Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 90. June 15th. When I planned this piece, the biggest story in the country was COVID-19. Then Memorial Day weekend happened, and that’s not the case. I won’t opine here about the death of George Floyd, and the events that flowed from his death. This is a COVID article. I add this preface simply to be certain that anyone who winds up reading this doesn’t think me unaware of what’s happening in the nation as I reflect on something wholly unrelated.

June 15th It’s been 90 days since I was told to pack up and work from home. We are mid-way through the sixth month of a year that doesn’t seem to know when to ease up. From impeachment to the death of Kobe Bryant, to COVID-19, and on, 2020 has been…bad. However, the easing restrictions we are beginning to see as we head into June are a positive sign. We have a long way to go, especially here in Illinois. But, perhaps, there is hope.

Despite all that the government has tried to do.

COVID-19 has exposed so very many flaws in the systems we never thought about. Not that we never thought about flaws, I mean systems that we never thought about. It is like some twisted Rube Goldberg machine – virus leads to stay home orders, leads to less driving, leads to less ethanol production, leads to less food-grade CO2 production? Which caused some worry about municipal water purification? Who could have predicted that one?

Further, as we have moved into the ‘over it’ phase of the game, people are demonstrating that they are just over it all. They are fed up, and lonely, and depressed, and increasingly unwilling to put up with the demands of the political authority. As some gatherings are lauded whilst others are condemned, there is an increasing realization that the politicians are, at best, clueless and pandering, and at worst exercising power for the sake of power. This is something that I hope results in a popular movement to reduce the amount of central authority, but I am not holding my breath.

Why is there so much division over COVID-19? I see people on both extremes – refusing to lift their personal lock downs for any reason, going so far as to bleach the mail & groceries; and then others claiming it is all but a hoax, and not even as bad as the seasonal flu. And they are both wrong.

Let’s look at the second group first. In Illinois, the Department of Public Health does not publish useful flu stats. The only death count they provide publicly is 3500, as an average over the last decade. As of today, Illinois has had 6,308 deaths from COVID. The flu season is about 9 months – the CDC lists it as running from October to May. 8 months. That’s about 388 deaths per month, average. Illinois lists COVID-19 cases back to March 10th. So, from March 10th to today is about 3 months. That results in an average of 2,102 deaths per month. I am not going to extrapolate how many dead over 9 months, because the case fatality rate is always in flux. But you can see the difference – 388/month from flu, 2102/month from COVID.

Indiana is far worse – their DPH lists 131 deaths this season from flu (14.5/month). And 2,251 from COVID-19. That is over 17 times more dead from COVID. That should end the nonsense about COVID-19 being ‘less severe than the flu’.

The other side of the coin is that this is the most deadly thing ever, and we need to remain in hiding. That’s also nonsense. COVID is a respiratory illness, the chances of getting it from your mail or grocery packaging is minimal at most. Limited personal contact seems to be fine (see lack of spikes from mass protests), and it’s possible that the transmission has been overstated. That happens. This is a novel illness, and that means that the scientists applied the best information possible to predict the actions of this virus. And they got it wrong, then revised their models, and repeated the process. That is how science works. They are still getting it wrong, but less wrong as time goes on, and they have more data to work with. Sadly, Americans don’t understand that. And I think I have a decent handle on why.

Anthropomorphic Global Warming

No, not blaming global warming for the virus. That’s silly. I am, however, blaming the global warming/climate change industry for the response to COVID.

Since the late 90s, and especially in the 2000s, the mantra of the climate change crowd has been ‘the science is settled’. And that’s bullshit. It has not been settled in the least. Oh, the idea that this is happening, yes, that seems to be commonly accepted. But the mechanism, the severity, the rest of everything? No. Not settled. Let’s start this out simply – clouds. Everyone knows how much a cloud can cool you off on a summer day, right? In fact, cloud prediction models still are not accurate, and were not often factored into climate models at all until the last 10 or so years. Too unpredictable.

But the science is settled, right?

By making that the mantra of climate change, the media and the left in general started a sort of mental virus. Any oft-repeated statement can become fact for the one repeating it. And this did – the science was settled. Which seems to have led, in my opinion, to the rise of the Cult of Science. Represented by the likes of IFL Science on social medial, these cultists worship the idea of science, without any actual understanding of what it is. Much like the cargo cults of the South Pacific, the Cult of Science worships science without any real comprehension of how it works. The vitriol directed at various scientists working on COVID shows this.

With any new thing, there is a lack of information. Obviously, right? Except to the cultist, the high priests of the religion are required to explain the new thing. Of course, these are not priest, but scientists. And so they look at the virus, and extrapolate behavior based on the best information available. Which, in this case, was the type of virus (corona), related viruses (SARS), and public health information from the first people to encounter it (China). They enter into that process knowing that using the SARS virus to figure out COVID is not perfect, only the best available way. But it is very much the art of looking at your first cousin, and extrapolating you from that.

