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COVID-19 (Models, Happenings and Expectations....Updated 5/18/20)
By: Matt Webb
About the Author: Matt Webb is not an Epidemiologist nor does he play one on TV. He has no special insight in the field except an ability to think. His background is in math, physics, chemistry and business. He started and operated multiple fiber optic engineering and manufacturing businesses over the last 35 years including several making fiber optic probes for medical sensing or treatments using light. He currently operates two such businesses, one focused on optical measurements and sensing, located in Williamsburg VA, and another focused on high power laser transmission, located in Bend Oregon. His investment and management company, Webb Holdings LLC, also happens to be the primary investor in Brass Cannon Brewing.
About this Article: This is an informational page regarding COVID-19 and tracks the Author's attempt at understanding. It many ways it is more like a Blog, being updated first weekly but now less so as we have all tired of the topic and changes are less dramatic. It started with an analysis of the SIR model for infectious disease spread, and has slowly morphed into a running commentary on the circumstances within the USA regarding COVID-19 using the models and past history as a guide to develop some rational POV of what might happen next. At all times the author accepts the seriousness of what we as a nation are going through while also making an attempt to understand why Governing entities have taken unprecedented actions this time and with this virus, in what most are STILL claiming is an unprecedented threat scenario, thereby requiring unprecedented sacrifice and unprecedented changes to the fabric of our society. The article fails to see the evidence of an unprecedented threat scenario and fails to find the rationale for applying worst case possibilities, that have never occurred, versus typical or average scenarios based upon history and similar viruses. Even a cursory look back over the last few decades, let alone the last 100 years will put the lie to all the "unprecedented" claims. In fact, the only thing that is unprecedented appears to our Governing bodies insisting that this time with this virus we must trade our Liberty for Safety. They have attempted to imprison us in our homes and laid waste to the protection enumerated in the Constitution, and we let them. So, no matter how one sees these times, they are, and will be considered as we gain our footing and finally reflect upon them, as "historic times" and we should endeavor to understand what is happening as best as possible in real time. This document will be updated from time to time as new information presents itself.
Well… this time its been about 2 weeks since the last update and we are growing weary of it all as a nation. The only real question is how wrong can all the apocalyptic screamers be before we stop them from stopping us from living, while accepting reasonable risk? This is now based upon what we know as of about 5/21/20.
So here is the thing… we don’t seem to know anymore about SARS-COV-X today than we did a month ago.
Now I am not crazy and this must not be correct as there are perhaps tens of 1000s of people working on understanding the virus, developing therapies (drugs), and vaccines and tests and accumulating data etc etc… yet we, the great unwashed, are just not being told much.
Almost anecdotally we hear claims that C19 is “incredibly contagious”, or “more contagious than any virus previously known”… but no numbers and no explanation, just claims.
The numbers we are being fed like the death numbers, reported and forecasted, are in question and radically changing. And even Dr. Birx has called into question the figures from the CDC.
And death certificates are attributing as many deaths to C19 as possible amplifying the Numerator, while we do nothing to correct the Denominator which is trying to determine how many people have had it, recovered, and no one knows (the so called asymptomatics or the anti-body testing).
So the one thing we can reasonably conclude is that the data has problems and can’t possibly be accurate, making it critical to understand that what is being reported is not representative of the population. That is, the last 48 days of data from all sources is being and will continue to be revised significantly.
We are drastically increasing testing which means we are finding more of the people who have C19 most of whom don’t even know it, but we are NOT drastically increasing testing of the population for anti-bodies, so we really don’t know if we are approaching herd immunity. Why is that not being emphasized?
Or how about this… one of the primary sources being used for tracking and projections (IHME) says that on May 7, 287,029 (not approximately 287K but 287,029 exactly) tests for C19 were performed on that day, and that they estimate that 179,508 infections will result… with a range of uncertainty from 97,109 – 354,366. So the estimate range maxima is 23% higher than the total # of tests performed! Which even a middle school math class would see the problem with. And finally they say there were 25,991 “Confirmed Cases”.
But then when you look again a week later… the same source says that May 7th actually showed Daily Data as follows: 303,398 tests, 141,733 infections (107,196-225,078), 24,963 Confirmed Cases. What to believe? Well for something as important as this, I propose you believe none of it.
aere is the screen shots taken on May 18 for the May 7th data (then the most recent “Confirmed” Data), followed by the screen of the data taken on May 21, for the May 14 data (now the most recent “Confirmed Data”) but they are not posting, so I suppose you have to trust me.
