Time Dilation

I’ve noticed that people’s sense of time, including my own, is all messed up.

A comparison: in the US, the number of Cov-19 deaths has gone from about 300 to ~95,000 in two months.

The 1918 flu: First noticed on March 11, Fort Riley. Maybe a few hundred deaths in the spring of 1918. Really took off in September (12,000 deaths) – six months later, not two.

It looks as if covid-19 has a higher R0 than 1918 influenza when allowed to run free, while transportation and movement are considerably faster today than in 1918.

The idea that it must not really be very infectious, since it has only infected ~4% of the US in two months –  not very infectious compared to what?






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128 Responses to Time Dilation

  1. John Massey says:

    Measles. But it’s at least 4x as infectious as seasonal influenza in the absence of any controls, social distancing, masks, enhanced hand hygiene, etc.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Has an R0 around 10. Must have been impressive when it hit the Amerindians.

      • Gordon William Marsden says:

        it did. and small pox even more . an estimated up to 90% kill rate. even more than the tobacco they gave back .

        • Frau Katze says:

          And then yellow fever and malaria arrived with slaves brought over because so many of the of the unfortunate natives had died of European diseases.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Correction: according to some claims, 12-18.

        • John Massey says:


          Plus, with a lot of indigenous people, it was very common cultural practice when someone was sick for everyone else to cluster closely around them. Measles went through unadmixed Australian Aboriginal populations like a hot knife through butter.

          I got measles when I was 3 years old. I remember it very well. Day 1, I was too sick to lift my head off the pillow. By Day 2 I had become hyperactive, but delirious, and bored confined to bed, and I remember trying unsuccessfully to climb up my bedroom curtains the way you would climb up a suspended rope or a coconut palm, and my mother having to come in and dissuade me. I don’t remember very well after that – as far as I can recall, my mother let me get out of bed to play outdoors, probably somewhat prematurely, but before I wrecked the bedroom.

          • gcochran9 says:

            I was older: it was thought that you shouldn’t strain your eyes, so I wasn’t allowed to read. A fate worse than death !

            • gothamette says:

              Measles, mumps, and chicken pox here. One kid got sick. We all did. I marvel at how our parents just took it calmly – even relieved. Well, that’s over with. Roald Dahl lost a daughter to measles & became a vocal supporter of vaccination.

              Anyway, here’s another good one. It occurred to me that if we knew the PFR of Bergamo, that would be a better comparison to the US than the Diamond Princess, for all sorts of reasons. And lo, someone did a study. Where we’re headed.


              • Frau Katze says:

                I didn’t know that about Roald Dahl. I’ve read that measles can occasionally be fatal. All I can remember are the closed curtains. Apparently almost everyone born before 1957 had measles, there were several extensive outbreaks.

            • mtkennedy21 says:

              My room was kept dark.

          • Stephen M St Onge says:

            My brothers and I all got measles, and later chickenpox, simultaneously with both diseases. Oddly, I don’t remember feeling sick at all, with either one. Weird.

            • John Massey says:

              Oh, I remember having chickenpox when very young – I felt like hell, scratched my pox, still got the scars. I also got rubella when I was a bit older; that wasn’t much fun either, but not as bad. I managed to dodge pertussis and the mumps – actually I got the mumps for one night when I was in my early 20s when my father and sister were infected with it, but woke up fully recovered the next morning, so put that down to hysteria maybe; but whichever way you look at that, I had to have had some kind of immunity, because we were living in close quarters, they both got really sick but kept getting out of bed and staggering around instead of staying confined to their rooms, the selfish bastards, and I could smell them, my glands swelled up like hell one night, but next morning – no swollen glands, nothing. So either I had a really mild transient dose, or they failed to infect me, although they sure tried hard.

              The really big bullet I dodged was polio, when I was 4. That was way too close, terrifyingly close – I had a little playmate, one day we were playing together all day, the next day she was in an iron lung in hospital and nearly died, her whole family were quarantined, and she never walked again. The angels were watching over me that day.

            • gothamette says:

              I only remember that chicken pox was itchy. The other stuff, no memory.

  2. I believe that you are off by almost an order of magnitude. Covid has infected about 0.45% of the U.S. population, not 4%, and will probably infect about 0.6% when all is said and done. Further, it seems on track to kill about 0.04% of the U.S. population, as against almost 0.06% for the Spanish flu, which infected about 28% of the population. There is no doubt that covid is more lethal than the Spanish flu, once contracted, but would it have reached 28% of the population in the absence of the rather extreme and economically devastating measures taken to prevent its spead? ¿quién sabe?

    • gcochran9 says:

      I believe you’re drunk. Out of six numerical statements of fact, you have five wrong.

      You can’t even get history right: the 1918 flu killed about 675,000 people in the US, out of a population of about 100 million.
      675,000/100,000,000 = 0.675%.

      If you can’t even do long division, get out of here.

    • ourobolos says:

      There’s close to 100k WuFlu deaths in the US already, with a ~1% IFR this implies around 10m infections as of around two or three weeks ago, and add on another 100k/infections a day (at least) since then and you’re right at 4% of the population infected so far.

      • Dmon says:

        The main US wave of the 1918 epidemic actually had a similar time profile – 195,000 US dead in October 1918 alone. October/November 1918 was the roughest period. Took awhile to get going maybe, but CV19 seems to have taken a couple of months from the first US deaths to the (first?) big peak.

        • Stephen M St Onge says:

          The deaths from the Commie Virus are a consequence of two things.

          The first is exponential growth. The virus almost certainly arrived in the second or third week of January, but there were so few cases then that very minor actions affected the spread (e.g., someone infected, just back from China or Europe, felt lousy because of jet lag and stayed home for a few days when he was at peak infectiousness). As a result, it took a few weeks to get established.

          But once it did get established, and there were enough people to even out statistical fluctuations, the number of infections grew at around 30% PER DAY.

