We Need to Change Our COVID-19 Strategy

We would like to think that we can eliminate COVID-19, but doing so is far from certain. The medical system has not been successful in eliminating HIV/AIDS or influenza; the situation with COVID-19 may be similar.

We are discovering that people with COVID-19 are extremely hard to identify because a significant share of infections are very mild or completely without symptoms. Testing everyone to find the huge number of hidden cases cannot possibly work worldwide. As long as there is hidden COVID-19 elsewhere in the world, the benefit of identifying everyone with the illness in a particular area is limited. The disease simply bounces back, as soon as there is a reduction in containment efforts.

Figure 1. One-week average new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel, Spain, Belgium and Netherlands. Chart made using data as of August 8, 2020 using an Interactive Visualization available at https://91-divoc.com/pages/covid-visualization/ based on Johns Hopkins University CSSE database.

We are also discovering that efforts to contain what is essentially a hidden illness are very damaging to the world economy. Shutdowns in particular lead to many unemployed people and riots. Social distancing requirements can make investments unprofitable. Cutting off air flights leads to a huge loss of tourism and leaves farmers with the problem of how to get their fruit and vegetable crops picked without migrant workers. If COVID-19 is very widespread, contact tracing simply becomes an exercise in frustration.

Trying to identify the many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 is surprisingly difficult. The cost is far higher than the cost of the testing devices.

At some point, we need to start lowering expectations regarding what can be done. The economy can protect a few members, but not everyone. Instead, emphasis should be on strengthening people’s immune systems. Surprisingly, there seems to be quite a bit that can be done. Higher vitamin D levels seem to be associated with fewer and less severe cases. Better diet, with more fruits and vegetables, is also likely to be helpful from an immunity point of view. Strangely enough, more close social contacts may also be helpful.

In the remainder of this post, I will explain a few pieces of the COVID-19 problem, together with my ideas for modifications to our current strategy.

Recent News About COVID-19 Has Been Disturbingly Bad


It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 is likely to be here for quite some time. The World Health Organization’s director recently warned, “. . . there’s no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be.” A recent Wall Street Journal article is titled, “Early Coronavirus Vaccine Supplies Likely Won’t Be Enough for Everyone at High Risk.” This article relates only to US citizens at high risk. Needless to say, creating enough vaccine for both high and low risk individuals, around the world, is a long way away.

We are also hearing that vaccines may be far less than 100% effective; 50% effective would be considered sufficient at this time. Two doses are likely to be needed; in fact, elderly patients may need three doses. The vaccine may not work for obese individuals. We don’t yet know how long immunity from the vaccines will last; a new round of injections may be needed each year.

new report confirms that asymptomatic patients with COVID-19 are indeed able to spread the disease to others.

Furthermore, the financial sector is increasingly struggling with the adverse impact shutdowns are having on the economy. If it becomes necessary to completely “write off” the tourism industry, economies around the world will struggle with permanent job loss and debt defaults.

Shutdowns Don’t Work for Businesses and the Financial System 

There are many issues involved:

(a) Shutdowns tend to lead to huge job loss. Riots follow, as soon as people have a chance to express their unhappiness with the situation.

(b) If countries stop importing migrant workers, there is likely to be a major loss of fruits and vegetables that farmers have planted. No matter how much money is printed, it does not replace these lost fruits and vegetables.

(c) Manufacturing supply lines don’t work if raw materials and parts are not available when needed. Because of this, a shutdown in one part of the world tends to have a ripple effect around the world.

(d) Social distancing requirements for businesses are problematic because they lead to less efficient use of available space. Businesses can serve fewer customers, so total revenue is likely to fall. Employees may need to be laid off. Fixed costs, such as debt, become more difficult to pay, making defaults more likely.

Shutdowns cause a major problem for the economy, because, with many people out of the workforce, the total amount of finished goods and services produced by the economy falls. Broken supply lines and reduced efficiency tend to make the problem worse. World GDP is the total amount of goods and services produced. Thus, by definition, total world GDP is reduced by shutdowns.

Governments can institute benefit programs for citizens to try to redistribute what goods and services are available, but this will not fix the underlying problem of many fewer goods and services actually being produced. Citizens will find that some shelves in stores are empty, and that many airline seats are unavailable. They will find that some goods are still unaffordable, even with government subsidies.

Governments can try to give loans to businesses to help them through the financial problems caused by new rules, such as social distancing, but it is doubtful this approach will lead to new investment. For example, if social distancing requirements mean that new buildings and vehicles can only be used in an inefficient manner, there will be little incentive for businesses to invest in new buildings and vehicles, even if low-interest loans are available.

Furthermore, even if there might be opportunities for new, more efficient businesses to be added, the subsidization of old inefficient businesses operating at far below capacity will tend to crowd out these new businesses.

People of Many Ages Soon Become Unhappy with Shutdowns

Young people expect hands-on learning experiences at universities. They also expect to be able to meet possible future marriage partners in social settings. They become increasingly unhappy, as shutdowns drag on.

The elderly need to be protected from COVID-19, but they also need to be able to see their families. Without social interaction, their overall health tends to decline.

We Are Kidding Ourselves if We Think a Vaccine Will Make the Worldwide COVID-19 Problem Disappear

Finding a vaccine that works for 100% of the world’s population seems extremely unlikely. Even if we do find a vaccine or drug treatment that works, being able to extend this solution to poor countries around the world is likely to be a slow process.

If we look back historically, pretty much all of the improvement in the US crude death rate (number of deaths divided by total population) has come from conquering infectious diseases.

