14 April 2020

Lock Down: Let's look at the Results

The most accurate method for measuring outbreak of COVID-19 is the number of deaths. It can still be inaccurate if some are missed or the there are deaths included which are "presumptive" or where a primary cause is ignored to blame the disease. However, it is better than almost any other. Tested positive is probably the worst because it depends on how many tests are available and how they are used (there will never be one test for all 327,000,000 of us).

I live within an hour of five States. Tennessee, got slammed for staying open longer and not coming down as hard on their citizens as other States. Kentucky has been the darling of those who think shutting everything down is the proper model. There was even bit of fluff that spiked in social media and some news sites comparing number of cases in Kentucky and Tennessee to make it look like Kentucky has done better.

Here's a chart of absolute case numbers (current as of 13 April):

Population: Va-8.5m, Tn-6.8m, Ky-4.5m, NC-10.5m, WVa-1.8m

Here's the chart by death rates in each State:

Are lock downs working?

12 April 2020

Latest COVID-19 Number Boosting in Virginia

Changes the Virginia Department of Health has been making in Numbers of Cases from day of first showing symptoms - Click to Enlarge
Fourth time I've checked. Fourth time the Virginia Department of Health has increased the numbers.

The numbers of new cases the Virginia Department of Health has reported as of 12 April 2020. The last two weeks look about the same, so I checked them and it turns out the latest week averages slightly more:
Weekly Average of New Cases: 138 to 185 to 200
The chart was done with a week measured as Saturday thru Friday, because apparently people aren't getting the disease over the weekend. More realistically, they aren't going to get tested or being allowed to test if they go and then they are being tested on the next couple days and causing an artificial jump on Mondays and Tuesday. Therefore, those days should be balanced out with the days of the immediately proceeding weekend.

As I said in my last post about the lock down, it's really difficult to know how much of more recent numbers are from more availability of tests. This makes the third week's jump of 15 extra cases on average per day a questionable figure. We'll have to see how the numbers play out for the next week (the stuff in the gray on the chart above).

VDH is still not offering explanations.

10 April 2020

NEVER Agree to "Universal Diploma Privilege"

I'm tired of seeing people trying to take advantage of the current medical situation. We've all seen it. An example pertinent to the lives of the criminal attorneys has been the attempts of convicts to get out of their already imposed sentences because of SARS CoV-2/COVID-19/Coronavirus. Not because the disease is in whichever jail or prison they are in - just because the disease exists.

And the attempts are happening outside the criminal justice system too. Here's one where a law professor wants to do away with Bar exams in general and is using the disease as an excuse. He wants everyone who graduates from law school to be able to practice (I guess everywhere?). This has been something law professors and schools have floated in recent times and maybe further back, but it only came to my attention over the last couple years. Why do they want to do away with the Bar exams?

Because law schools and law professors are not, as a whole, fans of the Bar exam. Why not? Because it's the only true metric in measuring the kind of student they're graduating. Sure, a top-five law school might be counted on to graduate potential top tier lawyers, but that's a function of their ability to pick and choose exceptional students for whom law school provides little improvement in their chances of passing the Bar exam. Somewhere near 100% of those students could probably take a bar prep course and pass. But what about schools farther back in the pack? The Bar exam and the Bar exam alone is the only way to see how a law school is doing. If the number of graduates from a particular school passing the Bar is too low it loses its accreditation with the ABA (possibly the only worthwhile thing the ABA does) and once that's gone the school is done.

So once you're not looking at Harvard or Yale, Bar passage rate is the important delineator between a good law school and a bad one. Law schools further down the rankings will take a certain amount of students who are marginal when it comes to passing the Bar. How well does that school handle this? Does it concentrate on making sure its students understand basic areas of the law and reinforce that understanding? Or does it push courses concentrating on Literary Critiques of Supreme Court Decisions and the Law According to Far Eastern Religions? The former is very important; the latter would probably be more fun. And you think a law professor who's been teaching Contracts and Property for the last thirteen years wouldn't like to do something more interesting than explaining the doctrine that "and" and "or" can be interchangeable in certain contexts for the 57 thousandth time to students who can't grasp that it's not an all or nothing proposition the first ten times he explains it? If it has to get students past the Bar you are more likely to see the former and graduate students who have a clue when they start practicing instead of students who can discuss exactly and in detail what Shakespeare meant by "First we kill all the lawyers" but couldn't define a larceny to save their lives. Law schools and professors would rather they didn't have to do the boring stuff, or at least not be required to do it well, and the only way they're let off the hook for that is if there is no standard. And the only way there's no standard is if there's no Bar exam.

