COVID Delta Is Coming for Carbon County, Montana; + BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-08-15 Su
Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember:
So Friday morning I woke up with the sniffles in Carbon County, Montana—east northeast of the Yellowstone-Grand Teton National Park complex. No fever. Full senses of smell and taste. No coughing or perceived shortness of breath (after accounting for the altitude: I was at 5,500 feet instead of the sea level I am used to).
There was no reason to go to the doctor or the clinic or the hospital. The odds that I had caught SARS-COVID-2 seemed low. About 1-in-30 days I wake up with (non-allergy) sniffles. In the second week of August, the rate at which people caught the plague was perhaps 1-in-1000. Vaxxed dropped those odds for me against Delta by 2/3. Masked cut them in half again. Being very prudent—perhaps overly so—about indoor exposure dropped them by 2/3 again. So we are talking a 1-in-18000 chance I had caught the plague vs. a 1-in-30 chance it was just a sniffle day. As a good disciple of the Reverend Thomas Bayes, that gave me only a 1-in-600 chance of having caught a case of the plague.
Still, 1-in-600 is not zero. Thus it did seem prudent for me to get and take a fifteen-minute at-home COVID-19 test. For one thing, if I tested positive I would not want to get on my scheduled airplane two days later. I would want to call Hertz, tell them I would return the car Tuesday in Oakland, and drive, eating from drive-throughs and tent-camping on the way.
So I called up the Beartooth Market. The people said such a thing as a rapid home-COVID test—the kind of thing you can order on Amazon for free prime two-day delivery from Quidel <https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093ND7LX4> or HTBIO <https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BL6XSX1> or Abbott <https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094LVQZJL> or Anhui Deep Blue Medical Technology <https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C1TWZCD>, or pick up at pretty near every Bay Area drugstore, or at most Bay Area supermarkets—was simply not the kind of thing they would sell in their medications section.
They seemed offended to be asked.
The local drugstore said that no, there was no demand for it, so they had never carried it. Perhaps I should call the clinic? I said: “It’s coming back”.
They said: “Yes, we know.”
So I called the Beartooth-Billings Clinic. They did not answer their phone—it rolled over to the emergency room. The emergency room people said they would transfer me back. The phone rolled over again. The emergency room people said that they did not have any boxed-up tests that they could give me to take back to the AirB&B and then take, but that they were sure the clinic did and would be happy to assist me.
I called the clinic again. The phone rang and rang again. The phone rolled back to emergency again.
So I, unwisely, went to the clinic. Inside were three receptionists on phones with masks on. But one had her mask below her nose. I started to have a bad feeling.
I stopped in the doorway, 15 feet away from everyone. I addressed the room: fully vaxxed, mRNA, no fever, sniffles, prudent to take a rapid test, do they have a box I can take back to the AirB&B so I could test there without potentially exposing anyone at the clinic?
A fourth woman said, “Come with me”.
“But you don’t want me in here,” I said. Nevertheless I followed her—I am not sure why. For some reason I thought that she was leading me to where the test boxes were. She was not. She led me into an examination room, and turned to leave and shut the door.
I realized she had never answered my question. “I shouldn’t be here,” I said. “I take it you do not have test boxes to give out?”
“You have to stay in here,“ she said. “You are potentially infectious.” The prospect of spending four hours in this room in an understaffed clinic to no purpose loomed in front of me.
I returned to the reception room. “Can you give me a rapid-test box so I can test myself someplace not in here, where I should not be?!” I asked.
Silence. “We can schedule you for a drive-through test tomorrow afternoon”, someone said. I left. And I left Carbon County, Montana.
Exactly twenty-four hours later, I was in Teton County Wyoming. I roll into Smith’s Food and Drug. “How many test kits do you want?” the woman behind the counter asks. “We have Abbot Binax.”
Let the record show that the test was negative. And a follow-up was negative as well.
Let the record also show that Teton County, WY, voted 67%-30% for Biden-Harris over Trump-Pence, while Carbon County, MT:, gave Biden-Harris 34% and Trump-Pence 63% of their votes. Teton had, over the period 2014-18, an average annual household income of $84,000, while Carbon was $53,000. I saw one “mask up, Montana!” sign in Carbon County. Otherwise—well, consider this sign on the front door of the Red Lodge, MT, Senior Center. The Senior Center: “Masking Is Not Required. Please Consider the Benefits of Masking: Will help keep our business open. Masking will protect you. Masking will protect people who are not vaccinated. Help stop the Spread.”
I also saw one “Mask up, Montana! Adventure on!” billboard by the side of a highway.