The main problem I think they hit was the outright lies from China. And that was a failure of imagination. For very good reasons, no one imagined that China would flat out lie about the pathogen. But they did. And continue to do so. Those lies cost us time, and made the information first released useless. So, the Science Cult members seized on those numbers, and refused to let go. Their priests had spoken. As the numbers changed, they kept clinging to the newest information, and, as is their wont, attacked those pointing out the difference in estimates.

It is important to be clear here – those using the inconsistencies in data, and the changes in predictive modeling over time, to attack the scientists working on the problem are just as bad, and just as ignorant. Science is a process, not a god. And as a process, there will always be changes. Remember, the finest minds in science were convinced that traveling 30MPH would kill you – that you would be unable to breathe at that speed.

Science should never be settled.

So What Now?

We need, for many reasons, to proceed with caution, but also with focus on ending the restrictions on life. It sounds cold and uncaring, I know, but the reality is that the majority of the vulnerable population that would be fatally infected has been. That is, after all, how disease works. The old and weak die first, then death rates taper off – which is what we have seen. Yes, we should do all we can to minimize that, and protect our family members who are in the higher risk categories. Anyone acting counter to that is evil. We also should understand that humans are social animals, and we need interaction to be sane.

Anyone seeking to prevent that when it isn’t absolutely needed is also evil.

Last weekend I was at a small get together. And it was such a relief – even with people I didn’t really know. Because there were people, talking, without masks. It was a touch of normalcy in a time of insanity. That is what we are needing now.

The best information I have access to suggests that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. It will be around forever, and something we have to live with. As we move forward with that, we can either try to keep the current restrictions – and watch as people eventually revolt; or find a new normal. I hope we find the new normal soon and move on. Sadly, so many people have invested so much into this filling their political need, that I doubt we will ever find normal.

But I can hope.

Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 43: April Won’t Be The Cruelest Month

Day 43. I hoped to not get this high. If we hit triple digits…well, that will be a in world I don’t think we will be able to fully understand.

I am still working, as is Tammy. I’m at the dining room table, she works in a hospital lab. Neither of us is sick, that we know of, and that is likely to continue to be the case. Of course, we could both be asymptomatic. But then, so could everyone. It’s a crap-shoot. Illinois is mandating masks as of Friday, the 1st of May. I have a Mission headwrap thing that I am using as a mask, and a balaclava on route from Under Armour. I know those are not the best choices, but it is what it is. They work well enough for now, and since I am not sick, and the mask isn’t to keep me from becoming sick, that’s all it needs.

Ideally, something similar, but with multiple layers would be available. That just isn’t the case these days. Oh, the useless ‘dust mask’ with side vents is all over the socials. While that is exactly the concept I am looking for, the side vents…which open to allow you to exhale…make it less than useless. Remember, the mask is to prevent you from spreading the virus, not to keep you from getting it.

Of course, the busybodies insist on making people as paranoid as possible about these things. While it is true that a three layer mask of differing cloth types is best, any mask helps. And posting articles about improper fit is just feeding the fear – these aren’t respirators, they don’t need a skin seal. Seriously. That kind of seal is needed for N95, and nothing else. Stop working to undermine people’s sense of safety already.

Honestly, if the media as we know it survives this, I’ll be shocked. As a collective, they have failed at every level, and are increasingly being exposed as little more than low-level PR flacks. Honestly, a purge of their ranks would not be unwarranted. The myth of the intrepid reporter crusading for truth is as dead as the crusaders themselves. Sadly, they did this to themselves, and there is literally no one else to blame.

But enough about that. Let’s look again at what might be next.

Reopening Things

This is the hot topic of the week. Some states are beginning to ease restrictions on activities. In essence, they are the canaries in the coal mines for how a post-restriction US might look. Some states seem to be throwing open the doors, so to speak, while others are taking it slowly. Personally, I like the approach being used in Texas.

First, on May 1st, retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls can reopen. But they will only be allowed to operate at 25% capacity. Museums and libraries will also be allowed to open at 25% capacity, but hands-on exhibits must remain closed. If there is no flare-up in cases, then on May 18th, at the earliest, businesses to expand their occupancy to 50%. If there is an increase in cases, then Texas will revert to the 25% cap. There is no information on full capacity reopening. There are also rules about who can be at work, and so on. Lastly, this isn’t a forced reopening – if you feel that remaining closed is best, then you can continue to do so.

I think that is the most sane way to handle this. As we have seen, the collateral damage has been pretty heavy, and that isn’t counting the medical cost.

The Medical Cost?