And, let's face it, law schools are entirely unnecessary. They are a profit center for universities which don't provide much for a student. There were two prior models which worked just as well and didn't economically punish the student nearly as much for wanting to practice law. At one time you could get an undergraduate law degree. I often see this called an LL.B, but I think US colleges may have been looser in their nomenclature. I've only met one person who did this and he was the founding partner at a law firm I interned with during law school. He said his undergraduate degree was called an LL.M, which in modern times would be a fairly useless master's degree offered after graduating law school. Anyway, there's no particular reason a law degree couldn't be gotten as an undergraduate degree with the same rigor applied before (LSAT) and after (Bar exam) except that schools make less money that way.

The second way can still be done in some States (including mine). That's "reading law" which is basically apprenticing with a lawyer for a certain amount of time and then being allowed to sit the Bar exam. I've known several people who've done this and practice law quite competently. We could fall back on this sort of system quite easily, although if I were to set it up as the primary method, I'd probably want an initial entry exam (say, you must get 80% on an LSAT) before you could start reading law so that it doesn't get abused and maybe a limit of an attorney only being able to apprentice a reader one at a time, three times in her life, and only once every five years. There's no reason this can't be done.

And yet, we're stuck with law schools.

And if we're stuck with them, there needs to be a metric to measure them by. The success of the students seems to be a pretty good standard.

Oh, and stop trying to turn a perceived disaster to your advantage.

Checking the Lock Down's Effect

The lock down model is confusing at this point:1

Red= Should have been, Purple=Infected Prior, Green=New Infected
Prior infected should have increased for five days after lock down (avg incubation period) and then dropped off. I didn't make the drop off entirely linear, but had them drop off more steeply closer to the twelfth day when 97% of prior infected should have shown symptoms (days and percentages from here).  The new cases I put in start with 16 and add 16 more to the new cases each day which was an average number I came up with for the increase in new infections from 10 March onward. I could have used the median of 12, and think that might be the correct number to use, but went with 16 out of an abundance of caution. I did make the original line upward for prior infected add 12 more to the last number of newly infected per day because that was the average from 10 March before that date.

YES, before someone tells me that I don't know what I'm doing and should have used "the advanced confusion model of non-understandable mathometrics", I concede that there is no way I could make a perfect model. It's flawed, but close enough to further intelligent discussion.

And, here's the rub: the numbers end up about where I projected they would, but that feels an awful lot like an anomaly. I suspect that if the red and green lines continue to project upon their merged path they won't correspond with future data. However, that's at best an educated guess. I'll have to recheck the numbers in a few days.

Interestingly, the actual numbers didn't follow what they should have. They should have gone higher and then dropped back down. The first 5 days go up until the weekend and after the weekend it's at a higher level. Then it flattens. This could mean the post-weekend numbers are inflated and should really be lower (some cases should shift to Saturday and Sunday) and, if accurately measured Monday and Tuesday would have smaller numbers and reflect a slight growth for the weekdays. No matter whether that is true or not, it seems to indicate that the green line should be flatter, but that would mean the final result would not be consistent with the numbers at the end. Is the green line subject to the nigh unto mythical "exponential infection rate?" If so, numbers should continue to rise steeply into the next week. Again, something that needs further future data to develop.

The biggest flaw in all of this is the fact that increased testing has become available. This results in its own, unmeasurable bump in the numbers. I don't know how much to factor in for that in. For goodness sake, some places have been offering drive through testing and the experience where I'm at is that it's moved from impossible to get tests to available if needed. So, it almost goes without saying that there's a significant bump except I have no way of knowing what it is and factoring it in.


1  This was moved from the back end of the previous post because the two are about different things.

Are the VDH's Numbers Reliable?

