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I believe US could see rolling series of “Ireland events” over next 2 months (www.epsilontheory.com)
169 points by thereare5lights 8 days ago | hide | past | web | 198 comments | favorite

Disclaimer: I'm Irish, working in tech but my hobby that gets me more of a social life is involvement with an Irish political party.

The new variant accounted for 10-25% of these new cases over the period of that spike. The spike happened two weeks after Christmas when lock-down restrictions were lifted, as planned in October, so people could have a respite after 9 months of all this. Did the government misjudge just how much people would socially interact? You bet.

But to claim that this event is a sign of things to come is to willfully ignore what Irish medical professionals (NPHET) are saying about what the root cause has been and fully buy into the government politicians attempts to cover their butts by blaming the new strain and not their own operational strategy.

Also note that it is coming up to three weeks since Christmas and new infections today is half of what it was last week already and dropping.

Also Irish. +1 on your assessment here. The virulent strain narrative was peddled by the Irish government who went against medical advice and tried to deflect blame. The evidence doesn’t support the narrative.

I think the COVID-fatigue angle is quite interesting though. As critical as I am of the government they were under a lot of pressure from the populous to provide some sort of respite.

Isn’t this last bit in some sense a good thing? Representative government changing policies to reflect a shift in the population’s preference after ten months of dealing with these restrictions?

Representative government caving to demands when the demands are terrible, like in this case, is not a good thing. In that moment what is needed is enough guts to see the measures through and fend interest groups off. Loss of leadership and movement towards "the customer is king" politics is responsible for a lot of mistakes in the response to this virus.

If we believe in democracy, we necessarily must believe that the crowd - the mob, if you're feeling less generous - is better at making decisions than any small group of people.

Which means believing that it's better to implement a terrible but popular decision than to override the will of the people.

So in this case, IF the majority supported lifting restrictions (and I'm not Irish so I have no idea what the public sentiment was), then the politicians did the right thing: They obeyed the will of the people.

Which also means that in this case, the people of Ireland f'd up and need to take responsibility for that, rather than blame the politicians who simply implemented their will.

We can't have it both ways. We can't demand a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and also let ourselves off the hook whenever our collective decisions suck.

Maybe we, the people, suck at governing in a crisis.

> If we believe in democracy, we necessarily must believe that the crowd - the mob, if you're feeling less generous - is better at making decisions than any small group of people.

What you are describing is leaning towards "direct democracy", which nobody tries to implement, vs "representative democracy" which is what we all experience. In the latter it absolutely is a feature that representatives will go against the preference of the majority at least some of the time.

> If we believe in democracy, we necessarily must believe that the crowd - the mob, if you're feeling less generous - is better at making decisions than any small group of people.

Not necessarily. I think some people have said that democracy is designed to imitate revolutions without actually being violent: that if much of the populace is armed and not that many people have enough gear and training to make them enormously more effective than a random person with a gun, then "one person, one vote; majority wins" approximately reflects what would happen if there was a violent revolution, so people don't have much to gain by adding violence. If that's true, then appeasing the mob by letting them more or less get their policies implemented may be best even if those policies are not the best—because the alternative is risking a bloody revolution followed by the mob implementing their policies anyway.

That's one perspective, anyway.

The US government is based on the idea that "citizens" (note: lots of problems with the way they defined them at the time) elect people who make decisions on their behalf. It was designed to have more and less democratic institutions so that there would be block on the popular will.

They believed that the purpose of democracy was to be able to remove the people who ruled you, to ultimately prevent autocracy. They didn't believe every decision should be a plebiscite.

> If we believe in democracy, we necessarily must believe that the crowd - the mob, if you're feeling less generous - is better at making decisions than any small group of people

Well, no.

If we believe in democracy, we believe that government must ultimately serve and be accountable to the people.

It's possible along with that to also believe that it is a bad idea for the crowd to have day-to-day responsibility for the detailed decisions of government (if nothing else because of the dynamics of extra-large groups a d the communications problems involved), which might motivate us to prefer that democracy be representative rather than direct, with a relatively small group, that it is accountable to the crowd, making decisions.

One way I look at democracy is that it’s the will of the majority + the rights of the minority.

It gets a little.. speculative.. once that minority in this case is “(future) victims of covid”. Not sure how to fully and clearly articulate the principle behind why we should give up a little impatience now, in a somewhat unpopular way, and how that is compatible with democracy, but I believe it is.

This is why democracies are usually republics versus direct vote democracies -- the will of the majority will always throw the minority under the bus. This is why you have laws, checks and balances against mob rule.

Hindsight is 10/10.

Uh, there was and is no "hindsight" involved here. The scientific consensus about coronavirus and how to fight it (wearing masks, lockdowns and contact tracing) was clear pretty shortly after the whole drama began.

The problem was politicians, not just in the US, didn't have the guts to tell and explain their citizens that. The governments that did (New Zealand) or had prior epidemics experience / a population with a high compliance rate/trust in government (Japan, Taiwan) fared pretty well, as did the governments that resorted to authoritarian scale (China, Vietnam, Thailand).

For what it's worth even European countries such as Italy showed that hard lockdowns were and are effective, but politicians chose to disregard that evidence and prayed for the second wave to never appear...

Yeah, it’s really hard to be overly critical. You could argue the government did its civic duty here, public sentiment was overwhelming in favor of reduced restrictions.

Unfortunately, as detailed elsewhere in comments, enough of the populous didn’t respond in kind in fulfilling theirs - which is what the decision needed to work.

That said you could also argue this was predictable. Our diaspora are scattered about the globe, and coming home for Christmas is a common event and our UK border basically doesn’t exist. Similarly, folks who are originally from elsewhere in the EU flying home for Christmas then back.

Overlay the drinking/socializing culture, which hits its busiest period around December and watch the R number tip upwards.

Full disclosure: I agreed with this government decision at the time, but was quite surprised / shocked at the resultant case explosion.

I don't know about Ireland in particular. But my sense is Covid restrictions many places in the Western world have begun crude and unfriendly to the individual because that's what's simple, cheap and what doesn't cost businesses money (with the US the worst but not the only offender). The US still isn't requiring sick-leave, isn't requiring safe working conditions around Covid.

Basically, not considerate of people's situation until people are at the breaking point and then just opening the flood gates.

Also Irish. 100% agree with the both of you. I have a limited amount of sympathy for the government as Christmas is hugely culturally significant, but I think they did a poor job (especially the handwaving over flights from abroad that can be paraphrased as "we recommend that people don't come home for Christmas unless they feel they really need to") and what we're seeing now is largely CYA.

Agreed. To be honest the minute Fianna Fail came into government things slipped a bit and it feels like the pressure from business was allowed overwhelm the health advice. It was plainly obvious what was going to happen when they opened up. The annoying thing was that the last year was wasted by not increasing emergency capacity in ICU and getting the correct processes in place to create a fast roll-out of vaccination. Right now they are two weeks in a one one week delayed and only doing 40k a week at max.

I think also we allowed ourself to be "ah sure we can't do that here" compared to New Zealand. The short term economic aspect of things blinded us. If you were coming to the country as the case in the NZ, you should be in mandatory hotel quarantine which all the strict rules in place as needed. With the exception of essential services like hauliers. Every one says in Ireland things can't be done, they can be and people will die because we weren't brave enough to make tougher calls. We would be in much better shape if we had of. Don't get me started on the mess up North throughout the whole thing.

