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Why We Need To End Lockdowns (at least in most places)

Klaas van Aarsen

MHB Seeker
Staff member
Mar 5, 2012
8,796
Incidentally, I have published a blog post (which by no means represents MHB) here on the MHB blog with some data analysis of the causal effect of lockdowns on COVID deaths.
I suggest to take a look at the graphs of other countries.
South Korea is in particular exemplary.
They did their lock down very early - and without all that much force - not like China.
Additionally, they immediately instated drive through tests everywhere, and an app to track where Corona was active.
The result is that they have very few deaths, and the daily new cases are down to zero.
To be fair, they had previous experience with SARS, so they were more ready than western countries.
The USA is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum: late to respond and not ready for such a disease.

Graphs and data are for instance here:
Oh, and here is a nice video that explains the effect:


It doesn't make sense to debate on higher levels when the disagreements are more fundamental. I am a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.
(snip)
Wait, wait. How does religion factor in here?
I thought we were talking about scientific reasons if, when, why, and how long lock down should be applied.
And what its impact is on lives lost, and on the economy.
The bible does not say anything about such things, does it?
 
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Jameson

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,052
Ok I derailed this last week. Anything I post publicly here should be taken as just a user of the site. If I am going to use my admin or owner status to do something I’ll go another route. Maybe we can work on giving staff the ability to post without their badges when they want.

Anyway, what if we scope this into just the science of “is COVID as infectious as is claimed?” and “does social distancing help at all or less than is claimed?”. These type of questions. Political and religious stuff is way touchier but we can likely stick to the first part.

Who likes this?
 

Joppy

Well-known member
MHB Math Helper
Mar 17, 2016
259
Ok I derailed this last week. Anything I post publicly here should be taken as just a user of the site. If I am going to use my admin or owner status to do something I’ll go another route. Maybe we can work on giving staff the ability to post without their badges when they want.

Anyway, what if we scope this into just the science of “is COVID as infectious as is claimed?” and “does social distancing help at all or less than is claimed?”. These type of questions. Political and religious stuff is way touchier but we can likely stick to the first part.

Who likes this?
I don't think it is a particular bad thing to have discussion on touchy topics. However, the community is quite small here and it wouldn't help to have everyone getting out their pitchforks at every opportunity. 🔪(Evilgrin)
 

Jameson

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,052
Incidentally, I have published a blog post (which by no means represents MHB) here on the MHB blog with some data analysis of the causal effect of lockdowns on COVID deaths.
Hi @Ackbach.
  • Could you share the full Python code for the latest data cut? A site like Github would make it easier to digest.
  • From the blog post you are looking at daily state level data. State level is fine to start with but I have seen an extremely extensive project to model the COVID virus counts all the way down to the FIPS code level. State level loses a lot of possible nuances that can separate behavior within a state like my own - Georgia. Atlanta is very unique to the rest of the state in its demographics and population density. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  • Regardless of granularity, I believe you are making the claim that the daily new infection counts and daily deaths do not show signs of benefitting from "social distancing". There are other comments as to why but the data science part interests me more for now. I won't try to box in what you should say, but I think that you are claiming the data does not demonstrate that social distancing "flattens the curve" as we have been told it does. For the sake of avoiding ambiguity, "flattening the curve" is meant to convey the idea of changing the infection rate distribution from very skewed right and having a very front loaded shape to something closer to a uniform distribution. This may or may not change the total deaths but this cumulative death count is no the main idea, it is about the timing of the deaths. The argument is that hospitals have finite resources and if overrun, they would not be able to handle all infected patients which would lead to even more deaths. Keeping hospitals below capacity should allow for an overall better quality of care and monitoring. This is the argument as I have heard.
  • I find your approach with the data you found interesting, but unless I'm missing something big I do essentially disagree with the main premise. You are estimating the 1st and 2nd derivatives for a cohort's death count over time. This isn't a widely used technique for time series modeling but it's interesting and has merit I think, so no issues from me with method of approximation. Using your results I think this is your major conclusion that is the crux of your argument -
    • The derivatives before and after social distancing requirements took effect show that the death rate did not slow down. It might slow down the higher order changes but this is not immediately provable.
    • Furthermore, a true "test" of the effectiveness of social distancing would be to somehow have the same location try both paths and compare. This is not possible unfortunately so we have to do our best to find two areas that are good proxies for each other. When you do this you do not see evidence of social distancing leading to significant differences in the death rate.
Ok, please correct me above if I'm not understanding you correctly. Without confirmation that nothing is hugely wrong I don't want t can't reliably know that continuing is fair. So I'll pause a while and wait for your comments. Until then I can say independent of this topic that it's so easy to talk about different aspects of COVID and actually be debating two different topics but think that both sides mean the same thing. This is why setting the ground assumptions and terms helps I think. As an example, on the effectiveness of social distancing we could look at:
  • How diseases spread typically and the validity of modeling with SIR type methods. For these the parameters are crucial, one being the infection rate. When this rate is >1, the spread becomes exponential. When between 0 and 1, it will naturally dampen. This can be bad or not that bad depending on the medical nature of infection.
  • Many propose that social distancing lowers this rate to something still larger than 1, but lower than without intervention. If true, this would be an argument for the concept working.
  • There are medical arguments that can be made I'm sure, but I have no expertise to be able to really speak on this. I hope we all agree that COVID is either infectious or its not, and if it is then there are properties about it that are very helpful in understanding its ability to spread.
Last sentence. What do you or anyone else here reading my long post think is the ideal test for social distancing's effectiveness? With the constraints of reality and not being able to run the same scenario with just this one change and watch, what method(s) are best and remove the most human biases?

