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Opinion: We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April (wsj.com)
125 points by welpandthen 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 372 comments

> Herd immunity has been well-documented in the Brazilian city of Manaus, where researchers in the Lancet reported the prevalence of prior Covid-19 infection to be 76%, resulting in a significant slowing of the infection.

What, the linked study proves the opposite. A massive amount of death in Manaus in 2021, despite 'herd immunity' measured in October 2020. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6...

> Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth.

Does he hear himself? You can't really liken wild guesses that lead to complacency/death as hiding the truth. It sounds like this guy should really stick to surgery.

It should be noted that WSJ’s opinion section is extremely politicized. Their regular news desk is separately edited and maintains decently high journalistic standards.

It's pretty weird actually. The news desk for the WSJ is among the best out there. Their news stories tend to be really dry in a good way - full of facts and figures, with very little in the way of click bait hyperbole. Their subscriber model is all about business people who want the details and not opinion...

Which then makes the opinion desk at the WSJ a real oddball. It's consistently right-leaning, sometimes to the point of absurdity. I would think that a more varied field of opinion would resonate better with their target reader... but what do I know.

Isn't that the point of Op-Ed sections, at the end of the day? It's always been a way for newspapers to host what's effectively a glorified collection of Medium posts. Even the New York Times' Opinion page is consistently partisan.

I'm not sure the New York Times is a good example here. It's definitely not just their opinion page that is partisan these days, and whilst this does seem to have gotten worse I'm not sure there was exactly a golden era - they seem to have always been particularly keen on pushing narratives.

Yeah, I don't disagree. My question was targeted more at folks that specifically find the WSJ Op-Ed to be objectionable; in my experience those same people tend to consider the NYT's Op-Ed to be less objectionable (caveat: I'm operating on an N of like 4).

The most internally consistent position, IMO, is that Op-Eds are all partisan and should all be abolished, in every paper. They once served a useful purpose, but are arguably no longer necessary in a world where everyone can post an opinionated blog post on Medium/Substack/etc and broadcast it out to the world via Twitter/Mastodon/etc more or less for free.

This article we're commenting on is just an interesting (if potentially dubious) blog post by a surgeon, and nothing more than that.

"Op-Ed" literally means "Opposite the editorial page." It's a place in the newspaper specifically reserved for opinion, not news.


Huh. I'd always assumed it meant "opinions/editorials". But numerous reliable sources confirm what the Wikipedia page says. Nifty. Thanks.

Every time I accidentally stumble on the opinion section, I think to myself "today is the day I cancel my subscription."

I'm hoping they Do Something about it. Just make it a separate $10/month add-on and see what the uptake is.

The weirdest part is this leads to frequent items where the Op-Ed page makes factual claims that are directly contradicted by the news section in the same issue.

The recent opinion section, no less by the Editorial Board, at WSJ claimed that focusing on renewable energy sources led to the Texas power cuts [1].

While the paper, on the same day itself, reported the opposite [2].

Links: 1) https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-deep-green-freeze-11613411002... 2) https://www.wsj.com/articles/texas-freeze-power-grid-failure...

This isn't particularly unusual. The opinion section is a fine place for dissenting views. Consider a news article covering the abuse of elderly in a nursing home, with an opinion piece defending (or explaining, or whatever) the nursing home - this could be good.

There's a difference between explaining and defending the abuse the news-side reported, and saying that the abuse never happened and the news side is wrong/lying/etc.

IMO, the Financial Times is a good alternative to WSJ.

Global perspective but still does deep dives into American issues; not owned by Murdoch; opinion desk not insane; soothing peach background color in both paper and online editions.

I’m tempted to subscribe, if only it weren’t so comically expensive.

Not to mention the superb gardening column

It makes sense in a “game theory” kind of way. Writers/influencers will want a pulpit and a huge chunk of the population wants to read political rhetoric rather than dry news. I think I prefer this approach to something like NYT or (esp) WaPo where the news is so intermixed with the agenda that they are almost indistinguishable.

BBC with more extensive coverage (more than just the breaking news) would be my ideal model.

This has generated tension within the WSJ itself: https://www.wsj.com/articles/wsj-journalists-ask-publisher-f...

isn't OP-ed synonym for what they generally disagree with (e.g. to allow them to claim they're "listening to both sides") ?

relevant example from this week is Australia, where editor in chief for the Murdoch conglomerate has no answer to why they banish all articles about climate change science to the Opinions sections.


"op-ed" derived from "opposite the editorial page", i.e. recto to the editorial page's verso. In general, the op-eds do not vary that much from editorials. The NY Times always has conservative columnists that it runs, but they are not necessarily that far right.

I always thought it was Opinion/Editorial.

> It should be noted that WSJ’s opinion section is extremely politicized.

All opinion sections of every major news outlet is extremely politicized. In almost all cases, the non-opinion sections are edging towards being extremely politicized as well.

> What, the linked study proves the opposite. A massive amount of death in Manaus in 2021, despite 'herd immunity' measured in October 2020.

That is not a study. It is an editorial. It "proves" nothing, and instead advances a few alternative theories that might explain the discrepancy. However, it is not a complex situation. The following quote from the editorial is consistent with my personal belief after reading the original paper [1] that made the herd immunity claim:

"The 76% estimate of past infection might have been biased upwards due to adjustments to the observed 52·5% (95% CI 47·6–57·5) seroprevalence in June, 2020, to account for antibody waning."

This is true, but it understates the extent of the authors "adjustments". If you look at the original paper (Figure 2; linked below), they adjusted the raw data upward by a factor of about 3x. It is an...aggressive...modification to the raw data.

The parsimonious explanation for what is being observed in Manaus is that the Science paper claiming herd immunity was wrong. The authors of this Lancet editorial go to great lengths to advance alternative explanations involving "variants", but these are all unfounded, convoluted alternatives. The simplest explanation is that the original paper was wrong.

[1] https://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6526/288

The latest episode of TWiV massacres the paper. It’s a good listen.


I definitely found an epidemiologist on Twitter giving out about that study. The Science study used a convenience sample, which makes me believe that it's a very biased estimate of sero-prevalance.

Yeah, there are possible issues with the way the Science paper collected their sample, as well. The authors of the Lancet editorial allude to this in the next sentence:

"furthermore, comparisons of blood donors with census data showed no major difference in a range of demographic variables, and the mandatory exclusion of donors with symptoms of COVID-19 is expected to underestimate the true population exposure to the virus."

Here, the Lancet writers are trying to argue that the sample wasn't that biased, and therefore the Science paper was right, and therefore the current infections are due to "variants".

It's a very weird and convoluted argument. Comparison to demographic variables is irrelevant, and the second sentence doesn't address the actual concern with the Science paper (i.e. testing in Brazil was rare at the time of the study, so people with Covid sought out the study). Regardless, I think it's a red herring. It doesn't matter if the sample was biased or not -- you can look at the data as collected, and see that the upward adjustments were so aggressive that the conclusion of the Science paper is likely to be wrong.

The only thing we can learn from Manaus is that waiting for herd immunity is a very bad idea.


The economic damage is being done by the pandemic: people aren’t going to congregate when it’s risky and many businesses can’t survive without high in-person volume. Having lockdowns can get you back to the point where businesses can safely operate with community spread control measures (see e.g. Australia or Taiwan).

What won’t work is attacking medical precautions or dissembling about vaccine effectiveness — and on that latter point, if you are really worried about variants the best way to stop them is carefully following medical advice to prevent community spread because each person who gets infected is something on the order of 10e9 chances for a new mutation which is more competitive. If people had worn masks and locked down a year ago this wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad a situation.

"Having lockdowns can get you back to the point where businesses can safely operate with community spread control measures (see e.g. Australia or Taiwan)."

How do you explain Florida, not locked down, vs. California with some of the strictest lock downs in the country having similar rates of death/infection?

It's even more of a puzzler for those pushing lockdowns since Florida has a population tilted way more in the elderly direction and per capita CA has a population tilted way more in the younger direction. Even if both were locked down you would expect Florida to have more infections simply from the age of its population. Instead they aren't locked down so it should be the apocalypse, no?

All as we pass the year anniversary of "six weeks to slow the spread" :p

The US hasn’t tried anything like a strict lockdown anywhere in the country – we came close for a few weeks last spring but relaxed several weeks too soon – so I think what we’re showing is that this works as well as cutting a course of antibiotics early.

In particular, we didn’t have a good economic plan for people who couldn’t work from home. Absent some alternative, economic necessity will force people to leave their houses and that will ensure community spread goes up without more care than was in evidence in much of the country.

At this rate, the No True Scotsman fallacy is going to be renamed to No True Lockdown.

I’m sorry that you haven’t followed the topic carefully but it’s hardly a logical fallacy to say that not doing what epidemiologists recommended doesn’t mean following their advice wouldn’t have worked, especially when you can look at countries like Australia which did a harder lockdown and have seen the predicted benefits.

So in that case, you're willing to say that under current conditions in the US, mask wearing and restrictions on things like dining are pointless, right? If "lockdown" can only be expected to produce results in its strongest form and we can't do that, that seems like the logical conclusion.

Any improvement over nothing is worth having. Just because the large number of lockdown deniers make the kinds of lockdowns seen elsewhere in the developed world impossible, doesn’t mean the level of compliance that is possible isn’t worthwhile.

The experience from the Spanish Flu, which seems to have similar overall lethality, is instructive. Many developed countries managed to lock down to some extent and keep the death rate from around 0.5% to 1.5% of the population. India failed to manage any significant lockdown at all and the death rate was a staggering 5% of the population.

> Any improvement over nothing is worth having.

Sure, only if you completely disregard the massive costs to these mitigations. The costs in terms of lost educations, lost careers, mental health, isolation, etc, etc, etc.... those all have to be factored into the equation. Sadly we are 11 months into this and people are still pretending like there are no costs.

To make lockdowns worthwhile, you'd have to demonstrate orders of magnitude fewer hospitalizations and deaths. Haggling over which country or state did better than the other by 5% or 8% simply means that even if the lockdowns worked, their benefits are almost certainly not worth the costs.

The impacts of lockdowns (or any NPI) should be clear as day to the common person looking at the data. Thus far, all I see are people nit-picking tiny differences between regions. Which to me is a very strong indicator that they were not worth the cost at all.

In short, your line of thinking is a perfect demonstration of covid myopia. Nothing else but covid has mattered for 11 months. I strongly assert that covid myopia is a disease far worse than the virus. Civilizations in the future will remember this period for our myopic focus on one specific risk to the exclusion of everything else--the virus itself will be but a small footnote in history.