          The second factor is that this time, unlike WWI, preventative measures were put in place. The rate of increase in infections peaked around March 26th, and has been falling since then. It’s now down to 1-2% per day.

          All you have to do to see all this is copy the data from Worldometer into a spreadsheet, and do a little intermediate algebra. Though I’ve noticed most people seem to be both intellectually and emotionally unable to handle the results.

          If present trends continue, this may be over in the U.S. in another three weeks. Hard to tell how the decrease in deaths will extrapolate, the way it bounces around.

          • Dmon says:

            They actually took mitigation measures in 1918 too. Be that as it may, my only point (admittedly not all that clear) was that, similar to CV19 (at least so far/1st wave), the killing phase of the 2nd (or first big US) wave of the Spanish Flu was largely a 2 month period Oct./Nov 1918. The original blog post compares the killing phase of CV19 with the seeding phase of Spanish Flu. CV19 had a seeding phase in the US, but given the difference in conditions (population distribution, not a whole lot of commercial air travel in 1918, etc.), it’s hard to base a comparison of infectiousness on the seeding timeline.


  3. jbbigf says:

    “Has an R0 around 10.”

    R0 is not a property of a virus. It is a property of a virus in a particular milieu.

    • Martin says:

      I would love to see an explanation of why measles is the most transmissible pathogen ever. Are the virions as light as or lighter than air so they stay suspended indefinitely? Are they super long-lived outside the body? Something else?

      Tangent, but someone needs to look at sCJD, sALS, PSP etc. patients for a history of measles infection. What if a lot of prion disease is actually very slow-acting SSPE?

      • mcdemarco says:

        Measles is airborne (though it can also be spread by contact), and an infected person can infect others for about a week. TB and chickenpox are also airborne, and chickenpox is nothing to sneeze at as far as transmissibility goes.

        I think you can see the difference between SSPE and CJD on a cat scan, so you can probably see it on autopsy as well. I think there’s no particular reason to suspect something besides prions in TSEs.

    • rgressis says:

      Could you explain what you mean? I thought R0 was supposed to be how infectious a particular virus is if we suppose that everyone in a population is equally susceptible to it. Is your point that you can’t talk about the R0 of a virus–you have to mention its R0 given the time and place? If so, what are all these epidemiologists doing online when they talk about the R0 of the SARS-COV-2?

      • gcochran9 says:

        In practice, R0s have in the past been reasonably uniform over different areas.

        • Ebola had noticably different R0 in west africa vs. elsewhere, mostly due to weird burial practices. Has anyone asked to see if New Yorkers have been kissing covid corpses?

          • gcochran9 says:

            DeBlasio, probably.

          • gothamette says:

            Do corpses really shed the virus? There was something about that in the beginning, but I believe it was fake news. I think the real reason funerals were banned is because it’s a great way to spread the virus – from live people to other live people.

      • Janet says:

        The “0” in “R0” means that it’s the contagiousness at time 0– the average number of new cases that one infected person, surrounded by 100% susceptible people, will cause. That one parameter determines the overall shape of the graph, more or less entirely. So yes, you’re right. R0 is always an estimate, but it is mostly determined by the biology of the infectious agent– how many viral/bacterial particles are needed to cause disease, how persistent it is in the environment, etc.

        The rate R (average number of new infections caused by each currently infected person) varies over time, because the number of susceptible people goes down (they get the disease or are vaccinated, and thus immune) or up (people gradually lose immunity over time, or new people enter the population). The R value is also affected strongly by public health measures, societal/behavioral habits, and so on– that’s why you have a very different effective R value for the same disease in different societies, or in different sub-groups within the same society, or when society makes changes to its typical behavior over time.

      • RCB says:

        In theory, at least, R0 depends on the pattern of social interactions. A reserved, low-density society that has a germ theory would be expected to spread a disease more slowly than, say, a high-density one that doesn’t know about germs and has the cultural practice of greeting each other by kiss. This is why self-imposed social distancing ought to help out: we slow down the spread. If another novel disease were introduced into society right now, I gotta believe it would have a lower R0 than if we were all behaving business-as-usual.

        In practice, I don’t know how variable R0 actually is depending on these factors.

  4. Pingback: Spanish Flu: The First Wave – Occidental Dissent

  5. Pincher Martin says:

    There has also been a dilation of perspective on the COVID-19 casualties.

    In mid-March, skeptics were focused on the low headline death numbers. “Just a few dozen deaths. What’s the big deal?” A lot of those skeptics thought it was “just the flu,” but a handful of them didn’t even think it was that bad. Presumably that small group wasn’t watching what was happening in China and Italy.

    Near the end of March, I offered a wager to one of those skeptics. I proposed that the U.S. would see more than thirty thousand Americans die of the virus by the end of April. He called me “alarmist” and then went even further by saying I was out of my mind. I told him that my estimate was conservative. I suspected the actual number would be much higher, but I wanted to win the bet so I lowballed it.

    When the number of COVID-19 deaths picked up steam in April, the skeptics changed tactics and began arguing that we couldn’t trust the numbers. They were inflated. Grossly inflated. Old sick people were being knocked off a little early by a virus that wasn’t really that lethal. You see, those elderly were already living on the edge of the abyss so their deaths shouldn’t count. Why does it matter if a sick eighty-year-old dies this month or a couple of months later?

    The month of May brought a determined resignation among the skeptics. I began hearing the words “herd immunity” a lot more. It had always been background noise before, but it was now front and center of many discussions. Apparently it was only days away, too. More shockingly, I began hearing that lockdowns and social distancing were a waste of time. They had, quite literally, no impact on the spread of the virus. Dozens of literate people have now told me this. Some have even demanded I prove that social distancing and lockdowns help slow down the virus at all. I would be only a little more shocked if they skeptically demanded that I prove the concept of gravity.

    Do the people whose thinking has evolved over the last two months in the way I describe above represent the majority of Americans? No. But there are a surprisingly large number of vocal conservatives who think this way. And because they’re concentrated on the right, they will likely have significant influence on Trump’s thinking and on the thinking of the red-state governors where the virus has yet to get its hooks in good and tight.

