Thoughts about the coronavirus | Random thoughts | Who I am | Yaniv Hamo

Thoughts about the coronavirus

Some of my thoughts about what is happening now in the world around the coronavirus (covid19), through my correspondence with friends. I include here only the letters which I have written, without the replies:

March 16 (conversation with R)

What is happening is a rare and interesting outbreak of mass-panic, with a few precedents in history. I believe that after the world calms down, there could be consequences for the media, since in their desperate battle for existence in the world of youtube and social media, they crossed the line. If there will be no consequences this time, there will be next time; they are evidently becoming increasingly desperate.

What is astonishing to witness, is the efficiency by which the vocal minority is using the social networks and other tools (such as mailing lists in the work place) in order to break governments and companies, making them act irresponsibly. I have analyzed it a little, there seem to be an element of Game Theory at play here. It seems that from theoretical standpoint, this vocal minority is following an optimal strategy. Humanity lacks the tools to win against this strategy, currently.

Let me explain. Panicking, I argue, is an optimal strategy for the individual (and a losing strategy for the society as a whole). Given an event with a non-zero probability (no matter how small) to be fatal (for instance, climate change, coronavirus), what is the reward, for a single individual, to spread panic. For example, someone who is putting pressure on a company or authorities to act as if the world is about to end. There are 4 scenarios:

  • Society panicked, and the event is fatal: the person says “I was right”.
  • Society panicked, and the event is non-fatal: the person says “Only thanks to me, thanks to the panic acts we took, the event turned to be non-fatal”.
  • Society didn’t panic, and the event is fatal: “I told you so!”
  • Society didn’t panic, and the event is non-fatal: “Better safe than sorry, great that nothing serious has happened, and good that we prepared for the worst”.

As you can see, the individual always gains something there. It means that the opposite strategy, a person who says “let’s not panic, let’s react in a calculated manner”, is a losing strategy. Theoretically, therefor, calling for panic is a winning behavior, for the individual.

For the society as a whole, the situation differs, of course. When there are two rival societies, one panics, and the other does not, then what would normally happen is that the panicking nation would weaken itself to the point, that it would be conquered by the calm and calculated nation, everyone is killed and all assets taken. That is, at a state of true competition and existential threat, panic is a losing strategy. Since our world has become a calm, peaceful, and non-aggressive place (Western civilization), and there is no real existential threat, then mass-hysteria comes without consequences.


March 18 (conversation with R)

That, exactly, is the problem.

Smart people stopped, at some point, to think independently, and started “out sourcing” their thought process to other people and to the media, all with their own motivations.

Note, that you did not send me you private opinion, backed up by numbers you collected, but instead articles containing numbers, but numbers which were carefully chosen to support a narrative.

Here is an example of dry numbers, from health institutes, for instance the Italian.

It contains no opinion, no “call to action”, only numbers.

Another example for dry numbers, it the CDC report from 2018, which reports that during 2018, in the US alone, 49,000,000 people got sick with influenza, 900,000 were hospitalized, and 81,000 died.

In my opinion, if we were all looking at dry numbers, and were making our own decisions, then first of all, it would have been a lot more interesting to converse :) And our reaction could have been more calculated.

Do you have time for a short independent research? If so, I’d be happy to hear!

Every year 600,000 people die from flu, which is a mixture of several strains. Every once in a while, coronaviruses join the party, like the one we have now, SARS, et al. They are different, and there are no vaccines against them, but we live with them. Now a new one arrived.

It is not similar at all to the Spanish Flu, at all. During the time of the Spanish Flu, 100 years ago, was the last time the world entered a mass quarantine like we see today. But the diseases are fundamentally different. The Spanish Flu took young people, strong, and healthy, and killed them within 2-3 days from the moment of infection. This virus was revived some years ago from a frozen body of an old woman in Alaska. They gave it to monkeys, and within a couple of days the entire cage was dead. That was a disease which primarily hit the young and the strong.

I can understand a swift and aggressive response in case of such a disease.

Covid-19 is different. 80% from those infected show mild symptoms and that is it. The average age of deaths in Italy is 81, when life expectancy is 82, and this difference is only because most of the infected are men, whose life expectancy is shorter.