@Ackbach - If helpful, I can summarize this into 3-4 sentences and only keep the truly essential parts. I don't want it to seem lost in details.
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
Reply to Jameson at #29:

Very thoughtful reply. Here are my thoughts:

1. I really was interested in COVID deaths, and not the least bit interested in COVID cases. Other people might have been interested in cases, or flattening the curve, but I can't get excited about healthy people getting the virus for a week or two and recovering. That really is no different from the flu or a cold. Moreover, the vast majority of hospitals in the US haven't even been close to being overrun, so that the need to flatten the curve seems non-existent. I do get excited about people dying from COVID, though. If there are reasonable prevention methods possible, then the people of the United States should volunteer do those, and they should not be mandated by the government whose job it ... isn't.

2. My interest in the whole thing tanked when I saw this post. Those graphs tell me that the lockdowns didn't change anyone's actual behavior, and therefore could have had no causal effect on anything at all. Except the economic downturn, of course. Effectively, it makes my entire blog post moot! I just haven't bothered to post an update or to take the blog post down.

3. With everything loosening up, that's just another reason to lose interest. With the whole George Floyd thing, and the resulting catastrophes in Minneapolis - somewhat close to home for me - my focus has been elsewhere.

Obviously, there's still lots of work to be done. My institution, Mayo Clinic, is ramping back up appointments in a major way, and we aim to be back to 100% by July. Hopefully we can make up for some lost ground, and get people in for healing.
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
I took down the blog post because, as I mentioned, I think it's all moot. The lockdowns accomplished nothing at all beyond destroying a lot of businesses and a lot of jobs. I find the whole thing rather amusing in one way: the American people were ahead of the government in fighting the virus every single step of the way, and the government has done nothing but get in the way. So much for the government solving problems.
 

Jameson

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,052
I am not aware of any data sources for COVID deaths that show a state with relaxed social distancing and no spike in recent new deaths. My home state of Georgia is a great example of opening restrictions very early on and the hazard curve changing course sharply from towards 0 to a new peak level. https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/georgia I can easily see how infections is not a metric that can be reliably known but deaths and hospital demand are both much easier to measure. Even if you challenge some percent of the deaths as a false positive for COVID, that doesn't bridge the gap.

Can you recommend sources that demonstrate the lack of effectiveness of social distancing? I would really like to be able to get this data and see what implications it the conclusions drawn from the standard data sets online and widely used.
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
I am not aware of any data sources for COVID deaths that show a state with relaxed social distancing and no spike in recent new deaths. My home state of Georgia is a great example of opening restrictions very early on and the hazard curve changing course sharply from towards 0 to a new peak level. https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/georgia I can easily see how infections is not a metric that can be reliably known but deaths and hospital demand are both much easier to measure. Even if you challenge some percent of the deaths as a false positive for COVID, that doesn't bridge the gap.

Can you recommend sources that demonstrate the lack of effectiveness of social distancing? I would really like to be able to get this data and see what implications it the conclusions drawn from the standard data sets online and widely used.
Voluntary social distancing and government-enforced lockdowns are worlds apart in terms of what they actually are, and what they actually accomplish. What I've been arguing, ever since this came out, is that the government-enforced lockdowns have had zero effect on the virus (precisely because they did not affect voluntary social distancing or voluntary self-quarantining), but a very large effect on the economy. I don't believe I've ever argued that self-imposed quarantining or self-imposed social distancing similarly has zero effect on the virus - in fact I would not expect that at all.

I don't have any sources off-hand illustrating the effectiveness of voluntary social distancing on containing the virus; it might be difficult to find exactly that, because many people have been wanting to argue for the effectiveness of government-enforced lockdowns - so that's the data they use despite the gigantic confounding elephant in the room.
 

Country Boy

Well-known member
MHB Math Helper
Jan 30, 2018
498
Do you have some reliable (as in, not Far Left Formerly Mainstream Media such as CNN, MSNBC, Wikipedia, Google, and the like) news sources with information on when that's actually happened? I wasn't aware that any lockdowns had been lifted, but I'm happy to sit corrected.
So you want Far Right, like Faux News?
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
So you want Far Right, like Faux News?
Well, all news is biased. The question is: which news are you going to choose to be biased with? The formerly mainstream media is definitely left-biased. Epoch Times and One America News Network are right-biased (though not far right).

Moreover, every person is biased. I cheerfully admit to a heavy conservative bias. What's your bias? If you say you have no bias, you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you.

Faux News does not strike me as serious in any way. When they write in their About page, "FauxNews is your fairly balanced news headquarters dedicated to bringing you the latest headlines without the messy facts." - I can't take them very seriously.
 

Jameson

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,052
@Ackbach - I'm curious if after some more time and data coming in from the sources you probably challenge, if you have modified your take on this at all? I get the sense from data sources right now and measuring deaths alone (as opposed to estimated infections, which is nuanced and hard to ever know) to be a very strong indicator of a virus' existence and spread. If you don't see either of these points I would like to hear and understand. I sincerely want to see how other well intentioned people view this because I think there are some pieces that both sides miss and then write off to pejoratives. Just hoping to understand as I don't have anyone in my personal life who openly challenges the existence of COVID or the reporting of it to the degree I think you might.
 

Klaas van Aarsen

MHB Seeker
Staff member
Mar 5, 2012
8,796
I think the US needs a new amendment. In times of a pandemic, the experts (e.g. CDC) must gain higher authority than the president.
Or otherwise they should have the authority to immediately relieve him of his duties if he exhibits behavior that indicates seriously impaired judgment (borrowed from Star Trek).
Then the death count and economic damage can be up to 10 times lower.