> Sure, only if you completely disregard the massive costs to these mitigations.

As far as monetary costs go this is really easy to do if you just force businesses to close and send them on their way with a pittance. Is there anything you can’t afford, as long as someone else is picking up the tab?

> Any improvement over nothing is worth having. Just because the large number of lockdown deniers make the kinds of lockdowns seen elsewhere in the developed world impossible, doesn’t mean the level of compliance that is possible isn’t worthwhile.

Great, so we agree that at any given level of lockdown, we should see some kind of marginal benefit vs less lockdown, right? So it does in fact make sense to compare outcomes between California, New York, and Florida?

It makes sense given the level of actual compliance with lockdown restrictions yes. It's the behaviour that matters not the rules. As I said previously and we seem to agree, rates of compliance in the US generally are relatively low and that varies even within the US. Demographics is an issue, for example California has several very large low income urban sprawls where lockdown compliance was minimal.

I'm making no moral judgement here, people are under severe hardship and we all have to make our decisions on our own circumstances, but it is what it is. What we do also has an impact on others.

I’d be hesitant to call the issue preventing simply closing up for a few weeks (which I agree should have happened) “lockdown deniers”. We’re had mass protests and riots by the same people apparently for the lockdowns and the more recent scandals with politicians of all stripes caught breaking their own restrictions on indoor dining, not wearing masks, or breaking travel recommendations to fly to vacation homes. The problem there’s a myriad of problems, the most original likely being that covid got politicized in the first place.

That’s like saying that failing to stop your car before you crash means you shouldn’t bother braking at all. Masks have repeatedly been shown to work, indoor dining has repeatedly been shown to be high risk in addition to being an optional luxury, and there’s no world in which we want more spread even if we’d prefer less.

All those things could be true and perhaps banning indoor dining does slow the spread. But is it worth the cost? Why do all these discussions focus only on solving for covid and completely ignoring the costs?

If banning indoor dining across the state of California results in one fewer person getting hospitalized is it worth it? What if it keeps 10 people out of the hospital?

More generalized, how much benefit does a blanket lockdown have to provide for it to be worth the immense costs. I'm using "cost", by the way, inthe most holistic hippy way possible. Costs include:

-- destroyed mental health

-- Peoples life work getting shut down by the government

-- careers development stalled

-- childhood education

-- Cancer research getting sidelined

-- Preventative healthcare checkups being skipped

-- Lost milestones like prom, graduation, awkward teenage dating not happening

-- pets not getting routine care because vet appointments are now a pain in the ass

-- car oil changes being deferred by 3 months

-- adoptions not being performed

-- dating lives being put on hold

-- people putting off having kids

-- infants not seeing human faces can't be good news

-- physical health being put on hold (closed gyms)

-- and on and on and on. It doesn't take much imagination to see the costs are tremendous.

I assert for a lockdown to be worthwhile it has to have such a profound impact on the trajectory of the virus that it is indisputable to the common person. Not only that, but it has to be orders of magnitude better than no lockdown.

If somebody is going to argue "see, lockdowns work... this region did 5% better than that region"... I just roll me eyes. It just means we flushed 11 months of people's lives down the toilet for almost no real gain.

It’s not like saying that, because nobody has claimed that crashing into another car at 5 mph is the same as crashing into it at 60. When you claim that only “hard lockdowns” (and note the circular reasoning inherent) can have the measurable effects claimed ahead of time, that’s what you’re saying.

Nobody has tried to claim that at any point in this thread. You are the only one trying to reduce this to a two-sided issue, which it's not.

Not pointless. It we obviously aren’t in “lockdown”. Go to a restaurant and you’ll see dozens of people eating indoors without masks on.

If one football team got beat 8-0, and another football team got beat 9-1, should we really be spending time arguing about which team is better when they're both pretty obviously not very good?

No, we shouldn't argue about which one is better.

If we're coaching the team that lost 0-8, we shouldn't try to run the playbook of the team that lost 1-9 in the next game. Especially when that playbook cripples our players in other ways--perhaps academically (to expand your analogy).

It's not about teams, it's about attempting to evaluate the counterfactual. If the difference between the US and Australia is primarily due to lockdowns, you would expect to see areas with more lockdown do better than areas with less. Much better, to a degree that drowns out any noise, since the overall difference is so vast. And that really doesn't seem to be what we observe.

You're acting like there were parts of the US in 100% lockdown vs 0% lockdown, when the difference is a lot more like 20% (max) vs 10%, and it's a lot harder to suss out any difference in result when the difference in practice is that small.

If lockdown explains most of the variance between Australia's 1k deaths and America's 500k deaths, then the difference between 10% and 20% lockdown should still be very visible.

That doesn't follow. Imagine the effective spread ("Re") of a disease averages 1.5. Certain external factors, such as climate, population density, access to medicine, diet, etc. can cause a 0.2 plus or minus variance in Re. So, 1.3-1.7 range. Each 10% of lockdown will cause a 10% reduction in that amount. So if Florida does a 10% lockdown, its Re will be somewhere in the 1.3-1.7 range reduced by 10% or 1.17-1.53. If California does a 20% lockdown, its Re will be in the 1.04-1.36 range. California, if "unlucky" can still have a worse Re (1.36) than Florida if "lucky" (1.17). Meanwhile Australia at a say 70% lockdown would see numbers in the 0.39-0.51 range, well below sustained transmission levels even if "unlucky."

Makes sense. Thanks for doing out the math, that's pretty convincing to me.

Few relationships in the real world are linear. That is just an assumption that makes the math easier.

Sure, but there's a point where the hypothesis just becomes unfalsifiable. Is there any evidence that would convince you lockdown policy isn't the primary factor here?

That's a big "if" at the beginning of your sentence.

I'm not sure what you mean. That was the "if" that started this comment thread - an assertion that the US would be back to normal already if only it had done what Australia did.

What this seems to hint at is that doing the absolute laziest possible, mostly-voluntary "lockdown" (ala the "lockdowns" we've seen in America) does not accomplish very much.

It's like claiming a brand of toothpaste isn't very effective because you brushed your teeth once a week and still experienced the same level of tooth decay as somebody who never brushed at all. Is it the toothpaste's fault, or your fault because you were too lazy to brush your teeth more than once per week? There's not enough data to say. Maybe it was a truly ineffective toothpaste and no amount of brushing would have helped. You don't know enough to say.

Calling anything we've tried in America a "lockdown" is laughable, considering how voluntary and unenforced it was. Lockdown, my ass. More like a polite suggestion to stay at home that most of the country ignored whenever they felt like it.

Perhaps, but meanwhile we're forcibly closing certain businesses and hurting those. I would know, I own one that has been greatly affected (a bar).

For reference, my customers starting hanging out at the strip club instead, which didn't have the restrictions imposed (it was based on liquor licenses, which they don't have in my state).

So, the lockdown was ineffective at controlling the population or spread, but it still managed to smack my business around.

Are you responding to the wrong post, here?

I don't recall denying that this lockdown has been disastrous for many businesses. You typed that out as if you were disagreeing or offering a counterpoint. Is anybody on Earth even denying the impact this has had on businesses?

I work in the restaurant industry, FWIW. Nobody needs to tell me how disastrous this has been for certain businesses.

More importantly than my post, though: I'm truly sorry your bar has been nailed by this while local strip clubs, of all things, have been allowed to operate. That is freaking absurd. I hope your bar can survive and prosper again soon. I have lost a business myself, prior to the pandemic. It's beyond heartbreaking.

Seconding your point: I think hard lockdowns are the only way to halt spread prior to mass vaccination and that’s devastating for businesses if we don’t do anything to help make up lost pay for workers, assist businesses with rent, etc. In some cases you might be able to soften it – pay restaurants to make delivery meal packs for high-risk people, etc. – but something like a bar, movie theater, mall retail shop, etc. in most cities probably doesn’t have an option to pay their rent in most areas without close to normal levels of customer traffic even if most of their staff are laid off.

It’d be expensive but other parts of the economy are booming and one point of having things like government debt is recognizing that it helps smooth the impact of disasters. We should be doing a WWII victory bond campaign investing in local businesses.

Thanks for the well-wishes. We've been established a long time (about to celebrate 11 years) and I am very financially conservative, so the business had enough capital to go multiple years if we were closed down (no payroll, minimal utilities) and still re-open.

We've sporadically been able to open normal hours, reduced hours, reduced capacity, and all kinds of other restricted levels of activity, which has resulted in terrible sales, but smaller losses than we would normally have.

It truly is a very small business (9 employees) so its operational cost is pretty low.

I pointed out the strip clubs, but of course the casinos are allowed to continue operation as well. They avoided literally all of the regulations we had to obey: capacity, forced social distancing, reduced hours, etc. And of course they don't have the taboo aspect that some people feel with strip clubs, so they've been nice and busy. I have to imagine they're lining the governor's pockets to enjoy such a privileged status.

laughable or not, the American lockdowns certainly destroyed plenty of livelihoods and devastated a thriving economy where wages were finally rising for the majority.

what would a proper lockdown look like to you anyway? I uniformed officer at your front door forcing you to remain inside?

I work in the restaurant industry. I definitely understand how disastrous this has been for particular sectors.

Do you think that I was somehow denying that?

When I called our "lockdowns" laughable, clearly I was referring to their effectiveness w.r.t. stopping the virus.

Clearly I was not referring to business impact. That was a point I didn't mention. Is anybody even disputing this has been rough on certain businesses?!?!

California does have twice the population as Florida and a much, much larger economy.

It could just be that all the elderly Floridians sit at home in gated communities, while Californians are more likely to be going-in to work surrounded by a much larger, more dense population.

Could also be an effect of prevalence of multi-generational housing. Perhaps the elderly Floridians are more concentrated in gated community-type housing, and not living with extended family in a smaller living space.

No. First, how do YOU explain Australia having 900 deaths for 25m people, and the US having OVER FIVE HUNDRED TIMES THAT (499k) for 328m?

It’s an island and regularly shut down air travel to control infections coming in?

The “lockdowns could work if we just tried” view is falsified by the situation in Germany. If Germans lack the discipline to do it, then nobody can do it. Some countries like Australia got lucky because their geography made it easy, but it’s not practical elsewhere.

I'm not sure why you think that it being an island has anything to do with anything. It doesn't. Yes, the fact that they LOCKED DOWN had a lot to do with why their infection rate is so low. That is exactly my point; thank you for acknowledging that it is correct.