Ultimately though this is about people taking individual responsibility. It's frustrating everyone blaming the government, I have many friends in frontline services and the irresponsibility of some over christmas was crazy. People's friends and family are suffering for it now.

Any Irish response or strategy is gonna be hobbled by the Northern Ireland lax response. We can't just shut the NI border, either legally or politically.

Which is unfortunate.

I'm not sure that it's really a 2 week thing.

It was going badly before Christmas, compared to earlier, and the break of Christmas/St Stephens made a gap in the testing, and then it slammed upwards over the next week, overwhelming the IT and health professionals dealing with turning positive swab numbers into confirmed cases.

By NYE, there were 9k tests in limbo that weren't in the stats.

At the point where the daily positives get over 2k, that's with a different test population. They're no longer testing contacts of people with COVID, they're testing people with symptoms. The positive rate went from 8% -> 40% in that time.

Anecdotally, I had no 1st order contacts with Covid (i.e., I know them well, rather than my sister's friend sort of thing), and over Christmas that went to more like 5 in three separate clusters.

Actually the new strain is already responsible for 45% of infections in Ireland (as per yesterday's NPHET briefing) while it was 10% at the beginning of the year IIRC

So yeah it's not the whole story, but it is an important part of it.

There really is no convincing evidence in the public domain that new variants have caused the increase in cases, and there is a very convincing alternative explanation that opening up the shops three weeks before Christmas then relaxing the rules over the holidays (the u turn coming too late) would cause it.

If the new variant caused a big increase in R then I doubt the lockdown would have brought R under 1 in the U.K., which it clearly has, surprisingly from just about after Christmas.

I started out healthily sceptical that the new variant was significantly more infectious, and now I’m extremely suspicious.

Really? I would say the evidence is incredibly strong at this point, and it's very hard to explain it spreading this successfully via any effect other than selective advantage. The "founder effect" and "post facto identification" explanations are just not credible any more, given that the explosive growth of B.1.1.7 compared to the wildtype has continued for almost a month after it was raised as a concern, and the pattern having now repeated in at least three other countries with enough data to make prevalence estimates (Ireland, Denmark and Switzerland).

What alternative explanation would you propose?

If the new variant is 50% more transmissive, then to get R to 1 requires measures that would previously have taken R to about 0.66. Clearly that is possible to achieve. But it's also not really enough. Can they get it significantly below 1, and for how long?

Also let's not forget the porous border with Northern Ireland, which is suffering from London's stupid rules.

Also worth mentioning that due to low infection rates beforehand, the Irish population is more primed to be hit with bigger spike.

Infection has more chance to spread as only few people are immune. Other EU countries that already had large numbers of their people immune after recovering from covid.

And yeah, it was a perfect storm of badluck. Covid fatigue, xmas break, people from UK returning (with no oversight, spreading new strain) and of course Christmas dinner with uncles and aunts from each county :D

What everyone seems to be assuming is that this new strain will cause a constant increase in the reproduction number R of ~50% in every situation. I haven't really seen any discussion of if and why that is actually a good extrapolation to make.

So for example in a specific situation, with a specific type of intermingling of a population in which the R value was, say, 1.2, we think the new strain caused that to increase to an R value of 1.8. How does it necessarily follow that taking intervention measures that bring the R value of the base strains down to, say, 0.8 would bring the R value of the new strain to exactly 1.2?

There are just so many factors involved, it doesn't seem like this could possibly be knowable right now. So there may be some hope that things like getting everyone N95 masks and requiring their use, and closing down indoor activities, which are good measures to control the current strains anyway, could also bring down the reproduction number of the new strain below 1 as well.

However, this is all a purely academic exercise anyway. Even in places that are being "aggressive" in countering the virus like San Francisco, we have done exactly nothing to react to new information in the past 1.5 months. Our "lockdown", which is entirely optional and has no teeth, is clearly not working, but we have neither removed it or strengthened it. The health department has exactly zero plans regarding the vaccine. It feels like we've just given up altogether, and we're praying that the private market saves us by somehow distributing the vaccines effectively. And on top of all that, we've handicapped the private market by making it illegal to distribute the vaccine to the vast majority of the population, even the elderly and vulnerable groups!

There are cases where restrictions have an additive rather than multiplicative effect on the reproduction number, but after better modeling they often end up as ultimately multiplicative.

For example, let's say you observe "closing schools" to bring Rt from 3 to 2.7, "closing offices" to bring Rt from 3 to 2.3, and "closing both" to bring RT from 3 to 2.

What's really happening is not that the two restrictions have a -0.7 and -0.3 effect. Instead, the two apply to almost disjunct subsets of people. Therefore it is more accurate to say that the "closing both" restriction is a *0.66 reduction of the reproduction number, while "closing schools" and "closing offices" only apply that 0.66 factor to a subset of the population. What is really additive is the amount of people affected by the restriction.

> The health department has exactly zero plans regarding the vaccine

I'm in San Francisco and a family member runs a specialty clinic here. They worked directly with the health department last week to get their staff vaccinated as part of Phase 1a described here: https://sf.gov/covid-19-vaccine-san-francisco

I'm not saying the performance so far is outstanding or good, but it's simply not true that the health department "has exactly zero plans regarding the vaccine".

I mean members of the board of supervisors can't even figure out if the health department has an actual plan or what it is https://twitter.com/MattHaneySF/status/1349189438241325057

I guess "exactly zero" is poor wording, but they seem to only have a very loosely defined plan that hasn't bothered going beyond phase 1A tier 1 even though vaccines started being distributed a month ago and 2/3 of them statewide are just sitting around.

This is really poorly reasoned. To take a couple examples:

> Using data from flu monitoring programs in prior years, the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up.

Why is this hard to believe? Covid testing, especially depending on where you live, can be difficult to obtain. If you have a cough and a loss of sense of smell but nothing debilitating, getting a Covid test just satisfies your curiosity, because you're going to be isolating anyway.

> I mean, take that Re up to 3.0 (the high end of the current Ireland estimate), and a single Covid case will result in 5.2 BILLION total cases over a 100-day period, about 60% of the entire human population on the planet. Obviously our social behaviors around the disease would change dramatically well before we got to that point.

"Social behaviors" are not what slows down Rt when you get to 60% of the entire human population infected; the number of targets gradually diminishes, slowing the spread.

>> ...the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested...

> Why is this hard to believe?

I don't agree with the article more broadly, but it does make the point that 70 million prior infections isn't consistent with hospitalization numbers over the summer vs now. The only way I can reconcile those numbers is by adding two assumptions: first, that severity depends on initial viral dose; second, various social and weather patterns associated with summer drive lower initial viral doses. I don't think these are implausible assumptions--in fact, I'd guess they're true--but I would need significantly more evidence to make me think they account for many tens of millions of missed COVID cases.

There's another assumption you can add - that some people are more susceptible than others.

A good portion of hospitalizations and deaths have been the elderly via nursing homes. If those have become safer, it'd make sense that we can have more cases without heavily increasing hospitalizations

They have become safer by adapting ... and by having the most vulnerable filtered out by earlier waves.

There is really no reliable evidence that symptom severity is correlated with initial viral dose. It's a plausible hypothesis but remains unproven.