Here is a recent example why.



1598088430457.png

Source: https://www.quora.com/Is-New-Zealan...ncing-a-surge-in-the-number-of-new-infections
 

Janssens

Well-known member
Sep 16, 2017
204
I think the US needs a new amendment. In times of a pandemic, the experts (e.g. CDC) must gain higher authority than the president.
Or otherwise they should have the authority to immediately relieve him of his duties if he exhibits behavior that indicates seriously impaired judgment (borrowed from Star Trek).
Then the death count and economic damage can be up to 10 times lower.
I really sympathize with your point of view, but I think I ultimately disagree because it implies the end of democratic policy control. Rather, elected representatives should take their responsibility and stop incompetent political executives from doing damage to public health, even when this goes against their "party line". That is their job, and they better start doing it.
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
@Ackbach - I'm curious if after some more time and data coming in from the sources you probably challenge, if you have modified your take on this at all? I get the sense from data sources right now and measuring deaths alone (as opposed to estimated infections, which is nuanced and hard to ever know) to be a very strong indicator of a virus' existence and spread. If you don't see either of these points I would like to hear and understand. I sincerely want to see how other well intentioned people view this because I think there are some pieces that both sides miss and then write off to pejoratives. Just hoping to understand as I don't have anyone in my personal life who openly challenges the existence of COVID or the reporting of it to the degree I think you might.
Oh, I think the virus exists, all right. But I don't trust any formerly mainstream media sources an inch on anything at all, certainly not COVID reporting. Not that I'm a strong Trump supporter (I'm not, particularly), but the insanely biased railery of the formerly mainstream media is merely a symptom of one thing: Trump fights, and they're not used to even a semi-conservative who fights. That's why they hate him. Methinks they protest too much.

And I don't particularly trust the CDC, FDA or WHO, and I find it intensely amusing to watch them battle about everything COVID. I would disagree with Klaas, therefore on two points, actually: 1. Unelected officials should not have the power to make binding laws on anyone. That's not the way the US was set up. 2. It's not the role of the government to "fix the virus problem". That's in no charter anywhere. I want the government to get out of the way of fixing the virus, sure. But let the medical people do their own thing, and stop with the completely ineffectual lockdowns and masking requirements.

The COVID Tracking project appears to be perhaps the best data we have, and even that is suspect. The problem is that the criteria in quite a few places for categorizing a death as a COVID death are often ridiculous, to the point of having someone hit by a car, shot with a pistol, and knifed in the heart - but testing positive for COVID - classified as a COVID death. Um, no: COVID was not the cause of death in that case. I suspect the real death numbers (people who died because of COVID) are significantly lower than reported. So why on earth would anyone use such a ridiculous set of criteria for classifying a death as a COVID death? Well, one possible explanation: if things can be seen to be going badly during Trump's administration, then maybe he might not get re-elected. With the extreme left bias of all the formerly mainstream media, they sure seem to be milking this virus for all it's worth (never let a crisis go to waste). The politicization by the far left of a virus that's causing people to die absolutely sickens me.

The current data for some parts of the country indicate case counts might be up a tad, but death rates are down in some places (like MN), though they might be creeping up a little, as well. That indicates, overall, a less dangerous virus than some have suggested.

Overall, I'm in favor of taking the virus seriously, but not in a heavy, top-down, governmental intervention approach. Let people do the sensible thing on their own. It's not as though people want to die from COVID, and I think the number of people on this planet not aware of the virus is vanishingly small by now.

Sweden, which I've mentioned before, is a very interesting case in point. They chose a very light approach to interventions, and have suffered fewer deaths per million than other countries nearby that took a very heavy-handed approach. To me, that speaks volumes about just how ineffectual the interventions are. Mind you, I'm not saying that social distancing and hand-washing are ineffectual. I'm saying the government interventions are ineffectual in halting the spread of the virus. They are, of course, quite effectual in decimating the economy, which leads to a host of "hidden deaths" that NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT. I find that very troubling. In fact, these hidden deaths might outnumber COVID deaths soon!

It reminds me of when the Thresher went down: they actually dived after the accident and found that the reactor hull was intact. It was not a nuclear accident that caused the Thresher to go down. But the Navy had to learn one thing from this: their nuclear engineers had been trained to save the reactor at all costs. But there's one cost too dear to pay: losing the ship itself! What good does it do to save the reactor if the ship goes down?

In the same way, what good does it do to throw intervention after intervention at the virus, with little-to-no data about their effectiveness, when you do know that these interventions can cause other deaths?
 

Klaas van Aarsen

MHB Seeker
Staff member
Mar 5, 2012
8,796
1. Unelected officials should not have the power to make binding laws on anyone. That's not the way the US was set up.
Indeed. It is the job of the elected officials to make binding laws.
So it is their job to ensure procedures/laws get into place to improve how a pandemic is handled.

2. It's not the role of the government to "fix the virus problem". That's in no charter anywhere. I want the government to get out of the way of fixing the virus, sure. But let the medical people do their own thing, and stop with the completely ineffectual lockdowns and masking requirements.
I agree that it is not the job of the government to "fix the virus problem" itself. They don't have the necessary expertise. That's not what they were elected for.
It's the job of the medical experts to fix the virus problem.
It's not the job of the government either to contradict and hamper the medical experts.
Instead they should empower them, and make laws to actually make that happen.