If you or any member of your family get infected, your chances of dying without treatment is 0.00%.

I am not saying that this is a reason to become complacent. Not at all. We need a measured and calculated response.

But completely stopping the world is an over-reaction which is not justified. And it will come with a heavy price, very heavy.

No matter what, by the end of next year everyone, you and me, will get infected by this virus. We will drink a cup of hot tea, and it will pass. Sick people, and old people, will have more serious symptoms. Some will die. Did they really die from the virus? Really? Do men of an average age of 81 dies from the virus, or is it maybe natural death, or death that would have any happened within a few months? In Italy they count people who got infected from the virus while they were alive, or the virus was found in them after death, towards the total death toll of the virus. Is this a valid way to count?

True, it is sad to lose a few months with grandpa, and we would have liked, as humanity, to prevent this. But we have got to look also on the other side of the equation. Hospitals have always, all the years, employed prioritization for the young over the old. It is a painful fact but a fact nonetheless. And they are correct to do so. Where is the prioritization now? What is the price?

The price for this crazed power trip of the authoritarian left in the world (notice how the first article you sent uses language of direct orders) might be the rise of dark forces in resistance. Italy will soon go bankrupted. What do you think it will do? It will go the EU and ask for money. In the EU, only Germany has money. And now you are going to come to the Germans, who are already suffering the burden of millions of refugees from Syria who increase the level of crime and rape, and you are going to tell them that first of all, we’re gonna have to pay Italy now, and then, we’re gonna raise taxes and sales tax, because we must pay to businesses which are force to shutdown during the panic. Will you blame them, if some crazy dude from the right will rise and say “fuck it, we don’t agree!”? That is exactly and step by step how one Hitler has already risen. I would not blame them, or any other country, if more of his kind will rise.

Even without this catastrophic price, which is theoretical, there is a heavy price that is already paid by businesses who go bankrupted, people who lose their jobs, families broken without a provider, high taxes. Is that a measured response, given the severity of this virus?

March 18 (conversation with R)

Here are some more up-to-date dry numbers, from the health ministry in Italy (note that you are not going to see these numbers in any media outlet). Median age of death is 80.5, most death are men.

Each dead person had on average 2.7 several pre-existing medical conditions, almost all dead suffered from severe health problems including cancer. Only 3 of the dead did not have any prior medical problem on record.

The only two death under the age of 40 were 39 years old. One woman had cancer and died while receiving treatment against cancer in the hospital (but since she also got infected with covid-19, she entered the statistics), and one man died in his apartment, he was obese and had diabetes and other health problems.

Just a simple question – if all you see is these dry numbers, and you forget for one moment from the panic you got exposed to in the media, and with the understanding that the Italian health system is at the top-10 in the world and we can count on their data – do you approve of the response you see taken in the world? Is it a measured response, where the damage it causes is lower than the danger we face from this virus?

March 18 (conversation with R)

I very much appreciate receiving such a thoughtful reply!

I believe we can agree that the situation in Italy is the most severe in the Western world, and that their health system is good and reliable. That is why I am looking at the data they publish.

About pre-existing health conditions, the document specifies:

Ischemic heart disease Atrial fibrillation Stroke Arterial hypertension Diabetes mellitus Dementia COPD Active cancer in the past 5 years Chronic liver disease Chronic renal failure

50% of the deads, had THREE from these ten conditions. On average, each dead had 2.7 problems from this list.

These are not healthy people. We are talking here about severe health issues which are usually fatal, with or without a corona of any sort.

This is already biasing the data about death rate. Because when you say 2% mortality rate (we will revisit this number soon), you are looking at past deaths, but people of very bad health died. Therefor if were to theoretically infect the entire population, less than 2% would have died, because people do not have on average 2.7 pathologies.

Another problem with calculating the mortality rate, is that we lack good insight into the denominator. 80% of the infected show mild symptoms only (a head ache, for example) and that is end of it. We are not counting them, they don’t even go to see a doctor.

We should also keep in mind, that the estimated for SARS and MERS were off by a factor of 12.

The most aggressive estimate I am seen done by experts, is a mortality rate of 0.6%. I believe this, too, is exaggerated. But let’s take 0.6%, compared to 0.1%-0.2% of the normal flu.