Figure 2. Crude mortality rates in the United States in chart from Trends in Infectious Disease Mortality in the United States During the 20th Century, Armstrong et al., JAMA, 1999.

The catch is that since 1960, there hasn’t been an improvement in infectious disease mortality in the United States, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Society. As progress has been made on some longstanding diseases such as hepatitis, new infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS have arisen. Also, the biggest category of infectious disease remaining is “influenza and pneumonia,” and little progress has been made in reducing its death rate in the United States. Figure 3 shows one chart from the article.

Figure 3. Mortality due to influenza or HIV/AIDS, in chart from Infectious Disease Mortality Trends in the United States, 1980-2014 by Hansen et al., JAMA, 2016.

With respect to HIV/AIDS, it took from the early 1980s until 1997 to start to get the mortality rate down through drugs. A suitable vaccine has not yet been created.

Furthermore, even when the US was able to reduce the mortality from HIV/AIDS, this ability did not immediately spread to poor areas of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa. In Figure 4, we can see the bulge in Sub-Saharan Africa’s crude death rates (where HIV/AIDS was prevalent), relative to death rates in India, where HIV/AIDS was less of a problem.

Figure 4. Crude death rates for Sub-Saharan Africa, India, the United States, and the World from 1960 through 2018, based on World Bank data.

While the medical system was able to start reducing the mortality of HIV/AIDS in the United States about 1996-1997 (Figure 3, above), a 2016 article says that it was still very prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. Major issues included difficulty patients had in traveling to health care sites and a lack of trained personnel to administer the medication. We can expect these issues to continue if a vaccine is developed for COVID-19, especially if the new vaccine requires more than one injection, every year.

Another example is polio. A vaccine for polio was developed in 1955; the disease was eliminated in the US and other high income countries in about the next 25 years. The disease has still not been eliminated worldwide, however. Poor countries tend to use an oral form of the vaccine that can be easily administered by anyone. The problem with this oral vaccine is that it uses live viruses which themselves can cause outbreaks of polio. Cases not caused by the vaccine are still found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These examples suggest that even if a vaccine or fairly effective treatment for COVID-19 is discovered, we are kidding ourselves if we think the treatment will quickly transfer around the world. To transfer around the world, it will need to be extremely inexpensive and easy to administer. Even with these characteristics, the eradication of COVID-19 is likely to take a decade or more, unless the virus somehow disappears on its own.

The fact that COVID-19 transmits easily by people who show no symptoms means that even if COVID-19 is eradicated from the high-income world, it can return from the developing world, unless a large share of people in these advanced countries are immune to the disease. We seem to be far from that situation now. Perhaps this will change in a few years, but we cannot count on widespread immunity any time soon.

Containment Efforts for a Disease with Many Hidden Carriers Is Likely to Be Vastly More Expensive than One in Which Infected People Are Easily Identifiable 

It is easy to misunderstand how expensive finding the many asymptomatic carriers of a disease is. The cost is far higher than the cost of the tests themselves, because the situation is quite different. If people have serious symptoms, they will want to stay home. They will want to give out the names of others, if they can see that doing so might prevent someone else from catching a serious illness.

We have the opposite situation, if we are trying to find people without symptoms, who might infect others. We need to:

  1. Identify all of these people who feel well but might infect others.
  2. Persuade these people who feel well to stay away from work or other activities.
  3. Somehow compensate these people for lost wages and perhaps extra living expenses, while they are in quarantine.
  4. Pay for all of the tests to find these individuals.
  5. Convince these well individuals to name those whom they have had contact with (often their friends), so that they can be tested and perhaps quarantined as well.

Perhaps a few draconian governments, such as China, can handle these problems by fiat, and not really compensate workers for being unable to work. In other countries, all of these costs are likely to be a problem. Because of inadequate compensation, exclusion from work is not likely to be well received. Quarantined people will not want to report which friends they have seen recently, if the friends are likely also to lose wages. In poor countries, the loss of income may mean the loss of the ability to feed a person’s family. 

Another issue is that “quick tests” are likely to be used for contact tracing, since “PCR tests,” which tend to be more accurate, often require a week or more for laboratory processing. Unfortunately, quick tests for COVID-19 are not very accurate. (Also a CNN report.) If there are a lot of “false positives,” many people may be needlessly taken out of work. If there are a lot of “false negatives,” all of this testing will still miss a lot of carriers of COVID-19.

A Major Benefit of Rising Energy Consumption Seems to Be Better Control Over Infectious Diseases and a Falling Crude Death Rate

I often write about how the world’s self-organizing economy works. The growth in the world’s energy consumption since the advent of fossil fuels has been extremely important.

Figure 5. World Energy Consumption by Source, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects, together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent

The growth in world energy consumption coincided with a virtual explosion in human population.

Figure 6. World Population Growth Through History. Chart by SUSPS.

One of the ways that fossil fuel energy is helpful for population growth is through drugs to fight epidemics. Another way is by making modern sanitation easy. A third way is by ramping up food supplies, so that more people can be fed.

Economic shutdowns lead to reduced energy consumption, partly because energy prices tend to fall too low for producers. They cut back on production because of unprofitability.

Figure 7. Weekly average spot oil prices for Brent, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Given this connection between energy supply and population, we should not be surprised if shutdowns tend to lead to an overall falling world population, even if COVID-19 by itself is expected to have a small mortality rate (perhaps 1% of those infected). Poor countries, especially, will find that laid off workers cannot afford adequate food supplies. This makes poor members of those economies more susceptible to diseases of many kinds and to starvation.