    • akarlin says:

      What amazed me is that I have now been assaulted as a COVID fascist (by a leftist) and a COVID globalist (by a rightist) for continuing to perpetrate the COVID hoax.

      Like, I can understand the hoax conspiracy take in January. Now?

      They’re weren’t just some random Internet nutjobs but those two in particular are/were my friends or at least close acquaintances. One of them now likely a former friend. (I do not wish to have a conflict over this myself but he insists).

      • gcochran9 says:

        So, when people you know express their crazy on SARS-2, do you think that it drove them nuts or just revealed what was already there?

      • Pincher Martin says:

        “COVID fascist” is a new one for me. I guess it shows you’re hanging out with some creative people who have a wider and more interesting range of crazy views than I routinely see.

        I’m amazed by the plasticity of views on casualties in just two months. In my experience, more than 90% of the Americans who thought this was “just the flu” in mid-March have not changed their minds despite not one of them predicting even the possibility of nearly 100,000 COVID-19 deaths by mid-May while most of the U.S. was trying to slow the spread of the virus.

        I can sort of understand why some Americans didn’t appreciate what was happening in China and even Italy. I know from experience that what happens overseas just doesn’t register with a large number of Americans.

        But when the virus knocked out the largest city in America and then most of the northeastern seaboard, I figured the consequences of this virus would be hard to ignore.

        I was wrong.

        • gothamette says:

          “But when the virus knocked out the largest city in America and then most of the northeastern seaboard, I figured the consequences of this virus would be hard to ignore.

          I was wrong.”

          The guy who runs the country has been lying to his supporters. Are you American? Haven’t you noticed?

          • Pincher Martin says:


            Trump is an idiot, but his supporters have been pushing him to open up more than he has been pushing them. Small business owners are just not interested in long-term shutdowns. If Trump was less reactive and more calculating, he would have seen that his political interests were aligned with a hard but short national shutdown and he would’ve worked to persuade his supporters that it was in their interest, too. But like you, he’s not a thinker.

            Perhaps you haven’t noticed that almost all Western countries have failed this crisis so far, and that the political ideologies of the leaders in those countries seems to matter less to the outcomes than does demography, geography and luck. Other than perhaps Boris Johnson, are any of these failed leaders cut from the same political cloth as Trump?

            Our federalist system also gives us a chance to see how individual governors and local leaders do in handling this crisis, and again I don’t see any obvious advantage for a particular political ideology. Cuomo and de Blasio have both been disasters. Are you going to blame their performance on Trump, too?

            You might want to dial your politics down a notch, because you really aren’t helping to illuminate anything about this ongoing crisis.

            • Pincher Martin says:

              The difference between Newsom and Breed’s performance in California and Cuomo and de Blasio’s performance in New York is that the former pair figured it out a few days earlier.

              That’s not because of ideology. All of them are liberal Democrats. I also don’t believe it’s because of intelligence. Neither Breed nor Newsom are any brighter than de Blasio or Cuomo.

              Perhaps it has to do with local networks that are plugged into state politics. I did notice that some of the large local Bay Area organizations were moving to protect themselves even before the politicians began issuing orders.

            • gothamette says:

              “Trump is an idiot, but his supporters have been pushing him to open up more than he has been pushing them.”

              Who’s the fucking President? I keep asking this question and none of the bitches here answer. You all slink off. HAVE YOU EVER WORKED FOR A BOSS?

              I have. I have worked for some very alpha, famous men. You know what they do? THEY GIVE AN ORDER, AND YOU FOLLOW IT.

              “Perhaps you haven’t noticed that almost all Western countries have failed this crisis so far, ”

              Australia, New Zealand, have done brilliantly. Israel has done well.

              “You might want to dial your politics down a notch, because you really aren’t helping to illuminate anything about this ongoing crisis.”

              You might want to shut your damned mouth. If Cochran wants to kick me off this board, that’s his call.

              Cuomo and de Blasio have been disasters. I’ve said so. I’ll say it again. But what they haven’t done is flat out lie about the pandemic. They haven’t called on their followers to flout the mild, voluntary social distancing to cut down on the spread of this disease.

              Again, and to repeat: Trump is an empty, stupid, venal, corrupt property shark. He’s ignorant. His mind encompasses reality TV shows. If you don’t like my saying that, your problem, not mine.

            • gothamette says:

              Trump has now ordered “houses of worship” to be open, overriding the governors. Waddya think of that, pinchie?

              • anonymous says:

                The problem with your response is that you obviously don’t understand federalisim. Our bloviating president can say whatever he wants, but it has no force of law in the common law or administrative (laws) sense. Thus, your charge of of “overriding governors” has no factual basis. States may or may not observe the CISA or DHS declaration of “essential” without loss of funding.
                The primary source of public health guidance is either 1) county level public health or 2) state public health, due to the funding streams associated. The feds only supply supportive logistic functions associated with legislative appropriations.

        • Bert says:

          Your summary of the denialists’ evolving denials is spot on. I believe that denialism is a result of putting technology in the hands of mid- and low-IQ people, literally. Having a small device with which you can make a call, send a text, play a game, look at the weather radar, and all this virtually instantaneously, might encourage magical thinking in those who don’t think too well anyway. Magical thinking is certainly rampant in the U.S. now to an extent which I don’t believe existed in prior decades. I would like to see a scientific study of its prevalence and causes.

          • Alexander Coleman says:

            Concur with this.

            Also, for all of the rigidity that the U.S. had pre-Internet in media, there was something about that hydra of Peter, Dan and Tom telling people the news and molding tens of millions of “opinions.” The last 19 years in particular since 9/11 have seen an explosion of “niche” media with more and more people in insular silos of information away from the “mainstream.”

            Benefits to that wild west frontier of media are plenty, and should go without saying around here, I imagine. And, yet… Anyway, you make a good point.