Yeah…you would think that in a pandemic, the strongest industry would be health care. You would be wrong. The Mayo clinic is facing a reported $3 billion loss, and furloughing or laying off (reports vary on phrasing) some 30,000 employees – 42% of their workforce. And they aren’t the only ones. With the orders in several states to restrict or cancel all elective procedures, hospitals are struggling. See, the term ‘elective’ is misleading. Elective doesn’t mean ‘by choice’, like a facelift. Elective means ‘not required to save your life right now’. So, having a gall bladder out is elective. Having biopsies – including for breast cancer – is elective. And those just stopped. And with them, the bulk of most hospital’s income.

Of course it gets worse. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that only 20% of four month olds are fully immunized. Parents are refusing to take kids to the doctor in fear of COVID-19. What that means in terms of the health of these kids is that they become unprotected against lethal, avoidable, diseases. A local pediatrician states “There will absolutely be far more infants and young children who die as a result of that than from the pandemic.” This, of course, is just the icing on the horrible cake. We are seeing delays in literally every medical procedure. From the aforementioned facelifts to appendectomies. Which are, in case you weren’t aware, is not elective.

Reopening The Wrong Way, Part 1: Vaccines

The wrong way to do this…now that’s not how we talk about it most of the time. There are two main ways to do this wrong. First is to wait for a vaccine. Keeping things in pause that long would destroy most people’s sanity, and most business and state’s ability to pay the bills. Vaccines take time. 14 months, minimum. Then time to produce and distribute. And that is assuming they are an option at all (see the common cold…). So, call that 18 months. Or, about this time, 2021.

Can you imagine? 18 months. No haircuts, no dates, no movies, no social activity. Of any kind. Worse, people will, in all likelihood, keep avoiding doctors, and that will result in avoidable deaths. Waiting on a vaccine is social suicide.

Reopening The Wrong Way, Part 2: Herd Immunity

If waiting on a vaccine is social suicide, then waiting on herd immunity is actually worse. It’s literal suicide. At least for a huge swath of the population.

In an nutshell, herd immunity is the status achieved when a sufficient amount of the population has antibodies to a disease, preventing it from spreading. Antibodies come from two places – recovery from an illness and vaccines. Since we are not talking about vaccination, we’ll discuss the ‘recovery’ aspect. First, herd immunity won’t keep you from getting sick if exposed, it merely lessens the chance of exposure. No more, no less. The ‘herd’ part acts as a buffer – so if you are infected, but most of the people you know are immune, then you have no one to spread it to. Simple!

And it is. When it works. As I mentioned above, there is no proof COVID-19 antibodies confer future immunity. Other corona-type viruses do, so there is a logical expectation that this will, but we haven’t gotten to the point where that can be reliably demonstrated just yet.

Further, herd immunity has a threshold of the population to meet. The herd immunity threshold (HIT) varies by disease – for the flu, it is around 33% – 44%. For things like pertussis (see missed infant vaccinations above), it’s 92% – 94%. The current estimates for COVID-19 range from 29% – 74%. For the next bit, I will use the average of 66%.

66%. That is the average population amount of recovered COVID-19 patients to achieve HIT. Look at the case fatality rates below. The average CFT for the three states I have been following is 5.37%. Still using only these states, the total population is 38,857,601. 66% of that population is 25,646,016. 5.37% of that number is 1,377,191. Or, in just these three states, to achieve herd immunity, you would need to have 25,646,016 people infected, of those, 1,377,191 would die.

1,377,191 deaths. That’s Indianapolis and all of the rest of Marion County wiped out. More than one and a half times.

The US as a whole, using today‘s CDC data, has a case fatality rate of 5.82%. In the US, achieving herd immunity would require 12,777,333 deaths, based on these numbers.

It is vital to note that COVID-19 is a very regional disease – Idaho is not New York. However, the estimate above is based on the CFR of the US as a whole, so while it’s likely inaccurate, it’s at least based on what the nation, as a whole, looks like.

Final Thought

It’s day 43 – and we are still in a holding pattern. We need to have serious discussions about how we move forward, and that means talking about reopening our nation. The consequences to continuing to hold are dire – but so too is reopening poorly. There is no way to win this thing, exactly, only minimize the loss. We need to hold our elected officials to the proverbial fire on this issue – discuss the plan to reopen. Eventually that window will close, and people will just reopen it themselves. At a staggering cost.

Day 43 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 4/30/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 269,867
  • Cases: 52,918
  • Positive Test Percentage: 19.61%
  • Infection Rate: 0.418%
  • Deaths: 2,355
  • Case Fatality Rate: 4.45%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (12,671,821)

Day 43 In Indiana

Per the state website, as of April 29, 2020, 11:59pm, Indiana has…

  • Tested: 94,998
  • Cases: 17,835
  • Positive Test Percentage: 18.77%
  • Infection Rate: 0.265%
  • Deaths: 1,007
  • Case Fatality Rate: 5.65%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IN, as listed by the US Census (6,732,219)

Day 43 In New York

Per the state website, as of April 29, 2020, 11:59pm, New York has…

  • Tested: 900,636
  • Cases: 304,372
  • Positive Test Percentage: 33.80%
  • Infection Rate: 1.565%
  • Deaths: 18,321
  • Case Fatality Rate: 6.02%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of NY, as listed by the US Census (19,453,561)

Just a reminder about the ‘Day xx’ in those section headers. That is day 43 for my experience & blog. Not the actual day for the infection tally in the listed states. Just to clear up any confusion.

Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 30: Approaching A Rabbit Hole & Math Is Hard

Day 30. A whole month. Hard to believe it’s been a month of working from home. I have managed to be productive, at least. Maybe not as much as I hoped, but I am not ‘working’ from the couch watching garbage TV. If, as has been suggested, this drags out upwards of 18 months, then we’ll see. Honestly, I don’t see it getting there. The simple reality is that people will just say ‘fuck it’ and start ignoring the stay home orders. We, especially in the America we want to believe exists, don’t do well with dictatorial nonsense from the elected leaders.

As that day approaches, we are seeing a lot more official misconduct – from arresting people who are as ‘socially distant’ as possible to forbidding in-car church services. Americans are able to tolerate a lot. There are, however, limits to that tolerance. We, for good and ill, are no longer the same people who accepted austerity and hardship during the World Wars. Also, we no longer are the people who believe the government is our friend or ally. From the left, alternately screaming that Trump is a fascist dictator; and not dictator enough; to the right screaming about the deep state; we no longer trust our government. The small-l libertarian in me is happy to see that. However, in times of crisis, we need to be able to trust our leadership. And we don’t have any we can trust.

A Mad Tea-Party, Introduction

So, on the subject of trusting the government, I guess I need to talk about some of the COVID-19 nonsense that is being spread around. I have talked before about the transition to Conspiracy World, and it bears repeating. It seems like we found ourselves living in a world, that were we to describe it to ourselves even 10 or 15 years ago, we’d think we lost it. On the fringes of the right, there is a group that is taking that reality, and warping it to their own ends. They call themselves QAnon.

I won’t be doing a deep dive into the QAnon thing – I need all the sanity points I can keep these days. But their brand of conspiracy idiocy is that “…there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything. They control politicians, and they control the media. They control Hollywood, and they cover up their existence, essentially. And they would have continued ruling the world, were it not for the election of President Donald Trump…”1 No, really. Stop laughing.

Done? Ok, back to it.

First, though, I need to talk about the urge to believe in conspiracy theories. It’s kind of fascinating, but far too complex to really tackle here. So, let me sum up.

A Mad Tea-Party, Interlude

People believe conspiracy theories because they can’t accept reality. Which is pat and trite. But still, it’s the core reason. For example, we, as a species, have a lot of psychological blinders. Most of which are a modern development. See, our brains still want to function like they always have – and I mean always as in a literal always. Back to the stone ages, so to speak. And part of that is the way we define reality. Despite all the advances in the past century, we still have these blinders that limit what we can accept. So it is that things that are, for want of a better term, too big, are viewed with suspicion. I think that as we disconnected faith from everyday life, we opened ourselves up even more to that trend.

That is why it is easier to believe that a collection of mobsters and others killed President Kennedy, not Lee Harvey Oswald. Why it’s easier to believe that the moon landing was shot in Hollywood, rather than the truth of it being real. The small, credulous, mind believes that there is no way something can just be, they need to see hidden hands in everything. I suspect it makes them feel better – they see the hidden truths – and thus feel superior to others. This is not to attack the concept of belief.

Humans have a need to believe. We see that in the simple fact that every single culture we have found has some form of belief. All of them. As we have distanced from belief in the supernatural in recent history, we have had to fill that slot in the psyche with something else. We still believe, but now it’s in celebrities, politicians, politics, athletes, money or possessions, you get the picture. We all know someone, or many someones, who exhibit this. From the people openly weeping because their politician lost, to the people acting out mourning rituals for a dead celebrity they never cam within 100 miles of…people need that faith slot filled. And they will work overtime to find something to fill it. Even something as absurd as the conspiracy theory.

Which brings us to back to QAnon.

A Mad Tea-Party, But One To Avoid

So, recently, the delusional folks in QAnon have been pushing the idea that all this – the COVID-19 pandemic in toto, is a ruse.

To cover the rescue of ‘mole children’ being bred as sex slaves / food / drug sources in tunnels under Central Park, and elsewhere.

Check the header, this isn’t a satire blog. Yes, these people actually believe that. When it isn’t 5G cell towers causing COVID-19, that is. So, mole children. It seems that the above-mentioned “cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles” has been breeding children as sex slaves, underground, no less, and President Trump sicced the Pentagon Pedophilia Task Force (dafq?) on the issue. And now thousands (millions, for some more rabid sorts) of children are being rescued. They have, of course, been bred for the specific purpose of being sex slaves, but also for being eaten and having their adrenal glands harvested so “elites” can get high on their adrenochrome. No, really.