Overall, I'm in favor of taking the virus seriously, but not in a heavy, top-down, governmental intervention approach. Let people do the sensible thing on their own. It's not as though people want to die from COVID, and I think the number of people on this planet not aware of the virus is vanishingly small by now.
I also believe that a heavy top-down governmental intervention approach is not the best thing.
Instead I believe that the government should ensure that a central vision is shared with the people that is based on the best that the experts can come up with.
In particular that means honesty, transparency, and some humility.
It is still also their job to ensure that people causing reckless endangerment are stopped.
 
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Jameson

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,052
Oh, I think the virus exists, all right. But I don't trust any formerly mainstream media sources an inch on anything at all, certainly not COVID reporting. Not that I'm a strong Trump supporter (I'm not, particularly), but the insanely biased railery of the formerly mainstream media is merely a symptom of one thing: Trump fights, and they're not used to even a semi-conservative who fights. That's why they hate him. Methinks they protest too much.

And I don't particularly trust the CDC, FDA or WHO, and I find it intensely amusing to watch them battle about everything COVID. I would disagree with Klaas, therefore on two points, actually: 1. Unelected officials should not have the power to make binding laws on anyone. That's not the way the US was set up. 2. It's not the role of the government to "fix the virus problem". That's in no charter anywhere. I want the government to get out of the way of fixing the virus, sure. But let the medical people do their own thing, and stop with the completely ineffectual lockdowns and masking requirements.

The COVID Tracking project appears to be perhaps the best data we have, and even that is suspect. The problem is that the criteria in quite a few places for categorizing a death as a COVID death are often ridiculous, to the point of having someone hit by a car, shot with a pistol, and knifed in the heart - but testing positive for COVID - classified as a COVID death. Um, no: COVID was not the cause of death in that case. I suspect the real death numbers (people who died because of COVID) are significantly lower than reported. So why on earth would anyone use such a ridiculous set of criteria for classifying a death as a COVID death? Well, one possible explanation: if things can be seen to be going badly during Trump's administration, then maybe he might not get re-elected. With the extreme left bias of all the formerly mainstream media, they sure seem to be milking this virus for all it's worth (never let a crisis go to waste). The politicization by the far left of a virus that's causing people to die absolutely sickens me.

The current data for some parts of the country indicate case counts might be up a tad, but death rates are down in some places (like MN), though they might be creeping up a little, as well. That indicates, overall, a less dangerous virus than some have suggested.

Overall, I'm in favor of taking the virus seriously, but not in a heavy, top-down, governmental intervention approach. Let people do the sensible thing on their own. It's not as though people want to die from COVID, and I think the number of people on this planet not aware of the virus is vanishingly small by now.

Sweden, which I've mentioned before, is a very interesting case in point. They chose a very light approach to interventions, and have suffered fewer deaths per million than other countries nearby that took a very heavy-handed approach. To me, that speaks volumes about just how ineffectual the interventions are. Mind you, I'm not saying that social distancing and hand-washing are ineffectual. I'm saying the government interventions are ineffectual in halting the spread of the virus. They are, of course, quite effectual in decimating the economy, which leads to a host of "hidden deaths" that NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT. I find that very troubling. In fact, these hidden deaths might outnumber COVID deaths soon!

It reminds me of when the Thresher went down: they actually dived after the accident and found that the reactor hull was intact. It was not a nuclear accident that caused the Thresher to go down. But the Navy had to learn one thing from this: their nuclear engineers had been trained to save the reactor at all costs. But there's one cost too dear to pay: losing the ship itself! What good does it do to save the reactor if the ship goes down?

In the same way, what good does it do to throw intervention after intervention at the virus, with little-to-no data about their effectiveness, when you do know that these interventions can cause other deaths?
Thanks for sharing this Adrian. There are a few very important topics in this text as I see it, which is important to note and not to mix unless intentionally. COVID isn't something that only touches one idea or part of society so it's super natural to me that multiple issues come up when discussing it. Just to be explicit the things I'm seeing in your reply are in these groups largely:
  • The most popular news and media companies in the US are massive machines with incentives way beyond "truth", so assessing and challenging how various sources are systematically behaving is necessary.
  • Politics is very polarized today and given how Trump is often loved or hated, it's noteworthy to ask if this is driving something to be twisted or framed with a political goal in mind.
  • COVID's existence in general
  • Impact of COVID and how the infections/deaths are recorded and reported
  • What role governments should play in this matter and similar ones
Curious if you more or less agree with this list. If not, I'm very interested in your changes.

The item I'm most interested in now is the idea that COVID deaths are purposefully inflated across the board with political ideology leading this. There are quite a few public databases of death numbers which are stated to be representing numbers hospitals and local groups share. So if these are in fact systemically inflated I want to highlight how complex this process seems to be to pull off.
  1. All hospitals or a huge majority need to decide to do this and come up with their plan to make sure it can work every day. This could be telling staff to fill out data in ways that do this or maybe it's just tweaking numbers at the top. Either way each hospital would have to be game. This alone seems nearly impossible to me to coordinate and keep quiet. People are generally bad at being quiet especially when they know something important. It's also a purely ideological move and doesn't help bring in more money, so a lot of work to commit fraud.
  2. Even if it's not working like (1) and is just inflated somewhat as your example proposed, that inflation is still X% above reality. So this means that COVID is truly killing a non-trivial amount of people daily, which seems to flag this is very serious. Unless it's all made up or inflated 90% above reality then it's still deadly serious.
I'm mostly pointing at (1) if you can comment please, because I see claiming this type of conspiracy or coordinated fraud to be implying an impossible level of complexity to pull off. It would need 1000's of key volunteers that don't know each other to somehow do this and also keep it secret. How do they communicate? Is someone or some group "leading" this? How do they have authority if no money is at stake?


