Anyone else feel like they're being taken on a roller coaster?

For the past two weeks we’ve been told to expect 200K+ deaths.
Last week we were told that the next two weeks will be the saddest ever.

This week the message has been that we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Social distancing is not only been working, but it has been working better than expected! Maybe the 200K deaths initially predicted won’t even happen!

But at the same time, 2000 Americans died yesterday. New cases are still surging.

They aren’t conflicting messages in terms of their truthiness, and yet the emotions they elicit in me are making me feel all mixed up and confused. Like, the optimist in me is relieved that we might not hit 200K. But the pessimist in me is feeling like the media has jinxed things by even talking about this possibility, since now people probably aren’t going to take social distancing as seriously and go back to business as usual. The cynic in me is thinking that yesterday’s news (about 200K being an overestimate) was timed so as to lessen the blow of the saddest two weeks in America. Maybe people won’t be as traumatized over 2000+ deaths/day if they are reminded that it could have been a lot worse.

One thing that has dawned on me is how much I have become desensitized. Two weeks ago my mind would have been blown by 2000 deaths in a single day. But it’s not blowing my mind now that we’ve almost reached it. I don’t know what a “mind-blowing” death rate would be anymore. I’m tempted to say 5000 deaths per day. But I know when/if we reach that point, it’s not going to have a major effect on me. Cuz I’ll have had time to emotionally prepare, I guess.

I know this numbness is what I’m going to remember the most years from now.

I agree. There is so much death and destruction ‘out there’ and so many dire warning but here in SoCal it seems we are living in a bubble of safety. Yesterday the gardener came back and construction work has never really stopped. I was prepared for the worst and we were spared. This time.

The pandemic is only over once the vast majority of the population has been infected or vaccinated.

All that the social distancing is doing right now is “flattening the curve” - slowing the rate of infection so hospitals can manage the load of patients.

Simply not having information or any sense of control is never good. Information that is constantly changing is even worse, as one loses trust in information that might otherwise improve ones sense of understanding. Even in the face of catastrophe some certainty helps.

One thing that has been interesting to observe is how this has been pitched around the world. Usually there is a truism in bad times: low-ball your hopes, always pitch the worse case; things then can only ever improve. This is true in politics, in business relationships, even reporting bad news to your superiors. Churchill promised the UK nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat … many shortcomings, mistakes and disappointments. Mixed messages have come from leadership across the planet. Some stick with the tried and true approach. A surprising number, many who you would think have the experience to know better, have not.

“Out of sight, out of mind.” I’m not saying apathy towards something you don’t see doesn’t affect you or is a good thing, but it does seem to capture a lot of human nature’s attitude.

The actual trends (versus cherry-picked model predictions promoted by the Trump Administration) do not support this. “Social distancing” measures vary widely from state to state with some states still resisting implementing anything that would interfere with commercial, social, and religious activities and even in states with early and substantial guidance like California and Washington, compliance is largely voluntary with enough exceptions and intransigence to sustain spread of contagion. Since testing has been spotty and not representative of an entire population, any data-based projections are hopeful pleading at this point.

Yesterday saw a dramatic spike in deaths compared to slight declines the previous two days (unclear if that was due to incomplete reporting or just a statistical blip) but unless you believe that the infection has literally spread through nearly the entire population in about a three week period, that peak of deaths is going to be a much. wider plateau. At best we can hope that it flattens and doesn’t last more than a few weeks, but as critical care resources run low and medical staff are incapacitated, the number of avoidable deaths is going to inevitably rise. Since we clearly don’t have adequate data on total infections the best we can do at countries with similar approaches to isolation measures, and by that standard we’re looking more at Italy or Spain. We do have a demographic that skews a bit younger but not by enough that we can expect a really significant trend shift, and despite the early stats from China showing that almost all bad outcomes were in the 65 and older brackets the more current and believable numbers demonstrate that younger demographics are being hit hard, too.

The one bright spot, if there can be said to be one, is if asymptomatic and untested infections are really much higher than even guesses based on verified projections the actual case fatality rate may be much lower than the estimated 1%. But given how infectious this virus is, even if the CFR is only a fraction of a percent that is still on the order of a million fatalities in the US alone if isolation measures are relaxed. This notion that the deaths will peak in a week and we’ll have only five digit fatalities simply doesn’t square with the experiences we see elsewhere.


