Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Coronavirus Dashboard

Useful links for COVID-19 outbreak

Spreadsheet of US coronavirus numbers by state: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18oVRrHj3c183mHmq3m89_163yuYltLNlOmPerQ18E8w/htmlview?sle=true# from https://covidtracking.com/

Johns Hopkins tracking map: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

What's the Point of Continuing the Shutdown?

Over on Facebook, Kathy asks:
Since "flattening the curve" was always about not overwhelming the hospitals and never about preventing the incidence of the disease, then what are we doing now? Put another way, how is opening gradually different than opening suddenly, if the end result is that we'll all eventually end up out in stores and restaurants anyhow while the disease is just as present and threatening? Seems like the only different outcome of a slower opening is further destruction of the economy. What am I missing?

During March, COVID infections were doubling rapidly and at an increasing rate (7 days, 5 days, 3 days), with ~20% needing hospitalization, and killing ~1-2%. That would have overwhelmed ICU/hospital capacity within a few weeks and resulted in ~1,000,000 dead in the US if nothing were done. So we did something: the shutdown. And so far, it's kept infection down within capacity almost everywhere (and spare capacity could be shuffled around).
That plateau also means the R0 number dropped to somewhere between 1.2 and 0.9 in the country as a whole because of the whole social distancing + Stay At Home program. Under local conditions where it's much higher, such as in institutions where distancing isn't possible (prisons, nursing homes, meat packing plants), once the virus gets inside the building, we get a cluster like the 2,000 at the prison in Marion. (This is why large gatherings will be the last to come back.)
Now, we can either loosen up or try for a "suppression strategy". If we had 100% compliance everywhere, infections would have gone to zero in 2-4 weeks, and we would be done. Wuhan managed it in about 35 days from peak, or about 80 days from start of lockdown If we get good (~60-80%) compliance, the R0 goes below 0.9 and the virus can't reproduce fast enough and dies slowly. If you loosen up a little, you may be able to stay under 1.2 and the virus will continue as it is; more than that, and you'll soon lose your grip on it entirely.
In the original models I looked at, that would take the US good compliance and coordination from March through June, at minimum.
If you can't keep everything closed up until the virus dies altogether, you can suppress it until it gets rare enough that you can test everybody and then track contacts. Only infected people would then have to be isolated, and then only until they're no longer infectious. Germany and New Zealand are at or near this stage now.
On the economic side, the thing to realize is that consumer/household consumption drives the economy. Shutting down businesses that would not have consumers, and those whose workers would soon become sick if not at home, is essentially a protective maneuver, putting the businesses in suspended animation rather than allowing them to fail. Paying people not to work under these conditions is a form of social insurance, just like paying people laid off due to flooding or a tornado that destroyed their workplace. It has the additional benefit of keeping money flowing through the economy, so there's demand. Where there's demand, there will eventually be supply to meet it. It doesn't work well the other way around (keeping supply high, but letting demand stay low) because the companies would have no one to sell to.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

How and Why to Save the Post Office

As many of you know, the Post Office is in dire straits due to the quarantine shutdown reducing their letter & package volume by 50%. As you may not know, they've been in dire straits for a while due to the 2006 PAEA bill that requires them to prefund retirement benefits for all their employees for the next 70 YEARS, two to three times as long as most pension funds do.
As a result, if something is not done to help, the Post Office will have to shut down in June 2020. Many of you are dependent on the Postal Service to deliver medicine, food, and other necessities. For small businesses, postal delivery is the only viable link they have to deliver to customers, and postal delivery completes the eCommerce loop for every online business in America. For many rural communities, no commercial package delivery service can profitably offer last mile delivery to and from your doorstep.
The President and Senate Majority Leader have blocked funding to keep the Post Office running during this time of crisis.
It was part of the Coronavirus Recovery Package that found Boeing important enough to bail out, but not the government run Post Office.
So here's a three point plan to Save the Post Office:

  1. Buy some stamps at usps.com
  2. Send your Congressperson and Senators a postcard or letter each, telling them why you like the Post Office and how you depend on its service. Recommend that they fund the Post Office rescue and repeal the 2006 PAEA pension requirements. Do this once a week until it happens.
  3. Send a postcard or letter to your friends, sharing something about your life during quarantine or just reaching out to them, and asking them to participate in this effort to save the Post Office, if they happen to like getting and sending mail and packages like this. (Most people do.)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Time-Traveller's Letter

Hello to the me who is just about to graduate from high school. This is your older self from 2020. I am writing this letter as part of a time travel experiment that resets my timeline to this date; although you should retain all of my memories if all goes according to plan, this letter is a backup. Diagrams and instructions for how to build the time machine and repeat the experiment are appended to this letter, in case you need to reboot your life again and this timeline doesn’t work out.
Also enclosed, find a picture of us at my age, holding a picture of us at your age, located in front of a building that does not exist in your time, both as verification that I am the future you, and just for the general wow factor. As further verification, in the next few months, the Berlin Wall and the rest of the Iron Curtain will fall, at about the time that your hallmates are playing the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine”, which has not yet been released. A condensed personal and general history of the future follows […].
Here are thirty people close to you whose lives you can save or who you can spare from years of suffering with ten minutes or less of effort at the right time […] If you’re not worried about altering the timeline in big ways, here are ten points at which a small change could have produced a big change for the better[…]
Be on the lookout for other opportunities to help other people in a simple way, especially when you are in a rush to do something else. It is better to be kind and useful than to appear clever or funny or cool. There will be many more opportunities for the latter than the former in this life.
Someone needs to help, and you are someone. If something needs to be done, and you cannot find anyone else to do it, you have just volunteered.
Run toward what you fear. You fear will shrink and you will grow.
Procrastination, writer’s block, and general inertia will eat up an unconscionable amount of your life until you realize that these are just illusory. There’s nothing to them but what you pretend is there. There is always a best thing that needs to be done at this time, so do that, and then do the next thing.
Start keeping a journal. Take more photos. Write a targeted number of words every day—1000 words a day will stack like bricks into a book. You’re a good writer, but if you revise your writing, then B papers will become A papers. Start writing earlier to allocate time for that. Editing is like Photoshop or darkroom work—it will allow you to pull things into focus or blur them, dodge and burn, until the work looks like what you want it to.
You’re naturally cautious, so you should generally say yes to every opportunity. You’re generally cooperative, so you should generally say no to sales pitches. The harder someone tries to sell you, the less worthwhile the product. Learn how to sell gently.
You like to pretend to be uptight, to the point where you forget it’s an act sometimes. Pretend to be extremely laid-back and mellow instead and see how that goes.
Take the harder class; it’s easier. Take the better-paying job; it’s no harder.
If someone is better at something you have been doing a long time, that’s not a reason to stop doing it, thinking you’ll never be as good as they are. It’s an opportunity to shortcut by dissecting what they’re doing or to collaborate with them. A lot of the time, you can just ask them to show you how they do it or what you’re doing wrong. Deliberate practice with a goal will get you past the plateaus you’re currently experiencing in e.g., your performance in tennis or musical instruments. Anybody who’s great at anything started out sucking at it, probably worse than you.
Also, find a way to learn all of that trade school/shop class stuff. It’s unconscionable not to know how to repair or build things, and it will teach you the importance of good craftsmanship.
All of your athletic problems boil down to three things. When you do something, you must turn your whole body to it. When you swim, turn your whole body and not just your neck to breathe. When you serve or hit a forehand, twist your whole body. When you punch or kick, turn your whole body’s weight to it like a spring. Second, you are uncomfortable having your hips above your head or falling in any way. Practice those things a thousand times, or until that concern disappears. A thousand dives off the high dive. A thousand headstands. A thousand trust falls. Third, an hour of yoga very week will fix that problem with your knees and the tightness in your back.
In the next couple of years, you are on course to make three small mistakes that are very costly: failing to take the seminar with your advisors and instead taking one with the hostile guy, going to grad school in Ohio rather than California, and failing to build up an immunity to iocaine powder prior to getting in a death match with the Sicilian. At least you don’t get embroiled in a land war in Asia, though the country does.
I hope this helps and wish you (me) the best of all timelines.