ADDENDUM: Looking through news articles, it appears that VDH is adding numbers from senior care residences in the Richmond area (that were hiding them?). At least, that was the explanation for the sudden jump in the number of deaths (which I assume are being diagnosed post-death) and that means the (hidden?) infections occurred at an earlier time. Not sure that explains the entire boost, but it is the best explanation I can come up with. As I've said previously, this is not something fitting a conspiracy theory because there's nothing to conspire toward. The medical situation is already receiving priority over fundamental constitutional rights and an economy being seriously damaged. There's nothing to gain.


I have long had a rule: Before you decide something was done in malice you have to overcome the presumption that it is the result of error, stupidity, or incompetency. It's a good rule and proves true far more often than not. And then there's what the VDH is doing with it's COVID-19 numbers:
Click on picture to get better view
 Mind you, as someone who's more than a little skeptical about all the things that are being done, the newer numbers tend to favor things as I conceive of them (linear growth, no real impact from "social distancing"). But, I'm frustrated by the fact that the numbers keep changing. I'm not including the numbers in the VDH's gray area where they say numbers are subject to change and I'd even understand number changes in the week behind. However, these changes keep happening further back. Today's change went back at least as far as 28 February 20. That's 41 days ago. Any changes in numbers needs an explanation on the page or somebody might think you're past the presumption above.


Model Review moved to its own post.

08 April 2020

Oops, They Did It Again : Virginia Department of Health Boosts the Numbers More

Okay, so I check the numbers again and again they have boosted numbers again. The first chart shows the three dates I checked and the second the difference between the first date I checked and the the last. Click on it to make it larger and more readable.

Before I get "Ken, you're being a conspiracy theorist", I really can't think of a plausible conspiracy to theorize about here. After all, what are they conspiring toward? The medical threat is already riding roughshod over both our constitutional rights and economic interests. They've already run the board.

I know they throw out the typical, boilerplate, don't hold us to what we say excuses under the chart and I'd understand if there was a correction on a single day. I'd even understand if there was a one time correction for a number of days accompanied by an explanation that someone had been hiding reports or misdiagnosing it as flu. Neither of those seem to apply. At least, I can't find an explanation anywhere.

Anybody know what's going on?

04 April 2020

Virginia Department of Health Boosting Numbers?

About once a day I check the Virginia Department of Health site to see what the numbers look like. I've looked at it enough that I had a general idea of what the graphs look like.  Then I looked today and something was very different.

Chart - 02 April 2020
Chart - 04 April 2020
Everything got boosted numerically. Lots of increases in numbers - in numbers that are supposed to have been solid, reliable, we've nailed these down numbers.

The new chart is closer to the model of what should have happened after lock down:

Analysis of 02 April Chart
Analysis of 04 April Chart
There are still anomalies, but the new numbers seem to more closely follow the model (please note that I changed the downward slope of the red line to one I believe would be more accurate in the 04 April chart).

My main question is where the new numbers replacing the old "reliable" ones came from? The Virginia Department of Health doesn't explain other than a vague statement about investigating a facility "including intensive testing." A quick check of the papers reveals that they seem to be showing outbreaks in senior living facilities in the Richmond area, but the number the papers are reporting don't seem to reflect the jumps in numbers above.

Assuming our Department of Health isn't padding its numbers with imaginary cases (unlikely), this just supports the one of the conclusions in my last post. Numbers of cases isn't a reliable metric because it is subject to the amount of tests and how they are used and maybe reporting errors or obfuscation?

I really do want to know where the numbers came from if anybody knows.

03 April 2020

Coronavirus / COVID-19: Is the Lockdown Effective?

Most people show symptoms of COVID-19 at around 5 days and 97% show before the end of 12. Consequently, you would expect the number of new cases showing symptoms to continue to spike after a lock down for 5 days and then to drop off for the next seven. The numbers wouldn't drop to 0 because there would be new cases that didn't pre-exist the lock down which would start to show up two days after the first day and since we are in the upward phase of even the flattened curve would rise even as the lock down proceeds. As of the second day onward there would be more cases than those merely including the previously infected and the difference between the two numbers would grow, but after the 5th day both the number of previously infected newly exhibiting symptoms and the entire number of those newly exhibiting symptoms should drop.