      • Frau Katze says:

        I’m noticing that too. I would say both cases are lacking nuance, Instead, there’s a to the extreme end of both points of view.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Well said. What will the true believers latch on to next? They still think herd immunity is right around the corner even though it clearly isn’t. Even Sweden which went into a voluntary lockdown isn’t close and won’t be. They cannot admit they were wrong but what they do is change the subject to fit the narrative that they want to blindly believe. They were right to simply ignore Covid19 and these scaredy cats wrecked the economy. They will hang on to that forever.

      It now looks like a long summer with relaxed social distancing in place everywhere and the virus slowly marching through the population and nowhere reaching herd immunity. Flare ups like NYC are responded to with shut downs that damp the flames. With fall comes election time and you better believe the hot topic will be a vaccine. If there isn’t one, there will be mention of one, dark rumblings of they are keeping it from us. Trump knows full well he has to talk up imminent delivery of a vaccine so he will. Matter of fact he has to be specific in his promise. Health workers and senior citizens will get it right after the election. He has got to win that key age group 65 and over like he did last time. If he doesn’t promise a vaccine to them he won’t. Just my guess.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        We will end up getting the worst of both worlds. We will have a lot more deaths from the virus, and our economy will stay stagnant.

        I had no worries about a two-month shutdown having a long-term effect on our economy so long as we used that time effectively to smash the virus into submission.

        But I am concerned about our economy if the virus sticks around for another year or two, periodically poking its ugly head up to force local and state closures.

        The Bay Area largely escaped the worst of the crisis this spring. But by next fall, if we let the virus hang around and we let our guard up, San Francisco might be the next New York. And if it’s not SF, it could be Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, or any other number of U.S. cities that escaped the worst of it in March and April.

        People keep rhetorically asking, “Can we afford the lockdown?” I wonder how we can afford not to lockdown.

    • Frau Katze says:

      One could examine the phenomenon of attempts to deny it, and when that didn’t work, to try to minimize it. No doubt there’s some psychological explanation.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        I suspect it’s always been like this. The masses are going to believe what the masses are going to believe. Facts be damned. If our elites weren’t so debauched, they could provide the leadership to help get us out of this mess. But they are nearly as bad as the masses in their fact-free denial of reality.

        I’m not just talking about political elites, either. It’s easy sport to make fun of Biden and Trump. I’m talking about the medical and journalistic elites. A week before the shutdown in the Bay Area, I watched a local news segment that had an elderly retired medical doctor informing the public at some seminar in SF that COVID-19 was just like the flu. It was nothing to get concerned about, he said, and he was giving his talk to ease any anxieties about it.

        • Frau Katze says:

          That’s discouraging that a doctor would do that.

        • Alexander Coleman says:

          Here in the Bay Area every medical professional and doctor I spoke to, including a friend, downplayed the virus all the way through March.

          At least their tunes changed with April.

          • Pincher Martin says:


            But some local medical professionals must’ve been giving warnings or the Bay Area would not have gone into lockdown when it did. The shelter-in-place order for most Bay Area counties was issued on March 16th.

            • Alexander Coleman says:

              Yes, I remember distinctly, as I had a March 16th appointment with my “friend doctor” who thought the virus was “over-hyped.”

              As much grief as I am apt to give them, it does seem that perhaps the most decisive voices toward extreme caution relative to other places in the U.S. were Silicon Valley–as “in bed with China” as it has been for so many years, the concerns of which seemed to radiate outward from the South Bay with each week from roughly late January to early March–and San Francisco’s mayor, who was a little comparatively late to the party but seemed to have a terrible drive to try to protect “the City” upon realizing how severe the situation was and how nightmarish certain possible scenarios were.

              However, surely, as you say, some local medical professionals were “on the case.”

              • Pincher Martin says:

                Yeah, I live in Santa Clara County, and I also happened to stay in SF for a weekend (March 6th-8th) just a short time before the lockdown. My wife and I went to the Symphony on March 6th and to a Warriors game on March 7th. We stayed at a hotel in the Presidio until the 8th.

                I was obviously aware of the dangers of the WuFlu, but at the time I thought the primary risks were from picking it up on surfaces or someone sneezing in my face rather than just from being indoors with a large gathering of people. So we packed up a lot of hand sanitizer and asked for even more disinfectant when we arrived at our hotel to sanitize our room’s surfaces.

                Everything happened so fast from that point. We went to the Davies Symphony Hall that Friday night (March 6th) and when I got back to the hotel, the word had already come down that Davies was closing up until further notice. We had just seen the last performance “until further notice.” (I do remember thinking when I looked at the audience that there were an awful lot of old people there. The average age of the audience member seemed like it was seventy. A lot of gray hairs and a lot of octogenarians.)

                We went to the Chase Center the next afternoon (March 7th) to see the Warriors play and I drove my wife insane by continually telling her to scrub her hands with sanitizers after every novel thing she touched. Steph Curry was actually out with the flu that night and I remember us joking that maybe he had the coronavirus. (No, it was apparently just the flu.) I think the Warriors played one or two more games before the entire league shut down.

                That was the last week of normalcy. On March 9th, Santa Clara banned large gatherings. No more Sharks’ games. A week later the entire Bay Area went into lockdown.

                In looking back, what’s interesting is speculating who was advising the local SF symphony, which shut down ten days before the Bay Area shelter-in-place. That’s why I’m fairly sure not all the medical professionals in the Bay Area were idiots. Davies Hall doesn’t close down unless it gets expert input to its board that it ought to close down.

    • Stephen M St Onge says:

      I have much the same experience as you, aside from the labelling.

      One Facebook acquaintance insists the virus arrived in the U.S. in November, and infected huge numbers of people without anyone noticing it. This of course means to her that all the anti-spread measures put into effect were unnecessary, the number of deaths is vastly inflated, etc. Pointing out that CCP Virus deaths are counted on death certificates the same way as all infectious diseases bounces off her, as does the elementary calculations from the observed spread of infections, and the serological data. She knows what she wants to believe, and evidence is ignored.