In November my daughter came down with a slight fever and runny nose. We didn't think it was COVID, but of course wanted to make sure. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be to get tested. Many places wouldn't test a child under 10. Once we finally found a location to test the soonest they had an appointment was 24 hours later. It took several days to get the negative result as well and I had to call them twice to get the results. I'm sure many people wouldn't go through the effort.

Until we have more precise IFR numbers, my simplistic "model" is just to divide the current death count by 0.005, which suggests around 78 million have had an infectious exposure in the US so far. The CDC number doesn't feel surprising.

Unfortunately a large number of those infections (far more than recorded cases) happened last spring, so millions of people could be losing their immunity if they've managed to avoid substantial re-exposures since then.

The CDC has published their best estimates of IFR by age range.


SARS-CoV-2 is very similar to other endemic human coronaviruses like HCoV-OC43. Immunity isn't a binary yes or no condition and there are other components to the human immune system beyond just antibodies. The vast majority of recovered patients will likely retain a high level of immunity for many years. As with most viral diseases a small fraction of patients will suffer reinfections but even those typically experience less severe symptoms.


Agreed. Some people just don't care about testing.

I am friends with a doctor who tested positive. They went into quarantine with their whole family, assuming they would all get it one way or another, and didn't bother with further testing. I suspect this is the case for a lot of people.

> Covid test just satisfies your curiosity, because you're going to be isolating anyway

This might be your personal bubble speaking. I have two non-tech friends (EMT and a labourer) who contracted Covid and both of their workplaces required a positive Covid test if they wanted to take two weeks off for quarantine.

> getting a Covid test just satisfies your curiosity, because you're going to be isolating anyway.

Ehhh, people might be avoiding the test ... to avoid having to isolate. I am making this shit up, but I wouldn't be surprised.

That's a good point. Covid testing can be irrelevant to your decision-making in the wrong direction as well.

The whole thing comes off as a rant supported by gut feelings about his own questionable figures and quickly dismissing contradictory sources as political.

Author does not provide sources or analysis as to why he trusts his figures and remains skeptical of others.

> Why is this hard to believe?

That's the core of what the article is about; it's hard to believe based on comparing testing and hospitalization numbers.

> "Social behaviors" are not what slows down Rt ... the number of targets gradually diminishes

Those aren't mutually exclusive, and it is possible to change social behaviors fast enough that it happens before you reach a threshold where you get significant slowing due to reduction in available "targets".

>"Social behaviors" are not what slows down Rt when you get to 60% of the entire human population infected; the number of targets gradually diminishes, slowing the spread.

Or the virus mutates, and off you go on another round. We have a couple of corona viruses that are already endemic in the human population, what makes you think this one will just die out naturally?

I'm not talking about dying out entirely, I'm talking about an end to exponential growth.

There's a finite population on the earth, clearly it has to end at some point for that particular strain, but again, it can evolve and the new strain could then grow exponentially again. It's likely already happened.

>It's likely already happened.

Please explain? I'm not aware of any variants of SARs-CoV-2 which are not covered by existing immunity.

Is there evidence that surviving infection results in immunity forever? I don’t think we know since the disease is so new. For all we know, you can get it year after year like the flu or a cold.

AFAIK we don’t (can’t, really) know either way, but viruses it’s more closely related to (SARS 1, MERS) don’t seem to have that kind of flu behavior.

Correct, transmission Re decreases linearly with the exposed population (e.g. 50% exposed, 50% growth reduction).

The author makes the point that the assumption behind that number is that people test for Covid-19 at the same rate as they would test for the flu. I know of very few people who have tested for flu but many who have tested for Covid-19.

I'm Irish in Ireland, I've been following the matter closely.

Ireland had one of the strictest lockdowns in most of Europe since March, no pubs, nightclubs, limited restaurants, churches, limited sports, 5km travel restrictions were on and off. We masked up early and our national broadcaster was constantly warning everyone non-stop. Schools were open however.

We were the poster boy for lockdown success up until at least November. Other nations were commenting on our achievements. You can see what has happened since.

The WHO warns that lockdown should only be treated as a last resort, to truly flatten the curve and no more. We ignored that.

It's my sincere opinion that we've tried to push back a virus through our lockdown measures and social distancing that eventually cannot be controlled.

Holding back a virus is like holding back a damn, eventually something will burst and typically at the wrong time.

If we had listened to the WHO by not locking down, gaining natural immunity during the summer (when coronaviruses aren't as prevalent) we wouldn't be in the mess that we are in now.

The median age of death of this virus is 82. Please conceptualise this. Less than 20 people under the age of 44 died from covid in 2020. With our current technology dying is a part of life that cannot be avoided. The people who are dying from covid at the moment are people who were going to die this year, remember, people have to die, most of them have already made peace with this idea.

If we didn't try so hard to prevent these aged people from dying we wouldn't have our resources stretched thin which is compounding the death rate further.

I'm sorry to be the person to tell you this but we all have to die, we shouldn't be stopping the living from enjoying their days on earth. Lockdowns are hurting the young and middle age to a drastic degree. You may not care because you work from home and are still guaranteed a paycheck. It's easy to virtue signal that you want to save everyone from the comfort of your keyboard. You aren't impacted by business closures but if you had any shed of humanity you would disagree to these lockdowns because they are causing more harm than good.

Thank you. I honestly believe that there is a non-trivial percentage of the population that _likes_ the COVID world and wants to keep it going as long as possible. Some may like working remotely, others may like the wider acceptance of meal and grocery delivery, others may prefer the reduction in greenhouse gases. That is the only way I can rationalize the insistence of lockdowns here on HN and elsewhere.

Either that or COVID is another social issue that is being exploited by nefarious actors to divide western nations.

Or both.

> I honestly believe that there is a non-trivial percentage of the population that _likes_ the COVID world and wants to keep it going as long as possible.

I believe two factors at play can be identified:

1) Among ordinary internet users, the “stay home and save lives” recommendation in spring of last year became highly memetic, and although the median age of death is now there for anyone to learn, the blanket admonishment continues to be rather unthinkingly repeated across society even though in many countries the lockdown is really starting to bite the economy. It is not that people consciously like the COVID world, they are simply perpetuating the social pressures that formed at the outbreak of the epidemic a year ago. (It doesn’t help that often one cannot public take an anti-lockdown stance and participate in street protests, because then one risks being lumped in with the anti-vaxxers and 5G crazies that tend to be so visible at those protests.)

2) Elected officials cannot ease off the restrictions, because the opposition will immediately accuse them of killing grandma or whatever. In this case, the opposition may in fact be acting much like a “concern troll”; they might not really care about the elderly (and deep down, they themselves might be thirsting for an end to lockdown), but they cannot ignore the political point-scoring that they could do with such a position.

I don’t think “wanting to live and not spread around a deadly disease” is some overly-woke activist cause or concern-trolling.

It’s ok to admonish people for drunk driving, which is a lot like “horsing around during a global pandemic”: optional, careless risk-taking behavior, that is risky for both you and everyone else. Why is it fine to shame people for drunk driving but not for spreading COVID?

