A Journal of the Plague Year (58)



May 14, 2020

Dr Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford  has been making waves recently with a different assessment of the Covid-19 outcome.

A study conducted in New York revealed, allegedly, that 25% of the population tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus. But of these people, 70% of those who showed the presence of antibodies were asymptomatic–they never showed symptoms. The majority never will. As he says:

This testing also places the death rate at somewhere between 0.1- 0.5%. This is orders of magnitude lower than originally thought.
This is important because, according to Dr. Bhattacharya, containment strategies are not likely to be effective and the virus is not going to disappear:

[snip]…


“I think in the back of people’s heads there is this idea that somehow we can eradicate this disease if we just stay locked down. That is not possible. The serologic evidence, even the MLB study, suggest this. It suggests the epidemic is too widespread to eradicate. It spreads via asymptomatic contact. Like people who don’t have very many symptoms, even mild cold symptoms can spread the thing. They aren’t going to show up for testing. They aren’t going to show up at a hospital or a doctor.”


So despite the idea floating around that it’s all going to be hunky-dory after the wave passes, Bhattacharya disagrees:


“There is no safe option. If you think that having a lockdown will provide you safety, you are mistaken. Because the problem is this lockdown has had enormous negative effects on the health of people in the United States and around the world.”

It means that we must all accept living with a higher degree of risk. It has to be. We now know how better to avoid infection (hand washing, masks in confined public places etc.); destroying economies is not going to help.
When asked, Dr. Bhattacharya clearly understood the political calculations that leaders are making. He said leadership is what is needed because politicians are going to face the consequences of COVID-19 or the problems caused by economic collapse. According to his assessment, a vaccine is an open-ended question. None of the other coronaviruses that infect humans have one and there is no guarantee this one will.

On the world front, it still seems like Sweden is not really any different from other major countries in number of cases per million of the population. Stay tuned on that.

 



Either way, it’s going to be a bumpy ride and it’s quite a way until touchdown.

Rebel Yell

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May 12, 2020

Randall Denley in the National Post asks how much is this going to cost? Good point. Of course, you can hear the wailing of “you can’t put a price on a human life” crowd even now. But of course, every day of our lives we do just that. The insurance companies make a living out of it; every day you drive to work you accept a risk of dying in a car crash and your family receiving monetary compensation based on your life insurance policy.

As of Monday, 1,669 Ontarians had died, the vast majority in homes for the elderly.
Throttling the provincial economy can be seen as a great success in terms of public health, with the significant exception of the death toll among the elderly. The economic and fiscal cost has been colossal and unprecedented.

Absent the care home deaths then a few hundred people in Ontario have unfortunately died from Covid-19. How many of them had comorbidities like obesity and diabetes? Then even fewer people in reasonable health have actually died from Covid-19. And the livelihoods of millions, yes millions, of people have been destroyed because of this? Things have to be weighed in the balance. The costs for our province are becoming unbearable. Some getting back to work while accepting and dealing with a higher level of risk must be accepted—and most people will because they are reasonable. As for the models:…

…That Ontario model predicted that 100,000 people could die if nothing were done, but that between 3,000 and 15,000 would die with strong health measures, including closing down much of the economy. As of Monday, 1,669 Ontarians had died, the vast majority in homes for the elderly.


Likewise, similar happenings in Sweden. There were two models in Sweden used to model the plague, inspired by the Imperial College model from April. As noted in the Spectator:

Here are the models’ prediction of the number of Covid-19 patients in Swedish intensive care units, ICU (the highest curve is a model without lockdown):
H. Sjödin et al: ‘Covid-19 health care demand and mortality in Sweden in response to non-pharmaceutical (NPIs) mitigation and suppression scenarios’, 7 April. The graph suggests critical care demand would peak above 16,000 patients per day by early May, and pre-pandemic intensive care unit capacity would be exceeded 30-fold….

 

…Then came J. Gardner et al, ‘Intervention strategies against Covid-19 and their estimated impact on Swedish healthcare capacity’, 15 April. It was an even more pessimistic assessment, showing a peak of over 20,000 patients by early May – with an ICU need around 40 times capacity.

So what has been actually happening?