I am not one who thinks that Blue America—of which Teton County is a part—is perfect.
Usually, in fact, I am very happy to snark at the glamping culture of Teton County—people who will ascend more than 100 feet of vertical only in a chairlift.
But the one-dose-or-more vaccination rate in Teton is 83.5%, while the one-dose-or-more vaccination rate in Carbon is only 42.5%. I won’t say that Blue America today excels in that type of civic virtue that Alexis de Tocqueville saw in the America of two centuries ago—that of “self-interest, but rightly understood” that communal prosperity was a force multiplier for your individual prosperity, and so you should both invest in communal prosperity and both exert and receive social pressure to act in a public-spirited way even if you would, if you had the Ring of Gyges, not be public-spirited. But in Blue America the embers of civic virtue are still warm. There is wealth for people to spend protecting themselves. People take a somewhat longer view. And there is not a large key minority of easily-grifted morons in thrall to cynical right-wing politicians and sociopathic media barons who see scaring the pants off their right-wing audiences as a key profit opportunity.
The Delta wave of the plague has started to sweep across America. We do not have good models of it. We do not understand why the wave peaked as low and then fell as quickly as it did in Britain, with so few deaths. We can hope for a similar miracle here.
But hope is not a plan. The Delta plague wave will brush relatively lightly past Teton County, Wyoming. I fear what it will do to Carbon County, Montana.
Falling mortality rate from wave to wave a result of (a) greater fraction of cases detected, (b) less vulnerable population, (c) better treatments of infected. No, I do not know what role those three play, or what the mortality rate for the summer-fall Delta plague wave in the U.S. is going to be…
An absolute social science classic:
Jack A. Goldstone (2002): Efflorescences & Economic Growth in World History: Rethinking the “Rise of the West” & the Industrial Revolution <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1E8indGK9E>
VERY BRIEFLY NOTED:
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Don’t Be a Schmuck. Put on a Mask <https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/08/schwarzenegger-schmuck-mask-vaccines/619746/>
Brad DeLong: Worthy Reads on Equitable Growth, August 10–16, 2021 <https://equitablegrowth.org/brad-delong-worthy-reads-on-equitable-growth-august-10-16-2021/>
Uri Simonsohn, Leif Nelson, & Joe Simmons: Evidence of Fraud in an Influential Field Experiment About Dishonesty: ‘the authors of the 2020 paper… posted the data of their replication attempts and the data from the original 2012 paper…. A team of anonymous researchers downloaded it, and discovered that this field experiment suffers from a much bigger problem than a randomization failure: There is very strong evidence that the data were fabricated… <http://datacolada.org/98>
Erwin Chemerinsky & Aaron S. Edlin: California’s Impending Recall Election Is Unconstitutional<https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/11/opinion/california-recall-election-newsom.html>
Aaron Rupar: ‘NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins paints a dire picture of the Covid situation: “I will be surprised if we don’t cross 200,000 cases a day in the next couple weeks…. 90 million people are still unvaccinated and sitting ducks for this virus… we’re in a world of hurt”…
James Millward: ‘Worth reading: especially note Fair’s point that 80–90% of US investment in Afghanistan ended up… siphoned by contractors: C. Christine Fair: "Pakistan and the United States Have Betrayed the Afghan People: Washington ignored Islamabad funding and supplying the Taliban. Now Afghans are paying the price…
My view: even inertial inflation in the 1970s was not inertial inflation outcomes, but rather inertial inflation expectations. One sign of this: when the crunch came, in 1982-3, the contractual features of the economy—overlapping multiyear contracts and such—that people had pointed to as evidence of inertia in the inflation process itself did not hold. Contracts were reopened. Plus how much local inflation fell during the Volcker deflation appears to have depended very little on what was going on locally, but rather on nationwide expectational shifts <https://bcf.princeton.edu/events/emi-nakamura/>:
Paul Krugman: Who Knew Used Cars & Shipping Containers Would Matter So Much?: ‘The thing about… sluggishly moving prices is that once they do get moving… it takes something big, like a severe recession, to stop them from just continuing to rise…. Back in 1975 Robert Gordon proposed… an inflation measure that excluded food and energy—a rough cut at the distinction between inertial and non-inertial prices…. Gordon’s suggestion proved so useful that “core inflation”… became a standard… guide… a huge practical success…. Bu… excluding food and energy was always a quick-and-dirty approximation…. As best I can tell, a fair number of people are still looking at the standard measure of core inflation… and concluded that we really do have a fundamental problem. They could be right, and Team Transitory… could be wrong. But you can’t settle that argument by looking at a number that… is now a clearly inadequate measure of the… concept…