While I do mock the belief, I also kind of pity the people who believe it. Believing that something as explicable and easy to understand as COVID-19 must be a cover for some monstrous hidden agenda and secret war…that’s just broken. And badly broken at that. As much as I understand the psychological tendency to believe in conspiracy theory, this one is too far out there. Of course, as with all such beliefs, the total lack of proof is de facto proof.

The sad thing is, these are good people. They love their kids, work hard, are part of their community. In short, there is just something going on inside that leads them to absurdity.

Numbers Are Hard…

So, Americans hate percentages. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is the inherent flexibility they suggest – 100 is nice, tangible, 5% less so. Maybe it’s just laziness. As a result, we focus completely on raw numbers, wholly out of context. And that’s becoming clear in how the numbers for COVID-19 are being reported. For instance, recent reports talked a lot about the US having the highest infection rate in the world. Which, in terms of raw numbers, is…well…still inaccurate. Above all, remember, China lied, and continues to lie, about their numbers. But ignoring the Chinese lies, when you look at Europe, we do indeed have more infected than many countries in Europe.

According to a tracking site, the US has, as of Day 30, April 16, 2020, 16:00 GMT, 652,968 cases, and 33,387 deaths. More cases than Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. Combined. Yikes. More than 10,000 more deaths than the next closest, Italy. Double yikes.

Of course, our population is more than 74,000,000 more than Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. Combined.

If you do the math, the actual truth of the COVID-19 spread comes much clearer.

CountryTotal CasesTotal DeathsTot Cases/ 1M popDeaths/ 1M pop
For a screenshot of the tracking site, click here.

To sum up, those two columns on the right tell more of the story than the raw numbers on the left. Yes, we have more raw cases, but in terms of per capita cases, we are doing fairly well. Especially when you consider the population difference, density, and so on.

Day 30 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 4/16/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 122,589
  • Cases: 25,733
  • Positive Test Percentage: 20.99%
  • Infection Rate: 0.203%
  • Deaths: 1,072
  • Case Fatality Rate: 4.17%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (12,671,821)

Day 30 In Indiana

Per the state website, as of April 15, 2020, 11:59pm, Indiana has…

  • Tested: 51,115
  • Cases: 9,542
  • Positive Test Percentage: 18.67%
  • Infection Rate: 0.142%
  • Deaths: 477
  • Case Fatality Rate: 5.00%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IN, as listed by the US Census (6,732,219)

Day 30 In New York*

Per the state website, as of April 15, 2020, 11:59pm, New York has…

  • Tested: 550,579
  • Cases: 222,284
  • Positive Test Percentage: 40.37%
  • Infection Rate: 1.143%
  • Deaths: 12,192
  • Case Fatality Rate: 5.48%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of NY, as listed by the US Census (19,453,561)

Just a reminder about the ‘Day xx’ in those section headers. That is day 30 for my experience & blog. Not the actual day for the infection tally in the listed states. Just to clear up any confusion.

Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 29: Some Thoughts On What Might Come Next

On this, day 29 of working from home and hiding from the world, as instructed, I want to reflect on what’s next. That is often a failing in our story-telling. We focus on the story, not the aftermath. Perhaps that explains my liking of role-playing games…I get to write some aftermath. Which will come in a moment. On the personal front, today is just another Wednesday under the stay-home reality. So that means I will probably actually manage to stay home. Probably no unexpected runs to get groceries or stuff today. Probably. The key word there was, of course, unexpected…

Our federal money arrived today as well, which is nice. It helps fill some gaps left by the reality of the past month. So that helps me relax a lot. I have the beginnings of a new catalog for work, which is a nice break from the current, kaiju-scale, catalog I have been working on for the past month or more. I am almost done with…the first section. Only three or four more to go! On the up side, the new catalog should be quick and easy, especially in comparison. Personally, Tammy and I remain as healthy as ever (which isn’t exactly the picture of health, but no new issues), and COVID-19 free.

It snowed last night, so this morning there were a few inches on the ground. Since it’s April, and no one remembers how to drive in snow for more than two days around here, several expressways were closed, and there was something like a 60 car pileup. So that’s today.

What Comes Next?

Reality is the constant living of ‘and then’ moments. Fiction stops with the end of the story, and leaves ‘what then’ to the consumer’s imagination. Or lack thereof. Some of us fill it in on our own, and then only later realize how our endings are not very realistic. Or we ignore it, because the story didn’t need to go further (that’s rare, though). Mostly, however, stories end, with no hint of how the characters and world deal with the ending. And while there is a reason for that – you can’t cover literally every repercussion – it can also be unsatisfying.