The optimism I felt yesterday was dampened when I read this:

Official counts understate the US death toll to COVID-19

The death toll is undoubtedly low throughout the world but don’t let the big scary estimates get to you. Just remember, near the beginning there were doomsday scenarios of a couple million Americans dying.

Yeah, roller coaster is a good description. I heard Cuomo say that people died from it but everybody got care. According to this, NY flattened its curve some but not enough. It is about to be overwhelmed.

I think the key is to ignore the day-to-day and look at the overall trend; say, a 7 day moving average or something similar. The data is just so noisy in general and with significant error bars; trying to extrapolate from the past 24-48 hours is going to frustrate. The news media have to sell the daily gossip because that’s how they attract eyeballs, but that doesn’t mean the short-term numbers are in any way useful at giving you a general understanding of what’s going on.

Case and death numbers are likely under-reported, although by how much is anyone’s guess. But the trend lines should still be okay from a “are we better/worse/the same” perspective, especially if you’re using the death toll numbers and you’re not substantially altering your counting methodologies across time. At the end of the day, I figure the only way to know the true cost in life is to look at the 2020 mortality data sometime in 2021 and compare to mortality rates to those over the few years prior. Annual death rates in the US are about 0.8%- 0.9% of the population, so about 2.6 - 2.9 million deaths/year. My own personal feeling is that if we clock in at 3.1 million deaths this year (+10% YoY), that would be a “good” result and an overall sign that the country handled the matter competently.

Now’s the time to catch up on all thing things that you’ve always wanted to get done, but never had the time. Things that can be done from your home, at any rate. Unplug CNN/Fox/MSNBC.

It took several years to identify the death toll of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. The exact number of Spanish Flu pandemic victims is still debated with varying ranges of the 10 of millions.
It will be years before there is a reliable estimation of the total number of deaths.
Lets just hope none of us and our loved ones are in that wretched figure.

I do not feel like I am on a roller coaster, because roller coaster go up as much as down. The news I read ranges from unutterably dire to tiny sparks of hope often extinguished. Even flattening the curve simply means, for the US anyway, that the peak is not as peaky, not that fewer people will die overall. They’ll die more evenly spread out is all.

The only good news I read is either 1.) from much much more capable countries than this one (New Zealand, South Korea) or 2.) lies out of the mouths of criminals.

Huh, like I said the intial estimates were crazy numbers. Frankly, as we go along this pandemic seems less scary every day. Obviously, someone in New York right might not feel that way at the moment. Other metro areas have their problems but none seem to be blowing up like NYC.

Roller coaster? How?

Here’s the worldometers US CV page.

Two graphs to look at in particular:

Total Coronavirus Cases in the United States

Total Coronavirus Deaths in the United States

For both there’s a handy “logarithmic” scale option that shows just how steady stuff has been.

The overall data is quite uniform.

There’s a lot of people on TV making guesses. Guesses that are often inconsistent with the data. Even the “pro” modelers aren’t all that great.

When there’s a real change in data, then you can expect change. Until then, no roller coaster.

I was under the impression, perhaps falsely, that while flattening the curve does space out infections so as not to overwhelm the health system, it would also have the added benefit of giving people a greater chance of survival should they get infected. If the system isn’t overwhelmed then there are more medical resources available to treat people. It can eliminate or mitigate the agonizing decision many doctors have had to make regarding who gets aggressive care and who doesn’t.

That’s exactly what it means.

Flattening the curve does mean fewer deaths overall, if it prevents the healthcare system from being overwhelmed (like it has been in Italy). That’s kind of the point.

And that is when the recession/depression hits.

Well, you really can’t say that. It’s not like theres a lot of other times the economy was voluntarily shut down to judge by. This will definitely kill some businesses but it will also be a sudden rush to get shit moving again.

It’s that “sudden rush to get shit moving again” that kinda scares me. We’ll probably do it too soon, and that will be exacerbated by different locales trying to get ahead of others by opening up earlier.

We’re going to see a small spike two to four weeks after lockdowns end. We’re going to have another huge wave on top of that in the fall and winter.