Thursday Throughput: Missing COVID Deaths Edition


Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Pinky says:

    ThTh1 – I was interested in your likely infections graph, and while it seems high to me, it looks to sum up to about 10% of the US population. But in certain areas it’s likely 3x that rate.

    It’s a mistake to think of the US as a single geographical area. The states are an approximation. But coronavirus has demonstrated something anyone who’s flown into NYC could tell you: the city is the center of a multistate megalopolis. It’s been interesting to see North and South Carolina moving in tandem. Florida, I haven’t looked at the coronavirus data by county, but everything else in the state can be divided into South, Orlando, and Other, so I’d bet the pattern of infections and deaths follows three different trend lines.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Has any definable area seen the pattern described? This is a really thoughtful and accessible analysis. Thank you. My take is that in some ways we are still in Wave 1 but Wave 1 is slowly moving around the country and hitting different areas at different times and with different impacts due to density, demographics, etc.

    Have any states or cities or metro areas gotten hit with both humps? I know NY/NJ/NYCMetro are holding steady, even with some re-opening in place and increased testing, etc. We’re not (currently) getting the second wave… and not just because we are still locked down; we aren’t.

    Of course, other areas getting hit like we did is a tragedy! So hoping against hope that even if this is Florida/Texas/ETC’s Wave 1, it isn’t like the Wave 1 we endured.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

      At the state level, Louisiana is definitely showing a second peak of new cases. Ohio had a small earlier peak and is on its way to a second one.

      New York City has something like twice the public transportation usage of any other city in the US, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see an identical spike in new cases elsewhere. This article does a good job of explaining why we might not see the same kind of overwhelming of the medical system like happened in the first wave.

      It’s been interesting how different states have gotten hammered at different times. Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and Maryland had later spikes than the New York megalopolis.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pinky says:

        I’ve read some analyses that say we may achieve herd immunity at a much lower threshold than was previously though, so most areas are unlikely to go through multiple hellish peaks. Time will tell.

        One of the challenges of all this is that borders don’t really matter. We have NY numbers. We have NJ numbers. We have CT numbers. NY as a state is more-or-less holding steady. But that is a bit of a balance of declining/steady numbers in NYC — which got HAMMERED — and very slight increases in some upstate areas, some of which are hundreds of miles away. If those areas start to go upwards, it may drive NY’s overall numbers up but that doesn’t necessarily mean a second peak is happening. It could just be a first peak upstate that followed an earlier peak in the metro area. How will we classify that?

        There is still so much to see. But NY and NJ have both entered mid-phases of reopening (I think NY is on Phase 2 and NJ is on like 2.5… we’ve done some of Phase 3 but paused some) with very little corresponding rise in cases. Which may… MAY… MAY!!!… mean we won’t see a second peak because we did achieve sufficient herd immunity.

        I dunno… I read the analyses and they make sense but I’m a layman. What you say here also makes sense. Time will tell.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

          The lowest estimate for what we need to get herd immunity i’ve read is 60% which no place is near. Even in spain which got hammered i think a recent study only found 5% of people had antibodies. It seems like we are several waves of infection from HI.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

            I read someone who said it could be as low as 17%. And then pointed to many areas where things improved after they hit 17%. He had a lot more than that but it went over my head.

            I’m not saying he’s right. Or that anyone here is wrong. The one thing I’m certain of is how uncertain all this is… which is why I push back whenever someone starts a sentence with “We know…”

            We’re learning. We may learn that every area will have to suffer through some peak but only one. We may learn high peaks can be avoided. Or multiple peaks will ravage an area any time it gets lax or lazy or dumb. I dunno.

            My area got destroyed, recovered, and seems to be holding strong. I hope to god that continues. And I hope no where else has to go through what we did.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

          No one should get too worked up over the data unless it’s telling us something. If we discover that no area can have two peaks, that’s interesting. Whether it’s a lesson about once-bitten-twice-shy hygiene or about herd immunity, we may not know, but it’s something. If we see an area having a second peak, it doesn’t matter (beyond the personal) except to the extent it indicates an area’s medical infrastructure may be overwhelmed.

          Ultimately, a lot of what we treat as stories and trends is just the reflection of two very un-intuitive math problems, probability and exponential growth. At this moment, a New Yorker is coughing. If he’s not infected, the chance of transmission is zero. If he is, there’s a chance that between 1 and everyone on earth will be infected by him, depending on masks, hand-washing, immunity, and a thousand other factors. The virus pushes the exponent higher, human precaution tries to push the exponent lower, but at the moment of contact it’s all about probability.

          An example: Rome was practically untouched. You can’t create a spreadsheet that would have predicted that.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

          Re; herd immunity:

          But one recent study out of China, published in the journal Nature Medicine, suggests that the protective proteins may not stick around for long. The researchers concluded that antibody levels “start to decrease within two to three months” in people who recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection, especially for those who never developed symptoms.


  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    ThTh2: Thanks for that, it’s an excellent video (and I love Schlieren Imaging!)Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Ish like this pisses me off.

    The World Health Organization has issued a new scientific brief that summarizes what’s known about the different ways the coronavirus can transmit.

    The 10-page brief, posted Thursday, considers all the ways researchers think the coronavirus may be able to spread: through close contact with droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or breathes; through the expulsion of small microdroplets that have the potential to spread over greater distances; and through contaminated surfaces.

    The report also looks at the possibilities for the virus to be transmitted from mother to child, from animals to humans and through contact with urine, feces and blood.

    Weighing the evidence, WHO maintains that the virus is mostly spread through close contact with infected people but calls for more research into the matter of transmission by aerosolized particles.

    Good news! We can likely go outside, so long as we don’t touch anything!Report

  5. Avatar Pinky says:

    The first 3:30 of this video says it all (language warning):


  6. ThTh2 [video about masks]: I liked that video, but there’s one thing I’d like it to be clearer on and another thing is a misstep I see such public health efforts do a lot.

    More information: At about 3:50, the presenter says masks can be too tight. He says a simple test is whether you can blow out a candle from about a foot away. So….if you can blow it out, is it too tight or not night enough?

    Misstep: At 7:30, the presenter “answers” concerns about whether masks will deprive the wearer of oxygen, and he indulges the tried and frustrating “that’s a myth.” He assures us that several studies have been done on doctors who wear masks all day. Well, good for the doctors, but did none of them have problems? What about people with breathing problems generally? Have there been any studies with them, too? (Yes, some of the doctors probably have breathing conditions.) And even if studies have been done, there’s an underlying concern that the presenter (and probably the studies) don’t answer: Some people find it difficult to breathe with masks on even if theoretically they’re getting enough oxygen.

    I harp on that point not only because it’s a piece of information I would like to have and the issue is underexplored (or underacknowledged int he video). I also harp on it because “that’s a myth” functions as a way to silence what are often legitimate concerns. When you raise a concern and someone says, “that’s a myth,” that’s a sign that someone is about to not listen to, acknowledge, or address your concern. In my experience (anecdotal, etc., etc.), much of the time, maybe even a majority of the time, there’s at least a kernel of legitimate concern that the myth-busting proof doesn’t address.

    I’m not saying people do the “myth” trope with the INTENTION of silencing concerns. But I do suggest that’s what the myth trope does.Report

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