Overall I think understanding how this is playing out to you would really help me. I really don't like how it's common today to shoot down ideas with terms like "conspiracy theory" or other popular pejoratives that just try to mock people. So many people seem to have the view that COVID is hyper inflated and they aren't bad, stupid, or insincere at all to me. There is some sort of gap that might be hard to see and might not be easy to bridge but it's so obvious to me that there is a very fundamental difference in how two camps frame this situation, and both sides are mostly 100% sincere.
----------------
If this isn't connecting then another route is just to share what information you find useful to highlight for me to understand your position and be able to agree that COVID's impact is hyper over-inflated?
 
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Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
Yes, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I appreciate your genuine efforts to try to understand me.

There has been a most important development: on August 26, the CDC started listing comorbidities, and how many US COVID deaths showed COVID as the sole contributor: it's a startling 6% of all COVID-related deaths (that is, deaths where the dead person had COVID symptoms or tested positive for COVID). So the other 94% had other possible causes for death.

You wrote,

Just to be explicit the things I'm seeing in your reply are in these groups largely:
  • The most popular news and media companies in the US are massive machines with incentives way beyond "truth", so assessing and challenging how various sources are systematically behaving is necessary.
  • Politics is very polarized today and given how Trump is often loved or hated, it's noteworthy to ask if this is driving something to be twisted or framed with a political goal in mind.
  • COVID's existence in general
  • Impact of COVID and how the infections/deaths are recorded and reported
  • What role governments should play in this matter and similar ones
Curious if you more or less agree with this list. If not, I'm very interested in your changes.
I would agree with all but the middle one. I don't debate the existence of COVID, though no doubt many of a similar political persuasion do debate that.

I think another mechanism could be responsible for the inflated death-reporting: CDC guidelines. A lot of hospitals could simply be following the CDC guidelines, which I'm not at all sure are as accurate as they should be. For example, on page 2, it says,

In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as “probable” or “presumed.” In these instances, certifiers should use their best clinical judgement in determining if a COVID–19 infection was likely. However, please note that testing for COVID–19 should be conducted whenever possible.
That doesn't sound right to me.

Many government institutions are politically left-leaning, and I think the CDC is one of those. For me, the assumption is bias of some kind (not necessarily left-leaning). Everyone's biased, certainly including me. When it comes to science, it's helpful to have that bias out in the open, so that others can filter what you're saying. I appreciate, for example, Principia Scientific's approach, although I'm not at all sure I agree with it. I was particularly unimpressed with the formatting of their publications, which I see as rather unprofessional. I can see that they're trying to avoid a left bias. But they make a claim to have zero bias, and I'm a bit suspicious of that.
 

MountEvariste

Well-known member
Jun 29, 2017
92
Sweden, which I've mentioned before, is a very interesting case in point. They chose a very light approach to interventions, and have suffered fewer deaths per million than other countries nearby that took a very heavy-handed approach. To me, that speaks volumes about just how ineffectual the interventions are. Mind you, I'm not saying that social distancing and hand-washing are ineffectual. I'm saying the government interventions are ineffectual in halting the spread of the virus. They are, of course, quite effectual in decimating the economy, which leads to a host of "hidden deaths" that NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT. I find that very troubling. In fact, these hidden deaths might outnumber COVID deaths soon!
This is false.

\begin{array}{|c|c|}
\hline \text{Country} & \text{Deaths per million} \\\hline
\text{Sweden} & 574.58 \\\hline
\text{Denmark} & 109.19 \\\hline
\text{Norway} & 49.87 \\\hline
\text{Finland} & 61.43 \\\hline
\end{array}

In fact, in terms of deaths per million Sweden have been in the top 10 worst hit countries, and right now they sit number 11 in countries with the highest number of deaths per million.
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
This is false.

\begin{array}{|c|c|}
\hline \text{Country} & \text{Deaths per million} \\\hline
\text{Sweden} & 574.58 \\\hline
\text{Denmark} & 109.19 \\\hline
\text{Norway} & 49.87 \\\hline
\text{Finland} & 61.43 \\\hline
\end{array}

In fact, in terms of deaths per million Sweden have been in the top 10 worst hit countries, and right now they sit number 11 in countries with the highest number of deaths per million.

And what is Belgium's deaths per million? Spain's? UK? And Italy? If you read what I wrote, I said that they took fewer deaths per million than other countries that took a more heavy-handed approach. All the countries I just listed took a more heavy-handed approach than Sweden, and they have more deaths per million than Sweden. Therefore, what I said is true.
 

MountEvariste

Well-known member
Jun 29, 2017
92
And what is Belgium's deaths per million? Spain's? UK? And Italy? If you read what I wrote, I said that they took fewer deaths per million than other countries that took a more heavy-handed approach. All the countries I just listed took a more heavy-handed approach than Sweden, and they have more deaths per million than Sweden. Therefore, what I said is true.
You said "nearby" countries that took a more heavy-handed approach! Their deaths per million is more than 5x that of Denmark, about 10x that of Norway/Finland. It makes sense to compare Sweden's numbers to other Nordic countries rather than bypassing this comparison to jump to the UK etc. Also, you should be aware that the UK, Italy/Spain etc took the lockdown measures way too late. The UK initially maintained herd immunity mantra and refused to impose lockdown, and by the time a full lockdown was imposed the virus had been wreaking havoc in the country for a while. Either way, Sweden has one of the highest deaths per million in the world, so it makes no sense to me that it would be used as an example against lockdown.

I would like to know what the assertion "government interventions are ineffectual in halting the spread of the virus" is based on. Do you have any peer-reviewed research publications indicating that? What's your take on the second waves currently afoot in countries where government interventions were withdrawn or eased (The UK, for example)?
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
You said "nearby" countries that took a more heavy-handed approach!
Other countries in Europe are close enough to be nearby, in my book. The word nearby is not the main point in what I was trying to say: consider it unsaid if you like.