Epidemiologists Based Their Models on Diseases Which Are Easily Identifiable and Have High Mortality Rates

It is clear that an easily identifiable illness with a high mortality rate can be easily contained. A difficult-to-identify disease, which has a very low mortality rate for many segments of the population, is very different. Members of segments of the population who usually get only a light case of the disease are likely to become more and more unhappy as containment efforts drag on. Models based on very different types of pandemics are likely to be misleading.

We Need to Somehow Change Course

The message that has been disseminated has been, “With containment efforts plus vaccine, we can stop this disease.” In fact, this is unlikely for the foreseeable future. Continuing in the same direction that has not been working is a lot like banging one’s head against a wall. It cannot be expected to work.

Somehow, expectations need to be lowered regarding what containment efforts can do. The economy can perhaps protect a few high-risk people, but it cannot protect everyone. Unless COVID-19 stops by itself, a significant share of the world’s population can be expected to catch COVID-19. In fact, some people may get the disease multiple times over their lifetimes.

If we are forced to live with some level of COVID-19 (just as we are forced to live with some level of forest fires), we need to make this situation as painless as possible. For example,

  • We need to find ways to make COVID-19 as asymptomatic as possible by easy changes to diet and lifestyle.
  • We also need to find inexpensive treatments, especially ones that can be used outside of a hospital setting.
  • We need to keep the world economy operating as best as possible, if we want to stay away from a world population crash for as long as possible.

We cannot continue to post articles which seem to say that a spike in COVID-19 cases is necessarily “bad.” It is simply the way the situation has to be, if we don’t really have an effective way of containing the coronavirus. The fact that young adults build up immunity, at least for a while, needs to be viewed as a plus.

Some Ideas Regarding Looking at the Situation Differently 

(1) The Vitamin D Issue

There has been little publicity about the fact that people with higher vitamin D levels seem to have lighter cases of COVID-19. In fact, whole nations with higher vitamin D levels seem to have lower levels of deaths. Vitamin D strengthens the immune system. Sunlight raises vitamin D levels; fish liver oils and the flesh of fatty fishes also raise vitamin D levels.

Figure 8 shows cumulative deaths per million in a few low and high vitamin D level areas. The death rates are strikingly lower in the high vitamin D level countries.

Figure 8. COVID-19 deaths per million as of August 8, 2020 for selected countries, based on data from Johns Hopkins CSSE database.

The vitamin D issue may explain why dark skinned people (such as those from Southeast Asia and Africa) tend to get more severe cases of COVID-19 when they move to a low sunlight area such as the UK. Skin color is an adaptation to different levels of the sun’s rays in different parts of the world. People with darker skin color have more melanin in their skin. This makes the production of vitamin D less efficient, since equatorial regions receive more sunlight. The larger amount of melanin works well when dark-skinned people live in equatorial regions, but less well away from the equator. Vitamin D supplements might mitigate this difference.

It should be noted that the benefit of sunlight and vitamin D in protecting the immune system has long been known, especially with respect to flu-like diseases. In fact, the use of sunlight seems to have been helpful in mitigating the effects of the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918-1919, over 100 years ago!

One concern might be whether increased sunlight raises the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. I have not researched this extensively, but a 2016 study indicates that that sensible sun exposure, without getting sunburn, may decrease a person’s risk of melanoma, as well as provide protection against many other types of diseases. Non-melanoma skin cancers may increase, but the mortality risk of these skin cancers is very low. On balance, the study concludes that the public should be advised to work on getting blood levels of at least 30 ng/ml.

(2) Other Issues

Clearly, better health in general is helpful. Eating a diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables is helpful, as is getting plenty of exercise and sunshine. Losing weight will be helpful for many.

Having social contact with other people tends to be helpful for longevity in general. In fact, several studies indicate that church-goers tend to have better longevity than others. Churchgoers and those with many social contacts would seem to have more contact with microbes than others.

A recent article says, Common colds train the immune system to recognize COVID-19. Social distancing tends to eliminate common colds as well as COVID-19. Quite possibly social distancing is counterproductive, in terms of disease severity. Epidemiologists have likely never considered this issue, since they tend to consider only very brief social distancing requirements.

A person wonders how well the immune systems of elderly people who have been cut off from sharing microbes with others for months will work. Will these people now die when exposed to even very minor illnesses? Perhaps a slow transition is needed to bring families back into closer contact with their loved ones.

People’s immune systems can protect them from small influxes of viruses causing COVID-19, but not from large influxes of these viruses. Masks tend to protect against large influxes of the virus, and thus protect the wearer to a surprising extent. Models suggest that clear face shields also provide a considerable amount of this benefit. People with a high risk of very severe illness may want to wear both of these devices in settings they consider risky. Such a combination might protect them fairly well, even if others are not wearing masks.

Conclusions – What We Really Should Be Doing

Back at the time we first became aware of COVID-19, following the recommendations of epidemiologists probably made sense. Now that more information is unfolding, our approach to COVID-19 needs to change.

I have already laid out many of the things I think need to be done. One area that has been severely overlooked is raising vitamin D levels. This is being discussed in the medical literature, but it doesn’t seem to get into the popular press. Even though the connection is not 100% proven, and there are many details to be worked out, it would seem like people should start raising their vitamin D levels. There seems to be little problem with overdosing on vitamin D, except that sunburns are not good. Until we know more, a level of 30 ng/ml (equivalent to 75 nmol/L) might be a reasonable level to aim for. This is a little above the mean vitamin D level of Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

Social distancing requirements probably need to be phased out. A concern might be temporarily excessive patient loads for hospitals. Large group meetings may need to be limited for a time, until this problem can be overcome.