Pick a country with a flat line from here: https://www.euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps/

Northern Ireland vs Ireland is one of the interesting ones.

Where I live, people pay little attention. Restaurants, bars, gyms, and grocery stores are all packed. In the latter case most (not all) people wear masks. I think lockdowns are impacting the economy much more than the pandemic itself. Most people do not seem to be that worried in the absence of government policies.

> I think lockdowns are impacting the economy much more than the pandemic itself.

Well of course.

The USA is at nearly 500K deaths. But we've got a population of 328 Million. The economy won't notice the loss of on 0.15% of the population. It's nothing more than a rounding error.

But isn't that a terrible way to think of it? Think about what you're implying here. How many people should we allow to die just to keep the economy afloat?

I’m not implying anything, I was addressing the GP claim that the pandemic was the primary factor impacting the economy rather than lockdowns. I suspect what what I’m saying I see locally would likely end up the same nationally: eliminate restrictions and economic activity will return to near pre-pandemic levels with only a slight hit from people too worried to go out even with a mask.

My personal feelings are actually simultaneously that we worry way too much about economics rather than human factors but also that personally, I don’t feel that the measures we are taking to counter Covid are worth it for noneconomic reasons, but I can respect that other people feel differently.

Ah. The ‘it works on an isolated island with 5 million people’ fantasy.

Except it doesn’t work on continents with billions of people with multiple governments.

And then the magical mask fairytale. If only people had worn masks this would all be over. Except now it turns out people have to wear three masks on top of each other. How could that be if masks had solved all the problems? The answer is clear: they don’t.

There is no point in blameshifting to people that ‘didn’t wear the masks and didn’t lock down’.

Also it is 100% clear that tons of people can’t wait to be allowed to visit each other. Claiming ‘people aren’t going to congregate’ is simply a lie. In the Netherlands we had one test event with 1500 tickets and over 100000 people applied for a ticket. They can’t wait to congregate.

Is China an isolated island? How about Vietnam?

And no, land borders don't matter that much. They aren't a strong infection vector. You can just close the borders. The vast majority of infections come from air travel, not land travel that is essentially zero.

Were also not taking about the EU here, the Article is American, and there aren't a billion people neither in Europe nor in North America.

Incidentally, the modalities for the Schengen zone allow authorities to close down borders in such circumstances.

The island argument is a mirage. We're in 2021, land travel can be brought to ~0 and air travel always was the dominant vector of infection.

I presume you have never been in Europe. There barely any borders to close and a lot of people live in one country and work in another. You can’t block that for a year.

In Baarle Nassau in the Netherlands there is a store, and half of it is in the Netherlands and half of it is in Belgium.

By the way, air travel has been ~0 for a year now. Unfortunately it has not in fact stopped the pandemic. Must be the no true lockdown: if it doesn’t work we just say it wasn’t strict enough.

Canada closed some of the internal borders between its provinces; something that has never happened before. Some road blocks, some of its based simply on the honour system. Here in Ontario, I cannot legally visit anywhere east of Quebec right now without quarantining on arrival for 2 weeks. And some remote communities are literally barricaded from entry.

Wow! No wonder Canada beat covid-19. Oh wait, they didn’t. But at least they are in the worst economic depression in decades.

The regions that did quarantine themselves like that (the Atlantic provinces) are in fact doing much better than the rest of the country. Newfoundland is in near-total suppression. Though unlike some others in this thread I do believe being an island is helpful, even if just psychologically.

i don't know why you're being downvoted.

This statement is true "Must be the no true lockdown: if it doesn’t work we just say it wasn’t strict enough."

any criticism of the lockdowns is met with "you didn't lockdown enough".

When someone says "you didn't lockdown enough", I hear “you didn’t destroy enough people’s livelihoods”.

Last time I checked, Australia is a continent with 26 million people, mostly urban, and strong travel ties throughout the world. Taiwan isn’t big but they’d be at the top of the list of countries you’d expect to get hit by an outbreak in China given travel patterns.

Nobody is saying masks are 100% effective but the scientific consensus has been clear since last spring that they sharply reduce transmission rates. Epidemics are all about cutting those rates, and a minor inconvenience is about as cheap as you can buy a reduction. Certainly better than getting advice from someone who’s going to claim South Korea is a sparsely-populated island to avoid having to admit credulously repeating untrustworthy sources.

"Also it is 100% clear that tons of people can’t wait to be allowed to visit each other. Claiming ‘people aren’t going to congregate’ is simply a lie. In the Netherlands we had one test event with 1500 tickets and over 100000 people applied for a ticket. They can’t wait to congregate."

I'm not up to date on the situation in the Netherlands. Is it that you can do anything you want if you have a negative test? Because otherwise, I don't think that anecdote means what you want it to mean.

No, they are going to run an event with 1500 people as a test, a small dance festival. They also had a football match with two low ranked teams playing for a live crowd. The papers proudly proclaimed that that football match had trouble selling its tickets, as proof of the ‘nobody wants to congregate’ theory. It’s unsurprising though, considering this game wouldn’t quite sell out in a normal situation. To those people it did come as quite a surprise that a dance festival that offered 1500 tickets got over 100000 reservations.

People can’t wait to get together and while most people do follow the measures many would stop the second it was no longer required. But some people have locked themselves in their home for a year now and think everyone is like that. That’s not quite true.

>There is no point in blameshifting to people that ‘didn’t wear the masks and didn’t lock down’.

If we accept your analysis, we can say this serves a political purpose.

I give up. First it's hoax, then it's just a bad flu, then it's going to disappear like magic, then a second wave is impossible, then it's that vaccines aren't necessary and don't work. Meanwhile, people die in their thousands per day and the death toll piles up and hospitals get over-run with dying patients.

As for lockdowns, we know from analysis of the Spanish Flu epidemic that cities with successful lockdowns suffered less economically, because cities that didn't lock down had worse outbreaks that lead to longer lasting deeper economic damage. China had the mother of all lockdowns and is back to robust economic growth, and yes comparing the US or Europe to small island states makes no sense, but China isn't a small island state.

You know what, I don't care. There's no vaccine required to be immune to facts. Whatever you claim to believe, when it's proved wrong and predictions based on it fail to happen you'll just come up with some other bullshit to believe instead. Whatever.

> Spanish Flu epidemic that cities with successful lockdowns suffered less economically

You realize that during no time when the Spanish Flu was around did they lockdown for 11 months right? The lockdowns you are taking about there are small, localized events. Not huge ones that affected large regions and had year long durations.

The only reason we were able to keep this lockdown afloat is because privileged people like you and me get to work from home and have zoom. Had Covid hit even two decades ago, we wouldn't be doing any of this at all. We'd have sucked it up and got on with our lives as best we could.

> There's no vaccine required to be immune to facts.

You are arguing morality, something which science can help guide but cannot dictate. Science doesn't tell us to lockdown for a year. Society does. Science might provide insight as to what effects a year long lockdown might have (hint: science hasn't a clue... we have no priors to this at all). Science cannot tell us to lockdown. It cannot even tell us to wear masks. That too is a values thing and is guided by what society values.

Even if lockdowns worked and were proven so by a bunch of statistically valid random studies (which don't exist, by the way)... it is still upon a well informed society to decide if it is worth doing (note: I don't think most people are well informed about covid at all... the average person overestimates their risk of covid death by about 1000x).

> Spanish Flu epidemic

Trying to compare now to >100 years ago is full of all kinds of bad assumptions. Life in 1918 hardly resembles life in 2020 in any discernible way.

> China had the mother of all lockdowns and is back to robust economic growth

Believing this means you have to trust information disseminated by the Chinese Communist Party, which would be a foolish thing to do. They are 100% committed to saving face, not to saving lives.

It’s how it looked to the virus that really matters. Large urban populations, massive global movements of people, no vaccine. I think from an epidemiological point of view it really wasn’t all that different. Was it really all that different in terms of day to day economic contact either? Urban sprawl, shopping centres, industry, trains, trucks, telecommunications, global freight. Businesses losing workers and customers had basically the same problems.

Sure the Chinese government can’t be trusted, but there are plenty of foreigners in China these days, including journalists. My wife is Chinese and we’re in almost daily contact with family over there. When it comes to general movements of the population and public or industrial policy these things come out eventually.

Do you really believe that journalists, of any nationality, in China feel free to express their honest take on this (or any) event that affects how people view the CCP?

Foreign Journalists come and go in China all the time, they’re not locked up in the country permanently. If what you say was true, direct first hand reporting of the Uighur situation would be impossible, yet even that happens.

Do you think reporting on factory activity in Guangzhou is that much harder? China has incredibly vibrant industrial reporting, businesses running just in time supply chains and making investment decisions need accurate information. Your just making up excuses and I suspect you know it perfectly well.

Well executed lockdowns with high compliance rates work. They did it, it happened and there’s plenty if other evidence too. There’s no refuge left for the lockdowns don’t work brigade except “Laa Laaa I’m not listening”. Where they don’t work it’s precisely because the lockdowns don’t work brigade won’t let them, with low compliance rates.

This is an empirically testable result.

Are regions with the harshest lockdowns doing worse economically?

A cursory analysis says no. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Vietnam, China that had very strict lockdowns are doing well economically.

Then maybe the worst is intermediate lockdowns? Also no. There are few differences between regions with essentially no lockdowns and those with moderate lockdowns, though they fare worse than strict initial lockdowns across the board.

It is very hard for me to put myself back in the mindset of figures being real. In the last 12 months we have been routinely lied, and many political leaders believe misleading the public “for the greater good” is an act of leadership.

Simplest example is the 30 members of the government saying masks are useless as a form of protection in April 2020. Uniform message, no exception, not temporarily, not on a subset, just the blanket message repeated on all newspapers and TC channels, “masks are entirely useless as a form of protection.” (France, by the way). Obviously their goal was to keep stocks for medical personnel, but they chose the lie as a form of getting to their point. Same goes for all the other figures, I know how easy it is to fabricate statistics; Every Monday they tell us figures have jumped since yesterday — obviously because there are fewer tests on weekends. After all this, I have as much confidence in the figures as agricultural production figures in 1970 USSR - For me Covid is like the default checkbox on all death forms, which explain most of the high figures. Newspapers are under state of emergency anyway, so they probably don’t have the choice in what they write. Some succeeded to print articles about how journalists are not allowed to observe the democratic process of decision anymore, but that’s probably all they are allowed to print.

