Kerry: Did Shoddy Science Shut Down America?

https://www.kerrydougherty.com/allposts/2020/4/9/did-shoddy-science-shut-down-america

I wouldn’t go as far as Dougherty does in her title to say that the science was shoddy. Instead, I would emphasize that too many people misunderstood the science, or misrepresented it for all the usual reasons. As a result, we are still dealing with Chicken Little thinking in too much of our public discourse.

The science says that herd immunity is the only way to stop the pandemic. I was very pleased, therefore, to hear the president announce yesterday that he is forming a new task force to come up with ways to re-open the economy. The move makes perfect sense, once you conceive that there are practical ways to manage the development of the herd immunity we need.

36 thoughts on “Kerry: Did Shoddy Science Shut Down America?

  1. Herd Immunity is a terrific concept and, gee, wouldn’t it be great if we could get there sooner rather than later. But, if one actually does the math is it a good choice to race to get there? How many millions of lives should be sacrificed around the world?

    Herd immunity comes – they say – when 80% of the population has been exposed to the virus and lived to tell about it. Let’s say the population of this country is 330 million people. 80% exposed means 264 million cases. While it is not known, assume that only 1 in four cases requires any kind of medical intervention and of those cases ONLY, say, 3% end up dead – if our medical system can keep up. That translates to 1,980,000 deaths. With active social distancing we seem to be on track for deaths in the range of 100K-200K. So, policy makers need to think hard about entering a race to get to herd immunity.

    Flattening the curve and buying time for research on treatments and vaccines is not obviously the wrong approach as you seem to be saying. But, I know your answer already. It will be . . . “So what, people die of something.”

    BTW, at this moment the USA has identified 501,701 cases resulting – so far – in 18,781 deaths. That is 3.7% with about 454,000 cases still pending an outcome. That 3.7% will only get larger. Maybe much larger. Countries a few weeks ahead of us in the spread of the virus have experienced deaths exceeding 10% of identified cases.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your math is useless:

      a) It doesn’t account for the level of herd immunity that already exists. It can’t, because that hasn’t been measured yet.

      b) Your death rate of 3.7% is not accurate. Your sample is biased by the fact that only people who are already sick are being tested for the presence of the virus.

      Herd immunity is not a “gee” nice-to-have. It is the only way for the pandemic to stop, as I said.

      Like

      1. @Roberts

        You are correct. Due to bumbling by the Trump administration on testing we do not have any way to know how many people have already been exposed. But the level at the moment does not affect the math presented. The three key assumptions are . . .

        1. Herd immunity requires that 80% be exposed.
        2. Only 1 in 4 people exposed will seek medical care. Could be higher or lower. We do not know.
        3. Of those that do seek medical care 3% will die. Based on data to date that may be conservative. It could be a lot worse.

        I applied that 3.7% only to the cases requiring medical intervention. So your criticism there misses the mark.

        Herd immunity can be achieved carefully or recklessly. Flattening the curve gives time for therapies and vaccines which do not now exist time to be developed and deployed. And avoids over-taxing hospitals which appears to be a major factor in Italy’s 12% plus death rate.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. RE: “But the level [of herd immunity] at the moment does not affect the math presented.”

          Of course not. I didn’t say your math is wrong, I said it is useless, for the reasons given.

          Like

        2. @Roberts

          Not to be unkind, but the two reasons you gave to say the math was useless are stupid reasons. I tried to politely explain that to you but you are either too dull or too lazy or too stubborn to pay attention. The three assumptions I listed are each reasonable and supported by the evidence so far. The math from those assumptions is inexorable. It is that math that has responsible leaders extremely concerned.

          You may think “useless” means something that yields an answer you do not like, but you are wrong about that.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. RE: “The math from those assumptions is inexorable.”

          I never said it wasn’t. Your problem is that your math predicts 2 million deaths (1,980,000 ) along the path to herd immunity. IHME, however, predicts 60 thousand on the same path. And, no, social distancing doesn’t account for the difference, because IHME calculated those effects all along.

          So, either your picture of the world is unrealistic, or IHME’s is, or both.

          I opt for both, since neither of you include measured herd immunity levels in your calculations (because you can’t). Even Dr.s Fauci and Birx have made this point, Fauci in an AMA article back in March: The actual death rate, based on the number of people who become infected, is probably much less than 1%, not the 3% or more you calculate based on case numbers.