 

 

This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.

2,353 thoughts on “We Need to Change Our COVID-19 Strategy

    • i read somewhere recently that the existing battery storage capacity in theUSA could store sufficient energy to power the country as a whole, for a few hours

      if we chase our tails down the battery hole, humankind will move from a state where we conduct our lives on the free ride of universal surplus energy,——-

      to an existence where we must devote a greater and greater slice of our everyday lives to rubbing the energy lamp harder and harder, looking for ‘new technololgy’ refusing to believe that there isn’t one.

      and wondering why we are sinking backward into the mire of history despite the fact that frantic lamp rubbing becomes our main source of employment

      • Hint:
        The lithium-ion battery was first commercialized by the Japanese in the early 1990’s.
        We haven’t got beyond that on anything that scales.
        It has been a while comrades, and is a major roadblock.

        • “The lithium-ion battery was first commercialized by the Japanese in the early 1990’s.”

          Don’t you mean the early 1980s? My Casio watch from back then sported a 5 year battery and you can still buy a replacement from a regular “Deutsche Mark” shop.

        • I’m going to side with Duncan on this one.

          Wikipedia summarizes the history thus:

          A prototype Li-ion battery was developed by Akira Yoshino in 1985, based on earlier research by John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, Rachid Yazami and Koichi Mizushima during the 1970s–1980s, and then a commercial Li-ion battery was developed by a Sony and Asahi Kasei team led by Yoshio Nishi in 1991.

          In 2019, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given to Yoshino, Goodenough, and Whittingham “for the development of lithium ion batteries

          I hope that’s goodenough for ya!

    • “The advantage of supercapacitors is that they charge and discharge far faster than batteries, …”
      Especially when struck by lightning. Safer to fill your house with ammonium nitrate, I feel.

      • These hopium peddlers never seem to fade into obscurity.

        What is needed is a magnitude leap in energy production. I’m not seeing that happening anytime soon on a scale to replace FF’s.

  1. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/08/11/901304243/new-zealand-on-alert-after-4-cases-of-covid-19-emerge-from-an-unknown-source
    New Zealand On Alert After 4 Cases Of COVID-19 Emerge From Unknown Source

    More than three months after its last case of community spread, New Zealand has four new cases of the coronavirus from an unknown source.

    The first case identified in the cluster was a person in their 50s with no overseas travel history. The person has been symptomatic for five days and was confirmed positive on Tuesday. The six members of the person’s household were then tested: three tested positive and three negative.

    While the cases are all in one household, more than one workplace was affected, . . .

    Auckland is moving to Alert Level 3 for at least three days, and the rest of New Zealand to the lower Level 2. The country had been at Level 1 since June 9, during which life largely returned to normal. Its border remains closed to foreign nationals.

    • She Who Must Be Obeyed has delayed the closing of parliament and is considering delaying next month’s Kiwi election as a result of this cluster of four positive test results.

      Imagine if Trumpy tried to do something similar stateside — which he can’t be cause he doesn’t have the power to dictate such things. Poor Norman would have a fit!

      Ardern said she was suspending the dissolution of parliament, which was due to make way for an election scheduled to take place on Sept. 19, until Monday. No decision had yet been made on delaying the actual poll, she added.

      “It’s too early to make decisions but there is a bit of flexibility to move the election date if required,” Ardern told a televised media conference, adding any date before Nov 21 can be chosen for the election. (Reuters)

      https://www.rnz.co.nz/assets/news_crops/96865/eight_col_Time_Ardern.jpg?1582613059

      • How true: with Ardern it’s mummy love for all her people; with Trump, ‘fascism’…..

        Women can get away with a lot in politics, but are not any less power-hungry than men, in fact I suspect often more so. Working at The Guardian opened my eyes to female power-politics.

        • I’ve been struck by the contrast between New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s press conferences and those of the President of the US. I don’t recall any electioneering with the former (though we are close to an election) but the latter is almost nothing else.

    • If they go to the highest Alert Level, what will they do when Paul Krugman’ aliens arrive?

      • The answer was given by H G Wells, in his novel, “The War of the Worlds”, published in 1898:

        “They were undone, destroyed, after all of man’s weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God in his wisdom put upon this earth.”

        The coronavirus is the Earth getting ready for a Martian invasion. Well, it’s no more absurd than the ludicrous bloviatings of Dr Fauci.

  2. I think the different ethnic makeup of Sweden explains its higher death rate than other Nordic countries. It has a lot of Somalis and some immigrants from the Middle East.

    I found one comment to a post: https://judithcurry.com/2020/06/28/the-progress-of-the-covid-19-epidemic-in-sweden-an-analysis/#comment-919909

    Your comment about advantages in such as single person households omits the matter that some 30 percent of Stockholms population ( where most deaths occurred) is of an immigrant background and very many live in intergenerational households.

    These migrant areas have a disproportionately much higher infection and death rates than ethnic swedes. With some 50 percent of deaths being in care homes and a higher than normal rate amongst immigrants in multi roomed houses, the number of ethnic swedes below 75 years of age succumbing to covid 19 is relatively small, so all the clubbing and visits to restaurants that the younger age group indulged in probably did not have much of an effect. The other Nordic countries do not have the same ethnic make up.

    In the UK we have the same effect as in Stockholm to the extent that there is talk of a new lockdown in Leicester where there is a very large Asian population who have a similarly greater than average death rate and tend to mix in houses in large numbers for prayer or for socialising.

    I posted a chart earlier today about the different circulating vitamin D levels in the US population among different skin colors.