I am not saying that 0.6% is not serious, but in an absolute number of people, it is not much. Even now, it would take time until this coronavirus will kill 600,000 people, which is the “good morning” of the normal flu for years.

How many died so far from this covid19? 5,000? Increase it by 100, you still do not reach the flu. And it will increase, most probably, by a factor of 100, and also by a factor of 200, and 400. The point is that you do not shut down the world over such numbers. We have never done something like that as humanity.

About the Left, I accept your position that this is a conspiracy theory of a sort. I receive links from time to time (I am not exposed directly to the press and social media) and I see the authoritarian left partying. People tell you, to companies, to the government, what they should do. How to wash hands. How to breathe. For people with a tendency towards authoritarianism, this is pleasure. And I do observe strong anti-capitalistic forces in the world. Look at dear Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) which her “Green New Deal”, which is in essence the complete annihilation of the Western economy. She was using a very similar argument to what is commonly used now with the covid: that if we will not do anything, then within 10 years more people would die than in WWII. Look at her on twitter. Notice how she speaks: “the world will end in 12 years if we don't address climate change, and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?"

Now replace "climate change" with “covid19", to receive the answer that AOC would have given me had I sent her the letter I sent you: "we are all going to die in a year, and you are talking with me about costs?! "

It is a mistake to think, that AOC cares how exactly will the Western economy be ruined – by her Green New Deal or by covid19. This sort of force in the world, is the force I am talking about. It is not as simplistic as Left and Right, and it is definitely not a function of who are the leaders today; not at all. These are strong currents of socialism, underground currents, which are in action.

When you say that the decision taken are in “a good place in the middle” – what is the scale here? That is, what response could be harsher than what has already taken place? No work, no movement of people, no tourism, no food in the supermarkets, all stores are closed except for pharmacies and half-empty supermarkets, they started with curfew in some areas, so people cannot walk in the streets (see New Jersey), police officers here in Zurich separate groups of more than 5 people. If this is the middle, what is at the extreme? Maybe our opinions differ only about this, at the end of the day.

March 19 (conversation with R)

Let’s begin with what we agree on, so we can put them aside.

We agree that we do not have all the data. We also agree that it is reasonable to put sick people in quarantine, and people returning from abroad. If you ask me, it is also alright to put in quarantine old people who are in risk groups. Agree that curfew will be heavily damaging and cannot last for long. Agree that there will always be extremists who would try to push everything that happens to the extreme, and advance their interests.

We need to put some order into the data. Here it is important to me, that we are careful not to take any data from an unofficial source. And I agree that there is a risk that government will play with the data, but I estimate it as being lower than private organization and NGOs. Worldmeters and livescience are not official sources. The CDC in the US, and the ISS in Italy, are the health ministries in the respective country, and these countries are reliable. So let us use only data coming from these sources. This comes with an additional bonus, that they tend to publish dry numbers without dressing them in opinions (though the CDC is a bit of a propaganda horn), and do not hide data that does not fit a narrative they try to instill in us.

So about the number I brought, here is the CDC.

They are continuously updating the numbers there, as you can see in the notice there. Up-to-date numbers are: 44.8M sick, 20.7M visited a doctor, 808K hospitalized, 61K dead. That was an especially harsh year. Usually around 40,000 die every year from flu, in the US alone.

In the world, according to the CDC: "from 291,000 to 646,000" and it was updated upwards not once.

Now back to your points.

Let’s assume that from people above the age of 60, 1% die. Due to what we know about the dead, that they are not healthy, this number cannot be generalized to the entire population. It is not the case, that had everyone be infected, 1% would die. Also note that we are attempting to generalize from a few hundreds, so our confidence intervals are huge.

We don’t need to assume here – the entire population of the planet will get infected in covid19 by the end of next year. This is my working assumption. If we go with your number, of 1% die above 60, given that – and this is critical! – no health system has crashed down yet, meaning, in optimal conditions 1% die, then this 1% of population will die by the end of next year no matter what we do. As you know, corona viruses have no vaccine, and never had a vaccine, even though we tried hard for ~20 years. The chance that we will somehow suddenly succeed now exists, but it is small, and even optimistic estimates say it will take one year. But it is a little funny to make such estimates, when we never before manage to develop a vaccine against corona viruses (e.g. SARS). Another point: the overload of hospitals in Italy took place because they insisted not to take patients outside of Lombardia. It is not that they ran out of hospitals in Italy, only in Lombardia.