I agree. I think it's a combination of factors-

The people who are currently on a good WFH salary are seeing their savings grow thinking they are doing well for themselves because soon they will buy a house but what they don't realise is that eventually they will have to pay for the 400k people on the pandemic unemployment payment, the 5 billion that was lost this year in tourism, the 10 million we are spending weekly on PCR testing. This all adds up and with only 2.3 million wage earners in Ireland they are going to be stung for a lot of tax to pay for this.

There are people with short term or part time jobs who are happier to be paid 350 per week for staying at home. Why would you want to work a menial job if you didnt need to?

Like Prof. Johan Giesecke from Sweden said, the western countries got themselves into a lockdown without thinking of a plan on how to get out of it and no one wants to be seen as the person who made the decision to kill loads of people.

There's also the vaccine angle which is sure to make those companies lots of money this year.

They may not be stung for the tax. Zero interest loans with an infinite term are effectively being granted by the ECB.

Yeah I agree, but on that topic I think we're heading into completely unchartered territory with an event horizon beyond which I cannot see, the only wisdom I have that might prepare us for what might unfold is- "there's no such thing as a free lunch" and "there's a time when you have to pay the Piper".

It’s pretty simple to me: I like being alive and want to continue living. I’m old, but not “will probably die next year” old, and I’m out of shape. I have a family and a kid who wants to keep her daddy around. The economy will recover. People will get back to working and shopping later. What we can’t do yet is come back from the dead.

> People will get back to working and shopping later.

Yes, but...

We all have a small finite number of years on this earth, and even fewer when we're young. I'll never get 2020 back, and who knows how much of how many people's lives will be lived in poverty and other forms of misery because of the economic destruction we've opted into to slow the spread of the virus.

Would you tell someone condemned to a prison term that it's not a big deal because they will eventually get out and go back to living normally?

> And who knows how much of how many people’s lives will be lived in poverty and other forms of misery because of the economic destruction we’ve opted into to slow the spread of the virus.

Plenty of less-rich countries took much stronger steps to prevent economic destruction even with stronger control measures than the US took.

We didn’t opt into poverty/misery to slow the spread of the virus, we opted into it because the federal administration wanted to use the pain to generate opposition to slowing the spread of the virus.

We could have 1. Done a real lockdown, with strict, nationwide enforcement, trashing the economy for a few months but beating the disease. Or 2. Done nothing and saved the economy, shouldering massive loss of life as the virus ran unopposed through the population.

But, no, we somehow managed to do the worst of both worlds: 3. we implemented uncoordinated, half-assed business closures and widely-ignored “stay-at-home” schemes which both trashed the economy and resulted in widespread death. Great job!

I think it's selfish that you'd prefer to remain unfit and see a generation of children your daughter's age lose a year of socialising and education than to choose to isolate yourself and let them live their lives if you really were so worried about a disease with a average IFR of .05%. It's a crab in a bucket mentality.

Part of the benefit of living in a civilized society is that civilized people don’t throw entire demographics to their death for the convenience of others. We are supposed to have the decency to make sacrifices for the benefit of the greater good, but our ability to do this seems to be quickly disappearing.

I’m really sorry my kid can’t go on play dates for a year, because it helps save other people’s lives. I also feel sorry that some people don’t have the empathy to understand why we need to make that trade-off. We have really lost our way as a culture if we really think grandma should die so the rest of us can live our normal lives.

Imagine we had your attitude during world war 2. “I’m not gonna go rivet airplanes or ration food because I have freedom and I want to live my life!!”

Nobody's throwing anybody to death. You seem to be advocating forcing everyone hostage in their homes, all over a virus that's not particularly dangerous (eg. 0.05% death rate for thus under 40, median age of death = 82). That's outrageous, and of course people don't want that because it's torture, and completely pointless and unnecessary. What a position of privilege to be able to advocate this garbage while being able to work remotely when many have lost their jobs and businesses.

We never had any government mandated home hostage orders during WWII.

I would liken it to missing a day at the gym. Even if you regularly work out if you start missing 1, 2, 3 days eventually you stop going altogether. The same thing has happened with WFH. People have already gotten used to working at home 100% of the time. Even if COVID was wiped off the face of the Earth there will be a large number of people who have simply gotten into a new routine and will never go back willingly unless if they are forced to.

Totally agree. Weird stuff.

> The WHO warns that lockdown should only be treated as a last resort, to truly flatten the curve and no more. We ignored that.

Countries that have eliminated the virus have ignored this for good results. Some like us here in Melbourne have used lockdowns to eliminate the virus, others like New Zealand have used them as a first resort to contain outbreaks. Because we eliminated it we're now back to (mostly) normal, we don't have young people sacrificing anything, we have kids in school, we have large sporting events and it's not coming at the cost of everyone's lives. Despite WHO advice most countries that eliminated it have also kept borders mostly shut.

Ireland is a tragedy because the were so close to elimination but never took those final steps to eliminate it and keep it out. The worlds tragedy is that they gave up on elimination, it would have been much cheaper and less impactful than rolling lockdowns.

I'm in general agreement with what you've said, but note that border closures are a far more difficult proposition for Ireland.

The Good Friday Accords make closing the border with NI a political impossibility, and failing that you'd be relying on the UK instituting border/quarantine arrangements between Great Britain and NI.

I thought that border did close briefly? I understand it's a touchy issue, but here we had some rather soft closures between states as well, borders don't have to be binary opened or closed. In some instances people could work permits to cross the border, for others we made virtual borders so people that live near the border could cross but no one else could. At various times we've thrown up some new borders, people couldn't travel from Melbourne to regional Victoria for instance.

Would options like that be viable with NI?

Remember this is somewhere that border checkpoints have in living memory been the target of violent attacks, where the idea of "partition" is at the core of the disagreements.

It's summer in the southern hemisphere and don't say you got rid of sars2 in your winter, you didn't, and there's still cases recently.

Let my comment be a warning that you might be in for a world of hurt in the next few months as you go into winter. You have to remain globally isolated until the virus is completely eradicated.

> It's summer in the southern hemisphere and don't say you got rid of sars2 in your winter, you didn't

Victoria had a large outbreak in winter, a (way too late) lockdown bought it under control. New Zealand had an outbreak in winter and a brief lockdown bought it back under control. I agree winter is hard mode, but we were 6 months ahead of the world in that regard, we were the warning that was ignored, we found it the hard way that soft lockdowns don't work in winter.

> and there's still cases recently.

Bought back from overseas, unfortunately flight crew are looking like a major vector. Current cases are low enough that good contact tracing is probably enough to keep on top of it, it's already stamped out a minor outbreak in Victoria and NSW just hit zero cases and will hopefully stay there.

> You have to remain globally isolated until the virus is completely eradicated.

We'll be globally isolated until enough people are vaccinated that exponential spread isn't possible. This is preferable to being personally isolated while a pandemic rages.

The lasting psychological damage from these lockdowns is going to take years just to understand. Especially on kids.

Just imagine if they had used all the propaganda to promote exercise and healthy eating to the population while handing out free bottles of vitamin d3 instead of the opposite (stay inside, don't sunbathe, don't exercise, eat poorly due to depression and economic hardship)

1) this is Sweden 2020 death rate compared to other Scandinavian countries (no lockdown, no masks) https://preview.redd.it/jujfoejeqwa61.png?width=1024&auto=we...