Sorry for the personal anecdote but I’d like to generalize it into “Maybe it isn’t good to tell lies as a routine form of governance.”

As for myself, it’s a pain to not have trust in anything, and I’ll probably spend years cautiously recovering trust in any figure from doctors as genuine and not fabricated for political power.

Looking back at the strategies that different countries have pursued over the last year, the most effective strategy has undoubtedly been to implement a strict lockdown for several weeks, nearly completely eliminating the virus, and then following up with aggressive contact-tracing whenever any case pops up.

Countries that have done this have had far fewer deaths and have suffered less economically. The alternatives (doing nothing, implementing mild restrictions, or implementing strict lockdowns but opening up too early and failing to follow up) have all been far worse, in terms of both lives and money.

No, the only solution that has worked is being an isolated nation and blocking international travel from the beginning.

For 90% of countries that was never an option anyway and for most of the rest that ship has long sailed.

The countries that have tried, like Israel, have seen so much success with that strategy they are now in their third lockdown. And that’s with the best vaccination numbers of the world.

...best vaccination numbers of the world.

That's for Jewish residents. Apartheid states direct all benefits to the favored class. That works, until pandemic time. Palestinians are human too, and since they haven't been vaccinated at all they are a persistent source of covid.

Arab residents also counted and vaccinated. The BBC had to apologize twice for that calumny.


The only apology on that page is for playing a recording of a foreign language that contained some sort of homophobic slur. On the topic at hand, it has this:

We note that whilst there has been some dispute about the Israeli government’s responsibility for vaccinating Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, those Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, or who hold Israeli citizenship, are covered by the roll-out of the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

That is, the Israel government only claims that a small minority of the Palestinians subject to its tyranny will be vaccinated. We may expect that claim will also turn out to be mostly false.

That's the entire point - that Israel vaccinates its citizens regardless of ethnicity, and the data doesn't exclude non-Jews.

As for the West Bank, the article itself notes the legal responsibility is 'disputed', that is nobody save some activists thinks there's one - which is why no state in the planet has called Israel to take over West Bank or Gaza healthcare.

Even the Palestinian Authority (which has ordered the Sputnik V) hasn't called for it or asked for aid. Apparently some people feel Israel should still just take over despite their own wishes! That's an enticing prospect to a Israelis of a certain political bent...

P.S. One fact to note - Israel's COVID statistics are significantly worse. The idea apparently is to redirect vaccination from where there's a barely contained outbreak to a place where there isn't.

You knew that they ordered Sputnik, but you weren't aware that Israel has allowed only 2000 doses through the border checkpoints? Yikes.

You're also wrong about Israel's responsibilities. All signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention (including Israel, as of 1951) have agreed that occupying powers have the duty to provide available vaccines in pandemic conditions. It wouldn't be a hardship for Israel, since they already provide vaccines and land and homes and UBI for the non-native settlers they import from all around the world into occupied West Bank territory.



* You're mixing up a 2000 dose transfer between the West Bank and Gaza that was approved, and "allowing only 2000 doses" which is strictly false - there were a number of transfers, e.g. the UAE sending 20000 doses to Gaza. Israel won't stop the Sputnik delivery.

* Israel never agreed that 4th Geneva applies, and regardless that has been signed away in Oslo.

* The PA is welcome to import vaccines, but they'll have to pay like anyone else. Given their terrorist payment budget, there's no shortage of money.

Occupied people can't sign away their rights as occupied people. That's basic rubber-hose theory. Besides the PA is a total sockpuppet of Israel government. At least now you're admitting they're asking for help, after I linked to their press release about that. Unfortunately it's very difficult to import medical supplies through Israeli checkpoints. The Oslo process ended in 1999, and was widely rejected by Palestinians even before that. It no longer governs anything.

Yes, negotiating with the PA or the PLO or any Palestinian organization is useless, since their entire stance is to declare in advance any agreement they'd make as invalid or under duress. That doesn't change the legal situation there though.

The PA has requested to transport vaccines between West Bank and Gaza (which was allowed), but never actually requested access to Israel's vaccine stock. They're trying to run a subtle PR campaign* - They need to simultaneously argue to the world that Israel should have been supplying them, while arguing locally that they can do it on their own.

So they make noises about Israel's legal responsibility but when it comes to actually requesting aid or receiving aid they ignore or reject it, like the time they refused a UAE shipment which came via Ben Gurion airport. In fairness, since Corona hasn't spread there as much, they need not hurry.

* Someone has been searching twits mentioning Israel and vaccines, and just sends out bots. My favourite is when they hit on anti-vax twitter. Conspiracy theories about how vaccines are poison even in Israel, suddenly interrupted by 'Israel must provide vaccines to the West Bank!!', the twitters trying to argue with the bots... Just glorious.

China went from having a serious outbreak to essentially zero new cases in just over two months. Australia, Vietnam and New Zealand also brought new cases essentially to nil.

Israel is not a good example. Lockdown application here is very uneven. They have nothing to do with the virus and are mainly used by politicians in power to suppress secular way of life and to redistribute business opportunities.

The poster is not engaged in a good faith argument so there isn't much point in explaining these sorts of details.

My observation has been that in Canada and the UK any sort of selective or regional restrictions have been extremely ineffective and they offer evidence to people who would like to make bad-faith arguments about the power of restrictions.

My opinion is that two things appear to work to get you manageable levels of COVID-19. The first is broad restrictive measures over very large geographical areas that actually reduce time indoors with other people and compel mask use (some of the Canadian provinces did this well). The second is simply letting the epidemic reach levels that scare people into changing their behaviour (many US states).

Ah, so the no true lockdown isn’t strict enough.

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

"Lockdown" can mean anything from closing pubs to mandating that nearly everyone stay home 24/7.

There's no great mystery here. The virus primarily spreads in indoor settings where people breath the same air. A lockdown is only effective to the extent that it stops people from getting into those situations. Closing pubs will reduce transmission a bit, but not nearly as much as telling everyone to stay home.

It seems the variants are arising in places where people have been mixing and not socially-distancing.

Good luck telling these other governments to lock down to prevent that (assuming it prevents that, of course). That’s the difference between being an isolated nation and being on a continent. You can’t control what the other governments decide.

> Does he hear himself? You can't really liken wild guesses that lead to complacency/death as hiding the truth. It sounds like this guy should really stick to surgery.

It’s not a “wild guess.” There is data to support it. So what you’re really saying is that scientists should avoid discussing possible interpretations of the data for fear of what conclusions the public might draw. That’s not how science works and it isn’t a good way to build public trust in the process.

The argument: In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.

That's far higher than what the CDC measures. They have actual data on whether people show antibodies.[1] Their main data source is from random blood samples processed by commercial labs where the samples were taken for some other purpose. The trouble is, the blood lab data runs way behind; the latest data is about 60 days old. But that's what to watch. It's annoying that so little current data is available on this. Anyway, as of late December, those numbers are from 3% (Hawaii) to 23% (North Dakota).

Blood samples are also taken from blood donations. If you donate blood, you get an COVID-19 antibody test done on it, and the Red Cross will tell you the results. (Yes, there's an app for that.) Those provide a crosscheck. People who have blood drawn for medical purposes tend to be sicker than average, and blood donors tend to be less sick than average. So one would expect the value for a whole population to be somewhere above the blood donor rate and below the medical sample rate.

Kansas is seeing 22% of blood donors showing antibodies, as of mid-January. Note that this includes people who have been vaccinated, which, for Kansas, is about 8%. That compares to 12% showing antibodies in lab samples as of mid-December, which was pre-vaccine. I haven't been able to find data from other states. Anyone finding that?

There are a number of approved blood-based antibody tests, and they have sensitivity levels from 89% to 99%. So test error isn't a big contributor to error.

So, while the measured values are moving up, nothing as high as 55% is showing up in the actual data yet. More current data would be a big help. Perhaps the data collection and publication will be improved under the new administration. Anyway, looking at the actuals is more useful than trying to project this from a measurement of something else.

[1] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/?CDC_AA_refVal=http...

[2] https://www.ctnewsonline.com/news/article_a97ef828-6122-11eb...

He also uses a fairly low estimate of IFR:

> Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. would also suggest much broader immunity than recognized. About 1 in 600 Americans has died of Covid-19, which translates to a population fatality rate of about 0.15%. The Covid-19 infection fatality rate is about 0.23%. These numbers indicate that roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population has had the infection.

I usually see numbers like 0.5-0.6% bandied around for the US, which changes the deaths-IFR estimate to 1/4-1/3 of the country having been infected, rather than 2/3.

Even if he is correct about the IFR the conclusion he draws is completely wrong.

The 0.23 IFR would only be the current IFR. In the real world, the vast majority of the 0.15 % of the population died when the IFR was significantly higher, either due to the initial lack of understanding about the virus such as during the beginning of the pandemic, or due to the fact that even after we had a better understanding the majority of deaths across the country happened under situations where the IFR was higher due to hospitals being overloaded.

Also, even if we assume the good doctor is correct about the IFR, any time you try to posit the infection is much more wide-spread than experts believe, to get a lower iFR, you're also implicitly saying that you think the disease is much more virulent, which means the "herd immunity" thresholds are higher.

Why are you talking about antibodies? The author was specifically talking about T-cells which are more prevalent.

I for one love it when mouthy oncologists get picked to talk about epedemiology in the Journal.

Next week, tune in for a sculptor's hot take on the Mars lander.

He cites Manaus as a positive example of the power of heard immunity, not only is he not an expert he doesn't seem to actually read the news.

s/We'll have/I really really want/

These sadly arent the exclusive purvey of the journal. plenty of other dog-trainers and nightly consumer-news shows often feature what amounts to a thinly-veiled quarantine tantrum masquerading as insightful critique.

News firms in USA optimize for audience size. Most Americans would rather listen to Pollyanna bullshit than uncomfortable truth. So, the news firms mostly publish wishful thinking. According to some of these shallow beings, we were supposed to have "herd immunity" by last April. Here in the real world, it's still not clear that this concept is even possible with the covid virus.

What about the old adage of "fear sells"? Do doomsday predictions no longer generate clicks?

We've been subject to the fear-cannon for two decades. They had to sell many disastrous wars, and after all brown people are scary. A fatigue has set in. At this point they've turned the knob so far they're worried they may have broken it. They hype up tanker explosions and everybody starts googling "Tonkin Gulf". Significant numbers of Americans actually remember dumb advice they got from leading health officials an entire year ago. Now that we've had a 9/11 every day for a year, a new 9/11 won't land the same. If e.g. Xinjiang and Hong Kong were both leveled by atomic bombs tomorrow, the average American would change the channel. Popular news just doesn't have the effect it used to have; it's back to the drawing board for the media firms and their owners.