We both agree that safety measures are needed. I said more than once that we should not underestimate this virus. We are divided on what safety measures to use. Therefor the question “what will happen if we do not take any safety measures” is too extreme. Also “if we just let the corona spread” is a false conditional – the corona will spread to infect every person on earth within a year and a half in any case, whether we do something or not. It is unstoppable, like the common flu. Every person is going to have these 3 days where you sit home with temperature , drink hot tea, and watch Netflix. Just now the name of the thing will be “covid19” instead of “h3n2”. The spread is a fact. The speed of spreading can by slightly controlled, and the question is at what price and what exactly is the benefit.

I am happy that you see that the situation in Israel deteriorate, from governmental point of view. You forgot to mention, that at 1am they ordered the closure of courts. And that the lightened the requirements for employing digital surveillance. It was also hinted, that soon they will enforce curfew using the police. There is no school. No work. It is not allowed to meet with friends. Not allowed to leave the house without a clear reason. All businesses are closed. All of this, because there are 677 sick people, and one in critical condition? And do you how old is the one in critical condition? She is 89 years old. Do you really want to tell me, that all these measures are used towards some goal which has anything to do with the corona? In a country where people yawn at the death of 8,000 people from smoking every year, and 40 die from flu? Look at Zurich; the police is in the streets. If more than 5 people happen to be near each other, a policemen comes to separate them. Policemen stand at the entrance to supermarkets and make sure people stand 2m away from each other. Look at Paris; the army is deployed to the streets. Soldiers. Everything is shut down, not allowed to leave the house. Even under Nazi occupation, there were less restrictions in Paris. Restaurant, for example, were open. Notice how many rights were taken away from citizens. Let’s forget about the virus for one second, and agree that currently, citizens live like in a typical dictatorship. And even worse. All of that, because an 89 years old is critically ill? (and I am willing to bet that she was simply infected by the virus and it has nothing to do with what she has). Are all civil rights od a democracy, that humanity worked so hard to gain, and fiercely kept the delicate balance, because we all know what price we had to pay, in order to achieve it, does all of this get thrown out of the window when 600 people start coughing and no one dies? So look, you can say that people start dying soon, in the thousands. But if the public is not going to see very soon thousands of corpses of young people in the streets, then the public is not going to buy this move. And the people will revolt, like people always revolted against dictatorships throughout history. The public will not allow returning to a state of dictatorship and of austerity, because of 600 coughing people. You can come, as a smart person, and explain to them that it is important, or otherwise tens of thousands young people will die, and they will believe you, and will agree to a temporary dictatorship. But if within a few weeks the quarantine is not lifted, and citizens will see that essentially, no one dies, then from here until a civil war the road is short.

And here we can talk about what measures should be reasonably taken. Put whoever is sick in quarantine. Put the old in quarantine. Put people returning from abroad in quarantine. Immediately order 10,000,000 high-quality ventilation masks (it would cost about the equivalent of what the economy has lost in a day of this crisis). Refresh community centers and make them ready to be used as field hospitals. If we were truly out there to fight the virus, these were the steps we would have taken. But this is not what is happening here. There are other interests in play, and they are common to all governments in the world. It is a priceless opportunity to increase the governments, give them more power, more money, distract from their shortcomings. It is a gold mine to them. But if they push it too far, the counter-action will come. And that would already be a world that neither you or I want to be in.

I do not see parallel with 2001. Back then it was the issue of one country. Now almost the entire world is under de-facto military regime. No comparison. We also did not finish counting the number of corona death of people who were not infected by the virus; this will also come.

March 20 (conversation with R)

I agree that we do not have enough data, and this argument works both ways. It puts us in a state of uncertainty. And in a situation with a high degree of uncertainty, to destroy the world economy to the ground and establish a military regime is not necessarily the right thing to do.