Let's see how that played out in Virginia. Remember, that the 17th of March was when the governor closed down restaurants, theaters, and gyms. More draconian and questionable actions would come later, but the 18th was the date when things really began because the closure of restaurants was the biggest chunk of the social distancing requirements. Let's see how things played out:

Orange is the line which should have been the number of people infected prior to the lock down on the increase for 5 days. As is obvious from above, the number of newly symptomatic infected was on an upward trajectory prior to the governor's lock down. This should have continued through 5 days as more people were revealed to be infected. Then, the numbers of newly symptomatic that had it prior to the lock down drops as is represented by the yellow line until the end of day 12 when almost all of them had developed symptoms.

The green line starting two days in represents those who were not infected when the lock down started, but became so thereafter, and the red is everyone who is displaying new symptoms whether they became infected before the lock down or after.

It's a crude diagram, and I don't claim it to be 100% accurate (I have extrapolation, not actual numbers). Still, it gives you some food for thought because nothing in there is going the way it's supposed to. Almost immediately upon the lock down there was a significant drop in numbers followed by a spike when the time came for a drop. Huh?

I suspect that this may have more to do with testing availability than it does with the actual spread of the disease. Perhaps some places had a lack of tests for a period of time and then when tests became available there was a surge of people taking the test? It's the best explanation I can come up with. Yes, I understand that statistical dispersion or variability (or whatever the correct term is) is out there. I'm not now nor never will be Bill James, but I get that numbers become more accurate with a larger sample size to find medians and averages and a particular day is generally meaningless. However, that's the sample size we have and it does seem to show general trends and they don't follow the path they should.

On the other hand, by eyeball the average from 17 March thru 25 March appears to be about 100. Could the level of spread have plateaued? It's still not what should have happened, but it's an interesting possibility.

In reading various articles over at SSRN, I've run across the assertion that there is no way to measure COVID-19 except by the number of deaths. The rationale goes something along the lines of you can't trust the number testing positive because that is reliant upon the number of tests available and how they are being utilized - whether to chase down infected or placate some guy who shows up at the hospital with the sniffles. You can't rely on the number of hospitalized because different places will have different standards for hospitalization. If you are in a major metropolitan area with 1,000 people hospitalized with the disease the standard for admittance is going to be higher than it is if you are the only person with the disease in a three-hundred mile radius of your town. This leaves us with only one dependable metric: how many have died?

I think there are probably some flaws in that. On the other hand, as distasteful as it is, when I look at the chart above I think they might have a strong argument.

02 April 2020

Coronavirus / COVID-19: Chicken Little, The Disease Itself, and The Cure?

The Skepticism

One of the problems with overstating things and fear mongering is that no one trusts you when the trust is needed. We're all taught at a young age The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which teaches us that people won't believe someone if they constantly state that a threat is upon us when it isn't, and Chicken Little, which teaches that we should be suspicious when someone tells us the sky is falling because they may just have been hit on the head with an acorn. Herein lies the problem surrounding the coronavirus.

(1)  Every couple years or so, the press and elements of the medical establishment yell that [Disease of the Year] is going to kill us all!  I know that every couple years I've seen frantic meetings followed by directives to do X or Y because [Disease of the Year] was on the way. And nothing happened. Typically, the disease had a significant impact on another continent, but didn't get across either ocean to America before it was controlled or died out.

(2)  And the specifics of this year's [Disease of the Year] have been chicken little'd too. The promised death rate of 2%-4.5% turns out to be .66%. They act as though the rate of spread through the community is incredible like the measles (between 12-18 persons per infected) when it's actually more along the lines of 2 people catching it from any given infected.

(3)  And beyond that there's been been the fact that the politically inclined of either stripe among us have been using this as a political tool rather than treating it as a real situation. Early attempts to deal with this were scoffed at by one side while that side was obsessed with something else. Then things flipped and the second side went after the first side for not acting quickly enough to deal with the issue. The latest thing on FB has been a series of pictures showing someone playing golf as the crisis ramped up which were almost immediately countered showing pictures of another someone playing golf as another such threat loomed (but never quite hit). When those involved and interested in national politics are signaling to us that this is nothing more than another tool to gain an advantage over the other side it does not indicate that a situation is serious.

So, if those of you truly convinced this is the end are wondering why the rest of us have been slow to come around, there it is. We've been for years told this time it's for real!, had the current reality exaggerated over and over again, and watched the political among us on all sides signal that it's not enough of a threat to worry about. The people pushing the threat of this disease have squandered large portions of their credibility and the basis for the skepticism is rational.