    This is the big issue. Dark skinned people in Northern latitudes have a terrible time with COVID, especially if they live in multigenerational homes. Some of these people work in elderly care homes as well.

    Also
    https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/coronavirus-takes-toll-swedens-immigrant-community-70593594

    Last month, data from Sweden’s Public Health Agency confirmed that Somali Swedes made up almost 5 percent of the country’s COVID-19 cases, yet represented less than 1 percent of its 10 million people.

    • “More than 5,500 people (now higher) have died with Covid-19 in this country of just 10 million. It is one of the highest death rates relative to population size in Europe, and by far the worst among the Nordic nations. Unlike Sweden, the rest all chose to lock down early in the pandemic”

      • Hint:

        Theoretically, we can reduce infectious disease deaths to close to zero by sealing off everybody from everybody else like the “bubble boy” David Vetter.

        Keith assures me that we have the technology.

      • Various people, including myself, have pointed out over the last few weeks that the mainstream media in both the UK and the USA have been targeting Sweden’s strategy specifically because Sweden did not go into lockdown as they were told, and yet a couple of weeks ago, Gail posted a chart showing that the Covid-19 total death rate (deaths per million) is lower in Sweden than the UK, and I cannot remember, but possibly lower than the USA as well.

        So to the above quote, we might add something like: “And several of those that did go into lockdown have a higher death rate than Sweden, and have obliterated their economies.” But let’s just ignore that list bit, about the economic devastation.

        • This is a current chart of cumulative deaths relative population for the UK, Sweden, and the US.

          UK is clearly highest, with Sweden and the UK following a similar pattern. The United States is lower, but following a different pattern. There are no doubt multiple issues involved. One of them is that the US is geographically a lot bigger. The disease did not get to a lot of essential industries, such as packing plants for meat, until later. The US is more like Western Europe and Eastern Europe combined. The disease did not get to Eastern Europe until later than Western Europe.

          The US tried to close down everything except essential industries at once, about March 15. That was way too early for places away from population centers. By the time the virus got to them, “shutdown fatigue” had set in. There was even more spread of the illness.

          A third issue is the US’ widespread use of air conditioning, especially in the US South and West. The northern tier of states uses less air conditioning. The virus spreads very well in air conditioned buildings, such as restaurants. Europe tends to have more buildings with better ventilation, and less air conditioning. With the warm summers in the US, it should not be surprising that COVID-19 spreads where a lot of air conditioning is used.

          When we look at the data, we see that indeed the US South has been the major area where the virus spread, but to nowhere near the level that the Northeast experienced deaths earlier.

      • Also, the comment I posted was about number of cases. I would be willing to bet that the number of deaths is more skewed than the number of cases.

      • I think the issue is not ‘diversity’ as such , but in these very dense concentrations of immigrants, living in multi-generational households.

        Also they have been conspicuous in ignoring distancing rules outside the home, some out of sheer ignorance and lawlessness, others because they believe God will protect them.

    • I used google to look Sweden and Covid Cases by Ethnicity. Google found a particular comment to Judith Curry’s COVID post.

      Of course,until not too long ago, Judith Curry was a professor at Georgia Tech.

      What possibly makes you think that what Judith Curry says about COVID is wrong? I didn’t look at the actual post by Curry, by the way.

      • Judith Curry has a reputation among the scientific community that is horrendous, and seeped into right wing ideology.
        She was forced out of her position at Georgia Tech.

        • She thinks that the AGW climate scam is a climate scam. Leftists who are the catspaws of big globalist money have been funded to attack and sideline her.

        • Georgia Tech’s website has the following page on Dr. Curry:

          Judith Curry Named One of Top 50 Women in STEM

          TheBestSchools.org has named Judith A. Curry one of the top 50 women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The list comprises “the best women in their respective fields…with a lot of innate talent, certainly, but who have also put in a great deal of extremely hard work,” according to the list’s compiler.

          Curry is professor emerita in the Georgia Tech School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS). She is named for the fields of geophysical sciences and climatology, the only person listed in these categories.

          Her scientific accomplishments are reflected in 186 peer-reviewed papers. She is also co-author or co-editor of three textbooks:

          with Vitaly I. Khvorostyanov, “Thermodynamics, Kinetics, and Microphysics of Clouds” (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
          with James R. Holton and John Pyle, “Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences” (Academic Press, 2003)
          with Peter J. Webster, “Thermodynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans” (Academic Press, 1998)
          In addition, she cofounded Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) with colleague and EAS Professor Peter J. Webster. The company aims to find new and better ways to apply weather and climate data, weather forecast information, and future regional climate scenarios to real-world decision-making to manage risks associated with the variability of climate and weather.

          Curry was chair of EAS from 2002 to 2014. She retired from Georgia Tech at the end of 2016. She was named professor emerita in January 2017.

          Her tenure as chair of EAS was marked by the high quality of faculty recruited under her leadership. The fruits of those efforts continue to be realized. For example, in the latest graduate school rankings by the U.S. News & World Report for Earth Sciences, Georgia Tech’s Earth program advanced four steps to rank 38, putting it in the top 30% of U.S. institutions surveyed.

          Curry received a bachelor’s degree in geography from Northern Illinois University in 1974 and a Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from the University of Chicago in 1982.

          Before joining Georgia Tech, she taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1982-86), Purdue University (1986-89), Pennsylvania State University (1989-92), and the University of Colorado, Boulder (1992-02).

          Curry has served on NASA’s Advisory Council Earth Science Subcommittee, on the Climate Working Group of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and on the National Academies’ Space Studies Board and Climate Research Group.