We do have some data, for example about young people who die – close to zero, and for sure lower then the “noise floor” of people who die from road accidents, from smoking (8,000 in Israel), and another every day events.

By the way, a small detour. This entire destruction of economy and democracy in Israel, because of one dead person. Why wouldn’t we protect 8,000 people every year, by a single little law that make cigarettes illegal? Such a miniscule change, leads to saving 8,000 people a year, and who knows how many sick people. Instead, we go full nuclear when one person dies and 800 folks start to cough. Interesting, and should make one wonder about what is really behind the current measures, and if saving lives is indeed the goal.

The number from Italy are the best we’ve got. But they do miss the number of people without pre-existing conditions, who got infected. This number, in my opinion, is very large, and is hidden. As an anecdote, I know a guy who went with a large group of friends to do ski in Italy. Upon return, half of the people were diagnosed with covid19 (and recovered with the help of hot tea). Since we know just how infectious this virus is, we can be certain that entire group got it. That guy was indeed sick for some days, I assume it was corona. These people are not counted, and they drastically increase the denominator. Which is exactly what you wrote too.

About stopping work. You can say that I “predicted” it. But this is not really predicting, if you clearly see what the real goal here is. It is clear that the virus, as much as it is interesting, is not really dangerous. And not really requires the measures which are being taken. Therefor the fact we still do take these measures, should raise some question marks. Afterall, we are not surrounded with dead people, while according to what we are being told, it is pretty much the case.

Look how they coped with the situation in Singapore. Great handling. They didn’t stop any business not for an hour. Measures and calculated steps, and the disease there is under control.

I would like to point to a dissonance in the things you said, which maybe, if we focus on, will help us understand one another. You say that (1) the deterioration of the institutes governance bothers you, the damage to democracy and civil rights, and (2) the coronavirus is dangerous and will kill 2% of our intellectual elite.

These do not sit together well.

Either you define the virus as dangerous, and they you must support any measure taken to mitigate it by the administration, no matter how crazy, or you define the response of the authorities as exaggerated, which is like saying that the virus is not so bad like we are told.

As long as the public buys that the virus is dangerous, they will also buy the revocation of their rights by the administration.

It seems to me that you are seeing more and more that the response by the authorities is exaggerated. Which also means, that you see that the virus is not as dangerous as we are being told. But as long as people like you and me are not completely certain, governments will continue to revoke more and more rights, to sacrifice the pensions and savings of all of us on the alter of inflation (a goal of every government), and to broadcast to us more and more feeds from funerals around the world of people aged 85+. Suddenly it has become a hot product in demand by the media. If you’d like to hear more predictions from me: policemen and the army will start patrolling the streets in Israel and give fines to people who walk the streets for no reason. Afterall, today dies some 100 years old with severe health issues, the first dead! It is only logical that we’ll take another right or two from the people, and they will understand and accept. “Protect the old!”. The closed down California too, by the way.

In the past, what is taking place right now would be accompanied by scarcity of food and hunger, and that has led to eruptions and revolutions. Today, we have, in Western society, a lot of buffer between us and such condition. As you can see, government are very careful to keep the supermarkets open and an uninterrupted food supply. If this is compromised, they will start to centralize the distribution of food using food stamps, and this will already lead quite quickly to an armed revolution. So they are keeping the supermarkets open. And you realize, that as long as people have something to eat, they are not so eager to revolt. One right more, one right less, as long as there is food, it’s not that bad. Just as a thought exercise, imagine a world where every apartment as a hatch, through which we receive parcels and food, probably by Amazon :) In such a world, we would have seen by now an hermetic quarantine of everyone in their apartments against covid19. The would have ordered you to stay at home for 3 months, period. You get food through the hatch, no problem. They will also demand that you work from home. It seems that people would be open for the possibility of living such life, I can see it happening. And then think, how similar is such life to the movie “Matrix”. Each one in their box, no connection and relationship between people. Get born and die in a box. We enter it from our own free will, without a single shot being fired.