      Another friend pointed me to the video of the two emergency room doctors who claimed that the Swedish death rate, six times that of Norway, was not statistically significant! When I pointed out how unlikely this was, a shrug.

      More and more, I realize Scott Adams was right: most people’s beliefs have nothing to do with reason.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        Yep. The percentage of people who think empirically, and who therefore adjust accordingly when the situation changes, is vanishingly small. I suspect this is true even among scientists, a group to whom one would think it would come naturally by training and inclination.

        Don’t just tell me about the times you were right. Tell me about the times you were wrong, and then tell me how long it took you to change your mind in those situations.

  6. akarlin says:

    The most commonly cited figure for Spanish Flu I’ve seen is 1.3. For SARS-2 it’s about 3. So makes sense considering comparable contagious periods.

    Another consequence is that we could have probably contained Spanish Flu quite easily today.

    Now that we’re on this topic, what do people here think about the real IFR (age and period adjusted) of Spanish Flu vs. SARS-2? I think they might well be comparable. After all, Spanish Flu was hitting much less physiologically robust populations – some significantly weakened by wartime dearth (Germany) or famine (Russia). Though also very important is that average age was 15 years younger.

  7. I just read about superspreaders. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/why-do-some-covid-19-patients-infect-many-others-whereas-most-don-t-spread-virus-all The article focuses on their behaviors and route of transmission, yet I have to wonder if their are different versions of C19.

    Also. We spoke about viral load here a month ago, but I am still not hearing it referenced much in other places. Talking about enclosed spaces is talking about it indirectly, I suppose.

    • John Massey says:

      Thanks, that’s interesting and potentially useful, which is more than I can say for most things I have been reading.

      I was starting to feel like I was turning into Howard Hughes, so when the gym I frequent reopened, I made myself start going again. They limit the number of people allowed in there at any one time, but it’s a cool enclosed space.

      So I’m re-evaluating. It’s too hot and humid now to exercise outdoors during the day, and going at night would mess up the family meal schedule. Decisions, decisions…

    • gothamette says:

      I read that one – I may have linked to it here – and it’s good. We’re slowly piecing together the picture. But I urge you to click on the link about the PFR I gave. Because the whole notion of superspreaders actually reinforces the point that you don’t have to be bombed by 1000 warheads. One is enough.

    • Dr J Thompson says:

      A simple two factor theory is that the whole thing boils down to “viral load meets immunological status”. Lots of talking, singing and dancing in closed rooms is dangerous, particularly for old people with chronic conditions.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It is possible that viral load matters but we don’t really know that it does.

      • gothamette says:

        A simple two factor theory is that the whole thing boils down to “viral load meets immunological status”

        Hey, I like that. I’ll steal it.

        It’s directly applicable to a story touted by Buzzfeed. Buzzkill is garbage, don’t believe anything in it. Story was about a supposedly healthy youngish (43) man, no comorbids, who ended up on a ventilator, in ICU for about 6 weeks. One look at his picture and it was obvious he was a roided up gay gym bunny. He was infected at a party where gay guys take lots of drugs = immunosuppressed. So there’s that.

        But I do wonder about Italy’s Patient One, Mattia the Footballer, who was a healthy 38-year old athlete. He was in the ICU for 6 weeks. That one scares me.

        • TB says:

          Sent a 28-year-old woman to the ICU last week. No other co-morbidities other than very very overweight (nearly 500 lbs.). She’s home now, however. Not too uncommon to see 40-year-olds in ICU. Some of our younger patients are very ill but don’t quite reach the point of needing ICU. It’s an odd disease, in that it’s very unpredictable which patients will suddenly decline.

          • Frau Katze says:

            I’ve been trying to figure out how predictable it is from reading news reports. Why did U.K.
            Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in his 50s, somewhat overweight, nearly die while 71-year old Prince Charles wasn’t even hospitalized?

            There are likely a lot of variables, some of them not know even to the patient. How hereditary is long life span (Prince Charles’ parents are both alive in their 90s)?

            If Boris had other comorbidities it wasn’t made public.

            • TB says:

              Wish I had the answer to that. What I see is what you already know. Overweight, Hispanic or Black, diabetics, elderly all seem to do worse, but none of that helps us with the individual patient. Some people just suddenly start to decline and we don’t know why. We can now track the decline better since we know the signs, lab values, O2 sats, resp rate to look for.

            • gothamette says:

              Johnson is in better shape than he looks. There’s a video of him playing a savage game of soccer, in which he did something clearly illegal. But he can move quickly. Also, just because he was in ICU – does that mean he “nearly” died?

          • gothamette says:


            No other co-morbidities other than very very overweight (nearly 500 lbs.).

            Come on! That’s a major comorbidity on its own.

            very very overweight

            I’d call it morbidly obese.

            Think of it. A normal height woman who weighs 200 pounds used to be considered, and should be considered, fat. But 500 pounds? There’s something wrong with that. You don’t get to be 500 pounds without being enabled, or disabled.

  8. RCB says:

    I’m gonna be “that guy” and note that R0 is a non-dimensional number, not a rate. It’s just the number of people that one person infects over the duration of the entire infectious period, not how quickly that happens. A disease with R0 = 5 might spread more slowly than a disease with R0 = 2. But this is a nitpick we can mostly ignore: surely in reality there is a strong correlation. And the point remains that things are happening quickly.

    • Janet says:

      I guess I’ll be “that gal” then… Sorry for the pedantry, but: R0 is a parameter in a mathematical model, specifically, the exponential growth of the susceptible-infected-recovered (SIR) model. It’s not a physical property of the real world at all. You derive a value for R0 by taking the observed values for new infections and fitting a curve to it. So, a disease with R0=5 will ALWAYS spread faster than a disease with R0=2– because you calculate the value of R0 from observing how fast a disease is spreading. You measure the first derivative of the new cases to get R0. SIR models are surprisingly good predictors of disease progression, particularly when the number of susceptible individuals is high and when the population is well-mixed, so it’s important to know. In this case, our big problem is that, with the thorough bungling of the testing and some outright lies by various governments, we can’t get a good value for R0 (and many other key values as well).

