Thursday, July 22, 2021

Once More With Depressing Predictions

Original here, most recent here. Probably I should stop doing this; it gets more depressing over time.

Revisiting previous predictions:

Excess mortality as of July is around 700,000, with the official covid deaths just over 590,000.  Well done, US!  Keep going, we'll definitely get closer to a million (I don't think we'll quite make it...).  At the beginning I definitely didn't think the country would twiddle its collective thumbs while half a million people died AND YET here we are.

In April I said this: 

"I think that some of the places (like NZ) that have done the best containment are screwed in the absence of widespread testing - even worse off than NYC- because the moment anything reopens it will spread very fast."

Everywhere but New Zealand is basically experiencing this in real time (Australia, South Korea, Japan, China (which is almost certainly lying), Israel).  Australia is barely containable but I predict will eventually give up.  That said, at least they didn't just let one in 600 of their citizens die.  But eventually the neverending cycle of lockdown after lockdown will stop, because someone will give up/ declare it endemic/ get enough people vaccinated that the government throws up its hands.

Testing and contact tracing did not make any meaningful difference anywhere with a larger-than-Australian outbreak.  Who could have guessed.

There is, in fact, almost no surface to person transmission.

On to predictions:

On re-infections: I failed to predict the rapid emergence of more and more (and more) strains, so, oops. The reinfection rate will be well above 10% because, broadly speaking, most countries' governments fucked around and found out, so hey!  We're all gonna be exposed to something quite contagious eventually.  However, it continues to be true that mostly, people with either vaccination or previous infection get less sick.  Don't worry, in a year or two we'll have a nice resistant strain. 

"The pandemic will not be 'over' before December 2021, because even after a vaccine (likely widespread by June/July) sporadic outbreaks will continue due to low immunogenicity, waning of all immune responses over time, low uptake, and Americans' stupid refusal to continue wearing masks in public."

 YEAH SORRY ABOUT THAT HOW ABOUT DECEMBER 2022 plus sporadic outbreaks for, IDK, forever? Did anyone order a new influenza, but worse?

"Schools that re-open will have sporadic transmission events, but primary grades will not be a major driver of this... This winter will be a complete !@$!%%! disaster in terms of schools, because everyone is very bad at statistics"

 This definitely also happened.  I predict that this winter, schools will close in panic at random intervals because OMG A KID GOT SICK, but, you know, not in an effective way.  Colleges and private schools and bars will remain open but God forbid we should teach public school!

Governments will continue to do the least effective possible things (like telling vaccinated people to wear masks without enforcing it on the unvaccinated or - novel idea! - requiring masks indoors for all).  Spoiler alert: the people taking the plague seriously are already vaccinated and the other people, who are 20x more contagious, think Magical Hippo* protects them. People who contract breakthrough infections will continue to be shocked - shocked! - that you can still get sick, even though, again, that is how everything works.  (Get your damn vaccine if possible, y'all. Though I'm sure basically everyone reading this already did.)

When the pandemic started, I told many people that the 1918 pandemic lasted three years (it tailed into 1920 depending on geography).  We'll be lucky to have this one over in three years, not least because of vaccine politics, vaccine hesitance, and faster travel (and therefore faster transmission). Congratulations, everyone, it's for sure endemic, plague forever!

* It's HIPAA and it only applies to 'covered entities'.  If you don't touch a patient's billing or medical records, odds are good you're not a covered entity!



  1. Pretty sure that if nothing changes, K-8 schools are going to be a major driver in a couple months, at least in the South where schools are not allowed to require masking even for their entirely unvaccinated student bodies. It's more dangerous now than it was last May.

    Last year they were able to plausibly not quarantine people when someone in a class got sick because they could argue masks and social distancing. I am wondering if the state government is going to come down and say they're not allowed to quarantine entire classes now, or if, indeed, entire classes will get quarantined, which they did not last year.

    Last year with masks, distancing, and some students virtual, 6% of the student body (and 17% of the staff) got Covid. This year we have none of that, though at least the high schoolers have a chance of having gotten the vaccine.

    1. True on the driver, in that any large unvaccinated population will shift over to being a driver. (Our schools are still permitted to, and will, require masking.)

      6%! OMG! It was like.... two kids in the entire school, they quarantined the whole class, the rest of the class got tested after 6 days and were all negative both times, and somewhat higher among the staff (all but 1 of those cases were while the schools were closed so... not from the students). That is extremely distressing. God, the South.

    2. Those % numbers are only including people who called in with Covid on days that school was in session in the numerator. Anyone whose Covid was over a break is not in those numbers. Nothing got closed because of Covid.

      I would take over-precaution over this craziness.

      Any recommendations for the most protective child-sized mask technology? I'm fine with not cloth masks, but if it is cloth it has to be able to go in the regular wash and not lose all personal protection, because they will all eventually end up in the wash.

    3. I'd recommend Cambridge masks in a size small or medium (depending on the child's head). They are washable; probably worth it to splash out for the pro, which are rated for more hours (there's a buy one get one promo right now maybe?). Probably next best in terms of compromise between comfort and fit (they do make very small N95s but they are SO UNCOMFORTABLE) is one or even two surgical masks (or a tight-ish cloth mask over a surgical mask). Especially the child sized surgical masks, with the ear loops flipped and the corners tucked in. They're also cheap enough to swap out after 3-4 hours. If you can find smallish KN95s that are comfy, those may be slightly better, but they're so incredibly hard to fit properly that usually you get a better overall seal/filtration with surgical masks.

    4. See here for the thing about surgical masks:

    5. (all the way at the bottom)

    6. They hide it, but Cambridge masks say they're not machine washable, only hand wash. My kids' cloth masks will end up in the wash no matter what we do.

      I haven't been able to find child-size N-95--- I go to links and they say they're out of stock. I have been able to get KN-95 which are hopefully not counterfeit...

    7. Well, bummer, guess I'll have to hand wash mine.

      There is a 3M N95 which is made for small faces (1690s) but again, they are so uncomfortable that I think cloth + surgical is probably actually better (in terms of real world usage, not theoretical effectiveness).

  2. redzils2:36 PM

    Lots of screaming about your seemingly-likely predictions, here. The random school closures seem inevitable, if they actually manage to open schools here.

  3. Yes, to all of this. At this point I feel like I ought to accept the inevitability of the endemic coronavirus plague and treat it like I do the flu. Get my vaccine, avoid people indoors (especially in the winter), and add mask as necessary.


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