This is mostly a failing of the apocalypse genre.

One place where I think the author managed to cover ‘what next’ well, and in a way that is apropos to the times, is The Puppet Masters, by Robert A Heinlein. For those who haven’t read it, the basic plot goes like so. Slugs from Saturn (Titan) land on Earth, attach themselves to the spines of humans, taking control of them. Of course, we humans fight back, and win. Yeah, that is pretty bare-bones. The book also hits all the Heinlein tropes along the way, so for those familiar with the author’s work, you kind of know the characters. Consequently, in the course of driving the slugs off, the US develops an unofficial or semi-official policy of nudity or near-nudity to show you don’t have a slug.

Obviously, the parallel isn’t exact. But we are heading into the second month, for many of us, under the isolation orders, and the reality is that we have to ask what’s next. What will the US look like after the isolation is over? How will our daily lives be altered? Will we decide that a mask is as appropriate as pants? Will that be an order? Honestly, I don’t know. I know that, for a while, we will be very changed by this. I suspect that the changes will be much, much more far-reaching. For that, I do think the media and government carry the responsibility and blame. Remember, we have been alternately told that this was nothing to be concerned about and that this is a plague that we must destroy society to combat.

Despite the way we act (see snow driving above), we do remember things. And we do remember being told this was no big deal, and then that we had to never leave the house a week later. Basically, here in Illinois, we went from ‘keep your distance’ to ‘all bars and restaurants closed’ in three days.

And that memory is still in there, somewhere.

In all the hand-wringing and pearl clutching, it looks like the consideration of what happens to people, and how we move forward isn’t top of mind. I get that, it’s only day 29 of this mess. 29 of an unknown total. We need to get through before we get past.

I would just like to see some consideration about what comes next, and how we will be dealing with it as a nation, a culture.

So, New York Did A Thing

I have commented previously on the inaccuracies of the death numbers. And, while not reflected in the below numbers, it seem that New York is going to start listing everyone that they think died of COVID-19 as actually dying of COVID-19. This is a horrible decision, and I cannot see any non-garbage reason for it. It skews the numbers tremendously, and for what reason? Seems to me that some form of political advantage is the likely candidate. As a result, the death number in New York is projected to hit 17,000 or so, which would be a fatality rate of around 8%. Of course, that’s a fake number, so when they do that, I’ll add an * to the New York listing. After all, when the state reports inaccurate information, knowingly, they earned the *.

Day 29 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 4/15/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 116,929
  • Cases: 24,593
  • Positive Test Percentage: 21.03%
  • Infection Rate: 0.194%
  • Deaths: 948
  • Case Fatality Rate: 3.85%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (12,671,821)

Day 29 In Indiana

Per the state website, as of April 14, 2020, 11:59pm, Indiana has…

  • Tested: 48,396
  • Cases: 8,955
  • Positive Test Percentage: 18.5%
  • Infection Rate: 0.133%
  • Deaths: 436
  • Case Fatality Rate: 4.87%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IN, as listed by the US Census (6,732,219)

Day 29 In New York

Per the state website, as of April 14, 2020, 11:59pm, New York has…

  • Tested: 526,012
  • Cases: 213,559
  • Positive Test Percentage: 40.60%
  • Infection Rate: 1.098%
  • Deaths: 11,586
  • Case Fatality Rate: 5.43%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of NY, as listed by the US Census (19,453,561)

Just a reminder about the ‘Day xx’ in those section headers. That is day whatever for my experience & blog. Not the actual day for the infection tally in the listed states. Just to clear up any confusion.

Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 22: It’s Come To This…Fictional Examples To Explain Reality

The first challenge of Chongg Ran is to visualize white and black simultaneously— not as gray.

-Still Life With Crows, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

As day 22 hits, I am still working from home, still forcing myself to get outside as much as possible. Mostly to the store from time to time. Yesterday was an actual doctor appointment, in person no less. Entry to the clinic was prefaced with a symptom questionnaire and taking of the temperature. The info was then written on a wristband. The doctor had one too. Once in the office, the medical staff seemed to all be masked, while one of the intake people (and yes, I forgot the right term) did, while the others didn’t bother. At least they all had them on properly, unlike the photos of politicians who don’t seem to understand that they need to cover the nose. Politicians…is there anything they can do?

In looking up that quote’s citation, I decided to re-read the series. Well, the first 12 books. I’ll be skipping the connected, but not main-line ones (Mount Dragon, Riptide, The Ice Limit). The sacrifices I make for this blog, right?

Anyway, on to the point of this post.

The Point

We, as a species, have a lot of problems. One that has come into sharp relief recently is the inability to hold two seemingly contradictory pieces of information at the same time. Think about it a bit. I got the strangest looks when I said that while I didn’t like Garth Brooks, I recognized his skill at country music. The idea that I can see quality in something I dislike was seemingly incomprehensible to people. It’s like being both a Cubs and Sox fan, it makes the head explode.