Their deaths per million is more than 5x that of Denmark, about 10x that of Norway/Finland. It makes sense to compare Sweden's numbers to other Nordic countries rather than bypassing this comparison to jump to the UK etc.
Maybe, maybe not. If lockdowns are effective, they should be effective everywhere, right?

Also, you should be aware that the UK, Italy/Spain etc took the lockdown measures way too late.
That would be extremely difficult to establish. What experiment could you run that would demonstrate that?

The UK initially maintained herd immunity mantra and refused to impose lockdown, and by the time a full lockdown was imposed the virus had been wreaking havoc in the country for a while.
But if the lockdowns do anything at all, they should still be effective, even if instituted late. That doesn't seem to be the case.

Either way, Sweden has one of the highest deaths per million in the world, so it makes no sense to me that it would be used as an example against lockdown.
I wonder, incidentally, if Sweden's death rates are plagued by the same gross misrepresentations as in the USA. The CDC, for example, came out recently and said that only 6% of their reported deaths could be imputed ONLY to the virus. That leaves the other 94% in doubt. We know that the death rates have been inflated for political purposes - a practice I despise.

Another couple of interesting examples are South Dakota and Oklahoma, in the USA. Those are two states that have had minimal interventions. Their death rate per capita is much lower than, say, CA or NY - both states with draconian interventions. How do you explain that?

I would like to know what the assertion "government interventions are ineffectual in halting the spread of the virus" is based on. Do you have any peer-reviewed research publications indicating that?
There are no peer-reviewed research publications indicating that, because the peer review process is largely over-politicized and broken. No one would fund that, because it doesn't support the left-leaning tendency of politicians to keep themselves in power. Here's what I can point to: an article indicating that people were already voluntarily staying at home in the USA before lockdowns occurred. Governmental interventions can have no causal effect if they don't change people's behavior! They can, of course, wreck the economy and cause MANY other deaths for other reasons - for some reason no one is talking about increased suicides, increased domestic violence, etc. I notice you haven't mentioned that. What good does it do to focus on COVID to such an extent that you cause (inadvertently, perhaps) deaths for other reasons? And where is it written that it's the government's job to cure a virus? I thought that was the job of the medical community. In my book, anything the government does not have to do, the government should not do, because you can guarantee that the government will be 10 times worse at it than anybody else.

What's your take on the second waves currently afoot in countries where government interventions were withdrawn or eased (The UK, for example)?
I don't care in the slightest if case numbers are up. Case numbers are, and have always been, absolutely the wrong number to examine. The best number to look at is the true death rate: how many people have died in such a way that if they hadn't had COVID, they wouldn't have died? These numbers are probably not available anywhere, because they're too inflated by other numbers. However, even reported death rates don't seem to be rising much, if at all. In the USA, there seems to be a slight rise in deaths centered around August 1, but then it appears to be declining again. In the UK the deaths appear to be flat-lining at an extremely low number. That's telling me the virus is wearing itself out.
 

MountEvariste

Well-known member
Jun 29, 2017
92
Other countries in Europe are close enough to be nearby, in my book. The word nearby is not the main point in what I was trying to say: consider it unsaid if you like.
Be that as it may, could you explain why Sweden’s numbers would so vastly different to those of their closest neighbours (who happen to have had lockdown unlike Sweden)?

Maybe, maybe not. If lockdowns are effective, they should be effective everywhere, right?
Well if you impose lockdown when the disease is already rampant in the community, lockdown isn’t going to be as effective as it would be if you had imposed lockdown earlier. The same goes for the scenario where you impose lockdown after your healthcare has already been overwhelmed (like North Italy).

That would be extremely difficult to establish. What experiment could you run that would demonstrate that?
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...kdown-20000-lives-boris-johnson-neil-ferguson

But if the lockdowns do anything at all, they should still be effective, even if instituted late. That doesn't seem to be the case.
And it was effective in the end. In the UK lockdown reduced the deaths to single figures.

I wonder, incidentally, if Sweden's death rates are plagued by the same gross misrepresentations as in the USA. The CDC, for example, came out recently and said that only 6% of their reported deaths could be imputed ONLY to the virus. That leaves the other 94% in doubt. We know that the death rates have been inflated for political purposes - a practice I despise. Another couple of interesting examples are South Dakota and Oklahoma, in the USA. Those are two states that have had minimal interventions. Their death rate per capita is much lower than, say, CA or NY - both states with draconian interventions. How do you explain that?
No, we don’t know that death rates have been inflated for political purposes. This is very conspiratorial. Also it’s well known that this disease is particularly deadly for people with certain conditions. If you have diabetes, sickle cell disease, respiratory illnesses or are obese then these highly increase your chances of dying or being hospitalised with Covid. So deaths “ONLY” due to the virus is highly disingenuous way of looking at it.
It’s interesting that you mention South Dakota. Do you know that currently they are recording one of the highest number of new cases anywhere in the US? So much for minimal lockdown! Their deaths per million is similar to California actually, and we’ll see where it ends up once deaths catch up with the new infections.
There are no peer-reviewed research publications indicating that, because the peer review process is largely over-politicized and broken. No one would fund that, because it doesn't support the left-leaning tendency of politicians to keep themselves in power. Here's what I can point to: an article indicating that people were already voluntarily staying at home in the USA before lockdowns occurred. Governmental interventions can have no causal effect if they don't change people's behavior! They can, of course, wreck the economy and cause MANY other deaths for other reasons - for some reason no one is talking about increased suicides, increased domestic violence, etc. I notice you haven't mentioned that. What good does it do to focus on COVID to such an extent that you cause (inadvertently, perhaps) deaths for other reasons? And where is it written that it's the government's job to cure a virus? I thought that was the job of the medical community. In my book, anything the government does not have to do, the government should not do, because you can guarantee that the government will be 10 times worse at it than anybody else.
The writer added this to the blogpost:



"P.S. In comments, Brent points out a problem with framing this based on “stay-at-home orders”:


'In my [Hutto’s] state the order closing schools was on March 15. The “stay at home” order came on April 7. As best as I can interpret the x-axis of the graphs, they have the April 7 order marked with the vertical line. It’s no puzzle why mobility data showed more people staying at home three weeks earlier. Mobility became limited on Monday, March 16 when a million or so families suddenly had children to take care of at home instead of going off to school'."



I don't care in the slightest if case numbers are up. Case numbers are, and have always been, absolutely the wrong number to examine. The best number to look at is the true death rate: how many people have died in such a way that if they hadn't had COVID, they wouldn't have died? These numbers are probably not available anywhere, because they're too inflated by other numbers. However, even reported death rates don't seem to be rising much, if at all. In the USA, there seems to be a slight rise in deaths centered around August 1, but then it appears to be declining again. In the UK the deaths appear to be flat-lining at an extremely low number. That's telling me the virus is wearing itself out.
Like I said, lockdown reduced deaths to single digits in the UK. After lockdown has been relaxed, we're now seeing 150+ deaths per day.
 

MountEvariste

Well-known member
Jun 29, 2017
92
By the way, here's an interesting in-depth article in science magazine on Sweden's approach.

I would love to know what you think @Ackbach
 

Ackbach

Indicium Physicus
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,197
... could you explain why Sweden’s numbers are so vastly different from their closest neighbours (who happen to have had lockdown unlike Sweden)?
No, sure can't, other than saying disparities are usually the result of many factors, as Thomas Sowell taught us in his excellent book Discrimination and Disparities. I just finished reading it yesterday, and the main point of the book is this: disparities do not imply discrimination or oppression. Disparities are usually the result of many factors, difficult to distinguish.

If you impose lockdown when the disease is already rampant in the community, lockdown isn’t going to be as effective as it would be if you had imposed lockdown earlier.
Perhaps, but your statement is assuming that lockdowns are effective - precisely the question at hand. Regardless, why do you think late lockdowns are less effective than early lockdowns?

The same goes for where you impose lockdown after your healthcare has already been overwhelmed (like North Italy).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...kdown-20000-lives-boris-johnson-neil-ferguson

And it was effective in the end. In the UK lockdown reduced the deaths to single figures.
That is a strong causal claim. You're saying UK lockdowns caused a reduction in UK COVID deaths. Have you done or read a supporting causal analysis (like Judea Pearl's work)? If not, then you have no basis for making that claim. If you do want to point to such claims, then I would much sooner trust a scientific paper, as broken as the scientific process is, over any media link.

Not sure I trust The Guardian. I don't know about the mainstream media in the UK, but the mainstream media in the US is completely untrustworthy on absolutely everything. That's what happens when you abandon the correspondence theory of truth, as Peter Boghossian taught us.

No, we don’t know that death rates have been inflated for political purposes. This is very conspiratorial.
I deny that. I have read the CDC guidelines on COVID death reporting, and they are absolutely terrible. Basically, someone getting run over by a car, but testing positive for COVID, will be classified as a COVID-related death. Moreover, there certainly is a motivation for the political left to over-report COVID deaths. The political left (and unfortunately, some on the right as well) desire political power - it's all about power. They get more power over people's lives if they instill fear and get people to trade liberty for security (but doing so will not result in either). And the political left controls the mainstream media, all the humanities departments in all US state universities, and quite a few government agencies such as the CDC. They therefore have the ability and the motivation to over-report. As the political left has no ethical spine (they are willing to do anything to gain power - just read their incredibly evil playbook, Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky, which I have, to get a flavor of just what they're willing to do to get power), there is no barrier to doing so, and they will.

Do I have evidence of over-reporting? Not a lot - only the one time the CDC drastically reduced the number of COVID deaths they had been reporting. It is not a big leap to conclude there is over-reporting. It's the same kind of situation as Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW): create fear from an imaginary crisis to gain power. I notice some very high-profile climatologists are backing away from CAGW - very interesting.

No doubt, at this point, you would be tempted to call me conservatively biased. I cheerfully admit it. I doubt you will admit you are liberally biased, because I have never heard any liberal admit that, ever - even though everyone's biased.

Also it’s well known that this disease is particularly deadly for people with certain conditions. If you have diabetes, sickle cell disease, respiratory illnesses or are obese then these highly increase your chances of dying or being hospitalized with Covid. So deaths “ONLY” due to the virus is highly disingenuous way of looking at it.
No doubt other diseases make COVID more dangerous. We all know the danger is different for different people groups. I'm saying it's disingenuous to talk about COVID deaths if you can't separate causal cases from non-causal ones. I mean this: for how many people would it have been the case that if they had not had COVID, they would not have died? That is a counterfactual question, and counterfactuals are notoriously difficult to evaluate; they require a model you can manipulate in certain ways to get any answers at all. And the accuracy of the answers you do get are dependent on the quality of the model. But if no one has done any causal modeling on this question, then no one can answer the question and we really have NO IDEA how many people have "died from COVID" in the counterfactual sense. That's the most important number in the entire COVID problem, and we probably have no way to get it, unfortunately.