2) these are some of the effects caused by lockdowns worldwide https://outline.com/JKgfuv

Do you have opinions about

1. holding the damn until the vaccine gets deployed 2. What are your concerns if any about the long term illnesses and organ damage in younger covid afflicted patients.

I agree with your points except for those two key considerations.

Because of this, I am for continuing lockdowns and distancing until the vaccine and refuse to potentially subject myself to life long debilitation when waiting 3 more months would offer significantly more protection.

Not the OP, but 1) officials in several EU countries have recently said that restrictions will probably exist until very late 2021, because even in a best-case scenario not enough of the public will be vaccinated until then. I personally would not accept borders being closed for so long among fraternal European countries. Even more seriously, the mass events and ordinary courtship opportunities that are so important for young people coming of age, should not be put off so long. (I am most opposed to lockdowns because I think it is the biggest betrayal of young people since ’68.)

As for claims of “long COVID”, these are largely unverified and a media creation. (Clinical studies do exist, but the definition of “long-term symptoms” used among specialists is often not as dramatic as the one found in sensational newspaper coverage.) Many of the people claiming to have the condition have never even tested positive for COVID, and it can be seen as broadly the same demographic that, before this epidemic, claimed to have “chronic Lyme” in the complete absence of any evidence.

I can definitely empathize with your first point, late 2021 is a rediculous time tax on the youth, who have yet again paid far more for this crisis in terms of missed opportunities and asset inflation. Closed state borders would be untenable over here in the US.

For the second point, this article has shaken me a bit, and I've limited my exposure(stoped going to the store, eating out(outside), etc. I love my heart and my ability to do strenuous excersizes(skier, climber, and raver) and have decide to wait out these next few months for the vaccine.


Obviously its not a full study, but in light of lacking information, ill play a risk adverse hand.

Sure, wait for a vaccine but I certainly won't be taking it as I can run a 5km in 23 minutes, in the gym five days a week when it's not shut down, I eat well and I take vitamin D. I would only recommend a vaccine to those aged between 65 and 80. Below that age and you don't need it, above that age and it's very risky. There were only 800 people above 70 on the pfizer trials, when that cohort is the high risk for this.

2. You are referring to post covid syndrome, it's well known and not remarkable for Sars2. Weird things happen from viral respiratory infections all the time, covid is no different. Up to the age of 38 or so the seasonal flu has a higher mortality rate. You have a higher chance of dying in a car crash up to the age of 30. I don't have the sources here but they are easily found. After reading the literature extensively on this subject the portrayal of the risk is blown far out of proportion in the media.

The article spends a long time complaining about the high "unreported infection" numbers used by CDC models, but doesn't actually address the biggest piece of evidence, which is seroprevalence surveys. For example, https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/01/study-us... claims 15% of US residents had COVID antibodies in mid-November, and if you want to claim a number that disagrees with that, you at least need to address the evidence.

To be fair, the study you linked suggests 45m have had COVID, and the CDC model assumes 100m have had Covid, of whom 70m were symptomatic. So it actually appears to undermine CDC and support the article.

It's from mid November. Since then, at a near 200k/day rate, another 10M+ diagnosed cases have been recorded.

In other words: that article extrapolates from the CDC report of 10 million cases in November, and that is now sitting at around 23M. If anything, the estimate should be way above 70M.

Also, antibodies often don't linger more than a few months, and the immunity is handled by memory cells instead. So that 15% is just a window.

I instantly read this title and assumed given the current political environment he was predicting an armed, IRA like insurrection in the US

Phew he was just talking about the once in a lifetime pandemic shit show.

Time for a break from the internet today.

Well we are already at the Armalite and the ballot box stage

> Using data from flu monitoring programs in prior years, the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up.

In Bangladesh, a well-regarded study found that 45% of people in Dhaka, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, had antibodies. This study was conducted between April 18 and July 5. I'm sure the number is much higher now. And most people around me seem to agree with this- our total deaths so far is 1/50 of USA, despite having 1/2 population. Even if we multiply our total deaths by 5 to account for maybe government cover-up, our death rate/infection rate still seems too low. Widespread immunity appears to be the only explanation for this disparity.

[1] https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2020/10/12/45-percent-of-dha...

A similar study in part of India found an antibody seroprevalence rate of 57% and a corresponding IFR under 0.1%.


There could be other explanations beyond widespread existing immunity. For example could diet be a factor?

the most likely explanation is just age-distribution. The vast majority of our covid-fatalities are older than 70, most are 80 or older. To make things worse, many of them live in retirement homes which turn into death traps once the virus entered. That's all fairly unique to Western societies and is definitely one explanation for vastly different IFRs.

As an Indian acquaintance explained to me bluntly: if you were going to die of Covid, in that part of the world you've probably already died of something else.

This is just a terrible article.

It’s just a lot of “I think” “There’s a non-trivial chance” “I expect” “I predict” without any sources to back anything up.

If you’re going to disagree with the CDC model, at least show why they’re wrong or why your reasoning is correct.

Same goes for the Ireland situation, if you’re so obsessed with it; put them in context. For instance, name how Ireland eased their lockdown for Christmas [1], how 45% of new cases are due to the UK-variant [2]. Given that, what could happen, based on data, that a similar event can happen in the US? Don’t just show a chart and say “I predict that there is a non-trivial chance that the same thing will happen in the US.”

If anyone went to the comments to see if this article is worth your time; I predict there’s a non-trivial chance you will find that it is not worth your time. Furthermore, I expect you’ll also not find the website worth 200$/year.

The website looks pretty though.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55364744

[2] https://www.irishpost.com/news/taoiseach-uk-variant-account-...

So the main complaint is that the US Govt model has 70 million symptomatic-but-undiagnosed cases in the US compared to 23 diagnosed cases and the author claims this is wildly wrong. If those numbers were correct, we'd have diagnosed 23% of cases. Do we really thing we've done much better than that? I'm not certain. I'd be a little surprised if it were over 50%, but that's purely based off intuition.

The other point the author kind of brings up: the current Alabama numbers are roughly in line with the "Ireland event" already. So a "rolling series" of these events is kind of what we already have happening, isn't it? That doesn't diminish the toll of the situation or the mistakes in the responses from the authorities.

I'm usually a flag-carrier for epsilon theory here and elsewhere, but I think this is the closest approximation to reality.

What's happen(ed)ing in Ireland is Bad capital B. But that just puts into context USA's reality for the last ~3 months or so. We have been living an ongoing Ireland event since people gave up in the Fall.

Information on US COVID-19 seroprevlance surveys can be found on the CDC website [0]. There are also a number of more locally sampled sero surveys going on concurrently right now by state/city/county public health departments. 'Sero' surveys are a commonly used tool in infectitious disease research to understand the difference between identified and total case numbers. They have tons of pros and cons (see [1] for some examples). There are also different types [2]

They aren't exact, but the goal with this type of research isn't perfect accuracy, that is impossible, it's better information than we currently have. The prevalence number that you get from a sero survey is hugely important to accurately estimating the effectiveness of medical tests. However, getting that data into a model of test accuracy isn't necessarily easy. [3]

This is an example of a COVID sero survey from Santa Clara County last April [4]. Over two days they collected around 3500 samples over two days. There results summary is basically this:

The raw prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in our sample was 1.5%. Weighted for population demographics of Santa Clara County, the prevalence was 2.8%. Using those prevalence numbers, the unweighted estimate of case numbers was 23,000. Using the weighted prevalence number, the estimate was 54,000. In early April, there were approximately 1,000 confirmed cases in Santa Clara County.