Let's not forget the well documented Iraqi WMD debacle.

>it's back to the drawing board for the media firms and their owners.

Enter social media. All of your "friends" believe in precepts x, y and z. It is popular. Don't be skeptical. That's fringe. Do you need a fact check headline?

It isn't difficult to imagine how the WMD story would be sold today.

I agree that "fear sells". Usually there is a "them" to be afraid of. Not sure the media has figured out who we're supposed to be afraid of in this pandemic.

The unmasked? Those with differing opinions on the pandemic? Fellow shoppers? People outside your immeadiate family circle? Consumers of non-essential services?

At this point the divisions have been potentially driven to a point where each individual is atomized. Of course that it is the extreme case, but you needn't look far if you are looking to personify the target of the fear campaign.

the media wants you to fear, and even hate, those who's information source is not the same as yours. In other words, anyone getting information from a competitor.

Yet another useless piece of Op-Ed trash that people are tricked into reading because it's in a big name publication.

Otherwise respectable news outlets really need to get rid of their dead weight opinion sections, which only serve to damage the credibility of the news divisions. These pundits are a dime a dozen and their unfounded speculation (or at times outright misinformation) is no better than the typical junk floating around medium and substack.

It's prefaced by Opinion, so I am assuming it's not really science-based :p

This is textbook ad hominem, and I think is against HN guidelines.

The comment above is a little mean, but I don't think it's ad hominem to note the author's lack of specific qualification in epidemiology or infectious disease.

When I am a non-expert in a complicated subject, I want the advice of experts. When I go to my general practitioner, I want to know they have a certificate that says they went to medical school. When I need open-heart surgery, I want to know the doctor is a cardiothoracic surgeon.

When I read a doctor's take on coronavirus in the WSJ, it would be a plus if they were an expert in infectious disease or epidemiology. It's kind of sad that the nation's 2nd highest circulation paper can't find someone with more expertise in this area.

Amplifying non-expert advice is dangerous, just like having an orthodontist try to do heart surgery is dangerous. C.f. Scott Atlas, of course.

> I don't think it's ad hominem to note the author's lack of specific qualification in epidemiology or infectious disease

If the purpose of such a note is to attack the validity of the author's position, this is what ad hominem means.

The only reason we're discussing this author's opinion is because they appear in a prestigious newspaper. The world is full of opinions, and we choose some to discuss based on heuristics.

The appearance of this article on HN is effectively an argument from authority -- the newspaper's, not the author's. Without that, we wouldn't even be talking about it. Undercutting their arguments is time consuming, but pointing out that they don't have the background to be making their claims -- and that they're appearing on an editorial page famous for putting politics over facts -- is sufficient for many people to say, "Let's stop considering this and go talk about something else."

Those who want to continue the argument may, of course. But meeting an argument from authority with the exact opposite argument (truthful, but ad hominem) is a convenient shortcut for those who don't want to get sucked into that.

In pure deductive logic, sure. But nobody operates like that. Bayesian reasoning allows us to decide to listen to one group of people and ignore another based on our priors even if it isn’t purely valid deductive logic.

Please tell me which epidemiologist "expert" has any expertise in public policy, mental health, business, cancer research, childhood education, restaurant ownership, haircare, finance, law, etc.

Because these lockdowns affect all of those things. Shouldn't "experts" in those fields have a voice in all this too?

Why is the only expert that is allowed to have an opinion worthy of being listened to the esteemed epidemiologist "expert"? Public health is more than the eradication of a specific form of disease, you know. Perhaps getting input from other experts might promote a more balanced take on how to deal with this pandemic.

And hell... plenty of the "expert" doomsday figures aren't epidemiologists at all and people have no problem reposting their announcements. For example if Andy Slavitt of Eric Feigl-Ding wrote an opinion piece on how we should have a ultra-hard lockdown for 6 months, nobody would call into question their expertise at all despite neither of them knowing anything about epidemiology or infectious disease.

By the way, I find it curios that absolutely none of the "experts" we are told to exclusively listen to have lost a single paycheck the entire 11 months this has been going on. Funny, that. Wonder what they would recommend if they stopped getting paid and had to spend two months on hold with unemployment trying to get a human to talk to.

Pointing out that someone is not an expert at something is not an ad hominem.

Arguing against someone's position by simply stating (truthfully or not) that they are not an expert is textbook ad hominem.

"He wants you to believe that green is the best color of M & M, but his business went bankrupt," is an ad hominem argument.

"He trains parakeets, so I don't find him a credible source of dog behavior" is not.

"He trains parakeets, so you should not believe his position that the dog salivates because the bell rings" is.

The trouble with your example is that it conflates common knowledge and expert opinion.

No one would question a parakeet trainer now if he claimed dogs respond to Pavlovian conditioning, because it is common knowledge that dogs respond to this type of conditioning.

However, if Pavlov had been a parakeet trainer and simply asserted dogs respond to Pavlovian conditioning rather than discovering and researching it, it would not have been an ad hominem argument to state he doesn't know what he's talking about... because he didn't until he studied and researched it.

Come on. Evaluating the merit of a source is critical thinking 101.

As, and “X is not an expert in Y” is a valid response to an argument resting on X’s authority, but not otherwise a counterargument.

Arguing against their position by saying that they kick puppies is textbook ad hominem. Saying that they are not an expert isn't a strong argument, but it is a valid criticism.

It isn't the same as invalidating the argument. It doesn't approach the substance of what was presented. There is no substance to the objection.

Assertion: "That apple will fall on your head"

Appeal to authority: "You're not a physicist! Show me your PHD."

From the Wikipedia article on ad hominem arguments:

"Ad hominem (Latin for 'to the person'), short for argumentum ad hominem, refers to several types of arguments, some but not all of which are fallacious." [Emphasis added]

In particular, pointing out that someone is speaking outside of their area of expertise is a logically valid ad hominem argument.

In the situation where the argument being put forward relies on the explicitly or implicitly stated expertise of the orator - such as an article which says "Take heed of my opinion of the important medical factors here, for I am a doctor" - contending that said orator doesn't have that expertise is entirely valid, and not ad hominem. Ad hominem is such when the attack on the orator is orthogonal to their argument.

What counter-argument are you referring to? I only see a comment that points out the author isn't an epidemiologist, which seems relevant to an epidemiological prediction.

Perhaps it more closely resembles an appeal to authority or appeal to accomplishment.

This isn't an appeal to authority though. That would be saying, "I'm right because I'm the expert." This is saying, "I don't trust you because you're not an expert." That's not a logical fallacy.

Even experts in adjacent or overlapping fields are suspect. I'm a flight instructor. I teach in airplanes. Would you believe what I have to say about helicopters? You shouldn't. I don't know jack about them.

If you told me I had low tire pressure I wouldn't ask if you're a mechanic. I would look at the tire myself. If I was unable to use a pressure gauge due to a lack of my own expertise, I still wouldn't be in a position to question your observation about the tire based upon your credentials alone. The best counter argument I could mount would be, "It looks full to me" or "I checked the pressure this morning". Dismissing your observation because you are a flight instructor, not a mechanic is exactly what an appeal to authority is.

He’s either correct about your tire pressure or he’s not. You’re right about that part. That’s as far as the purely logical bit can go—then you get to economics: Should you spend the time and energy to give his claim credence? Your example is poor because tire pressure is an expertise the average person you’re likely to come into contact with likely possesses. This is not so of, say, the epidemiological issue in question.

If you picked up a member of an Amazonian tribe who had never seen a car before, are you going to worry about the tire if he claims the tire pressure is low? Well, sure, it’s easy enough to check. But what if it was $500 to check? No. I don’t think you would.

Yes, I attempted to cover that eventuality in my example. Let's say I am not qualified to examine the tire myself and someone who's ability I also doubted made an observation.

Here's what I wouldn't do: prejudicially dismiss the tribesman's opinion, citing his lack of authority on the topic.

Even if we accept the premises of an appeal to authority, it would follow that one would have to also be an authority on the topic before he could determine the authoritativeness of another speaker. How can you evaluate the authority of a speaker, if you yourself are not an 'authority' on the topic?

Even if you are an authority, does this status render you infallible?

No, I'm afraid the entire premise is ridiculous.

> Here's what I wouldn't do: prejudicially dismiss the tribesman's opinion, citing his lack of authority on the topic.

Even if you wouldn't in this particular case, you can't possibly function in the world if you eschew questions of trust completely. You'd basically have to prove everything yourself.

> Even if we accept the premises of an appeal to authority...

An appeal to authority is claiming something is true because an authority said it. The inverse of that would be that something is untrue because no authority said it. No one is claiming that to be the case and even if they were, that wouldn't make it an appeal to authority. In any case, this is a question of credibility (i.e., trust).

> ...it would follow that one would have to also be an authority on the topic before he could determine the authoritativeness of another speaker.

This doesn't follow at all. I am not an expert on tires, but I can understand that someone who has never even seen a tire is also not an expert on tires.

> Even if you are an authority, does this status render you infallible?

No. Of course not. But it does make you a more credible source of information in your field of expertise.

There's a difference between dismissing someone's objection solely for lack of credentials (an appeal to authority) and valuing the opinion of an expert.

The former is absolute, the latter allows for other factors of consideration.

This is a good example of why "ad hominem" is one of the worst arguments you can try to use against something.

In actual human discussion, pointing out that someone is making claims about something they don't know anything about is the very basis of common sense. Trying to make this out to be a logical fallacy only shows how useless that label is.

The problem becomes how you quantify your opponent's knowledge from a subjective position.

How can you prove that they don't know what they are talking about without disputing the points they have made?

You must attack the argument, not the person.

No, you really don't. This isn't a mathematical proof. This isn't a formal debate. This is regular, common-sense discussion.

Pointing out that a guy who is not an expert in a field is making claims that go against the actual experts in that field is a perfectly reasonable argument, and ignoring it is intentionally blinding yourself.

It does not disprove the claim, but it does put it in perspective, and warn that you shouldn't take the claim with fully understanding it, and, preferably finding reputable analysis or rebuttals.

It's not an informative comment criticizing the author's credentials. It a drive-by insult.

I really want to see positive news, and the vaccination rollout (despite how uneven it is) is definitely positive.