In the days of COVID-19, there are some seemingly contradictory positions that I think have merit. I believe that destroying small business by killing the economy was a wild overreaction. I also believe that staying at home is important, and keeping your distance to slow the spread is vital. However, on the gripping hand, I also believe that humans wouldn’t do the second unless the first happened. We are seeing that in cities across the world.

The Total Shutdown Of Businesses Is One Example

In other words, I think we both overreacted wildly, and reacted too slowly. How? Easy. I was seeing reports from people with friends and family in Wuhan as early as mid-late January that suggested the official Chinese numbers were completely false. Therefore, I cannot believe that the intelligence community wasn’t aware of this. In short, we should have known this was more than just a bad influenza. To clarify, yes, I am well aware this is not an influenza. However, at that time the disease was often described as such.

So, what effect did that have? Yes, we did slow the progression of the virus. But the impact is just beginning to be defined. Not understood, defined. We won’t even approach understanding for years. However, what I can see happening is a near-total loss of small businesses, independent restaurants, salons, bars, and shops. All those places without the ability to transition to drive-through only, and without the kind of obsessive customer base places like Starbucks have. So, why mention Starbucks specifically? Easy, because the lines at one Starbucks I have passed several times have been insane. Like Portillo’s levels. I wonder about the employees there, and how they are coping.

However, smaller businesses, without the base of a Starbucks? I fear they are in a lot of trouble. Maybe this was avoidable. Maybe not.

It Isn’t Just The Closings That Are Internally Conflicted

The other contradiction I want to address is the fatality numbers. As you can see, I added Indiana and New York to the daily tally below. Why did I do that? Firstly, because Indiana is right next door and seeing a very different COVID-19 than Illinois. Similarly, I added New York because they are having the worst of it just now, and I wanted to showcase those differences too. So, why do I say fatality numbers are contradictory? Simply because they are, simultaneously, over and under reported. Yes, that is confusing.

So here is how that works. Doctors in New York have stated that they are counting all deaths of patients with COVID-19 as being from COVID-19. Like I commented on last time, that leads to baked-in inaccuracies. To sum up that post, once we decided, for political purposes, to count everyone who died with AIDS as dying from AIDS, this became inevitable. But, at the same time, we are not seeing all the deaths connected to COVID-19. How? Well, that’s easy. In an average year, if I got sick with a cough and fever, I would take some Tylenol and cough drops, and deal with it. Basically, it would have to be really bad for me to go to a doctor. And then, if I died, the cause wouldn’t be known, as we usually don’t test for that. While it may be different now, I am not sure that it is.

What does that mean for the numbers? Well, what that means to me is that the counted cases are over-reported, while also under-reported. It is simultaneously black and white, so to speak.

Yeah, But So What?

At this phase of things, the reality is that we are seeing vastly different infections across the country. Using the three states below, you can see that. Ignore the differences in tests performed, and pay attention to the percentages. Specifically the positive percentage rate. Illinois and Indiana are pretty close, while New York is seeing more than double the positives. Why? I suspect it is who is being tested – that is, NY may be testing more symptomatic people than IL or IN. The case fatality rate is also interesting. While not in the same zip code as Italy, New York and Indiana are both higher than Illinois. Again, why?

What I do suspect is that the analysis of this will become a full time job. There have been failures at every level – and while I chalk most of those up to human nature or an inability to believe, they are still failures. The World Health Organization failed to accept that China would lie, and lie badly, about their numbers. People failed to understand that the virus was a virulent as it seems to be. And we still see people shouting for everyone to ignore it, since it’s ‘just a bad flu’. To them, I would suggest looking at the actual numbers.

Flu season is about 8 months long. In the 2018-19 flu season, Illinois saw an estimated 3,500 deaths; Indiana 113; and New York 4,749. These are estimated because the various states don’t show accurate numbers. Illinois provides an 10-year average, and New York has that information buried. Anyway, that’s not the point. At this time, Indiana has hit 180% of their flu deaths from 2018-19, and New York 132%. That is in only 35 days for IN, and 37 days for NY. The flu season is, by comparison, 243 days long.

So, yes, this is far worse than the seasonal flu.

Day 22 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 4/8/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 75,066
  • Cases: 15,078
  • Positive Test Percentage: 20.09%
  • Infection Rate: 0.119%
  • Deaths: 462
  • Case Fatality Rate: 3.06%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (12,671,821)

Day 22 In Indiana

Per the state website, as of April 7, 2020, 11:59pm, Indiana has…

  • Tested: 30,869
  • Cases: 5,943
  • Positive Test Percentage: 19.25%
  • Infection Rate: 0.088%
  • Deaths: 203
  • Case Fatality Rate: 3.42%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (6,732,219)

Day 22 In New York

Per the state website, as of April 7, 2020, 11:59pm, New York has…

  • Tested: 365,153
  • Cases: 149,316
  • Positive Test Percentage: 40.89%
  • Infection Rate: 0.768%
  • Deaths: 6,268
  • Case Fatality Rate: 3.68%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (19,453,561)

Just a reminder about the ‘Day 22’ in those section headers. That is day 22 for my experience & blog. Not the actual day for the infection tally in the listed states. Just to clear up any confusion.