However, that doesn't mean the disease isn't really here. It just means you are going to have to prove that what you are doing and asking us to do is rational and will not have far worse consequences down the line. For instance, when portions of your State in the East have outbreaks and the West has almost nothing, does it make sense to shut businesses (thereby destroying many unrecoverable small businesses) in the West? Why? You could be right. Please explain with specificity as to expectations in the West and not platitudes, speculations, and fear. Or, some governors are engaging in clear constitutional violations denying the practice of religion in any practical manner in an entire State. Oh, it's necessary? Really? Please explain with specificity why then you are having press conferences with clearly more than ten people in the room when those could be done by a video on YouTube (or if you want to be trendy Zoom). Freedom of the Press? You mean the right that's the the third right in the constitution while religion is the first? And please explain with specificity why going to mosque, church, or synagogue once a week is so much worse then the large crowds that are gathering at Lowes, Wal-Mart, grocery stores, etc. every day, all day long. You are clearly interjecting government very intrusively into religion. Unless you can explain why it's worse than all the things above, why should we trust or believe you? Even then, it might not be constitutional, but at least it would be rational and not based upon an anti-religious bias.

The History

Look folks, I'm not saying you shouldn't act as though this is serious. However, it would be a lot easier if people were just honest and straight forward about this. Yes, it came out of China. Much like other overseas diseases, it looked like fairly minimal restrictions on travel would stop it from spreading to the USA in any significant way. Then it hit Europe (thank you to those countries stupid enough to be part of One Belt One Road) and that meant it was going to get here. Our federal government did not react quickly to a threat it thought was contained and politicians on all sides at one point or another said or did something stupid which we've all seen posted many, many times on Facebook (it's almost painful to open my feed).

The disease started to come to people's attention. Mostly, it was the media banging out whatever story they thought might scare you enough to keep your attention and get views or clicks. Facebook and other social media started to fill with jokes because of the unfortunately named "coronavirus."

Then, the Italians lost control of the virus for reasons no one can understand because it couldn't have anything to do with One Belt One Road. As this was going on, our medical establishment starts to freak out, our press jumps on the bandwagon, and the disease is just about declared to be the Black Death. People, including me, started to express skepticism and ask why we should think this is going to turn out worse than the flu. Generally, skeptics get shouted down rather than anyone making rational arguments and comparing it to the flu gets one shown scorn.

The governors step in at various stages, depending on the State and its actual situation. This is how it should be in a large multi-state emergency because while the federal government might be able to throw a lot of resources at one or two locations it takes too long to react and when the problem becomes too widespread it cannot act everywhere and may consider your State unimportant enough to prioritize it well below others. The governors prove, in general, to be unprepared and flail about issuing general "shelter in place" orders for their entire States that don't seem particularly well thought out or directed toward the solution of anything and will cause millions of dollars in economic damage (instead of quarantining effected areas). But at least they're doing something. Meanwhile, the federal government is concentrating on a macroeconomic save of the economy through legislation and the various bits of pork that legislators can attach to it.

And here we stand.

The Disease Itself

Coronavirus COVID-19 is perhaps closest related in history and genetics to Coronavirus SARS. However, for our purposes an analysis might also want to compare it also with the Spanish Flu. I know it's not influenza (before anyone yells at me) but in some effects it may be closer to Spanish Flu than SARS.

The disease started in China, much like SARS, as a bat virus that transferred to humans probably through an unknown secondary animal. This is an issue in areas of China where various and sundry wild animals are caught and sold in markets for consumption. Due to the normal Chinese reaction of hide, deny, delay, and downplay the disease got out of control. The figures out of China are not reliable, but it's clear they had a massive outbreak that was well spread before serious reaction took place.

Compared to SARS, COVID-19 is less contagious and less deadly. It's capacity to be spread is more like Spanish flu as is its fatality rate (slightly higher in initial estimates for both). The problem is that quite often - in fact most often - people don't realize they have it. That is the major problem. Originally the claim was that for 80% of the population it is at best a minor nuisance if they notice it at all. Another 15% would be bad enough to need oxygen, and 5% would be so bad they would need a respirator. Predicted death percentages were all the way up to 4.5% and settled down to normally seen numbers of 2% - 3%. At this point, it appears that even that is much higher than reality which is now being stated to be at .66%. This doesn't appear to mean that there aren't many people dying, but that there are at lot more people out there who've had it without much in the way of symptoms. The fact that it spreads widely without serious symptoms means that no matter what people tell you, unless we have the national guard patrolling the streets in MOPP4 and shooting anyone who leaves their house, it's going to spread.