I guess the word “Confirmed” means something different when you have a PhD! A week later the daily confirmed cases are about 1.3K fewer. I don’t know what to make of that?
Or we can look at the projected deaths… the much reported “deaths have surpassed 90K” figures and “projected deaths by August 4 now at 147K”!! This is the number that was at 240K, back down to 60K then has been creeping up again as they keep changing what data is to be used.
Here is the “Total Deaths Curve” with the dotted vertical line being May 18 but the last time they have “confirmed” death data for is 10 days ago… where the rising solid line ends and the prediction was almost 148K deaths by August 4… and then right after that I am giving you the curve from today, May 21…. Where they are predicting 143K deaths by August 4 :
((Again... things are not posting.... Just go the IHME site and go often.))
And, on the same page, there is this chart recording daily deaths “confirmed” and projected daily deaths. Here are the charts from May 18 and May 21:
(( Same comments as above.))
Anyone have any trouble with the charts above? Of course! The later has an imputed wave form which certainly can’t be real. Deaths from a virus don’t work that way! It’s a reporting or data issue.
OK…. Set that all aside…..
As of May 18 about 2/3rds of the States had started a re-opening process and as of May 21all 50 Stated has begun re-opening as even the fraidy scared can’t convince themselves of the apocalypse any more… but that isn’t the problem. The problem is that many States are realizing the toll of staying closed far exceeds the toll (lies and treasure) of re-opening and the risk associated with that.
Buried beneath al the high rhetoric there is no mention of how the counting of the deaths attributed in C19 is being manipulated! The models went from millions to 250K to 60K and now back up to 150K. Not a model you would want to base public policy on…. Oh wait… we are!!!
Oh well… at least some States are starting to claim credit and patting us on the head for "doing a good job".
That is all good, but we still want answers to at least these questions:
- Were the various shut downs and restrictions necessary?
- Could fewer or alternative restrictions have worked just as well?
- Did restriction on daily life and businesses have to be compelled by Executive Order backed by force of law?
- Was SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease we now call COVID-19, as contagious as we thought/think (what is the "R Naught" aka how many infectious people does one infected person create)?
- Contagiousness aside, what is the actually mortality rate of COVID-19 (which CAN'T be known until we find or estimate the probable millions who were infected and recovered but that were not counted as cases)?
- How much of the flattening was due to distancing and increased hygiene and how much was due to early herd immunity (the prevalence of the now famous “asymptomatics”) as what may be apparent now in CA for instance?
- How could the models have been estimating numbers so far off from what is turning out to be reality and how and why did we base public policy on them?
- Does having COVID-19, even a mild case, create immunity for sure, and if so, for how long?
- Was the panic justified given the reality?
- Was there "Constitutional Malpractice"?
It is STILL expected that the ultimate total number of cases (people who ended up having had COVID-19) will be a large percentage of the population… >30% and perhaps 50% (aka ~170 million people)… as we steam roll toward herd immunity which is the light at the end of the tunnel, and it remains so.
The previous statement is bolstered by testing done by Stanford and USC and others …. including some who are not yet reporting…. concluding that we are under reporting the cases (those who have had C19 and recovered) significantly and therefore the denominator for calculating lethality, is larger by a factor or 50-85. If that were to hold for the population of the USA at large, it would mean we have had between 55-102 MILLION cases of C19 already. With 86K deaths as of 5/21 (estimated), the lethality or mortality rate may settle between 0.17% and 0.08%!!
Which raises the question again of Constitutional Malpractice at all levels of government for taking the actions they did. Should we remove that power of the Executives in the States? We The People bestowed it under various Emergency Powers Acts, and we can take it away. Should we or should we refine it at least. Limit it.
We predicted here for the last few weeks that we expected that the timing for things to start easing to be "about mid to end of April"…. we saw that happening, even though the early movers were pilloried and then found to be correct and the predicted and feared spikes and resurgences have simply not happened! Again, how wrong can the mainstream story be before you discount it?
And now as of May 21 all 50 of the States are or will be opened this weekend.
We STILL expect it to take to the end of May for things to start to look and feel more normal. It will take that long not because it has to, but there is too much invested in the panic to back off too quickly and the alternative strategies would require certain risk groups to accept the wisdom of being restricted unequally.
That is the Sweden or Florida model: restrict those most at risk, leave the rest to as much normalcy as possible.
There is also the matter of an acceptance of risk, which is how we operate every day of our lives when we choose to drive a car, or go out of our houses to engage the world in any manner or fashion. We note that we accept risk of disease every single day as well, with some, such as heart disease, or stroke or cancer or diabetes, being significantly more lethal every single year than COVID-19, by large factors!