From my epidemiologist friends, they think 50% diagnosed cases is if anything a massive overestimate of the diagnostic rate and something like 1 in 4 diagnosed cases is probably accurate (this is hearsay that I can't cite from people in the field). The problem is that the 23,000-54,000 people who 'had' (air quotes) COVID last April may or may not be immune at this point. The numbers may be high or low ...either way they are BAD

Not even getting into what this means about vaccine policy...just talking about what the data and numbers are here. I'm still trying to process what the original post means/is trying to say honestly.

[0] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/geog...

[1] https://www.who.int/immunization/monitoring_surveillance/bur...

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/seropre...

[3] https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/190/1/109/5893084?login...

[4] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.14.20062463v...

Wasn't [4] widely criticized for messing up basic statistics? Either way, numbers from April might as well not exist for what they tell us about today.

I haven't seen a particular critique of that paper so can't comment.

Bigger picture, I wasn't commenting on the particular validity of that paper as much as what this type of study could tell us...hindsight I should have picked an example from another disease.

Unfortunately that paper became my litmus test for people arguing from bad faith as it was such a darling of the "COVID is just the flu!" crowd. My memory of the main problem was that the confidence interval of the false positive rate of the test used included values higher than the entire positive rate of the sampled people. I.e. they didn't have enough data to rule out the claim that no one had COVID antibodies, let alone to justify that such a shockingly high percentage of the population could have had them already. Here's a random overview of the critiques that I found on google just now:


Anyway, I'm sure better data exists at this point. The CDC survey data you linked to looks very interesting and seems to (with caveats) put the percent-immune at 16% or less as of a few months ago. It's sort of a middle ground with what the article here was claiming - 100 million immune Americans still seems to high but not by that much so given how cases have continued since the last serological survey results.

I feel like everyone continues to assume COVID-19 infection has an exponential curve but it's been shown by Nobel prize winner Michael Levitt that it actually follows a Gompertz function more accurately. Not only that but the WHO recently released a statement saying that PCR testing for COVID-19 is not suitable as it detects many forms of respiratory problems including the common cold.

I feel like the author of this article is simplifying a complex topic.

[1] https://youtu.be/Uw2ZTaiN97k [2] https://www.who.int/news/item/14-12-2020-who-information-not...

There is a lot of pushback on Levitt's predictions that keep moving the goalposts. Let's just say his Nobel Prize wasn't in curve fitting.


All apparent exponential growth is actually sigmoid growth. It's just that the difference doesn't matter until you are on the right-hand side of the curve.

The author of TFA clearly understands this because if 70M people have undaignosed covid, that shifts us to the right of the curve.

>Not only that but the WHO recently released a statement saying that PCR testing for COVID-19 is not suitable as it detects many forms of respiratory problems including the common cold.

From what I read in the WHO link, they are mostly saying that users should read the manual and check the cycle treshold to make sure no false negative results are seen.

Background noise or high cycles will likely disturb the specificity it is seeking. Thus meaning a common cold individual being tested may in fact just have a common cold virus of sorts.

Isn't it trivially true to say it's impossible for any natural process to sustain exponential growth for a sustained duration of time?

I wouldn't trust a PhD in literature to tell me about epidemiology, I'm disinclined to trust a chemist either.

A big problem is that nobody seems to be monitoring Covid antibodies in a large-scale, consistent way. Here's the CDC's "COVID-19 Serology Surveillance Strategy" [1] They have a few tools. One is a blood donor test, where donated blood is tested for antibodies. Another is random sampling of blood tests taken for other medical reasons. Those establish bounds - blood donors are healthier than average, and people getting blood tests for medical reasons are less healthy than average.

The results, though, are very spotty. The most recent US data published seems to be from September 2020.[2] "In this repeated, cross-sectional study of 177 919 residual clinical specimens, the estimated percentage of persons in a jurisdiction with detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies ranged from fewer than 1% to 23%. Over 4 sampling periods in 42 of 49 jurisdictions with calculated estimates, fewer than 10% of people had detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. ... Samples were obtained during 4 collection periods: July 27 to August 13, August 10 to August 27, August 24 to September 10, and September 7 to September 24, 2020."[3] Those are from anonymous random blood samples taken from people who had a lab test for something else.

For blood donors, there's this data.[3] "Data from the American Red Cross, which is providing serosurveillance data as part of the MASS study, indicated that 8.4 percent of U.S. blood donors it tested in a week in late November carried antibodies to Covid-19 in their blood."

So that's the US situation from November. Those set upper and lower bounds on how many people in the US have had Covid-19. Those are actuals, not estimates. One would expect this would be tracked and updated weekly, but if it is, the data isn't widely available. The main thing one can conclude from this is that it's nowhere near "herd immunity". That would require 7x-10x as many people showing antibodies.

The CDC's estimates based on a flu-based estimate of how many people need medical attention per infection seem inconsistent with that actual data.

As for the "Ireland event", here it is on the Financial Times graph with other countries.[4] From 5 cases per 100K to 130 cases per 100K. For comparison, California is now around 105 cases per 100K.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/serolog...

[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullar...

[3] https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/944035#vp_2

[4] https://ig.ft.com/coronavirus-chart/?areas=eur&areas=usa&are...

Antibody tests only give us estimates of the number of people who have had COVID-19. Some patients, especially the asymptomatic ones, either never produce detectible levels of antibodies or have them fade away quickly. We can get somewhat more accurate numbers by also checking immune system memory cells, but that's a more complex assay and difficult to do in large studies.

That graph looks a lot like what California already did in December.

I'm not sure where to find Re numbers to compare with his discussed ones for Ireland. ANOTHER huge spike on top of the one that only now is starting to slow would be pretty terrible, or maybe we just saw the same thing already (new strains have been identified here, and behavior seems like it deteriorated before the holidays before getting improved after the spike).

I think it's fairly incomplete to make predictions about the US like the linked article (let alone speculation about government motivations) without discussing or comparing the current US numbers much at all. The author acknowledges that it would be a spread-out-over-time-regionally thing, but looks at aggregate country-level US data that is going to make it hard to see. The political speculation seems a bit out of left field: in the US I did hear a lot about "the winter will be tough" "it will be worse if people travel after getting fatigued with restrictions" "we can't let our guard down even though numbers are improving now". And we've heard a lot about "we need to keep an eye on new strains and such and may have to make further adjustments." Not this head-in-the-sand posture the author is describing.

So many reasoning flaws.

The spike happened after Christmas as New Years.

There are other possible explanations not being factored as well...

People have been home A LOT this past year and are probably in worse shape then ever and some people probably lack more vitamin d then ever before.

The weather is colder in the northern hemisphere now, contributing to low air humidity and benefiting viruses.

Assuming all it takes is a strict 3 week shutdown, why can’t we have that? Or is the assumption wrong? Why weren’t we able to produce enough stock for 3 weeks of total halt?

Most supply chains today are measured in days not weeks

The average Grocery will run out of stock in 2-4 days (most being closer to 2 days)

The supply chain network is not setup for allow for a 3 week shutdown, nor can it be easily adapted to allow for it.