My point is there is 6% we can attribute only to the virus, and we just can't be sure of the rest of the 94%. That's a lot of uncertainty.

It’s interesting that you mention SD. Do you know that currently they are recording one of the highest number of new cases anywhere in the US? So much for minimal lockdown!
Much too hasty a conclusion. I don't care about cases unless cases are high and deaths are low. That would mean the virus is getting less dangerous, for whatever reason.

Their deaths per million is similar to CA actually, and we’ll see where it ends up once deaths catch up with the new infections.
Hmm. So covidtracking has SD and CA new deaths as follows (I'm using the current population of CA as 39.5M, and the population of SD as 833,354 to arrive at deaths per million):

DateSD deaths, deaths / millionCA deaths, deaths / million
2020-10-143, 3.658, 1.5
2020-10-130, 09, 0.2
2020-10-122, 2.48, 0.2
2020-10-110, 064, 1.6
2020-10-109, 10.872, 1.8
2020-10-095, 6.067, 1.7
2020-10-0814, 16.8133, 3.4
2020-10-0710, 12.051, 1.3
2020-10-060, 028, 0.7


The main thing to notice is the variance in SD deaths / million is MUCH greater than in CA deaths / million. That's not surprising given the gigantic difference in population. It also means comparing these two numbers is quite difficult. I'm not sure we can say much.

The writer added this to the blogpost:

"P.S. In comments, Brent points out a problem with framing this based on “stay-at-home orders”:

'In my [Hutto’s] state the order closing schools was on March 15. The “stay at home” order came on April 7. ... Mobility became limited on Monday, March 16 when a million or so families suddenly had children to take care of at home instead of going off to school'."
That could be the case. It doesn't substantively change my argument if there is a cause for the staying at home. It is still true that people voluntarily stayed at home before the lockdowns. No one was forcing people to stay at home. Therefore the lockdowns did not affect people's behavior, therefore the lockdowns can have had no causal effect on COVID deaths.

Like I said, lockdown reduced deaths to single digits in the UK. After lockdown has been relaxed, we're now seeing 150+ deaths per day.
Again, much too hasty a conclusion. There needs to be a causal analysis to determine if that is the case.

I want to re-iterate my two main points, to which I have not seen you reply:

1. Lockdowns cause many problems, which in turn cause deaths of their own, whether it's mental health problems causing suicides, or people not going to doctors to get necessary treatments, or economic hardships. The liabilities of lockdowns outweigh the benefits, dubious in my opinion. Even if lockdowns were effective, the benefits would not outweigh the liabilities. We need to consider this when evaluating Sweden. We need to ask the counterfactual: "What is the number of deaths and the financial hardships Sweden has avoided due to staying open?" And compare that with the corresponding counterfactual for various states in the US that have locked down: "What hardships and deaths would have been avoided had you stayed open?"

2. It is not the government's job to fix the virus, but the medical community's, as well as that of people acting responsibly. Since anything the government does not have to do it should not do because of doing it so terribly, it follows the government should stay out. As the governor of SD said (rough recall, not exact quote), "I do not have the constitutional power to enforce a lockdown," a statement the Michigan Supreme Court concurred with when it declared MI Governor Whitmer's actions illegal.
 

Jameson

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 26, 2012
4,052
  • Your claim that COVID numbers are inflated and using data set references to try to demonstrate this implies that you are able to decompose the reported rate into the actual rate and the inflated adjustment within some degree of error. More specifically you are saying this:
    \[ \text{Reported death count} \hspace{1mm} _{(T_n, \text{Hospital}_i)} = \text{True death count}\hspace{1mm} _{(T_n, \text{Hospital}_i)} + \text{Adjusted count}\hspace{1mm} _{(T_n, \text{Hospital}_i)} + \epsilon \]
For some error $\epsilon$ that doesn't have any assumed distribution but could. Just accounts for a non-perfect model. The important part here is that the Adjusted count is both strictly > 0 and able to be modeled or identified through the Reported death counts alone. If you can't show this then the data can be flawed but then it's corrupted and adjusted to where it can't be used to show other things.​
A much more concise version is either you need to show how you get to the inflation from the data to use it yourself in this argument, or it can't be used to comment on the true rate.​
  • Same thing for news references, articles, papers, etc. You can reply that you don't trust a source or it's flawed and just bypass any references that aren't advantageous. If you link to your own sources as well this is just a lopsided framework that relies on your approval to use it. You should either list out what references are on the table and explain why just these or not use appeals to authority at all. It's not up to the other side to know this implied list and adhere to it when the references are very reasonable for 2020. The existence of flawed people, writers, agendas, etc. don't nullify all work unless you can show that.
  • The government's role in this is important but not factually needed to debate in order to look at (1) COVID's health hazards in terms of infection rates per person and death rate once infected, or (2) How it spreads and if any kind of distancing (forced or voluntary) affects it.
  • Admitting you have bias doesn't do anything to make your arguments better or worse on their own merits. Someone who intentional lies can do this and someone trying their hardest to find truth can as well. This idea that acknowledging human bias is somehow unusual or shows more honesty is not something I agree with and here it is used as an argument that you are more sincere.
This discussion lacks any focus and bottom up arguments about epidemiology or stats. I am very skeptical by nature and am excited to be critical of popular views for their own sake but with this there is so much data, expert opinion, and consensus for the majority view that COVID is not hyper inflated and social distancing having a material, positive effect on reducing rates/deaths that the burden of proof is not on this side. Your views aren't shown to be false from this and again there is a lot of room between just two polar opposites. While in reality things are true or false, it is often at one given time many views are all feasible to various degrees using a set of common facts.