Monday, November 2, 2020

The Difference Between Naive and Stupid

Well, it's official.  Several European countries are now back to lockdown once again.  It seems nearly every country not named Sweden or Belarus is blindly copying one another to one degree or another now just like before.  And even on this side of the proverbial pond, there are still plenty of folks eager to copy them if allowed the chance.  They clearly didn't learn the first time that lockdowns simply don't work, and do far more harm than good on balance.   

The first time they did it, they were naive at best, but the second time is just plain stupid.  The first time was an argument from ignorance, while the second time is an argument from thick-headedness.

Hey geniuses, wanna know why you are getting a second wave of the virus now?  Let us count the ways:

  1.  You are testing much more than during the first wave, often many times more.
  2.  You are using such a high PCR cycle threshold that creates far too many false positives.
  3.  You are still quite liberal with what you define as a COVID death.
  4. "Mitigation fatigue" is all too real, and viruses gonna virus regardless.
  5.  And last but not least, your lockdowns the first time merely postponed the inevitable.  Really.  Whether you shaved off a little bit from the first wave (like the UK) or nearly suppressed the first wave entirely (like Czechia), guess what?  You are getting right now exactly what you had postponed earlier, except now during flu season.  A real genius move, guys. 

And before you say "But Sweden is getting a second wave too!", take a look at the hard data on Worldometer or Our World In Data.  Cases are apparently way up in recent weeks, yes, but hospitalizations are only modestly up, and deaths are still largely crawling along the baseline, having had no excess deaths since July and on track to have a below-normal flu season.  Whatever their second wave, it does not appear to be particularly deadly, and they are currently in a much better position than nearly all the rest of Europe as they head into winter.

UPDATE:  And yes, COVID-19 apparently does have a strong seasonality to it in both the USA and Europe, which is of course a double-edged sword.  As for Sweden, deaths are apparently up, but still no excess deaths since all-cause mortality remains largely in the normal range per EUROMOMO.  After all, "excess" is relative.  And also, where did the flu go?  It seems that in practically every country, including Sweden, it seems to have mysteriously vanished for some reason.  Things that (should) make you go, hmmmm.

As for Finland and Norway, who still have some of the lowest COVID death rates in the Western world, keep in mind that both countries were actually LESS stringent than Sweden for the majority of the pandemic (i.e. from May until early November).

The UK's Lockdown 2.0 and the subsequent perpetual lockdown-in-all-but-name appear to have not done a lick of good at all in terms of the number or timing of COVID cases, hospitalizations, or deaths.  It appears to be at best irrelevant to the virus, if not perverse.

Banning all or practically all mixing between households, especially at this very late stage of the pandemic, is utterly risible if it weren't so tragic.  News flash, for most of the pandemic there has been, and still is today, far more transmission within households than between them, and not primarily driven by children or asymptomatic spread either.  Once the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, such government overreach is simply a cruel joke.

And meanwhile, several US states are in fact backsliding towards lockdown once again, with practically all states except Florida and South Dakota tightening restrictions at least somewhat since September.  Riddle me this:  if it worked so well the first time, why are we doing it again?  If it did NOT work the first time, why are we doing it again?

In fact, going into the holiday season, Florida is actually doing better than the national average now in spite of barely any restrictions since September 25, and both North and South Dakota have peaked and declined organically since mid-November despite mild/late (ND) or no (SD) restrictions, around the same time as the stricter Midwestern states.  California, on the other hand, is not doing so hot at all.

Even Georgia, notably first out the gate to lift restrictions and reopen in general and also first out the gate to reopen schools statewide, was not the disaster that was predicted, and seven months later they are....average compared to the rest of the country.  And sadly while both Dakotas are now cumulatively among the top ten worst states in terms of deaths per capita, the timing of their admittedly severe but very late outbreaks and decline of same does not show any relevance to policy measures.

JANUARY 2021 UPDATE:  Looks like Sweden did unfortunately have low to moderate excess weekly deaths for several weeks in a row in late November, December, and early January per EUROMOMO.  But they still had far less than they did during their first wave and significantly less than most European countries did during their second wave, especially the UK (again), Spain (again), Belgium (again), Italy (again), France, Portugal, and much less than Czechia and Slovenia as well.  And it began much later as well.  2020 seems to have been Sweden's worst year for all-cause deaths since 2012, and fairly comparable to 2015, while some other countries in contrast had their worst year in decades.  And it looks like Sweden's second wave is almost over now, with cases now plummeting despite it being the middle of winter.  Meanwhile, Florida and California are both shaping up to be about average among US states on a cumulative basis despite taking polar opposite approaches to their epidemics, kinda like how Sweden and France are both around the European average as well.  As the old saying goes, that's why you never call the winner at halftime.

Regardless of what NPIs were done, it appears that the winter wave is now in rapid retreat worldwide in nearly every country, well before the vaccines would have had much if any effect.  Reducing the cycle threshold for PCR testing and/or making testing more targeted per revised WHO guidance has likely played a role in many countries and US states, but enough naturally-acquired herd immunity to bend the curve down has also most likely been achieved as well.

Note that other endemic coronaviruses (i.e. common cold viruses) tend to peak seasonally in January or so and then sharply decline afterwards.  Thus, the decline of this virus will most likely continue through the spring and summer as well, give or take a possible March secondary peak in some places perhaps.

(And again, where did the flu goHmmmm....)

So what do you call it when you do the same thing over and over and expect different results?

No comments:

Post a Comment