      In the real world, the physical things driving the spread of the disease are 1) infectiousness (how many bacteria/virus particles are needed to cause disease) and 2) contact patterns (how many people get exposed to the infectious material, how those people mix with others, etc.) You are correct that, a disease with high infectiousness may not spread as fast as one that is less infectious. Ebola, for example, is incredibly infectious (maybe as low as ONE viral particle can cause disease), but not very contagious, since the victims can’t move around much and the disease is very obvious, very quickly. The real-world contagiousness is what actually matters, but R0 has a very good predictive value and so is useful for planning. (“Herd immunity” is also a model parameter, not a real-world value, BTW. It’s useful for planning, but it’s a mathematical rather than physical thing.)

      Anyway… You can’t really change item #1, but #2 is highly variable, as you’ve noted. As a society, we in the West have figured out how to almost eliminate infections that are spread by contaminated food or water, for example. There’s a lot we can do about fomites. But we don’t have a great answer about respiratory droplets and aerosols, particularly if the people emitting them are asymptomatic. We’re just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, at this point (masks, occupancy limits, airflow modifications, temperature guns, UV light in air ducts, etc.)

      • RCB says:

        You are wrong.

        From the first sentence of the wikipedia page on R0:
        “In epidemiology, the basic reproduction number (sometimes called basic reproductive ratio, or rarely basic reproductive rate[19], and denoted R0, pronounced R nought or R zero[20]) of an infection can be thought of as the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection.”

        It is measured in units of “persons per person”, which means it is a non-dimensional number. It is not “persons per time”. Ergo you cannot determine from R0 how fast (per time) an infection will spread. If you happen to measure time in units of “average length of the infectious period”, then they will be the same, of course, but that period is different for every disease.

        Imagine an STD that infects you for life. R0 might be relatively large (at various times and places in history) given that most folks have intercourse with multiple people over the length of their life. But since the vast majority of people aren’t sleeping with new strangers every day/week/month, it will probably take a while for that average number to be achieved. Even if R0 were 4, it does not imply that it will spread faster than the flu with R0 1.5. People get the flu and infect others over the space of a few days.

        • RCB says:

          Actually, I should have just pasted in the last sentence from the first paragraph of the wiki page:

          “Also, it is important to note that R0 is a dimensionless number and not a rate, which would have units of time-1,[22] or units of time like doubling time.”

        • RCB says:

          Or maybe this one: “R0 does not by itself give an estimate of how fast an infection spreads in the population.”

      • gothamette says:

        Janet – in the real world, does it matter if 50 people infect one other person, or one person infects 100 people? In other words, 50 low-spreaders v. one superspreader. (Of course, in the real world, it’s always a bit of both.)

        After the virus gathers steam, you’ve got yourself an epidemic either way, right?

  9. Frau Katze says:

    The 1918 case was tied up with WW 1. Large numbers of young men were being transported over great distances.

    The authorities saw WW 1 as the #1t problem. They would hold Liberty Bond parades and did not think it was the wrong thing to do, even though a local epidemic broke out, partly on account of the parade.

    In those days infectious diseases were considered part of life. You had to live with them. The pandemic was seen in that light.

    Furthermore, the flu would roar through a city and it would kill people but was completely over in a few weeks. Herd immunity achieved.

    People died of it but infectious disease was everywhere anyway. No real biggie.

    • gcochran9 says:

      ” The pandemic was seen in that light.” Not really.

      • rgressis says:

        Greg, could you elaborate? I’m about to do a diavlog with a philosopher who takes the view Frau Katze just articulated, and I’m curious to know what your take is. (Or at least, a citation that will let me know.)

        • gcochran9 says:

          People didn’t take the 1918 flu stoically: they were scared to death. They did a lot of the things you’re seeing today. But the Federal government was solidly against doing anything to fight the flu that might compromise the war effort – and that mattered, since Wilson was way more oppressive than any other President.

          Why did people not talk about it much later? That’s an interesting question.

          • Stephen M St Onge says:

            The sadly ironic thing is that the military’s refusal to ‘interfere’ with the war effort ended up vastly interfering with the war effort.

            The virus probably first appeared in Kansas. Had the first cases been greeted with measures to prevent spread, the eventual pandemic would probably not have occurred. Soldiers and sailors were shipped around without regard to the possibility of spreading infection, and the cases soared. When the peak hit, in October/November, large hospital and transportation resources in France were tied up dealing with sick soldiers. And of course war production took a hit from people being out sick.

            Apparently, no one could grasp that the question wasn’t whether the war effort should be interfered with, but when and to what extent it would be interfered with. It was like the oil change commercial: they had a choice of paying now or paying later.

          • Frau Katze says:

            That such a widespread epidemic was semi-forgotten is the odd thing.

            I don’t mean that the population didn’t care about it but they knew that such things existed.

            Another factor was the slow spread of news. Because of the war, news about the pandemic in Europe censored. But neutral Spain didn’t censor it so it was called “Spanish flu.”. One author wrote this… it might not be true.

            It was forgotten because it was a natural phenomenon. Unlike the actual war. Four empires fell. Communists took over Russia. Millions of men died.

            One book I read showed how the earlier French-German war (1870-71) was remembered as a typical war. All those participating in WW 1 (except the US, who entered towards the end) were expecting something along the lines of 1870.

            Historians forgot about the pandemic because they were too busy trying to figure out why WW 1 became so unbelievable awful.

            • Kilo 4/11 says:

              My father was in the thick of the second wave, in Chicago. He turned 17 in November 1918, but already was driving. He drove for an undertaker and one of the duties was picking up bodies. I don’t know how much he may have talked about his experience when younger; by the time I came along he was in his forties and I heard very little. I’d guess the turbulence of his times – he was also in ’18 trying to convince his pa to let him join the army and get into the fight (pa said no) – then the Roaring Twenties, the Depression, WW 2, must have pushed the plague to the back of his mind by then.