Gardner et al predicted that Sweden would have 82,000 Covid-19 deaths by 1 July. That implies around 1,000 deaths every day since the paper was published in mid-April. However, the total number of Swedish Covid-19 deaths at the time of writing is 3,313.
One reason why the models failed is that they – just like most countries’ politicians – underestimated how millions of people spontaneously adapt to new circumstances. They only thought in terms of lockdowns vs business as usual, but failed to consider a third option: that people engage in social distancing voluntarily when they realise lives are at stake and when authorities recommend them to do so….
…The Swedish experiment casts huge doubts on the models, and makes the case for trusting the public.


“…Although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it’s beginning to look like….. the Swedes might be right.”

It’s time for all governments to take a valium and get to grips with reality. And that reality is not locking down or locking up entire populations indefinitely. Let’s get back to work.

Rebel Yell


A Journal of the Plague Year (56)


May 11, 2020

As I pointed out yesterday, “follow the science” doesn’t mean much when the scientists and medical officers don’t really know what they’re talking about.

As Dr Campbell notes in his daily video, the Chief Medical Officer for the UK has been saying for nearly seven weeks that large-scale testing was not required. Now he has changed his tune entirely arguing for testing and isolating. But South Korea and Taiwan did this from the beginning with excellent results. Why only now do the “experts” change their minds? These facts about testing and isolation are not new, they have been known all along. Where’s the accountability?

The same is true of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr Theresa Tam, who was saying everything that communist China wanted the WHO to say until we found out that they were lying all along. Her job was supposed to be oversight of WHO’s actions. Obviously, not much overseeing was going on. Where’s the accountability here?

In the field of epidemiology, where the science is uncertain much of the time, it does not pay to put too much trust in “experts”. It was Richard Feynman, the great physicist, who said famously that “…science is demonstrating the ignorance of experts.”

Moreover, the track record of many of these experts is pretty poor. Professor Ferguson comes to mind. Basically, a government putting its trust in a computer model and the advice of one expert is absurd. As for an outdated computer model, with secret code, and a novel virus resulting in a decision to destroy the country’s economy for years—this is folly of the first order.

 

A very interesting article on Lockdown Sceptics quotes some computer coders and virologists thus:

“Sue Denim” has been in touch to point out that several other people with similar levels of coding expertise have posted analyses of Neil Ferguson’s code that are as scathing as his. Take this one, for instance, by Chris von Csefalvay. He is an epidemiologist specialising in the virology of bat-borne illnesses, including bat-related coronaviruses. “It is very difficult to look at the Ferguson code with any understanding of software engineering and conclude that this is good, or even tolerable,” he writes. He notes that Ferguson apologised for the poor quality of the code on Twitter, explaining that he wrote it more than 13 years ago to model flu pandemics. Csefalvay responds as follows: “That, sir, is not a feature. It’s not even a bug. It’s somewhere between negligence and unintentional but grave scientific misconduct.”


Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (55)

 


May 10, 2020

How many times have you heard from politicians and leaders that they are “following the science” in their decisions and deliberations regarding Covid-19? While it is admirable that they are paying attention to the science, it has to be remembered that the science of any particular issue, and particularly medical and biological issues, is often confused and contradictory. It is certainly not “settled science” as the well-known fraud Al Gore claimed with climate science.

There was another devastating review of computer modeling of the Covid-19 pandemic from Lubos Motl, a well-known Czech theoretical physicist and right-wing blogger on The Reference Frame. He recommended the excellent video (screenshot above) produced on British TV by Dr Deborah Cohen, yes, an actual doctor and not a journalist posing as one. It blasts some big, deserved holes in the modeling farce that is mesmerizing politicians. “Following the science” does no-one any good when you find out that three weeks later “the science” was wrong. Reacting and changing course when new facts and data become available is what rational people do; they don’t scream “anti-science” at anyone.

Skilled scientists can reach different conclusions from the same set of facts. Constant vigilance is essential for finding the best course of action in a rapidly changing environment.

The fetishization of computer models and “the science” blinds many people to the inherent uncertainties and changing probabilities. Good leaders respond to these changes; they do not fixate on one model or course of action.

That the British government relied, essentially, on one model of the pandemic to annihilate the livelihoods of millions of people is staggering. Even more so knowing the very poor prediction record of the Bonking Boffin, Professor Ferguson.