Day 90: How Has It Been Three Months Of This Already?

Day 18: Sometimes You Need To Question Things

Something that I think is worth questioning as we hit the middle of the third week, day 18, is how numbers are being reported. This matters, since the only information we have is based on those numbers. Political decisions have been, and are being, made based on numbers. And so I looked at the numbers, and found some interesting stuff. Well, interesting to me, at least.

First, the disclaimers. I am not a data scientist, statistician, or anything else that makes this ‘expert’ analysis. I do have a decent brain (still?), and can use Excel to math for me.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that this needs to be analyzed at the lowest possible level. Responses to COVID-19 are different from place to place. The spread of the disease is different as well. Some places, like New York, are being hammered. Some places, like Chicago, not so much. And each place is, and has, approached it differently. Add in all the other places with their own approaches, and you hit an interesting problem. The best numbers are probably state-level. National numbers are good for perspective, but not for policy. Comparing US numbers to other nations is also only for perspective. We all have different people, common comorbidities, governments, health care systems, and health care quality. In short, we are not China, Iran, or Italy. Day 18 in Illinois is not the same as 18 days in elsewhere.

Ok, so let’s look at the questions that I think we need answers to regarding these numbers.

Virgin Soil Epidemics & You

The important term here is virgin soil epidemic. This term describes a new disease in a population. In that case, there is no immunity, and the population is almost defenseless. If you see a disease labeled ‘novel’, it’s likely that the virgin soil concept applies. In these cases, since there is no immunological defense, the disease is unchecked, and able to express itself at it’s fullest.

That means it kills the most people it can.

With diseases like smallpox or Ebola that death rate can be over 90%. Malaria is about 0.3%. Vaccines prevent a lot of these deaths, when available. And, of course, treatment and medical technology change those numbers wildly.

In the last 50 years, the US has dealt with two virgin soil scenarios that stick out in the public psyche. AIDS and COVID-19.

It is important to understand that AIDS and COVID are totally different in how they transmit, and that difference shows up in infection numbers and rates. Which isn’t the number I want to look at.

It’s the case fatality rate.

So…AIDS doesn’t kill people. Human immunodeficiency viruses cause AIDS, and the trashed immune system lets something else kill you. Like pneumonia. Or the flu. Listing the cause of death as AIDS is a political choice, not a medically accurate choice. I’m not arguing that point. I present that as background, not as a debate topic. Listing AIDS as cause of death or not doesn’t really matter to me, personally.

Why This Might Matter

I bring it up because we are seeing indications that the fatality rate in Italy might be way off. Not that the number of dead is off, but the cause of death is. Basically, the 15,362 deaths (as of this writing) is factoring in everyone that dies with COVID-19, not just those dying from COVID-19. The reported Italian case fatality rate is a staggering 12.32%. Those are Legionnaires disease levels. The case fatality rate in Illinois is 2.35%. Italy isn’t some third-world nation with no healthcare, so what happened?

The report was that this number is everyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, then died. Regardless of cause of death. If that is the case, then the numbers might better align with the numbers in Illinois, and elsewhere. The next question would then be, do the Illinois numbers reflect those who died from the virus, rather than with the virus?

In the end, it doesn’t matter much. The time to argue about splitting that hair is in the future. For now, it is fair to assume that if COVID-19 was not the immediate cause of death, it contributed. Just like most of us recover from the flu just fine, AIDS makes that deadly. That’s a political point to make, not a human one. It is just one of those things that makes me wonder, and gives me something to write about.

Tracking The Numbers In Illinois

I have been tracking the Illinois COVID-19 numbers. More than just the ‘Day 18’ section below. It is kind of scary, in a way. We are, on track to vastly exceed the kinds of numbers we see from influenza. At the current rates, we will be seeing about 2.5 million diagnosed cases, and 57,000 dead.

The average flu season causes 3500 deaths.

This is something far more serious than the flu, and it really needs to be thought of that way. Be safe out there.

Day 18 In Illinois

Per the state website, as of 4/4/2020 2:30 P.M., Illinois has…

  • Tested: 53,581
  • Cases: 10,357
  • Positive Test Percentage: 19.33%
  • Infection Rate: 0.082%
  • Deaths: 243
  • Case Fatality Rate: 2.35%

Infection Rate is arrived at by dividing Cases into the estimated population of IL, as listed by the US Census (12,671,821)