              I highly recommend to you and anyone who wants to get a true feel for the way the Spanish Flu was felt by its victims, as well as a beautiful picture of how Americans lived then, this: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/125192.They_Came_Like_Swallows

              • Frau Katze says:

                Thanks for the book tip. Yes, there’s was plenty going on to distract people.

                L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942) wrote a lot of books, best known “Anne of Green Gables”. They were mostly set in Prince Edward Island (Canada), and some of the later ones were written after the pandemic. She had characters dying young of tuberculosis and one book was focused on WW 1, seen from PEI. Naturally some young men introduced in earlier books were killed in the war.

                She never mentioned the pandemic in any of the books.

              • Frau Katze says:

                In the Wiki entry on L.M. Montgomery, it is noted that she caught and had a bad case of the 1918 flu. Maybe she left it out of her books because she wanted to forget it. From Wiki:

                In 1918, Montgomery was stricken with and was almost killed by the “Spanish Flu” pandemic that killed between 50-100 million people all over the world in 1918–1919, spending ten days bed-ridden with the Spanish flu. In her diary on December 1, 1918, Montgomery wrote after a visit to Toronto in November: “Toronto was then beginning to be panic stricken over the outbreak of the terrible “Spanish flu.” The drug counters were besieged with frantic people seeking remedies and safeguards”. Montgomery wrote in her diary about being infected with Spanish flu: “I was in bed for ten days. I never felt so sick or weak in my life,” going on to express thanks to God and her friends for helping her survive the ordeal. Montgomery’s best friend Frederica Campbell MacFarlane was not so lucky and died after contracting the Spanish flu on January 20, 1919.

      • Frau Katze says:

        They were accustomed to a wide range of bugs that are gone now. That can’t be denied. That was why vaccines were welcomed by one and all.

        No one liked the diseases. Increasing education on cleanliness was noted and in general was responsible for reducing some infections. Much research was being done on infectious diseases.

        When time passed and we reached a generation where no could one remember how bad these diseases were, you start to get anti-vaxxers.

        If people of the era thought the pandemic was a really big deal, why did it fall from cultural memory so quickly? I would say it was because WW 1 displaced it.

        No sooner than WW 1 ended, the many learned minds rushed to try to figure why it happened. It was of huge cultural significance. In histories of the vexed question of who was responsible for the war, the pandemic was never mentioned. I’ve read some of these books. Versailles Treaty, huge amounts were written about it, for example. Many learned were people obsessed with it. Only WW2 drove it away.

        Hitler was obsessed with it too, believing that Jews had “stabbed Germany in the back.

      • Frau Katze says:

        True or false: 9/11 is being culturally forgotten? If so, why?

        I don’t know since I’m far from where it occurred. It’s certainly forgotten here (Victoria, BC).

      • gothamette says:

        The first wave was. The second – I question that.

  10. pyrrhus says:

    The comparison between present day US population, more than 13% of the population being over age 65, and 1919, less than 3% over 65, is highly dubious, especially with respect to mortality in a population with natal life expectancy of less than 50 years….Also, nursing homes were rare, and most elderly lived at home, reducing another mortality factor.

    • Frau Katze says:

      The 1918 flu hit young adults badly. I think it was because of cytokine storms, where the immune system over-reacts. The over-reaction is what kills.

      The population was a lot younger, but that failed to save them because of the cytokine storms.

  11. Maciano says:

    A lot of ppl keep telling me COVID is no big deal and keep coming up with false data. They’ve been marginalizing this disease from the start for some reason. It’s ideological.

    AFAICT, the only good objection has been that the disease tends to kill specific groups more, but isn’t this always the case? And I don’t think old people or diabetics deserve to die myself…

    Anyway, it’s disheartening.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I find that lying irritating. More than irritating. But for most people it’s apparently SOP.

      • Stephen M St Onge says:

        Same here. Drives me crazy, the flat refusal to attempt to reason straightforwardly about this.

        I’ve periodically asked deniers and those who’ve disagreed with me to give me their own model of the epidemic: how did it spread, how lethal is it, what will happen if we drop the preventive measures in place, how does their reasoning differ from mine, where do they think I am wrong? I have never received a single response. NOT ONE.

      • gothamette says:

        There’s a person who could stop that with one speech… but I realize I’m repeating myself. And that’s irritating, too.

  12. random observer says:

    Anyone have any gelled views on why so many on the [especially] American right committed to this own goal so early and stuck to it?

    Just to back up early Trump comments? Maybe but he was getting his views somewhere. Clinging to an early mistake blindly? Possibly just. Some libertarian mindset that genuinely sees plague control measures as totalitarian, in fact or as means to end? Genuine economic panic?

    I don’t get it. I don’t think of myself as centrist by any means and I can get my back up at all sorts of government intrusion, and I respect the worries about the economy, collective and for individuals, but I think of plague control as a top tier government job, one that can generate valid emergency laws and policies, and valid executive orders, and should act on a self-governing population to trigger their sense of willingness to self-discipline and locally run their communities accordingly? Not unlike invasion or rebellion, really. And I don’t think travel bans or movement controls unjustified in such conditions, or the inability to visit Grandma at easter the equivalent of a trip to Kolyma.

    I get that my conservatism is more statist than the American conservative mean, just as my statism is wildly more conservative than the Canadian mean. But [if you’ll pardon me] WTF is with these people? Nothing in my previous para would have seemed alien to a whole bunch of postwar conservative American writers I read back in the day, or to my mind the American founders either.

    Just as the American left seemed to take some sort of metaphysical anarchist crazy pill in the post-Cold War era, so it seems the right went all anarcho-capitalist equivalent, or some such. It’s as if there is nothing left of the postwar tradition, or earlier, than these.