          But, hey, be my guest. If you want to use useless math to support your fantasies, go for it. Just don’t expect anyone to follow you.

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          1. @Roberts

            Your grasp of fundamental math has been questioned in this discussion. You probably are wondering why? Here let me help.

            Once again you offer this criticism . . . “The actual death rate, based on the number of people who become infected, is probably much less than 1%, not the 3% or more you calculate based on case numbers.”

            If you paid attention to the math and understood it, this sentence should have wormed its way into your brain . . . “While it is not known, assume that only 1 in four cases requires any kind of medical intervention and of those cases ONLY, say, 3% end up dead”

            So, pop quiz – what is the death rate from the virus being used in the math? I will put the answer in a separate post to give you a chance to work it out.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. @Roberts

            As promised here is the solution to the pop quiz. The actual death rate from the virus used in the math is . . . . . Drum roll . . . . 0.75%. If you do not understand why, then I give up.

            Liked by 2 people

    2. Kerry said bodies might be stacked like cordwood was the Chicken Little cry.

      Well, yesterday, we saw photos of mass graves in NYC, with coffins stacked like cordwood.

      This attack on the models reminds me of some of our near misses with hurricanes. The scientists are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. RE: “Well, yesterday, we saw photos of mass graves in NYC, with coffins stacked like cordwood.”

        So what?

        RE: “The scientists are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

        Yes, they are, but it’s not their fault if no one pays attention to them.

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        1. “So what?”

          Boy, you are cold and calculating. When was the last time in the US that we have had mass graves due to an epidemic?

          Norfolk had several in the 1855 Yellow Fever epidemic, one of which is now a small corner lot without buidlings at the intersection of Hampton Blvd. and Princess Ann Road.

          That death toll was about 3000.

          Bottom line is that this pandemic is serious stuff. Despite the wild proposals from Wittkowski that we just go about our business and develop herd immunity.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. RE: “Boy, you are cold and calculating.”

            Not at all. The question is fair: Do you want to have a discussion, or a group cry?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. It was part of the discussion regarding Kerry’s remark of bodies stacked like cordwood as part of her, and apparently your, dismissal that this virus is serious and not just the flu in another coat.

            All this because the models have been corrected to the best of their ability.

            Again, as part of a discussion rather than a hanky fest I ask you:

            Are you saying the scientists misrepresented the science for purposes of grabbing power or mislead for some other nefarious reasons?

            Is the administration responsible for the actions taken?

            Liked by 2 people

          3. RE: “Are you saying the scientists misrepresented the science for purposes of grabbing power or mislead for some other nefarious reasons?

            “Is the administration responsible for the actions taken?”

            See below. Blaming someone is not the filter I chose to apply.

            Like

          4. But you are blaming someone. “Mislead and misrepresent are not “atta boys”.

            If the administration is not responsible for the actions, good or bad, who the heck is?

            Liked by 2 people

  2. “I would emphasize that too many people misunderstood the science, or misrepresented it for all the usual reasons.”

    That is a broad statement. Who are you talking about? The policies that shut down the economy came from the administration and the hardest hit governors first and the rest later. They are the only sources with enough power to do that.

    And what on earth are all the “usual reasons”?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That still doesn’t answer the question.

        Are you saying the scientists misrepresented the science for purposes of grabbing power or mislead for some other nefarious reasons?

        Is the administration responsible for the actions taken?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. @Len

          When I would teach teachers how to teach, an inevitable question would always present itself: “how do you teach those who refuse to listen and learn?”

          The professional response was to provide tools and techniques that focused on the application of facts and logic to convey basic truths.

          And when that failed, to recognize that resources are limited, life is short and at some point you just need to save those you can because you can’t fix stupid (actually I usually left that last part out)

          FWIW.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. RE: “Are you saying the scientists misrepresented the science for purposes of grabbing power or mislead for some other nefarious reasons?

          “Is the administration responsible for the actions taken?”

          I don’t think any scientists have misrepresented the science for any reason. As for the administration, it is certainly responsible for the actions it has taken, but that would be true in any case.