Most people, espically in urban centers, would not have enough supplies to last more than a couple of days as well.

Given that most people also can not budget for a $100 emergency they would be hard pressed to walk into a store and buy 3 weeks of food even if we could stock the stores to supply it (which we can not)

That is with out getting into the needs of Power, Water, Gas, Sewer, Public Safety, etc etc etc

you can not shut down a nation for 3 weeks, it is simply not possible

Leaving aside whether it would work, it doesn’t seem actually possible to “shut down” an entire country for three weeks. Who will keep the lights on?

A 3 week shutdown is politically not feasible, a high percentage of people would just ignore it, with plenty of them yelling and screaming on Parl... Twitter.

Somehow it's easier to do in a police state like China. Or maybe a country where there's still a high degree of solidarity (don't quote me, I'm not an expert on exactly why) like New Zealand.

Neither China nor New Zealand was ever completely shut down. The closest thing was Wuhan - but that is only one tiny part of China.

There is nothing about the severity of covid that merits shutting down the entire economy.

A full shutdown of the entire economy (i.e. you can't get food or water if you need them) would only be warranted in the case of an existential threat.

It all started with one case. So unless you can really extinguish it, which is borderline impossible due to people not taking lockdowns seriously, it is just gonna start back up again.

The author’s argument for why it’s implausible that a lot of people don’t get tested is literally “c’mon, man.” That not satisfying to me.

I was sick for a few days over the summer. Was it a mild case of Covid? I don’t know, or care. Why should I get tested when that information will change literally nothing about my life?

1. It's not literally "c'mon man" it's "look at these graphs, then 'c'mon, man'."

2. They stipulate that lots of people didn't get tested, but believe it to be an order of magnitude less than the CDC estimates.

> 2. They stipulate that lots of people didn't get tested, but believe it to be an order of magnitude less than the CDC estimates.

That would imply that we've verified 23M out of a total of only 30M infections. Given how much of a hassle it is to get tested (even more so 3-4 months ago), it would be utterly shocking if we've tested ~75% of those infected.

I have no trouble believing the 3x rate given that I believe I had Covid in April and was steadfastly refused a test, and later in November, after traveling, was refused testing once more. There still isn't sufficient testing capacity for everyone who wants one, and even then, not everyone who is sick wants a test.

FWIW, every single person I know who I know who "believe they had covid in April" who later got an antibody test tested negative.

The author's argument only relies on people being more likely to getting tested for Covid-19 than for the flu, not on them always testing, so your anecdote does not work as a refutation.

A point not many people are raising is its winter in the northern hemisphere, so naturally the R0 will increase. Why this new strain is so prevalent? My personal opinion is since schools opened up they have acted as the main vector. Going undetected for an extended period, I read children are 'being hit the hardest' ie their is a lot more asymptomatic children. The latter point is just conjecture but the note on winter I do think has merit.

Overtime the virus will be less deadly to all age groups and likely become another common cold virus. I read a article in hn the other day talking about how all cold virus might have started as pandemics.

Based in history pandemics last 18 months. Two winters and one summer. But that is during natural spread rather than nation wide lockdown.

While I'm ranting, I believe masks were always a vector to get people the smallest viral dose. Have you seen anyone with a mask, they touch it every few seconds and even reuse it. I remember back 12months ago I was panning on wearing different clothes inside from outside, having a buffer area in my house and having a mask cycle were they spend 3 days in the suns UV.

I don't think the virus will get as much news, a important catalyst is when their is government mandate of the pcr cycle number. If they reduce it they can stimulate low infection numbers.

In my personal opinion mass testing was the biggest mistake, after it hit large community spread they should have only tested in hospitals for research purposes and held all data at a national security level for 10 years.

People are just not mentally able to deal with such situation, look at social media for an example their is so much pure rage in the world. Even in my county NZ the anger on social media is shocking. Its the same logic that you should not tell people about aliens (in movies) because people as a group can not take the stress.

We on HN are a bad sample, we are probably more likely to be logical. Where most people would have strong emotions.

I read this title as "Ireland events" as social unrest. I know this is not the subject, but its equally vaild, given what we have witnessed over the last year.

One seasonal question that I'm pondering:

It's currently summer in South Africa, but death rate is spiking there, more than during its winter. This surprises and concerns me. What's the explanation? Thankfully, other obvious Southern Hemisphere countries aren't seeing a big spike right now.

I think the central claim of this article is something of a mainstream concern. For example, here's a blog by Tom Frieden, who is in my opinion one of the more credible voices: https://www.tomfriedenpublichealth.net/tom-frieden-blog#janu... . Other virologists and epidemiologists who I follow on Twitter are saying similar things.

> More than three times the number of known Covid cases?

Wouldn't detecting 1/3 and missing 2/3 be pretty expected, especially since a lot of the cases were early on? Count backwards from the estimated IFR of e.g. 0.2..1.0% and you get a number of million infections from the ~400k dead. You need to go pretty low in that IFR to get to 1/3 of the population though.

"that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up."

Based on quantity of people with antibodies in NYC, Italy, etc who never knew they had it other than symptoms they thought were a cold, there's nothing surprising about a number of 70 million.

"Symptomatic" in that sentence feels strange too. Why would we not be counting the asymptomatic cases for these purposes?

381K fatalities against 70M assumed cases is a fatality rate of about half a percent. It would doubtless tick up a bit higher if nobody got sick anymore starting today as hospitalizations are at very high numbers compared to the past, in the US, so those cases have more deaths to come.

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200901/what-changing-death... here the CDC projection is stated as about 0.6% which is consistent with that. So their numbers would be internally consistent, at least.

It's obviously hard to be fully sure of what that true rate is, but I'm not seeing a TON of people thinking it's over 1%.

One technical point that I disagree with is his characterization of exponential spread. He is mentally modeling it like every person is the root of their own tree in a societal forest. While the number of infected nodes in an SIR model on a network does grow exponentially in early stages, at some point the growth slows as many of your contacts have already been infected. This may not happen until some constant fraction of the graph has been infected, however. Of course as we all have heard the equilibrium state is "herd immunity" when the infection dies out or remains contained to small components, but even before this I believe the growth rate slows. I should know more about this considering it is what i wrote my doctoral thesis on, but i've made room for other things.

Oh Jesus, I read the title and thought it was about 'The Troubles' coming to the US over the insurrection. Which I thought would be really bad. But then it was about covid-19, and, well ... that actually may be worse in terms of casualties. Good Lord.

Nice article, but it's flawed because it doesn't mention the cause of the spike is partly the backlog in testing over Christmas. Ireland have recently cleared that backlog, which contributed to the spike.

A backlog in testing? If you are gonna take more than like two days to process a test, why are you even testing?

Might also be people with mild symptoms delaying to go get a test because they're on break, not necessarily the labs being backed up.

You test a population to see how prevalent covid-19 is, how it's spreading, whether your containment efforts are working, what variants are spreading.

You test an individual to help you decide on appropriate healthcare.

It's really important that people who test negative still behave as if they might have covid and might spread covid.

The vaccine to senior citizens is a game changer here. If successful, it'll cut deaths by over 90% at which point safety protocols can be drastically loosened.

> More than three times the number of known Covid cases? C’mon, man.