Originally posted on Quora here: https://www.quora.com/You-get-to-restart-your-life-at-any-age-however-you-would-have-no-recollection-of-being-any-older-All-you-will-be-allowed-to-bring-with-you-is-a-letter-What-will-you-write-in-that-letter/answer/Scott-Gosnell

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Some thoughts on the pandemic and panic

1. Fear and anxiety work on a bell curve. Up to a point, you're more and more likely to take action. Above that point, you're less and less likely to do so. It's good to ride the peak of that wave without going over.
2. This is going to last longer than you think it will. For the US, the pandemic clock started ticking on or around March 1st. We're currently in Week 2. If we're lucky, we have about 10 weeks to go for the peak of this. Do the things that you are able to sustain for 10+ weeks.
3. Those safety measures need to be done at a hygienic level. You don't have to go off-grid or live in a biocontainment suit. You need to wash your hands as well and as often as you should have been doing all along (but who does that in normal times, really?), stop going to public events, and live quietly at home for a while.
4. If you're under the age of 50, are not a healthcare worker, and are not immunocompromised, there's little threat to your life individually, nor to the lives of your children. Even if you are in one of the three high-risk groups above, you are more likely than not to survive coronavirus.
5. There is, however, an enormous threat to the lives of the surrounding community. It's not an epidemic they'll be talking about in 1000 years, like the Black Plague, which killed 1/3rd of Europe, but it's like the 1918 flu, which killed 2% and which we're still talking about 100 years later. Do not fool around.
6. The disease is enormously contagious, and is most contagious before symptoms hit. This is what makes it a systemic or community risk, rather than an idiosyncratic or individualized risk.
7. We're going to get through this one way or another. We will get through it best if we can all be rational and thoughtful about our neighbors and our community (oh no).
8. A mediocre effort sustained for 10 weeks beats a maximum effort of 1 week followed by 9 weeks of neglect. Individually mediocre efforts coupled with an excellent national and community effort will see us through.
BONUS: This is going to happen again, sooner rather than later, so maybe give Medicare for All or another universal health care program a bit of a push through Congress, so we're better prepared next time.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Election 2020: The Democratic Primaries

I'll reiterate here what I've been saying everywhere else, which is that the only way you're going to find the strongest candidate is to have all the possible nominees fight it out until one of them wins the majority of votes. That's the traditional method, and it's the method that works.

Beyond that, everything is just supposition and conjecture and hot air. Nobody knows anything.

I'm hoping enough voters start picking Elizabeth Warren to make her the frontrunner again, because I think she's the best person for the job, but you may have a different opinion. That's fine.

All of the remaining candidates beat Trump in head-to-head matchups. He's upside down in popularity numbers. Could he win if we're not careful? Sure, but I'd rather be where we are now, winning by ten points than vice versa.

Right now, there are many, many pundits saying that "Bernie can't win" or "a centrist can't win", either or both of which actually mean that the pundit could not imagine voting for such a candidate. I tell you, it's the same every time. When your guy or gal is in the lead, it's "Vote Blue No Matter Who" and when your guy or gal loses, it's "Screw you guys, I'm going home." 

At the same time, we're working on social media time, where snap judgments are the rule of the day. People want this process to be over so they can get on with dumping Trump out of office. 

Everybody's going to have to calm down and let the process work itself out. We're going to have a much better idea of where things stand by the end of March. Worst case, we've got another three months of wrangling to do until the convention in June.

Whatever happens, there's local work to be done. Vote in the primaries. Vote in the general. Work on behalf of the downticket candidates. 

And engage in some self-care now so you're ready for the general.