          If you are looking for someone to blame or exonerate, you can look in the mirror, I suppose. Or, if blaming someone is the only filter you intend to apply to the topic, you can focus on the opening remark of the post where I said I wouldn’t go as far as Dougherty as to call the science shoddy.

          Like

    1. Does that have anything to do with the recent revelation that the NY virus came from Europe and the San Francisco one originated in China?

      Should we be assaulting Italians and boycotting manicotti parmigiana?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hold off on bombing a pizzeria. Found a site with a boatload of info from Johns Hopkins Medical.

      https://www.hopkinsguides.com/hopkins/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX_Guide/540747/all/Coronavirus_COVID_19__SARS_CoV_2_

      “Early Wuhan experience suggested a case fatality rate as high as 4.3%, but likely 2% elsewhere in China.
      Preliminary evidence suggests two strains of SARS-2-CoV circulating: one associated with milder illness (~30%), the other with severe illness (70%). Additional sequencing studies may help define if further mutations may lessen virulence and also help trace spread.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Absent random serology testing of a large and diverse enough sample to determine how many people have actually recovered from minor cases, any modeling and prediction based on the incomplete data we have is the mathematical equivalent of examining chicken entrails for omens.

    Non-random testing data of a self selecting sample doesn’t tell us a damned thing.

    Like

    1. @Tabor

      “Non-random testing data of a self selecting sample doesn’t tell us a damned thing.”

      Uh, that is not true.

      It may not tell us everything we want to know but it is telling us something. Decisions have to be made on the basis of the best information available at the time.

      Right now we know, for example, that of the people in Italy who were found to be sick from coronavirus, 12% have died so far. Maybe because they let their hospitals be overrun.

      We know from extensive random testing in Iceland that about 50% of those infected experience only very mild symptoms. In the back of the envelop calculation that I did above, I assumed a much more favorable ratio – 75%.

      We know that in this country, of those who have been found to have the virus almost 4% have died with the outcome of about half a million more cases yet to be determined.

      These facts are not the whole story, obviously, but it is all that policy makers have to go on (thanks, Trump) and your equating these facts with chicken entrails is extremely hyperbolic.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ” Decisions have to be made on the basis of the best information available at the time.”

        Except when it it Trump making the decisions, then they have to be made based on information that will become available weeks later.

        When decisions are made based on known bad data, they are as likely to do harm as good.

        But again, taking out the FDA so that the private sector could have been set free to develop tests that worked would have helped with that as well.

        Any honest evaluation of the response will concede that the 70 year old FDA bureaucracy was the source of the delay and the basis for poor early decisions.

        Like

        1. @Tabor

          You can pretend that Trump did not dilly dally for two months if that floats your boat, but he did. He had explicit warnings of what was coming and what needed to be done in mid-January. He did not do anything meaningful and effective until mid-March. And no, partially cutting off landings from China was not effective nor meaningful.

          Known bad data? Not clear what you are talking about there?

          The coronavirus did not exist until sometime late in 2019. Its genome was not worked out until sometime in January. The idea that somehow without the FDA and CDC the private sector would be all over investing in test kits is quite a stretch.

          But, leave aside anything that the FDA did or failed to do, what Trump chose to do is enough to damn him. With knowledge of how serious the threat was – before most people according to him now – he chose to obfuscate and lie to the American people. For about two months. For that alone – never mind failures by the FDA or a universe of woulda, coulda or shoulda – he has the blood of thousands on his hands.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. OK, let’s work with some bad data and see the outcome.

            Early predictions were for 1 to 2 MILLION dead Americans. Now the total is expected to be less than 100K. Therefore, Trump’s policies have saved well over a million Americans.

            There, still like working with known bad data?

            Like

          2. “Trump’s policies” ??

            You have gone OVER the edge.

            Individual State Administrations and the American people have reduced the virus impact. To give the clueless asshole in the WH credit is delusional.

            IMO.

            Liked by 2 people

          3. @Tabor

            Can you never be honest?
            Those forecasts of about 2 million dead were based on the premise that the virus run its course unheeded. You know that.

            The lower forecasts now are because of the actions of governors, mayors and millions of individuals not of anything that Trump has done. He has tried to head off the very measures that account for the better outlook. He is STILL doing it with nonsense talk of going back to normal – first by Easter and now by May 1.

            Liked by 1 person

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