          She was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2004 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007.

        • Being forced out of any university today is rather a vote in someone’s favour, given the lunacy and political conformism of those who dominate the academic environment. And what happened to free speech?

    • Perhaps Curry is right. According to the article:

      “Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”

      • There are many valid, alternate opinions:

          • eh? From the peak of 26th June they are indeed decreasing. Should have gone to spec-savers…

          • Deaths seem to be decreasing for Sweden, just as they are for some other European countries.

            The chart shows the UK, Sweden and Italy. Sweden is in blue.

            • Sweden with no masks, very little social distancing, and Stockholm is a big city.

              Viruses follow general patterns to general (“herd”) immunity. Doesn’t mean no one gets sick (flu season is just a general idea), just means the time for fear and “mitigation” measured has passed.

            • I agree that deaths seem to be decreasing but there is a delay between confirmed cases and deaths. If there is an uptick in cases, we’ll see an uptick in deaths in about 2-3 weeks.

            • “If there is an uptick in cases, we’ll see an uptick in deaths in about 2-3 weeks.”

              Not if the upptick in cases is because of finally starting testing.

      • Judith Curry was one of the first to denounce Michael Mann as a lying charlatan who had faked the numbers. She was right, which of course was an even worse crime in the groupthink world of “climate science”. She also believes that Nature has far more influence on climate than humans, and my guess is that the coming solar minimum will prove her right again.

        • A grand solar minimum would have no more than a 0.3°C cooling effect. Survivors will find out

          • Evidently, I do not agree. But time will tell, and Time is the mother of Truth.

  3. Sweden vs other countries with respect to deaths and tests is simply the degree of policy implemented with respect to flattening the curve.

    We don’t see any models and curves on tv anymore. Why? Because they were proven so grossly incorrect. Why not today? Because you can’t measure what you don’t have. If 50% are asymptomatic they won’t even think to get tested. If someone Does test positive well when did they have COVID? A day ago, 3 months ago? The stats include timing or they are worthless.

    Tuberculosis, a single disease of many, for decades has been killing way more people than COVID, why not the same global response for TB?

    • Agreed. Covid greatly affects the elderly, the frail, and the metabolically weak disproportionately. Nursing homes (elderly and frail), china and other parts (italy) with poor air quality (manufacturing, etc – leading to frailty of Health), and the USA (generally very metabolically weak).

      Much of the world’s population this is simply a “meh.”. Lockdowns and.gov responses are something different.

        • Same in the UK. People do confuse fatty bulk with strength, apart from being bone idle and eating garbage.

          • I do think there are problems with the BMI. If someone has a lot of muscle they can weigh a lot for their height. That would put them in the overweight category. I have a short friend who body builds and he would be considered in the Obese category just by weight/height calculations.

            I am in the healthy body fat percentage range, but I have always had a muscular build, so according to the BMI I am overweight.

    • It seems like I have had disagreements with the Steady State folks for a long time.

      These are the steps that one researcher sees:

      (1) The stock market does not represent or reflect our economic reality.

      (2) We will enter a recession, and that’s okay.

      (3) Economic policies can help us endure the Great Pause.

      (4) We can build back better.

      The catch is that we can’t build back better. In fact, there will be very few of us to build back, at all.

        • Or as a former RAF pilot put it: “When your flight instructor teaches you how to take off but not how to land, you should perhaps consider another career.”

      • Steady state is not compatible with freedom and Democracy. People at the bottom, at least, don’t want a steady state, they want more.

        I red, and I agree, that democracy is only compatible with economic growth. People accept social inequalities only when their situation improves.

        The Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan (17th – 19th century) was a steady state economy, but it was a harsh dictatorship. You could say that if something wasn’t forbidden, it was mandatory. If you didn’t respect the rules, you were simply sentenced to death.

        And it was an isolated society. when the Americans came and forced Japan to enter into international trade, it was the end.

        • That is a good point. If everyone is not perfectly equal, a steady state doesn’t work. But we need organization and leaders. The leaders get paid more.

        • I have studied the history of the Edo period quite carefully. It was authoritarian, but far better than the chaos that had preceded it. And its main reforms were aimed at ending the power of the daimyo, and in consequence improving the lot of the common people. In particular, its program of land reform gave far more people a common stake in their country. It was also a sustainable society, one of the few in recorded history. Of course, history is written by the victors, for example the deracinated intellectuals who perpetrated the Meiji Restoration. But I think that in Cleo’s impartial scales, the Shogunate will stand as a force for good.

          • Most of the reforms of the Edo period were carried out by one man—Abarenbo Shogun—who was always ready to slice the bad guys up like sushi.

          • Far better than the chaos That had preceded it, that’s for sure. And the Meïji restauration brought the Manchuria invasion, Pearl Harbor, etc…
            Edo period was a steady state economy, sustainable indeed, but in such a society there is no place for such modern ideas like free will, democracy, etc. and that is my point.

        • You could say that if something wasn’t forbidden, it was mandatory. If you didn’t respect the rules, you were simply sentenced to death.

          Sounds like Twitter.

          • Right, it’s of course more complex, and we have more characters here than on twitter, I could have been more subtle. But one must admit that in this society rules where extremely constraining and normative, and punishments harsh, nothing comparable with our liberal societies today in the western world.

    • Steady state is fine but we have too many people. Steady state with 80 million humans world wide would be great.

