Lion of the Blogosphere

An April 14th virus update

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, because the commenters were such morons I couldn’t take it. But I feel it’s important at this time to write an update about the coronavirus.

Good news is that the virus turned out to be on the lower end of the estimates of its deadliness. This is not a surprise to me. Back on February 3rd I suggested that the virus could have a total infected fatality rate of as little as 0.5%, but that would in turn mean that the virus was actually more contagious and much more likely to become a global pandemic, which is what did happen.

Throughout February and into March, I beat the drums about our total failure to test anyone. The reason we needed to test back then was because the coronavirus was hiding amongst people who had normal flu and other previously existing and less deadly viruses.

The situation with testing is totally different now. Based on the U.S. health map from Kinsa we see that we’ve almost eliminated all contagious illnesses. Normally, at this time of the year, approximately 2.41% of the population is sick with something that would show up in the Kinsa data, but that is now down to 0.17%. And probably, most of the 0.17% have the coronavirus because it’s the most contagious virus out there. Enforced and voluntary social distancing has eliminated more illnesses than just the coronavirus.

So this means that there is no longer any benefit to testing people. It’s more sensible to assume that anyone with illness has the coronavirus. Not only because probably most people who are ill right now do have the coronavirus, but also because (1) false negatives and positives means that the tests aren’t totally reliable anyway; and (2) it’s better to prevent all viruses from spreading to prevent the deadly coronavirus from hiding amongst the less deadly flu and other viruses as it did in January through early March.

So a lot of news articles I see saying stuff like “in order to re-open the economy we must be able to do mass testing,” those articles are totally wrong. It’s another example of people being reactive instead of proactive. Trying to do what we should have been doing two months ago instead of doing what we should be doing today.

So what should be doing today?

(1) We need to totally abandon the social norm we used to have that it’s OK to go to work or leave the house to do other activities if you’re sick. We need a new norm that sick people stay home. Ideally, we should enforce it by using those high-tech IR thermometers that can measure your temperature by just pointing it at your forehead.

Ideally, we need to change some things about our system of labor that encourages people to work while sick. Most people don’t have an adequate number of sick days or vacation days or whatever. Many work as non-regular employees and get no time off from work at all, for whatever reason, without losing pay. If everyone had six weeks of discretionary paid time off each year, they wouldn’t feel the need to go to work if they are sick.

(2) Initially, we need to keep closed the things that were the biggest vectors for spreading the coronavirus, and I’ve previously identified what they were:

Religious gatherings. This was the single biggest vector for spreading the virus, but the hardest to get Western countries to actually restrict. Even in Muslim countries, where they take their religion very seriously, the governments shut down mosques while stupid Western countries left their religious places open.

Travel and tourism. Crowded tourist attractions like theme parks and museums and Las Vegas casinos need to stay shut.

Conferences and conventions (really a subset of travel and tourism)

Cruise ships. Also a subset of tourism, but such a big risk factor for spreading infectious diseases it needs its own mention. Even when it was blindingly obvious back in February that cruise ships were a very bad idea when there was a dangerous virus on the loose, governments refused to shut them down.

Business meetings, because crowding a bunch of people into a small meeting room is a bad idea with respect to preventing the spread of contagious diseases. Meet on Zoom, god damn it. Without in-person business meetings, most white collar workers can work from home as well as they can at the office.

Crowded restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It’s hard to imagine bars and nightclubs being able to open in a way that’s safe, but restaurants would be pretty safe with rules like no one standing inside the restaurant either at the bar or waiting for a table. Close bar areas and make people wait outside of the restaurant if there are no tables to seat them.

Weddings and funerals.

(3) Public transportation is going to spread contagious diseases because people squeezed together in a subway or bus for an extended period of time is just not good. But we can require people to wear face masks in order to ride public transportation. Anyone not wearing a face mask should be kicked off, and given a fine. Of course, that means we need to actually be able to provide face masks for people, and they are still in short supply. We’re sending everyone a stimulus check, why can’t the government also send everyone some face masks?

Will the pandemic mean that, going forward, dumb liberals will stop promoting public transportation as being superior to personal automobiles? (Although it should be acknowledged that car accidents are a serious risk that we have chosen to ignore. We can’t get safer self-driving cars soon enough.)

(4) Schools. All the evidence we have so far is that schools are not as big risk factors as the things I mentioned above. Young people seem to be less likely to catch the virus and less likely to spread it compared to adults. I would have thought that college dorms, with young people living together and foreign Chinese students returning to classes after winter break, would be the first places where there would be virus outbreaks, but it didn’t happen. Instead, there are big virus outbreaks wherever old people live together, like in nursing homes. It seems that the older you are, the more likely you are to catch it and spread it.

So in a world with sane virus-prevention policies, schools would be re-opened before religious services. But I don’t think we live in a sane world so I predict it will not happen that way.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 14, 2020 at 12:47 PM

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