But the focus on herd immunity, if conflated with immunity after infection, is misleading:

Look at what's happening in Manaus:


The news there are definitely sobering :(

Unfortunately, the multiplication of strains of covid19 was inevitable, due to the decision of multiple countries to let the disease spread almost unchecked through its population :/

AFAICS this isn’t talked about enough! If lockdowns were taken seriously from the start, it would had prevented going wild and risking new strains. But here we are

>If lockdowns were taken seriously from the start, it would had prevented going wild and risking new strains.

I don't think a strategy that needs every country on earth to cooperate this tightly ever had a chance to work.

Most countries aren't the first world, most countries don't have the resources to test and quarantine properly, most countries can't afford lockdowns.

On top of that a lot of countries have much worse disease to deal with, Malaria for example, for them this is just one of many, and not such a terrible one.

There will be mutations, this will come back a few times, maybe it becomes milder on its own, but thinking you can keep it from mutating is Quixotic.

The long distance travel which spreads a pandemic so fast now is predominantly a First World thing. We could and should have shut that down.

A month after we knew we were in deep trouble it was still perfectly normal to decide hey this is boring I'll go on vacation to somewhere with nowhere near the capacity needed to handle COVID-19. Oh, I have a little cough, never mind if I feel sick I'll just fly home after I'm done infecting these people.

Remember this is SARS-CoV-2. Where's the mutations and endless new strains of SARS-CoV-1? There aren't any, it was eliminated in humans.

So yes it is now sadly likely we're stuck with this, but we ought to be clear it's our fault in countries that didn't do even one tenth of what they should to prevent it.

>Remember this is SARS-CoV-2. Where's the mutations and endless new strains of SARS-CoV-1? There aren't any, it was eliminated in humans.

I think this is only because it was contained in China before it reached the world. They had an excellent pandemic response and quashed it before it reached other countries.

This time around it had spread around the world before we even heard about it. It was completely predictable containment efforts would be futile.

sars definitely reached other countries outside of china..

> I think this is only because it was contained in China before it reached the world

Is this true? According to the CDC, there were SARS cases reported in Europe and the Americas prior to containment in China. Why was it different this time around?

SARS was more lethal and people actually took public health measures seriously.

Additionally, SARS v1 was not contagious until there were visible symptoms - a huge difference from COVID/SARS v2.

I wouldn't put too much confidence in that. SARS wasn't known to be contagious presymptomatically, but neither was COVID-19 for many months. Levels of presymptomatic transmission similar to COVID-19 are entirely consistent with the evidence we have from SARS.

That seems unlikely, if for no other reason than the way COVID has spread. Do you have any data?

All the data I've seen on SARs and the mechanisms deployed to control it indicate infectivity at or only very, very shortly before clear symptoms or they would not have been able to control it.

COVID is quite clearly infectious before visible symptoms of any kind, and even when visible many times symptoms are pretty mild - where SARs was not - and this matches it's observed spread and difficulty in controlling it.

> I don't think a strategy that needs every country on earth to cooperate this tightly ever had a chance to work.

It doesn't need that though.

It needs countries to close the borders tightly except to countries that do cooperate, as many Asian countries have successfully done.

If your goal is to stop mutations from happening, yes, you need everyone in the world to go on full lockdown for 4 weeks. And then test everybody and quarantine until the disease is gone.

The situation right now is that you have plenty of breeding grounds for new mutations, and it only needs some minor crossing of borders for these to get through.

I would also say it's infeasible for non-island nations that need to trade with other countries to completely lock the borders.

> Most countries aren't the first world, most countries don't have the resources to test and quarantine properly, most countries can't afford lockdowns.

The United States meets all these criteria, and has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world. (And near the top in per-capita measures, too.)

Of course a country with the resources to test properly has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world, because if you can't test properly you can't detect Covid-19 cases and deaths. I know the American press has fed its citizens a load of nonsense about this for nakedly partisan reasons, just like it has with every other part of the Covid-19 crisis, and it's getting tiring...

That of course is another thing to mention.

Kind of like the EU countries talking badly about England after they discovered a more infectious mutation. In Germany at the time they didn't even sequence enough viruses to detect mutations before they're widespread.

I was listing the necessary, not the sufficient criteria.

The United States could but it doesn't because the political system is too federalized for a centralized response.

> I don't think a strategy that needs every country on earth to cooperate this tightly ever had a chance to work.

It doesn’t need anything that drastic: imagine an alternate history where the Taiwanese warnings in December 2019 had been taken seriously and international travel was locked down with a mandatory three week quarantine (adjusted by the later availability of tests) on arrival. That would require no cooperation from any other government, and it would have kept spread down below the level where contact tracing and other measures could be effective. Making it a delay avoided the obvious failures like an outright ban packing as many people as possible into crowded transportation and customs facilities, and means that critically important travel could still happen.

The problem was that businesses like the travel industry are influential and delayed until it was too well established in most countries and once it had successfully been turned into a political shibboleth, the chances of lighter approaches working plummeted.

> Taiwanese warnings

The disease originated in Wuhan, mainland China, not Taiwan.

The emergency was communicated in China (as well as Taiwan):


Sure, listening to any official source would've been better than what happened... But shutting down travel to/from the whole of China (since otherwise you'd have to trust every passenger to declare if they had been in Wuhan) while there were less then 30/40 cases of pneumonia, and not a single death would've been a really difficult measure to sell

> The disease originated in Wuhan, mainland China, not Taiwan.

Yes, I’m aware - try more carefully reading my comment and note that I never said otherwise. What I was referring to was Taiwan being faster to acknowledge human to human spread when the Chinese government was still in damage control mode and WHO was following their official statements saying there was no confirmation of retransmission.

This happened 2 weeks later:


Taiwan had begun health screenings of travelers from Wuhan on December 31st, following their request to WHO and the China CDC for more information. By the time the first case was detected 3 weeks later they’d already activated a substantial public health plan — not because they were prescient but because SARS had given key officials a strong sense of the importance of not delaying.

The WHO really dropped the ball in early 2020, since they were also recommending against personal mask use.

That said, I think it's fair to say that some kind of response might've been faster in one place vs another... But any response at the beginning was taken out of caution (again: no healthcare workers infected, no deaths, no proof of human to human transmission)

Taiwan was obviously wise in applying caution, but did they actually publish any kind of statement regarding their beliefs for h2h transmission? (I'd be surprised if they did, since without cases there hadn't been any samples, and research on the genome of the virus couldn't start before Chinese researchers uploaded it online one January 10th)

"Based on the available information there is no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission" does not mean that there was no h2h transmission: just that there was no evidence, yet.

Everyone reading this stuff was obviously concerned, but again: if you remember, the 2nd death was only confirmed on January 15th...

I think a lot of this comes back to the mid-level Chinese bureaucrats’ instinct for damage control. That infamous WHO tweet came in the 6 day interval between Chinese officials being briefed on the likelihood of a pandemic and publicly acknowledging it, and I haven’t heard any evidence that WHO was a party to that decision rather than simply not having better data available to them because it hadn’t been approved for public release by the Chinese government prior to January 20th.

In retrospect, it’s impressive how quickly the Taiwanese government moved based on the equivalent of a Reddit post including a screenshot from that Chinese doctor (Li Wenliang) who was jailed for spreading the news before it was officially acknowledged:


So, no, Taiwan didn’t put out a big press release on December 31st when they started the discussion with WHO, the China CDC, and others but they had started circulating what they knew in public health circles and being a free country they didn’t conceal what they were concerned about when they started screening travelers.

Here’s their statement on the December 31st email:


If you recall the origin of this thread, I was responding to someone who said “I don't think a strategy that needs every country on earth to cooperate this tightly ever had a chance to work.”. My point, again, wasn’t that Taiwan had secret knowledge of the future but that they showed how much could be done with basic public health protocols and, importantly, without requiring widespread international cooperation. Every sovereign nation could have started health screenings and quarantined travelers, but most waited too long and simpler methods weren’t going to be adequate by that point.

Lockdowns were never going to work, and any strategy that relied on them was doomed to fail.

A strategy that involves convincing every country, and every little province, to destroy their local economies, all at the same time. I can’t believe it didn’t work! Maybe if we just keep trying.

Lockdowns have been extremely successful in a great many countries.

Some examples include:

* China bringing their initial outbreak down to near-zero

* Italy arresting their early surge that overwhelmed health systems

* New Zealand bringing their infection rate low enough to essentially return to normal life (apart from international travel)

* The UK stopping a dramatic winter uptick involving the B 1.7.1 variant from overwhelming the NHS

In what way have they not worked?

This whole comment chain is about global covid. Any course of action that relies upon global cooperation is pointless. We can't even get country wide cooperation in the United States. If we try to stop the global spread of covid with lockdowns, we'll all die of old age in lockdown.

So two islands, an authoritarian communist government, and Italy have seen success with lockdowns?

Good for Italy!

Nothing is going to work any better than lockdowns, though. The reason the strategy wasn't ever going to work is because the fear level wasn't high enough. Bump up the death rate so people who can't see past their own nose see some death, and it'll work.

Sadly, coronaviruses definitely have the potential to deliver on that. Now that so many people have become infected because lockdowns weren't taken seriously, and because poor and working people weren't protected or provided for, we're going to have to deal with every possible mutation that could be imagined. Scary situation when MERS was a thing.

The idea that the world can't wait at a fairly comfortable sustenance level for any period of time is one that might be written on our species' tombstone.

>Nothing is going to work any better than lockdowns, though.

They haven't worked, and they can't work. There are many third world countries that don't have internet access or the equivalent to the CDC. Global cooperation is just absolutely not going to happen. We can't even agree city to city in the US, much less state to state.

The way out of a global pandemic is the same it always has been. Vaccination. Attempting to control individual behavior on a global scale is a fools errand.

> The reason the strategy wasn't ever going to work is because the fear level wasn't high enough

The average American 35 year old thinks if they catch covid they have a >10% chance of dying. This is off by almost 1000x.

If you drove that error down to 0 so people knew exactly what there risks were if they got covid (i.e. for most healthy adults and children, covid is a complete non-event)... I don't think the general public would tolerate any of these NPI's at all.

The fact that people can overestimate their covid risks by almost 1000x has destroyed our ability to have rational discussions about kids in school, who should be prioritized for vaccination, and how we should return to actual normal life.