I was astonished back in March 2020 that the CDC had so catastrophically failed in its job of monitoring the situation that we were flying blind into the plague. And I am even more astonished now that the CDC has, again so catastrophically failed in its job of monitoring the situation that we were flying blind into this approaching plague wave:
Drew Armstrong, Rebecca Torrence, & Fiona Rutherford: Covid Breakthrough Cases: Bloomberg Identifies 100,000 Cases as Delta Rises: ‘CDC Scaled Back Hunt for Breakthrough Cases Just as the Delta Variant Grew…. “We’re in a war on the front lines and we need to know how delta is moving through populations and what’s about to happen,” said Dean, the former California official who is now chief executive officer of the Public Health Company Group Inc., which develops and sells services to monitor and fight outbreaks. “Doing an academic study is valuable, but it’s going to take time to get that intelligence,” Dean said. “We cannot wait for certainty to act right now”…
This is, I think, likely to be key: “China’s state-backed semiconductor industry [is] still lagging far behind… TSMC… because catering to private customers teaches TSMC how to do a lot of things really efficiently and creatively and well, while companies like SMIC simply have to please the government officials handing them loans and resources…. The companies that the U.S. press-ganged into making war materials under FDR had spent many years honing their craft… before WW2 broke out…”:
Noah Smith: How Might China’s Industrial Policy Fail?: ‘How could this industrial policy fail at… making China a more industrially and technologically powerful nation? If you come from Orthodox Economics World, this is barely a question worth asking…. Everyone knows governments can’t pick winners, etc. etc. In the real world, people who study this sort of thing do find cases where governments were very good at picking winners… South Korea’s Heavy and Chemical Industry policy…. What does the market have to teach companies about how to increase comprehensive national power? Intuitively, maybe not much; in practice, maybe a lot…. Perhaps… catering to private customers teaches TSMC how to do a lot of things really efficiently and creatively and well, while companies like SMIC simply have to please the government officials handing them loans and resources. The market exerts a special kind of discipline. Even the companies that the U.S. press-ganged into making war materials under FDR had spent many years honing their craft under a basically laissez-faire system before WW2 broke out…. Dan Wang believes that China will rise to the challenge of its own Sputnik moment; I, being less of an expert, am more noncommittal…
Will someone please tell me why the mRNA vaccines’ power against the Delta variant of the COVID-19 plague appears to wane so quickly? And yet the booster shot still be so effe:
Eric Topol: ‘Over 1 million people in Israel have now received 3rd shot boosters. So far, all indicators support they are working to restore vaccine effectiveness vs infections to high levels, suppression of new cases…
You need to have a very good story about why it is that your “demand” and “supply” curves slope the same way before you dare claim that your larger-than-OLS 2SLS point estimates are anything other than p-hacking or dumb luck:
Yiqing Xi: ‘The 2SLS estimates are often much bigger than the OLS estimates. We replicated >60 papers… and find troubling patterns of weaker IVs, wrong inference, and failure of exclusion restrictions. (1) Researchers often miscalculate… first-stage F…. (2)… classical asymptotic standard errors… severely underestimate 2SLS uncertainties. Severe p-hacking….. (3) The 2SLS estimates are often much bigger than the OLS estimates. Their discrepancy is negatively correlated with the strength of the IVs…
(Remember: You can subscribe to this… weblog-like newsletter… here:
There’s a free email list. There’s a paid-subscription list with (at the moment, only a few) extras too.)
The Canadian study done in long-term care homes found full vaccine efficacy to last five months. The CDC is getting six to nine months on a more general population.
It really is a coronavirus; the Uncommon Cold. You get a cold every year. There's no reason to suppose this is different in that respect, and the emerging data says it's not. (Various optimism about T-cells versus antibody counts notwithstanding.)
The way forward here is to make and apply enough effective vaccines to everyone on earth in a single three month period. Actually logistically doable, but the political will could be considered lacking.
Also, the morbidity doesn't get _enough_ better with vaccination. We're still looking at a debate about whether case severity correlates with degree of cognitive impairment (UK data says yes, US data says no) from the pre-vaccinated cases; we haven't got anybody (there hasn't been time!) publishing on whether vaccination reduces cognitive impairment or any other morbidity.
Bergstrom appears to argue the reason that we see purported efficacy declines in Israel and lack of staying power for 2x mRNA is due to population differences and relative age / efficacy.
The recent NEJM paper seems to indicate continued efficacy. Yes, the examples Eric Topol cites (Qatar / others) do not, but aren’t there significant problems extrapolating out from those? (Can’t really say the same with REACT though).