writings sometimes serve as very good pro-regime agitprop. You (and some others) put blood on the water around vaccine skeptics. You shouldn’t be surprised that power took its cues and acted according to its nature.

        And there is no principled defence of ‘the freedom to say stuff that later turns out to be right.’

  24. Chris says:

    “…and pretends that this isn’t him giving the CDC an order.”

    It obviously isn’t, though. If your boss gave a press interview, would you parse it for orders? Of course not, you could get fired for that; orders come down privately through a command chain, not through statements to the public. This is bad conspiratorial thinking.

    • TheZvi says:

      We have very different models of the world.

      (Yes, you could indeed get fired for doing that, but you are much more likely to be fired for not doing that. This type of action intentionally creates a double-bind where you can deny that you gave the order, or insist you made your intentions clear, depending on how things go.)

  25. Stefano says:

    Any thoughts on this tweet?

    I find it weird due to 3 reasons:

    1. In general, the PFR should be now much higher because of delta (I heard it’s 2-3x as transmissible and may be 2x as deadly as the previous variants).

    2. The IFR for young people (18-35) is ~0.2%, the PFR in this group is defined as 0.001%. That’s a 200x difference, and if PFR=(risk of infection)*IFR, it should mean that only 0.5% of young people contract(ed) Covid-19. As far as I know, that’s not the case, and in most countries, >10% of young people got infected.

    3. If I’m <30, the vaccine lowers my overall death risk (PFR) from 0.002% to 0.0001%, so by 0.0019%. It means that – neglecting the population-wide effects – I shouldn't get vaccinated if the vaccine itself kills more than 19 young people per 1M. Does it? Probably not, but I haven't seen any reliable estimates of a vaccine-related mortality.

    Please let me know if I'm making any silly mistakes here.

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