As Lubos Motl says of Dr Deborah Cohen:

…It seems to me that she primarily sees that the “models” predicting half a million of dead Britons have spectacularly failed and it is something that an honest health journalist simply must be interested in. And she seems to be an achieved and award-winning journalist. Second, she seems to see through some of the “more internal” defects of bad medical (and not only medical) science. Her PhD almost certainly helps in that. Someone whose background is purely in humanities or the PR-or-communication gibberish simply shouldn’t be expected to be on par with a real PhD.
[snip]…
“Models” and “good theory” aren’t just orthogonal. The culture of “models” is actively antiscientific because it comes with the encouragement to mindlessly trust in what happens in computer games. This isn’t just “different and independent from” the genuine scientific method. It just directly contradicts the scientific method. In science, you just can’t ever mindlessly trust something just because expensive hardware was used or a high number of operations was made by the CPU.

This is the problem. If the government were serious about “the science”, they would have asked for several competing modeling teams and scientists from a wide variety of institutions. Yes, the SAGE Committee is supposed to be that, but look at the names (only just recently released to the public—-why?); a perfect model for group-think.

As we learn more about Covid-19, namely, that rigorous hand-washing and masks in confined pubic places like stores and public transit are probably 90% of the disease suppression, the case for the total lockdown is getting much weaker. Further, in many countries, more than half the deaths have been in long-term care facilities, retirement homes and other such institutions. A much more reasoned and targeted approach is called for. However, many politicians, particularly Democrats in the US, are really getting a taste for totalitarian actions based on arbitrary claims of infallible knowledge of “the science”.

This has got to stop.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (54)


Source: CDC

 

May 9, 2020

As the Ontario economy is almost all shut down, it is worth looking a little more closely at the state of play with the medical facts of the coronavirus. Millions of livelihoods are being destroyed and lives disrupted. Does this all need a re-think?

In a previous missive, we looked at the critiques of the Imperial College model used by the UK government to lockdown (lockup, sh-h-urely) the entire nation. This example has been followed by the US, Canada and other countries.

According to Ontario government figures, so far there have been 19 944 cases with 1599 deaths. According to the National Institute on Ageing, in Ontario there have been 6815 cases in 289 care homes with a total of 1141 deaths. So the total number of deaths in the population excluding care homes is 458. With the population of Ontario at 14.4 million or thereabouts, this amounts to one death per 31 441 people. Of course, these numbers will change but probably not much in proportion.

From the CDC in the US, we learn that in all hospitalizations, 59% have high blood pressure, 50% are obese, 35% have cardiovascular disease, and 42% have some metabolic disease. 90% have one or more comorbidities , and for the older population (>65 years old) 56% have two or more comorbidities. Of the 458 Ontario deaths outside care homes, and assuming 90% have comorbidities, then if you are reasonably healthy (not diabetic, normal blood pressure, not obese etc.) the probability of your dying is about 46 in 14.4 million, or one in 313 000.

Clearly, isolating and protecting the residents of care homes and retirement homes is the critical part, but does this justify locking down the entire population and shutting down the economy? Why not let the under 50s return to work now?

Rebel Yell


A Journal of the Plague Year (53)




Santorini, Greece: is this Absurd?

May 8, 2020

Private beach pods? Is this the future? —No, the present.

In local news: [here]
 

The toll on the elderly has been tremendous, but note that the median age is 86 in care homes. This disease is rarely fatal for reasonably healthy people in the normal world.
Also: [here]

Deaths in Sweden has been far higher relative to the size of the population than in Denmark, Norway and Finland, where authorities have taken a stricter approach. But they have been lower than in Britain, France and Spain, where there have also been lockdowns.

So, there is no real correlation between lockdown and number of deaths. Thus the lower rates in Denmark and others are likely due to another cause, maybe earlier detection and tracking, than to a lockdown.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (51)


From: Our World in Data; three-day rolling average of deaths per million population from COVID-19
May 6, 2020

Premier Ford has extended the Emergency Orders in Ontario until the Victoria Day weekend on May 19th. This includes electricity rate relief for small businesses and farmers. Actually farmers in Ontario with greenhouses should be awarded free electricity to encourage more home production of food. [here]

As far as Ontario’s COVID-19 deaths, the Ottawa Citizen reports (May 6th):

Although Ontario reported no new nursing home outbreaks, the number of long-term care deaths in the province passed 1,000, with another 31 residents dying. In all, 61 new deaths were reported, bringing the province’s total to 1,361, according to latest government data.