    • rgressis says:

      My theory is that conservatives, with some reason, identify experts from academia, media, government agencies, and tech companies as hostile to them, to the point that they will fabricate information. Consequently the fact that these four groups in particular came to agree with each other was good evidence that something fishy was afoot.

    • Frau Katze says:

      I don’t understand the “don’t trend on me” types either. The people saying that don’t seem to realize how much worse it is than the flu.

  13. Stephen M St Onge says:

    Greg, this paper from Cell is interesting. I wonder what you think. (Second link is a story about the paper.)



  14. Pincher Martin says:

    Answering Gotham Rat’s post above:

    Who’s the fucking President? I keep asking this question and none of the bitches here answer. You all slink off. HAVE YOU EVER WORKED FOR A BOSS? [My emphasis in bold]

    Maybe because your questions are too stupid to bother answering. Or are misdirected. I suspect both.

    And I doubt people “slink off.” They probably just get tired of listening to you hump one note on the piano and seek more elevated and varied conversation elsewhere.

    I have. I have worked for some very alpha, famous men. You know what they do? THEY GIVE AN ORDER, AND YOU FOLLOW IT.

    I’m fascinated to hear about your life as a Beta Boy. Please tell me more.

    Here in the United States, however, many of us citizens still think of the president as less like an alpha boss and more like a powerful servant who must carefully tread how he gives orders, who must seek consensus when he can, and who is circumscribed in his role by other leaders with well-defined responsibilities.

    Perhaps you’d be more comfortable in a country like China. Or given your partiality to Alphas who issue orders, might I suggest a trip back in time to the Latin America of the 1960s and 1970s, where Latino men dressed in full military uniform and strutted like peacocks during their short time on the political stage. Seems more your speed.

    Australia, New Zealand, have done brilliantly. Israel has done well.

    Yes, I said “almost all,” not “all.” See the difference?

    Nearly the entire Atlantic seaboard of Europe – from Spain to Ireland – has been a disaster even worse than what we have seen in the U.S. Are there any commonalities in political ideology there?

    No, there are not. Just as there are no commonalities in political orientation among the success stories. Scott Morrison in Australia has done a fine job despite being a Donald Trump/Boris Johnson-style populist politician. His counterpart across the Tasman Sea, however, is a bleeding heart member of the Labour Party and yet she has also done a fine job.

    Cuomo and de Blasio have been disasters. I’ve said so. I’ll say it again. But what they haven’t done is flat out lie about the pandemic. They haven’t called on their followers to flout the mild, voluntary social distancing to cut down on the spread of this disease.

    Did Cuomo not order coronavirus patients to be readmitted to nursing homes? How is that not worse than anything Trump has done to date? Because I prefer a “flat out lie” over criminally lethal stupidity every day of the week.

    You might want to shut your damned mouth. If Cochran wants to kick me off this board, that’s his call.

    I didn’t say anything about kicking you off. But you’re being a dumbass with your political focus. And maybe being a dumbass comes naturally to you. But if you don’t want people to “slink off” from conversations with you, find more truthful ways to describe what’s going on around you. Just a suggestion.

  15. sfw says:

    When Greg did all the Future Strategist podcasts on the virus I got the feeling he had drunk the Kool Aid on it. Sadly true.

    • John Massey says:

      Now take away all of the oxygen and see what happens.

    • Craken says:

      Horowitz is innumerate. He complacently accepts the ludicrous notion that Spain’s IFR could be 1% and America’s 0.26%. I could make his open-up argument better than he can–even though, like him, I’ve got no relevant credentials.

    • gcochran9 says:

      IFR is around 1%. Any other questions?

    • gcochran9 says:

      I was right, as usual.

      • John Massey says:

        You were, as usual.

        I still think I’m right, that viral load matters, a lot. We’ll see.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Worth investigating, but it’s hartd for me to see how it would work, since a single cell can apparently make thousands of virions a few hours after originally being infected.

          • John Massey says:

            Yes, I’ve got and acknowledge your point – I did actually get it the first time you said it. (Evidence that I pay close attention to what you say, always). I’m thinking it depends on how fast and how well a person’s immune system reacts.

        • TB says:

          John, this preprint gives an estimate of the # of virus particles needed to cause infection, by comparing to what other corona-viruses need. They estimate it is 100 particles, and give estimates of how long it would take to inhale that many particles in common situations. Look at the bottom of page 8 for the estimates.

          The upshot, walking through a room shouldn’t be a problem, but don’t let anyone cough in your face. Among my co-worker nurses on the covid floor, 2 have caught it. So basic PPE, N95 face mask and shield works pretty well.

      • gcochran9 says:

        I said that we’d have a whole lot of deaths in the US, say a couple of million, if we did nothing. If we made lots of efforts to limit spread, could be a lot less – although we obviously started too late to nip it in the bud, as happened in places like Taiwan. I also said that people like Ioannides, that said that vast numbers of people must already have had it ( based on nothing), were wrong, indeed full of shit. Which they were.

        we’ve slowed it, with lockdowns etc, but we’re in the process of loosening up, and since the total # infected and now immune is small, only a few %, it going to come right back, except of course for those places where it never left in the first place.

        You’re a loon, but at least you’ll never be lonely.

        I suppose I underestimated how influential loons like you would be – and BLM loons, and ANtifa loons, and liberal loons – but I knew that most people are susceptible to such things. Harder to predict just when the lunacy will burst forth. Reminds me of the time I was raising a Monarch butterfly for a school project. It had made a chrysalis, when finally burst open .. but instead of a butterfly, little white worms, some kind of parasite, crawled out.
        I was disgusted & furious and threw it into the garbage can. I feel the same about the worms in people’s brains, yours for example.

  16. TB says:

    My current worry, now that my hospital is past the covid crunch for now, is the fall flu season. Not looking forward to a combined flu/covid season.
    Jhaveri, R., (2020). Echos of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the COVID pandemic. Clinical Therapeutics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinthera.2020.04.003

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