    • If that pandemic had a face (it doesn’t, it fancies masks more), in that face it would be written, in small letters of course, “Attempt to manage the inevitable decline of industrial civilization through techno-fascism”. It’s too obvious, IMO. I see the signs of “fakeness” (aka planning) everywhere.
      his is the best reality show we haver had, by far. Today humans minds and behaviours are controled by the media. Most of what we believe, desire, hate or fear is tele-induced by the owners. Common human feelings are the strings they use in their puppet theater (that we call politics, economics, and so on). All in all, a wonderful time to be alive, i think.

      But your link about steady-state is sheer garbage, i suppose. Not even hunter-gatherers used to live in steady state economies. I’m afraid humans are not made for steady state. We are wired for more and more. Get all the free or cheap energy available and grow. Most people always want more and more (even without the ads urging them that way), and try to get it by any means availabl to them..

        • By definition. I would say. Steady things dont flow nor dissipate, according my english dictionary.
          But we could ask what is steady in this world? The mountains? The oceans? The winds? The cockroach?

          • Dissipative structures are variable in their growth requirements. Candles and stars are examples of dissipative structures that can achieve an equilibrium state for a while. Many kind of animals including humans are somewhat steady when they achieve maturity.

            Other animals, like lizards, snakes and coral are indeterminate growers, ie they will in theory continue to grow as long as their environment and intake of nutrients allow it.

            As long as they are over water, hurricanes can lose force and become disorganised and then restrengthen, depending on water temperature and other factors like wind shear.

            The global economy is quite unusual in that perpetual growth, barring the odd recession to clear out the economic “dead wood”, is both its nature and a prerequisite for its survival. I can’t actually think of any other examples.

            • Well, said, Harry.
              “I can’t actually think of any other examples.”
              My cats spend most of their winter time in a quasi steady state of sleepiness. But I know they are not steady (ie dead) because they jump to life frantically when they hear me opening a cat food can.

            • The problem humans have is that their bodies are adapted to some energy consumption, partly to cook food and partly to make tools, because our hands and feet aren’t very good for catching animals to eat, digging to grow plants, or gathering water to drink. It is also helpful to have tools to fight off microbes which might sicken us and other animals that might eat the food we have planted. The area where people can live is severely constrained if people cannot build homes and heat them (in some places, cool them as well).

              All of these “needs” lead to a need for a whole lot of energy per person. Burned biomass is not nearly enough for today’s population. Fossil fuels are very much depleted. Mines for minerals are depleted. Getting along with a whole lot less leads to some of the above needs not being met.

              There is also the issue of the fact that to build all of these tools and devices, we need a method of payment for what amounts to work in advance of a future benefit. People have to prepare fields and plant seeds, if they want to make a harvest later. Some combination of builders have to work to build a substantial enough home that it can be heated, if desired. Factories require a lot of work, before they can actually be productive.

              As a result of the way society is structured (investment before the benefit is available), we need a way of repaying debt with interest. Or we need shares of stock that appreciate. Or we need a Social Security program that promises people retirement income, in the future. Unfortunately, these systems cannot withstand any shrinkage at all. Also, we are dealing with resource that constantly deplete. This combination leads economies into problems if they try for a steady state.

        • But we can by human will impose limits. No more than 80 million humans, no more than one billion tons of carbon dumped per year into the air, etc.

          • by what force of ‘will’ do you suggest we reduce our population to 80m—or even 800m—as I think you might have meant?

            Our prime force of ‘will’ is consumption

            we consume as much as we can, as fast as we can, in order to pay ourselves higher and higher wages, so that we can pay for more and more of stuff we dont need.

            Its called GDP

            • Norman, I do mean 80,000,000 the number of humans that Earth can support in a first world lifestyle indefinitely, IMO. We seem to have plenty of win to fight wars. This would be a war against the other 7,920,000,000.

            • sorry Ed

              but I have to offer a different point of view on the necessary Earth population needed to support a ‘modern’ lifestyle

              800m takes us back to the mid 1700s

              80m takes us back roughly to Roman times.

              Your first world lifestyle (and mine) is supported by a million separate industries, all combining to create that ‘first world’ life, using uncounted components that we cannot begin to comprehend

              You take a few steps, turn on a tap, and fresh water comes out. You take a few more steps open your fridge and select food to fill your belly to sufficiency. When the need arises you flush your toilet and the wastes derived from your previous activities vanish.

              And all without moving outside the home that is itself constructed of materials that will shelter you from the elements. The food you expect to find in your supermarket is put there by millions of people you will never know.

              Even the screen you are staring at is part of the same ‘modern lifestyle’

              All that is part of a ‘mutual support’ interconnected system made possible by the industrialised numbers of us.

              In a world of 80m–where do you think that collective support network will come from?

              Without people, you will have to go find your own food, carry your own water and get rid of your own wastes. The reason your lifestyle exists is because other people are doing that for you.
              When that no longer happens, you will be in a society where:

              A—you’re rich enough to own slaves to do it

              or B–you are a slave doing it

              Which describes the basis of Roman life.

              It’s as well to remember that slave ownership only ended 150 years ago—or even less by some definitions. Cheap surplus energy allowed us to dispense with slaves.
              A population of 80m will only be able to supply muscle power, not build power stations or oil tankers.

            • Norman, you make a good point. My number is based on pollution produced and able to be processed by Earth. It may be that complexity and specialization make modern life style unsupportable by planet Earth. Hard to calculate/say.

            • seems to me that the most important thing to bear in mind about ‘modern society is:

              —-modern civilisation is dependent on converting explosive force into rotary motion.—-

              something that ‘downsizers’ just cannot get their heads around (or refuse to)

          • In order to reduce the human population in the interests of good stewardship down to any desired level, such as 80 million for instance, it would be necessary to treat human beings as a part of the ecosystem and of the economic system in an analogous way to how other animals and plants are treated, rather than as free and autonomous agents and architects of their own destiny, as is ostensibly the case.