So only 361 deaths were not in long-term care facilities. And how many of those had co-morbidities like obesity, heart disease, diabetes etc.? It’s beginning to look like if you are a reasonably healthy person, not overweight, and without other problems, the probability of your dying of COVID-19 is very low.

So now the politicians must start thinking about trade-offs. Millions of lives are being ruined by this on-going throttling of the economy with its concurrent risks, including risks of people dying of conditions that would normally be treated in the health care system. Yes, there might be an increase of corona cases, but we now know more about the virus and how to deal with infections and their spread. People will be used to a higher level of risk, but can act accordingly. Most people have common sense.

Most in the media don’t have common sense, so politicians will be condemned whatever decision they make.

Has the lockdown had a significant effect on the case numbers? Standard thinking goes like this…

Fact A: novel corona virus is a new disease and we have no natural immunity to it. [Reducing the spread is thus a good idea and a lockdown will do that.]

Fact B: the spread had been greatly reduced and cases and deaths are falling in number.

So, was fact B caused by fact A? Well, not necessarily. Compare countries that pursued the lockdown strategy and countries that did not, for example, Sweden. [See graph above].

If you did not know which countries were pursuing lockdowns and which were not, the data above does not show any significant differences. Something to think about.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (52)



May 7, 2020

To echo General Ripper in Dr Stranglove…”Although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it’s beginning to look like Professor Ferguson exceeded his authority…”

For those of you who just returned to Earth, Ferguson, Professor of Epidemiology at Imperial College London, one of the leading science universities in the world (disclosure, I am an alumnus thereof) is famous for presenting a model of the corona virus pandemic which, apparently, scared the British government into its total lockdown mode by predicting in excess of half million deaths in the UK if this action was not taken.

Well, Ferguson has a new claim to fame now—he’s been breaking the lockdown rules he espoused. Now, Professor Pantsdown, the Bonking Boffin, has been visiting his mistress, another far-left ‘activist’ and a married woman with children and an obviously beta-male husband. He has resigned from the SAGE (STUPID, sh-h-urely) committee, until recently a secret tribe of lefty academics supposedly advising Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister.

Ferguson’s main claim to fame is his computer model used to predict the outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic. His model and software have been subjected to devastating reviews as may be seen here.

For starters, and this is bad enough, it is 15 000 lines of C++ code that has been built up over 15 years, and tweaked to death to get it to work. Anyone who has worked with C++ knows it’s a devil to deal with as new bugs tend to get introduced where least expected, especially with such a large program. Ferguson has refused to release the source code, which should, by itself, light up any dashboard. Apparently, some heavily modified version  is available via GitHub, the software sharing site. Here’s what appears:


COVID-19 CovidSim Model
This is the COVID-19 CovidSim microsimulation model developed by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis hosted at Imperial College, London.
CovidSim models the transmission dynamics and severity of COVID-19 infections throughout a spatially and socially structured population over time. It enables modelling of how intervention policies and healthcare provision affect the spread of COVID-19. With parameter changes, it can be used to model other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.
IMPORTANT NOTES
⚠️ This code is released with no support.
⚠️ This model is in active development and so parameter name and behaviours, and output file formats will change without notice.
⚠️ The model is stochastic. Multiple runs with different seeds should be undertaken to see average behaviour.
⚠️ As with any mathematical model, it is easy to misconfigure inputs and therefore get meaningless outputs. The Imperial College COVID-19 team only endorses outputs it has itself generated.

W-H-A-T! It is nigh on unbelievable that the British government is shutting down the world’s fifth largest economy based on this.

As the code reviewer says:

Non-deterministic outputs. Due to bugs, the code can produce very different results given identical inputs. They routinely act as if this is unimportant.
This problem makes the code unusable for scientific purposes, given that a key part of the scientific method is the ability to replicate results. Without replication, the findings might not be real at all – as the field of psychology has been finding out to its cost. Even if their original code was released, it’s apparent that the same numbers as in Report 9 might not come out of it.