It appears that there is a good chance that COVID-19 will die down or out over the warmer months much like SARS and Spanish flu. There are no guarantees of course, but articles I've read over at SSRN seem to indicate it has a harder time spreading when the temperature hits a certain level and the humidity is higher. Trying to pin any numbers down is impossible because they're all writing in medicojibberish and statistiobfuscation (as well as being broad and throwing out tons of sheet anchors), but it seems that somewhere below the North 30th parallel, or in certain "thermal bands" roughly correspondent, the virus did not spread as well during the various outbreaks. This is consistent with flu which has been shown to have a problem persisting the higher the temperature is and in higher humidity period. More importantly, it is consistent with Coronavirus SARS which died out by June of 2003: "high temperature at high relative humidity has a synergistic effect on inactivation of SARS CoV viability while lower temperatures and low humidity support prolonged survival of virus on contaminated surfaces." Page 3 of this paper.

Let's be clear here, we're talking about the viability of the virus outside the human body. A combination of higher warmth and humidity make the period in which a virus is viable outside the body of an infected shorter. If you run up and start snogging your infected girlfriend in 95 degrees F it doesn't matter if the virus would only survive for thirty minutes outside her body because it'll transfer to you in 30 seconds or less. Anyway, the place where Coronavirus SARS was described as surviving longer term in the Summer months? Air conditioned buildings - specifically hospitals.
In countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong where there is a intensive use of air-conditioning, transmission largely occurred in well-air-conditioned environments such as hospitals or hotels
. . . 
It may also explain why Singapore, which is also in tropical area, had most of its SARS outbreaks in hospitals (air-conditioned environment). Interestingly, during the outbreak of SARS in Guangzhou, clinicians kept the windows of patient rooms open and well ventilated and these may well have reduced virus survival and this reduced nosocomial transmission.  Id. [side note: nosocomial means "in hospital"]
Hospitals that aren't taking heat and humidity cautions (adding them) are asking for the spread of these viruses and potentially Coronavirus COVID-19 as well. The rest of us should spend as much time as we can without air conditioning and with our windows open and I specifically mean in 75+ degree F heat. It might not work, but it's probably got a better chance than all this social distancing does.

The Cure?

Best bet? Warmth and humidity. I'd bet this is what a lot of our governors are banking on too. Of course they'll never say it out loud because they'd immediately get jumped all over by the doomsayers and fearmongers. Plus, if warmer weather doesn't prove to be an absolute 100% cure they'd get blamed for that too. 

Still, it's the most logical reason consistent with the actions they've taken. The "flatten the curve" strategy is meant to buy time. There is nothing about it that promises lives will be saved; we could just be delaying the deaths of the same number of people and spreading them over several months. The very first thing we would be buying time for is a break in the disease because of the onset of warmer months. 

If that fails then we're holding on for the medical industry to tool up and absolute medical capability to become more elastic so it can grow to service the need. There's a lot of noise in that direction, but the purpose there isn't so much to save lives. It's to make things easier on the medical industry and medical professionals. As a side effect, some lives should be saved when medical capacity improves, although that may just be wishful thinking on my part because those that die tend to have secondary medical issues and I've not seen anything outside of aspirationally vague statements indicating the level of mortality will be any different. In fact, the major argument I keep seeing thrown out for "flatten the curve" is that if we have as many respirators as the medical industry desires the doctors won't have to triage and deny terminal patients respirators in order to supply them to those with a chance to live.

If you've been paying attention, you've probably noticed the slow push to increase the time of the lock downs. This appears to have come from some report's guess that an eighteen month period would be needed before an inoculation can be developed (if things go perfectly). I don't think our governors want to go there at all. The damage they've already done to their States' economies has been massive and if they keep this up much longer it's going to get far worse. Nobody wants to be the governor who caused generational poverty through the destruction of all locally owned businesses and the subsequent loss of jobs. That's not to mention, how does the government continue to function when the tax base crashes? They don't want it and I'm certain that in their heart of hearts each governor is counting on that warm weather die off.