Shoveling nonstop boatloads of absolute fear into peoples head has been one of the most morally bankrupt things the media and public health "experts" have done over the course of the pandemic. Society is going to spend years cleaning up the mental health train-wreck these people have caused.

Source for the figures. Take a look. It blows me away how wrong peoples risk perceptions are of covid. https://covid19pulse.usc.edu/

I don't know anyone who over-estimated their chances of dying, took precautions, and then regretted over-estimating, but I bet that close to 100% of the people who under-estimated their chances of dying regretted it on their death beds.

Personally, I am not afraid to admit I am scared of a virus that can be transmitted by asymptomatic people, incubates for two weeks, then can kill you, but hey, I guess that just makes me a scaredy-cat. I'm willing to live with that label.

So are you the type I see blasting through red lights on your bicycle wearing a mask and no helmet? Are you the type of person I see who blindly steps out into a busy street to maintain "proper social distance" when somebody walks by you?

Because risks are everywhere. Overestimating your risks from covid by 1000x results in making some really, really poor risk tradeoffs.

People joke about dudes drinking bleach and stuff but that behavior was because they vastly overestimated their covid risks... so much so they completely disregarded the very real risks of... you know... drinking bleach.

Much more serious examples of bad risk tradeoffs are how many parents are handling their kids. Some of the stuff people are doing to their poor children is downright deplorable. For example keeping them completely isolated from outside contact. All of it is because their perceptions of covid risks are incredibly wrong.

The media and these "experts" have created a huge shadow pandemic of unchecked, irrational fear. Absolutely nobody seems to acknowledge it and we have to tackle it at some point in order to move past this. Unfortunately, it will require these experts to "tell the truth" about the risks of covid instead of hyping every outlier all the time.

Nope, just a guy who sees on one hand a very small, but nonzero risk of dying of an easily preventable disease, and the tradeoff is... wait for it... wearing a mask over my face and avoiding being around people indoors. I know! Terrible! Such a dilemma! I really have to agonize about whether it's worth the enormous cost of wearing a little piece of cloth.

The idea that covid is somehow a preventable disease is one of the more malicious bits of propaganda that’s been floating around. Is the flu a preventable disease too?

>a virus that can be transmitted by asymptomatic people

I thought asymptomatic transmission wasn't really a thing. Is there updated data on this?


Here's the best thing I've found for incubation period:


They were always going to work, but only if they were used in their proper context: to knock down the size of the epidemic so that less intrusive, more efficient means of infection control can happen: universal, repeated testing; universal contact tracing; and rapid isolation of contacts.

The people who complain about lockdowns are also the people who refuse to do the alternative, and then claim "nothing works".

I am really tired of the "we tried nothing and we're all out of ideas" political party. Get out of the way and let people who are capable of handling things get to work.

Lockdowns do not destroy the economy. Anti-maskers destroy the economy, by decreasing the effectiveness of lockdowns, and making them a chronic rather than acute necessity.

The relationship between COVID and the local economy is highly country-dependent. For example, several Balkan countries’ economies are very dependent on their diasporas (and the occasional tourists) driving/flying back and spending loads of money earned in the West. This is why even now they have remained open to travelers and avoided hard lockdowns, even if COVID deaths might result.

And then there are countries where the economy is based on resource extraction. Only a relatively tiny amount of people is necessary to work the oil and gas industry, or whatever, and thinktanks have sometimes bluntly referred to all the remaining millions of people as "superfluous population". So, whether you let COVID spread or not has little overall effect on the economy.

I live in Alberta, Canada, which is heavily reliant on resource extraction -- namely, oil. With all the lockdowns (and people voluntarily staying at home), demand for oil has tanked.

If there weren't lockdowns (and people were travelling again), our economy would be doing much better.

[With all that said, and while I dearly missing socializing, it isn't obvious to me that removing the lockdowns would improve things; on the other hand, it isn't obvious to me that letting the disease run rampant would be worse than the mental and emotional toll the lockdowns are taking on people and the economy. So many poorly understood trade-offs.]

> Manaus shows that pursuing herd immunity through natural infection is not a guarantee.

Not a guarantee of what? Are we suggesting that we have a virus here that, unlike every previous virus, we can only reach herd immunity for with a vaccine?

> Unlike every previous virus

Have we reached "herd immunity" for syphilis? Herpes? Was smallpox eradicated via "herd immunity" that wasn't reached via a vaccine? Polio?

It is extremely common for viruses to not be eradicated unless there is a vaccine. Even vaccines are not guaranteed to be enough, e.g. with most influenza strains, although flu vaccines have managed to keep the death toll low enough for us to move on with our lives.

> Have we reached "herd immunity" for syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection. You can get it more than once. There is no such thing as herd immunity.

> Herpes?

...is transmitted via intimate, direct contact. You don't get herpes by walking into a crowded room, and there's no way to be "immune" to herpes without also being a carrier. Herd immunity isn't a relevant concept.

> Was smallpox eradicated via "herd immunity" that wasn't reached via a vaccine?

Smallpox was eradicated by herd immunity that was achieved via a mixture of natural and vaccine-induced immunity. Initially, a large portion of the population was immune due to natural infection. Over time, vaccinations were targeted to local outbreaks.

> Polio?

We have not eradicated polio. In some (now 3) countries, polio is endemic, and outbreaks are self-regulated by herd immunity.

Herd immunity does not mean that a disease is eliminated. It means that the spread of the disease is naturally controlled.

> Syphilis is a bacterial infection

"Herd immunity" applies to bacterial infections as it does to viral. All it means is that the R-value is low enough that the disease doesn't spread. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity#Theoretical_basi...

As an example, pertussis is a bacterial infection which most US communities have herd immunity to thanks to the pertussis vaccine.

> You can get it more than once.

There are also viral infections you can get more than once. In fact, the South African variant of COVID is likely possible to get even if you've had COVID before.

> Mixture of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Sure, just like nearly every virus that has been eliminated via vaccine. As, hopefully, COVID will be. Smallpox was not eradicated without a vaccine.

> We have not eradicated polio

The vast majority of the world has indeed eradicated polio via vaccination, as made clear by the fact that only three countries out of 195 still have a polio problem. The same is true for measles, rubella, and a variety of other diseases, none of which would have been eradicated from most populations without vaccines.

The OP's stance that COVID would be somehow unique amongst viruses or diseases if it needed a vaccine for eradication ignores the history of every disease for which we've mass-vaccinated against in the 20th century, as well as the vast majority of diseases that have not been and never will be eradicated by herd-immunity-reached-through-mass-infection.

"Herd immunity" applies to bacterial infections as it does to viral.

It does not apply to Syphilis. Getting an infection today does not prevent me from getting one next month. Even if it did, it doesn't materially affect the rate at which other people get it from me...unless we are rutting like rabbits in some constant random orgy.

> Herd immunity does not mean that a disease is eliminated. It means that the spread of the disease is naturally controlled.

Not necessarily "naturally".

I mean "naturally", in the sense that it is a process mediated by the immune system. Even a vaccine-induced immune response is natural.

But yes, my choice of words is confusing there. The point I am making is that herd immunity is not eradication. People (like the OP) confuse the two concepts.

You can have herd immunity in a population, and the pathogen will still circulate. Observing that a virus still infects people is not evidence that herd immunity to that virus has not been achieved.

I don't believe there is any named virus where we have reached herd immunity without a vaccine.

Herd immunity was defined by the theory that it would prevent the spread of measles. It only did so with any measurable effect after universal vaccination was introduced.

Zika is presumed to have receded due to natural herd immunity.

That's possible but isn't mentioned on its wikipedia article - mosquito control seems at least as relevant.

For what viruses have we reached meaningful herd immunity without vaccines?

Flu, if you grant that different strains count.

Influenza? The one which kills thousands of people every year despite widespread vaccination?

Except for 2020 where it's not even going to reach 100.


Exactly: that’s not because we suddenly hit herd immunity globally but because isolation masks are effective ways to stop respiratory illnesses.

I'm confused by your reply. So masks are helping stop the spread of the flu but not Covid?

No, they’re effective on both. My point was that relying on herd immunity will never work again influenza but it responded sharply to the same measures helping reduce COVID cases.

Why would you respond like this without accounting for the rest of my very short comment?

Because it shows that herd immunity is not a given. Influenza is not only not there but will never be due to the nature of the virus being unusually prone to mutating.

That doesn't address what I said.

There is an argument to be made that various strains are different viruses, and that we have herd immunity to some of them. It wouldn't make sense to invent an English name for each one, but that doesn't mean they should be treated as a single thing in all contexts.

And I even stated it as ambiguous depending on how you count strains, I'm not arguing that there is only one way to look at it!

Your comment seems to rest upon a claim that we do not have flu vaccines. In fact, we do, and about half of all US adults are vaccinated against the flu every year — and more than half of US children are vaccinated, since the flu is more dangerous to children than adults.

Do you have a specific strain of flu in mind when you claim that we have reached herd immunity "to various strains" without vaccination?

How about the 1918 influenza pandemic?

There's also lots of places that don't do much flu vaccination, they don't necessarily have the same strains in circulation forever.

There's a lot we don't know about the 1918 influenza pandemic, since it was at the dawn of much of modern medical science. However, Wikipedia claims that "a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains. Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene, all exacerbated by the recent war, promoted bacterial superinfection. This superinfection killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed." [1]

Herd "immunity" was never reached, at least not in the sense that members of the herd with weaker immune systems were protected due to the virus's inability to circulate thanks to widespread, strong immunity. According to this commonly-cited paper [2], nearly all modern cases of "Influenza A" (a specific type of flu) in humans have been from descendants and variants of the original 1918 virus. The variants temporarily disappeared from active circulation in the 1950s when they were initially outcompeted by the then-novel H2N2, but were accidentally leaked from a lab in the 1970s and have circulated in humans ever since. We are still plagued by variants of the 1918 flu today.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu

2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291398/

Variant, strain?

The links are in contradiction to each other, the second one kicking off with An estimated one third of the world's population (or ≈500 million persons) were infected and had clinically apparent illnesses (1,2) during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic. The disease was exceptionally severe. Case-fatality rates were >2.5%, compared to <0.1% in other influenza pandemics (3,4). Total deaths were estimated at ≈50 million (5–7) and were arguably as high as 100 million (7).

I don't really care to argue about it, my initial comment was measured.

They're not in contradiction to each other, and the second link doesn't kick off with that sentence. It kicks off with:

The "Spanish" influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, which caused ≈50 million deaths worldwide, remains an ominous warning to public health. Many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity remain unanswered.