            Humans would have to be managed just as domestic livestock or wild animals or forests or meadows are managed. The treatment they received would be commensurate with their status and their basic needs, but fundamental human rights being a barrier to managing humans in a way that constitutes good stewardship, those rights would have to abrogated or encroached on to the extent that they obstructed appropriate management.

            Limits would be imposed by human will, but this would be achieved by imposing the will of the small management class on humanity as a whole by persuading or coercing the rest of the population to submit to this will, which would make it a sort of triumph of the will, to coin a phrase.

            The persuasion and coercion would need to be performed very subtly and deceptively so that the vast majority of the population would not be aware that it was going on. Only in that way could 99% of the population be induced to cooperate in the eradication of 99% of the population.

  4. Re Covid-19.
    It is an opinion only, the disease is with us, some will make it, some will not; it is a scary disease to be sure. We have cocooned ourselves in air controlled environments(recall Legionmaire’s disease), we eat poorly, we exercise for the most part poorly. Our homes are almost hermetically sealed as are our office buildings. We know very little about preexisting conditions and we know very little about associated drug use(it is a problem in the US) associated with the more serious forms of Covid-19.

    We can shut down our society for a while, but not for much longer I suspect after which the more immediate problem may be finding enough to eat enough to stay alive. The real problem may be a collapse of our society, some of those here have already stockpiled popcorn.

    Nature is indifferent to our wishes, it is and will be.

    Adonis, it may or may not be a conspiracy, but we are having a heck of a time running our cities in the US let alone the world. Some businesses look supreme, but Amazon without air transportation for freight may have some issues, infrastructure is a fixed cost and not even Amazon can support that.

    I don’t think we see what is coming not out of failure to look but out of failure to see the odd ball event coming along. Yesterday I drove through Minneapolis, it was sobering, Lake street is devastated, grocery stores are gone. Locking down, doing whatever is not going to bring home the bacon.

    I think we have to go on living and accept much is out of our hands. The time in which we live is frustrating, confusing and perhaps scary. Maybe the old “Take it all to God in prayer” gives more comfort than almost anything else.

    Dennis L.

    • Some people people who contracted Legionnaires caught it by merely walking past the hotel with the infected water towers. The bacteria was carried from the roof and out into the street.

      In other cases where people shared rooms one person got it and the other didn’t. None of the hotel employees got it. They were younger than the Legionaires. Being a smoker or overweight made one more likely to contract it.

      Sound familiar? It seems that the condition of a person’s immune system has something to do with resistance to disease. Maybe someone should inform the medical community.

      “If you are fat, you are more likely to contract wuhan and must stay home until you are a reasonable weight and so not a danger to others!”

      Let’s see how that plays out in fattyworld.

      • ” Maybe someone should inform the medical community.”

        LOL! Also the folks working on vaccines. It sounds like the people for whom vaccines work worst are the ones whose immune systems don’t work well.

  5. As the population was rising, we have started to think that there is no way some pandemic like Spanish flu or Black Death could return.

    Now, we again must consider keeping a higher level of hygiene which further limits the population growth/accelerates the population decline.

    The level of hygiene constitutes an important factor of human populations, as humans are easily prone to transmissible diseases due to a worse thermoregulation and easy bruising etc of the human hairless and featherless skin.

    • IMHO hygiene simply should be maintained +/-. Sanitation is a must. And generally being healthier (eating a vertical diet (with adequate functional protein!), sleeping better/more, moving way, way more) would move the needle furthest for the most.

      We’re all the descendants of every famine, pestilence, plague and war – we are the durable survivors, should we act so.

    • It is a double edged sword. Too much hygiene and you don’t develop resistance or a productive immune system. Better to be healthy so when you do confront pathogens you can fight better.

            • I felt so malnutritioed that I “only” managed to crank out 300watts continuously for about 1h on my 40km commut to work.

              On a vegan diet. That is.

              The meat industry stooges is really tiring.

              Hey Gail, would you mind explain about your arthritis?

            • My arthritis came on fairly suddenly. It was not something I had had all my life. It was sort of an inflammation, especially bothering my hands and knees. It went away when I changed to a vegetarian (not vegan) diet and lost some weight. I also stopped eating the sweets I was eating. I later added some fish back in as well.

      • I would put it in a different way: too high concentration of the people compromises the hygiene.

        One thing is the contact with external pathogens, another thing is a high concentration of people that allows for the transmission of the diseases.

  6. Here in Auckland, as others have already noted above, we are now in a level 3 lockdown due to four Covid-19 cases of unknown origin. This is slated to last three days.

    Three days.

    Given that it has already been established that somebody infected with SARSCOV2 can remain asymptomatic and capable of transmitting the virus for up to four weeks, how can a three day lockdown help? I am personally not in favour of there being a lockdown at all, but why only three days?

    Governments everywhere need to find alternatives to lockdowns, and they need to find alternatives to awaiting the great Saviour of a vaccine that only has a small chance of arising and getting the job done.

    Dancing around a campfire painted with blood and chanting in unison would probably be an improvement. More entertaining, at least.

    I am also rather less than pleased with the government assuming and relying upon growth to repay the debt being incurred to temporarily support continued economic activity during this special Covid-19 period.

    • The three days is an initial period to give time to try to find the source of the outbreak. If the origin can be identified then there may be a case for looser measures. If it can’t be identified, then expect the lockdown to be extended.

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