Actual cases being three times the number of known cases sounds reasonable to me. I protested when the Swedish CDC (Folkhälsomyndigheten) claimed it was 1000x, then 100x and finally 75x. But 3x sounds very reasonable to me, perhaps even a bit low.

There's a phenomena happening for hundreds of thousands of years called "winter".

Every single one of these "winters" we see an exponential rise in respiratory illnesses like the flu or COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/figures/m6223a5f1....

If things *didn't* go up >10x, it would be news.

On the first graph, that last label makes me distrust the entire article.

Possibly related:

02 Jan 2021 is a part of 2020 week 53.

I've noticed a few labeling issues caused by this calendar quirk.

Yep, that's due to someone calling

    strftime(buf, buflen, "%b %e, %G", &tm);
when they should be calling

    strftime(buf, buflen, "%b %e, %Y", &tm);

In Java it's worse, for SimpleDateFormat (the most often used date formatter in Java) YYYY (uppercase) is "week year" (strftime %G), the correct way to get the year (strftime %Y) is yyyy (lowercase). It's very easy to get it wrong; the correct way to get the full ISO timestamp is "yyyy-MM-dd'T'HH:mm:ss.SSSXXX".

It kind of makes sense. People are going to think of 2020 and 2021 as one long year. Maybe 2022, too.

It's an ISO 8601 vs Gregorian calendar peculiarity, not inaccuracy. See the date section here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601, another example of a week 53.

What about it? The fact that it says January 2 while the caption says it's through January 7? I'm assuming that's just because the labels are generated at 11 day increments and Jan 7 isn't 11 days away from the 2nd.

It says 2020 instead of 2021.

Maybe a date formatting problem? I saw something similar in the past due to passing the wrong format string, and Jan 2 was the Saturday of the "last week" of 2020, before the "first week" of 2021?

Ah, that's definitely strange. A bug in the graphing software, maybe?

I think it's more likely that there were one or more manual steps in generating the graph, and someone just kept going with 2020 instead of typing 2021. The author should explain what went wrong there if this reaches their attention.

Or it's a typo, and who cares?

Can you clarify which graph and which label? The first graph I see is the number of new cases in Ireland over the past year, and I don't see any labels that seem suspicious.

The final label on the x-axis says January 2, 2020 instead of 2021. I assume the GP was being partly facetious

What "last label" are you referring to?

We really need to get away from this meme of "I found a typo, therefore I'm going to discard the article". In theory it's good epistemic hygiene, but in practice it almost always cashes out to, "I'm going to engage in extremely selective sophistry so I can ignore information that doesn't agree with my existing worldview."

When I read the headline I thought this article might be about domestic terrorism in the US. When I clicked on the article I saw it it was in fact about COVID-19. This is how I test my assumptions.

I thought the exact same thing- "The Ireland Event" being the Catholic-Protestant conflict in the latter part of the 20th century

Really quck edit: this is probably the most controversial comment that I have posted here. However, without a proper survey I am still not convinced that someone will associate "the Irish problem" with the violence there. Take the discussion below with a grain of salt and I hope that you, assuming that you are in the west coast or Atlantic coast, consider if someone (a random person) in the Midwest will know this.

To be fair unless you're somehow intune with Europe at that time an average American will not really know how really bad it is (they might have an idea that something bad is happening - but they might described it as mostly targeted attacks to leaders, not knowing about the civilian killings).

I'm not especially "intune with Europe", and that conflict ended when I was a small child, but I knew the violence extended to civilians. Not sure why you assume people wouldn't know that.

I'm referring to the average American populace and not to the average HN poster. For example, I knew the details of the Tokyo Sarin Gas attacks and know that it was caused by a "new religion" cult but an average person outside Japan wouldn't really remember that as clearly as I am (unless you are somehow in Western Australia since a farm area there was refurbished to produce sarin). It is like 9/11 outside America: an average person knows it enough to remember whatever inconvenience they encountered that day but not the whole details.

Sunday Bloody Sunday is a well known song, don't forget. It wasn't that long ago that the IRA was putting bombs in trash cans. I think this is far more known in the US than you'd think, especially given it's intra-Christian violence.

If a person has watched Derry Girls on Netflix they know about as much as I do

Surely the bombs in London and Manchester were international news at the time, at least throughout the Western world?

Next you'll tell me the average American is unaware of the 7 July bombs on the London Underground, the ETA bombs in Spain, Breivik in Norway or the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo.

The average American will have probably seen some coverage of those things, but for stuff that happened years ago that aren't closely tied to ongoing, present-day in-the-US issues, they won't recall many details.

Even "world news" segments in the American news largely involve America in some capacity. Maybe half of world news in the US is completely unrelated to the US.

That's part of why I read the BBC for world news.

I would guess that the average American (I really mean average here, not average among HN posters) will have heard of nothing on that list, but also not heard of any US political violence in that time period.

This. The HN crowd vastly overestimates how unknown these can be on an actual person. Even when they knew about the explosions in the (London) Docklands and in Manchester, they would only knew it to be terrorist attacks, not specifically the provisional Irish Republican Army (unrelated to the Irish Army).

Edit: definitely not the Australian city of Docklands (and not any city named Manchester ouside England!)

Now, I know all of these events though clearly though, but I'm referring to the average populace. Yes, they might know that happened and they might be inconvenienced by it but not enough to know that (for example) the sarin attack was due to a "new religion" cult. It is like 9/11 outside America: an average person knows it enough to remember whatever inconvenience they encountered that day but not the whole details.

I am a very average American, born in 1983, and I’ll admit that I have only the vaguest idea of The Troubles. My first real concrete memory of hearing of Ireland’s issues was the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

If you were born after 1990 in America, I am doubtful you have much knowledge of that era at all.

Probably that Jack Ryan movie with Harrison Ford was most people’s exposure of that era

I was hoping it involved Guinness myself, or better yet Smithwick's. I'd be okay with multiple events like that.

I love your humour during these times, also thought by "Ireland Event" he was talking about "The Troubles" coming to America and clicked but I guess we have different stereotypical images of Irish folks.

I thought it was about potatoes

Me too. I had images of famine and millions of Americans fleeing the country to find a better life overseas.


Potatoes, a new world food, were a monoculture in Ireland at the time. These days there are a huge number of potato varieties grown, so a devastating potato blight seems unlikely to occur again.

We euphemistically call that "The Troubles".

I was just thinking about a comment about how the current situation could lead to a US "Troubles"

And I assumed it would be about the coronavirus, because the neurons that knew about the virus surge on the island answered first. And the framing of the event on "2 months" made me think of current events rather than distant past ones.

Context is the hard problem in NLP, I guess.

I initially thought the same, in part because I recall a HN comment yesterday predicting the US would see such events soon, comparing them to the troubles.

To be fair, even Amazon's support team (or robot) have done a similar mistake last November (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/nov/15/amazon-re...).

Same here. And it's a sign of the times that I felt relief that it was "just" about covid...

Huh. I guessed “potato famine”

Same. Also a bizarre example of someone coming up with a better analogy than I've been able to muster about my own expectations, when in fact they did nothing of the sort.

> An “Ireland Event” outbreak, with draconian shutdowns, an unemployment shock and small business bankruptcies, would be massively deflationary.

Close your positions or reduce it today. Do it now. Don't wait until the shit hits the fan.

Sell, reduce or hedge. You've been warned.

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