Which... matches pretty well with the first link. Sure, the outcome of the disease was severe, but we don't know why! And recent studies imply that it was because of sociological phenomena.

Zika is one.

I really don't think lockdowns have helped a ton in the US.

Look at Florida's winter wave of Covid cases vs Massachusetts. The curves are basically identical, despite vastly different pandemic policies.

In other countries yes, but in the USA, are there any real data points that can argue that states with strong lockdowns did better than states without?



Yep, it turns out the last 5-10% of compliance and classifications of valid exceptions to policy actually DOES matter for high-R respitory infections. That has always been true, but before SARS-Cov-2 it didn't matter as much.

And if, say, the US just happens to have a permanant 10% of the population who bristle as anything related to "compliance", you simply can not contain these respitory infections, at best only slow them a bit.

Shoot, I’m so grateful to be in a state that was loose with the lockdowns. A friend in another state was frustrated that even the large parks where he lived were locked down. Even in our strictest phase, you could still go to the park and get a little relief from the confines of your home. I cannot imagine how other states are coping where things are much stricter. I am just shocked at the mental component of all this. It’s hard to articulate the way it makes you feel living through all this.

That was definitely a knee-jerk reaction a lot of places did. I don't think very many places in the US have closed down parks at this point.

There hasn't been a genuine 'lockdown' anywhere in the united states with the possible exception of NYC in the first month of the pandemic. Otherwise we've basically done the bare minimum and even in places with strict policies you have people working retail, no real travel restrictions, etc.

Lockdowns in the US are theater. Because government can't do much to stop the main driver of the epidemic--people meeting friends and relatives behind closed doors--they ban a bunch of stuff that makes very little difference.

I agree with this 100%. The US flavor of lockdowns are just pointless when there is zero enforcement and even in the most locked down places, indoor gatherings are allowed if they're small.

Plus, in the places in the world where they did do lockdowns, lo and behold, they tended to work.

Nothing that was done in the USA could even remotely be described as a lockdown. And none of the so-called orders came close to being effective. Without enforcement, you might as well call your "Stay at home Order" a "Stay at home Suggestion".

Currently, in the state of California, 99.8% of the population is in the purple (aka Widespread) tier [1]. Yet if you go out of your house and look around, you'll see people carrying on, horsing around, and not taking anything seriously. It's like "back to normal but with masks." And this is reportedly one of the more "locked down" states! It's a total farce, and the result of a cowardly government that makes rules for show but is unwilling to enforce them.

1: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/

It's definitely the worst-of-both-worlds. You can't go to restaurants, so unemployemnt is sky high. But you can go to a house party with almost zero risk of consequences.

I don't think we should be giving hot takes on the pandemic with cherry-picked news articles. I knew someone that said COVID wasn't a big deal in March 2020 because 5% of people died on an isolated cruise ship. The curve may be similar, but unclear to conclude that lockdowns didn't affect absolute numbers. Compare Oregon and Washington vs Arizona and Utah. Also account for rural vs urban counties. Is it that controversial that staying away from each other during a pandemic prevents spread?

Individual actions make a huge difference for an individual's risk level.

The lockdowns that each state imposed were largely ineffective at a macro level in my opinion.

Which policies in particular are the ineffective one(s), may I ask?

We say "lockdowns" colloquially but it's really a package of policies, such as capacity limits for restaurants, schools potentially closing down, etc. Which ones are the ineffective ones that Massachusetts subscribed to but Florida did not?

Two months ago, Los Angeles was apparently going into a second lockdown -- this is what the news outlets were reporting. If you went to the beach on any day of the week, however, you would have seen throngs of unmasked people milling about together.

While I'd love to believe that herd immunity is almost here or the vaccine is effectively stopping the spread already, I think the biggest reason for the drop in new cases as well as the drop in active cases can be summed up in a single word. Christmas. Or more broadly the holiday season.

It's absolutely true that new cases are dropping and active cases are dropping as well but if you look at active cases everything peaked about a month after Christmas to the end of Jan before starting to decline this month. Easter is coming up on April 4th. If enough people have the vaccine + enough people have gotten it to cause herd immunity then active cases will continue to drop throughout March and April. But if the holidays are the main cause for this to spread (as in people ignore the "rules" and intermingle with non-household members as the holidays encourage) I predict another wave in April. The wave hopefully will at least be less severe then the Christmas wave was, but I do think the planet isn't out of the water yet.

Attributing the rise and fall of it to "christmas", "super bowl", "sturgous rally" or "beachgoers" is a fools errand. It's a monument to the arrogance of humankind.

I think future civilizations are going to study this period and laugh at how foolish and naive we are thinking we have any kind of real control over this virus. The idea that outside pharmaceutical interventions mankind can somehow control a respiratory virus will be mocked by future generations the same way we mock past civilizations that sacrificed goats to appease the rain gods.

The truth is the virus is gonna do what virus do: Virus. It's just part of mother nature and we don't really have any say over its behavior. Outside vaccines and treatments we can control it just about as much we can control earthquakes, tornadoes or volcanos.

New Zealand has had the virus under control without pharmaceutical help for 9 months now. Many East Asian countries are doing totally fine, with extremely low case numbers and local quarantines for outbreaks.

The difference is pure culture: individualism vs collectivism. In China, not wearing a mask in public makes you a pariah. There’s no such social pressure here in the west.

Not only was there no social pressure to do the right thing in the West, but there was widespread politically-charged COVID denial and downplaying, and hand-wringing about the "costs" of taking even modest steps to reduce transmission. We never really had a chance, with the amount of people actively flaunting public health guidance, downplaying the disease (just the flu, bro) and trying to sabotage efforts to contain it.

Once the disease got politicized, it was game over. One side took it seriously, therefore the other side had to not take it seriously, because heaven forbid you agree with your political opponent about something.

This doesn't explain why new cases started surging in early November, unless you want to put that on Halloween. Even then, new infections where rising all of October. I'd also argue there weren't clear post-holiday surges beyond people delaying tests.

I don't mean to compare it to herd immunity, but I wonder how much impact there is from people with situations, behaviors and decision making strategies that tend to lead to infection getting immunity.

Essentially, is there enough bias in transmission for some people to make a greater contribution to group immunity than others.

At least in the US St. Patrick’s Day would be the obvious next bar crawly, hangout type event, before Easter.

What I love about the news right now is that they've perfected the alchemy of turning every holiday into its own news cycle. Gatherings feared... Experts fear another spike. No proof at all that holiday -> virulence, of course. You should try turning off the news for a bit.

What we do have is proof that increased gatherings lead to increased transmission. We have, I think, a pretty reasonable assumption that holidays lead to increased gatherings.

So, a cautious assumption until data shows it's not accurate that "holidays lead to increased transmission" seems to me to be warranted.

Have you seen data that shows holidays don't lead to increased transmission?

The upward curve started well before Thanksgiving -- really around October 1 we started seeing the summer flatness yield to an upward curve, it was steepest in November, peaking around mid-January. If the holidays were end of November through December, wouldn't the spike have started around December 1?

The upward curve can be attributed to many things and all of it conjecture until it's proven, but the FACT is increased gathering = increased transmission. There's no getting around that fact no matter where you point the finger. It's literally how this turned into a pandemic. Therefor logic is weighted towards holidays (increased gathering) leading to increased transmission.

The upward curve can be a result of school openings and then the sudden steep upward trajectory in the beginning of November being due to Halloween followed by continued Holiday visitation throughout Nov/Dec. There's also the messaging from the Trump administration that encouraged masses of people to ignore rules and treat the virus as if it's "no worse than the flu".

Similarly the reduction in cases can - speculatively - be attributed to better protocols being implemented nationwide; e.g. states that had lax rules having an "oh shit" moment when hospital capacities were at maximum which in turn resulted in stricter measures. Better mitigation strategies in schools across the nation is another reason. Trump's election drama diverted attention away from the "covid = hoax", so people were more willing to accept stricter rules.

Lastly - and this is something that can't really be proven so take it with a grain of salt - people are avoiding testing in order to drive down rates so the schools can fully re-open. I think we might be able to see hints of this last one in hospitalization data if those numbers remain the same while the case numbers drop.

EDIT: https://covidtracking.com/data shows hospitalizations are also dropping (although deaths only started dropping recently), so I would say that last reason for cases dropping is bullshit concocted on social media, but I'm going to leave it on this post so others can call it out as BS when they see it elsewhere

I really don't think you can blame Halloween for the kickoff of an increase in cases.. that feels like a huge stretch.

I feel like the most likely candidate is weather. Even hot places like Florida and California get cooler, shorter days, with less humidity.

That is not evidence that holidays do not lead to increased transmission.

It is evidence that other things can also lead to increased transmission.

If my hypothesis were "ONLY holidays can lead to increase transmission", then that evidence would falsify it.

But my hypothesis is that "holidays can lead to increased transmission", so that evidence doesn't falsify it.

It's hard to prove a negative, for sure. I just don't really see the data that shows the holidays had much effect. There was already a hard bend upwards well before the holidays started. It's certainly possible that the holidays made it worse and the peak ended higher than it needed to, but they certainly didn't create the winter spike.

> a pretty reasonable assumption that holidays lead to increased gatherings

Not necessarily. They also removed one big set of gatherings: Work.

Workplaces and the commute to them are massive contributors. Many people are in (loose) contact with many more people at work than at a large Thanksgiving dinner, and contact tracing is a lot more effective for the Thanksgiving dinner (everyone there is a close contact) vs. work ("oh, but they were more than 1.5 meters apart, so it doesn't count" because you can't quarantine everyone in a 100+ people open plan office that you've been saturating with infectious aerosols for 8 hours).

I think that's a totally fair point, and a reason that assumption might be incorrect.

To be clear I don't mean "a pretty reasonable assumption" to mean it was exceptionally likely to be true (with, say 95% confidence) in my mind in this it's more like a 65% chance of being true.

I guess I was using it as shorthand for "my prior is >50%"

Anyway, I wouldn't be shocked if that assumption was wrong and if it is, it makes sense that it'd be for the reasons you outline

Anecdotally, it seemed to cause a lot of cynicism when BLM protests, where everyone was packed in pretty good, were barely mentioned in mass media as a potential source of virus transmission.

And yes, I get that it's considered more morally justified by many than watching football in a stadium or playing hockey. But at some point, the virus transmission in a given scenario needs to be dispassionately assessed whether you're robbing a bank or feeding orphans in Uganda.

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