Instead, we have decided to allow our Governing entities to take our property and our jobs. To take our livelihoods!! More than 36 MILLION have lost their jobs and many will not have jobs to go back to because large numbers of smaller businesses will simply not reopen. And because we have now made it possible to have income equal to, or even more than, when working. We have removed incentive until at least the benefits run out, which they will. It will also take time for people in general to decide to take vacations or travel or just go eat out at a restaurant, because patterns have been changed and it takes time to reform habits.
Then there is the pressure from the radicals who actually think everything that has happened is good for society! They say inane things like “see this is what we need to do to drive emitted CO2 down to the levels necessary to save the planet”… implying that we need to keep this going. Or, the truly insane comment that “going back to work is actually giving up Liberty!”… meaning, if you can get paid to not work, why work??… see we can do it… we’ll pay you to be a lump on your couch and that is real freedom! Even the Lady of the Lake in the House is talking about using this “opportunity” to discuss a Minimum Basic Income… again, pay the populace to do nothing. These people, not withstanding economic degrees, do not understand where money comes from!
So, all together, given all the pressures and disturbances from all sides, it seems rational to conclude that it may take 5 years or more to rebuild the economy to where it was and we might also conclude that certain sectors of the economy will have permanently changed as other acceptable methods to exchange value in some sectors have necessarily been developed and implemented and may not be abandoned going forward.
From here which had even more detail… there is just a bare minimum and links to resources:
((Deleted was the mathematical model explanation for disease spread, but there is a great animated presentation about the SIR Infectious Disease Spread model and the equations behind it, put out by a Stanford Mathematician, and understandable by anyone, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxAaO2rsdIs&feature=youtu.be ))
Some other links worth being familiar with (and it is interesting to grab numbers from the Time Machine to see how they have changed!):
CDC facts and figures for COVID-19
CDC info on this (2019-2020) flu season:
IMHE Projections for USA COVID-19:
Article on the Imperial College of London that started the 500K dead prediction for the UK and millions dead in the USA which has been backed off:
Historical look at Viruses:
CDC info on H1N1 (from 2009/2010):
We gave the government extraordinary power under declarations of emergency acts, and are apparently willing to trade liberty for safety. But, are we just losing liberty while they redistribute the wealth of the nation to the point that we can't go back? Either way, it should all be explained in plain language. They treat us like children as we have apparently decided that benevolent neo-royals are desirable, or at least, should be permitted.
During the 2017-18 flu season CDC says about 38% of the adult population were vaccinated, which was a drop of 6.2% from the previous season (yes… fewer people are getting vaccinated)… and while 38% is a good number it could/should easily have been higher. one might note that 38% inoculated plus those that caught the flu this season is amazingly close to the estimate of herd immunity! And that means that if everyone were REQUIRED to get the flu vaccine each year, we might have saved between 12K-30K (THOUSAND) lives!
Just asking… why don’t we seem to care about that?
And since forcing people to get vaccinated would be antithetical to a free society, can we use some of the pork barrel spending to educate and inform to raise the rates of vaccination?
The latest flu data from CDC is once again here:
And note that the pandemic of the Spanish Flu (an H1N1 virus) of 1918, in an unvaccinated environment where flattening the curve was not known, produced a 0.65% mortality rate in the USA and that was given the state of medical arts and accessibility 100 years ago (for example no ventilators approaching anything modern until the1950s) and no antibiotics and such! What makes us think this coronavirus so lethal... I wish someone would explain!
or better… https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-iry-fullyhosted_011&hsimp=yhs-fullyhosted_011&hspart=iry&p=The+genesis+of+the+1918+pandemic#id=1&vid=76d0b7b8cac08e00d264840d00b062b7&action=click
All we have heard is "The Sky Is Falling"... but every time we look, the Emperor is without clothes!
Said a different way, the estimates that have been forced upon us incessantly, are extreme worst case guesses or gross overestimates of the most unlikely scenarios.
Think H1N1 when it cycled through again 10 years ago… no statewide shut downs. There were a small number of schools that closed for a while (not the rest of the year, as some states have done), and there were some isolated “hot” locations that limited services and business operations, briefly, so….. one might see all that as relatively unabated spread to herd immunity. What happened?
In the 2009-2010 season of H1N1: 60 million were infected, 275K required hospitalization, and 13K died (about 4X fewer than we kill on our highways every single year). And somehow… this did not overwhelm our healthcare system, and many can’t even remember it!!