And further:

Investigation reveals the truth: the code produces critically different results, even for identical starting seeds and parameters.
A team from the University of Edinburgh tried to use this code after making the data tables more efficient for faster loading, and discovered to their surprise—and, no doubt horror—that the resulting predictions were off by 80 000 deaths for the same parameter input!

The Imperial team’s response is that it doesn’t matter: they are “aware of some small non-determinisms”, but “this has historically been considered acceptable because of the general stochastic nature of the model”. Note the phrasing here: Imperial know their code has such bugs, but act as if it’s some inherent randomness of the universe, rather than a result of amateur coding. Apparently, in epidemiology, a difference of 80,000 deaths is “a small non-determinism”.

Frankly, words fail me. This software has never been tested and examined by people who really know about dealing with large populations, like insurance companies, who have to deal with the real world.

Further, Professor Ferguson’s previous escapades in the world of epidemiology leave much to be desired:

• In 2005, Neil Ferguson told the Guardian that up to 200 million people could die from bird flu. “Around 40 million people died in 1918 Spanish flu outbreak,” he explained. “There are six times more people on the planet now so you could scale it up to around 200 million people probably.” The final death toll from avian flu strain A/H5N1 was 440. (That’s 440 people, not 440 million.)
• In 2002, the same Professor Ferguson predicted that mad cow disease could kill up to 50,000 people. Thankfully, it ended up killing less than 200.

There’s much more to come out about this story. But, Imperial College has taken a huge hit to its reputation as a world leader. They should let Professor Ferguson know it.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (50)



May 5, 2020


Tonight; interesting links to follow—no prior commentary:

https://www.1828.org.uk/2020/05/05/the-uks-catalogue-of-catastrophes-and-what-to-do-next/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpIs8Y9vgSs

https://www.jpost.com/health-science/iibr-completes-development-phase-of-covid-19-vaccine-626913

https://www.aier.org/article/woodstock-occurred-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic/

Rebel Yell

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Dr John Campbell

May 4, 2020

 

Dr Campbell is a British medical man (PhD Nursing) who gives excellent videos every day on the state of the corona virus pandemic.  He sticks fast to the medical facts and how they influence us.

 

However, in this video, he can scarcely contain his outrage at the behavior of the World Health Organization (WHO) and, of course, the Chinese Communist regime. 

 

The purpose of the WHO is to oversee the public health issues facing the nations around the world and alert us to possible oncoming dangers.  In the video, Dr Campbell lays out the time from December 2019 to the present and all the decision points where the WHO was manifestly negligent while repeating the lies of the communist regime.  Time after time, the WHO failed to give relevant information and advice when that is their mandate. His words include “appalling” and “a disgrace” among others. But he keeps his cool. 

 

The WHO has a special committee to look out for these eventualities, one of whose members is Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer.  She was part of this charade of a health organization all this time and is complicit in its actions.  Not a word of criticism has been raised in our supine media; only Rebel News has carried anything about this—which explains why they are so despised by the Establishment.

 

Sheila Gunn Reid of Rebel News

And speaking of our mini-me PM, the new Canada Emergency Business Account designed to advance loans of up to $40 000 for businesses in the COVID-19 relief program has to have some Liberal slime attached to it. Of course, any small business has to sign on to a loyalty oath to Liberal values if they want a loan!  No wonder Trudeau has such admiration for the communist tyranny in China; he’s trying to import their methods here. As Sheila Gunn Reid points out in Rebel News [here] :

 

…But there is a hitch, as there always is with Liberal programs. The new CEBA program is tailored to make sure that only Liberal compliant businesses survive.

To qualify for the government backed bank loan, the struggling applicant businesses must profess:

“…does not promote violence, incite hatred or discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, region, education, age or mental or physical disability”.

The problem is the Liberals’ definitions of those things — discrimination, hate and violence — are ever-evolving, to mean values that don’t comport with stuff Justin Trudeau likes.

Christian bookstore? You mean you hate gay and transgender people.

Sporting goods supplier? You mean you promote violence because you oppose the new Liberal gun ban.

Boys’ summer camp? You’re discriminating against girls.

See where this is going?

This is a slippery and dangerous slope. A government loan program should be open to everyone meeting the financial criteria, not just those who agree with the government. Do we want a values test for healthcare? Or welfare?

 

Equality for Liberals means submitting to their dogma.  Nothing else.

 

Rebel Yell