This Damn Covid19

From Feb to May I observed many deaths from Covid19 graphs that looked like this:

I observed this in different populations, and population sizes, around the world. I hypothesized that something was dramatically slowing the spread of the disease long before the experts’ 70% herd immunity threshold. At the time there were reports of widely underreported (unmeasured) infections. This was followed by press reports of our failure to  manage this because of lack of tests.

The lack of testing got corrected by Jul and then I observed a lot of curves that looked like this:

To the degree that the explosion of “cases” without an increase in deaths was explained, the theories were: better case, better mitigations, false positives in the PCR-RT and pre-existing immunity. But the good news wasn’t really explored much, and the press was mostly about the increase in cases.

At the time, I tried and failed to correlate the mitigations we were trying with results. I was not successful. The virus seemed to do what it wanted.

I hypothesized that perhaps we were reaching herd immunity. Unfortunately this isn’t what happened. The threshold of resistance is no longer there.

At the time, there was a lot of press that stated that the USA was in long flat spot, or maybe even a second wave, relative to the rest of the world, which had apparently burned it out with their superior leadership and respect for science. I pointed out that that the long flat spot in the USA data was a result of the virus moving geometrically.

If we look at Deaths/M data for several states, we see that New York (and surrounding states) were responsible for wave 1, peaking at the end of Mar, and Texas, California and Florida (etc.) responsible for wave 2, peaking around the middle of Aug. Wave 2 was a much larger total population. At the time I thought I was observing a decrease in deaths/M over a larger population, leading to the appearance of “worse” outcomes (i.e. more total deaths) hiding the good news which is much better survival rates. I no longer see that in the data I’m looking at now. Perhaps I was being fooled by better outcomes relative to cases. I cannot explain this (although I didn’t spend much time trying).

The real puzzle is what’s going on starting in November? Death rates/M are increasing, not just in the USA but around the world. This definitely looks like (real) wave 2. The press has many explanations for this: Sturgis, Trump rallies, Thanksgiving, mask cheating, back to school, surfing, etc. None of them really correlate, and don’t explain the worldwide effect. Of course, many people predicted a second wave in colder fall when people go indoors. I haven’t spent any time looking at hemisphere data. Perhaps this is correct.

I don’t know how to make sense of the global increase in mask wearing with the global increase in deaths over the last 3 months. This doesn’t seem to make intuitive sense. But it’s what the data shows.

It would be helpful to have better test and control demographics, but I don’t. The press claims California is a  high compliance, high mitigation state, and Florida a free for all.

With all the caveats in the self-reported CMU mask data I flagged in the last post, let’s look at deaths/M in CA and FL. The blue line is mask wearing in FL and the orange line is death/M in FL. The grey and yellow lines are mask wearing and deaths/M in CA.

It isn’t working. Anywhere.

I think public policy folks know this by now but are out of ideas. And they sure as hell are not going to admit they have never known anything.

I was a bit surprised by the degree of offense my last post on masks produced. There seemed to be a widespread belief that “we” are wearing masks but “they” are not.


Some folks made the “saves one life argument”. I agree with that. Unfortunately 300,000,000 masked people, each saving 1 life, would be 300,000,000 lives saved. Which would be great. If 300,000,000 masked people saved 100% of all Covid19 deaths to date in the USA, that would be 1000 masked persons / life saved. Even that would be good, if true. Unfortunately, so far, the data shows masking increases deaths, making it hard to model deaths saved.  

For what it’s worth, I’ve worn a mask since late Feb. Lately I gotten better at cleaning and replacement.

Feel free to do as you think best.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year