March 21 (conversation with R)

What you heard that is going on in Italy is wrong. That is why I keep on refocusing on dry data: About 240 people younger than 70 were hospitalized so far. Let’s agree, that 240 people is not what crashes the Italian health system, and forces them to prioritize young over the old. It simply didn’t happen. What the numbers tell, is that what is happening is old people passing away due to 2.7 severe health problems which have nothing to do with the corona. If there was no corona, the life expectancy of an 80 years old (the median age at death from corona) who is sick with 2.7 severe illnesses, is a few weeks. And as a side note, prioritization of young over old is routine practice common in the western health system (and that is a good practice).

We are in agreement about the heavy price in human rights. And I accept you answer to the dissonance I was pointing to, that you are somewhere in the middle. But let me a little annoying, and to point to the way in which you solved this dissonance. “To flatten the curve” is the term you were using, and it is the second slogan that the propaganda machine is circulating in order to justify the destruction of democracy and economy:

Observe, that in the beginning they said that we are all going to die, this thing is spreading quickly, we know nothing about it, very dangerous. Our answer to this, as a society, is that we agree for drastic measures, the like of which we have not used in the last 100 years.

Then it started to become clear, that at the end of day, no one dies, no one knows anyone who died, there are no dead. The only deads are old people who are very sick, and the few young people who die, are also very sick (the Italian reports talks about them too). It turns out, there are no corpses of dead people in the streets, and the entire business starts to look a bit iffy.

Then they came with the second propaganda slogan: “to flatten the curve”. “But just a minute” – we were supposed to ask ourselves – “we agreed to give up on all of our rights, on our savings, on our pensions, in order to avoid a state where everyone dies. But in order to flatten some vague curve?”. Is flattening a curve justifies the destruction of western economy to the ground (because currently there is no economy), and going back to a life which resembles living under dark regimes? This already sounds less reasonable.

I think we are entering the third phase: because no health system is really crashing, and flattening the curve can be done simply by ceasing to encourage mass-hysteria and setting up of several field hospitals, they moved on to the third slogan: “protect the old”. Good luck with that. The people, in my opinion, is not going to tolerate this for much longer.

What your acquaintance predicts, that the situation can last a year, might be correct from medical theory point of view, but in reality cannot happen, people will revolt. It will also be the end of Bibi (Binyamin Netanyahu), if he does not come back to his senses and take the country out of panic mode; people will take the control from him by force. And this is especially true for Europe. I can totally see the “gilets jaunes” flooding the streets and shoot soldiers who attempt to give them fines. Again, this is nothing new. Throughout history there was always popular resistance to dictatorship, and if it walks like a dictatorship and quacks like a dictatorship, then it is a dictatorship, no matter the background story that was sold to people here. They are not stupid, we all feel these measures, physically.

I do not agree with your wife who is afraid to infect you and your kids. You will get infected, 100%, and most likely it will be all of you at the same time, because you are a family. That is going to happen, for certain, over the next year, shouldn’t matter now or then. The beauty is, that you will not feel it. No one will require hospitalization if there is no panic. You will then develop immunity, and that is it. A few days of family fun together, with hot cups of tea and a good TV-series. That is what the numbers tell. This is not the Spanish Flu.

You said “time will tell”, and that brings another point – true, time will tell. But we need to able to make balanced decisions in real time, and not to get caught in panic and then say “time will tell”. This brings me back to the first letter I wrote to you about this subject, about game theory: for the individual, to scream panic and demand the government to take hysterical measures, is an optimal strategy, so it seems. In every possible outcome, the individual is awarded. Let me repeat here for one moment the analysis of this strategy of screaming panic, given an event with a positive probability of being fatal:

  1. Government panics, and the event is fatal: “I was right”
  2. Government panics, and the event is non-fatal: “Thanks to me, because I was screaming panic and I demanded steps, only because of that did we avoid a fatal outcome”
  3. Government does not panic, event is fatal: “I told you so!”
  4. Government does not panic, event is non-fatal: “Better safe than sorry. The most important thing is that we are all safe now.”

The opposite strategy, of being calm and measured, is a losing strategy. People and the media indeed follow this result, and cry for panic. There are no calls to the other side, from the reasons we outlined. Therefore, Politicians get to hear only one voice, and they follow it, follow the “will of the people”. Even the most balanced politicians today, Boris Johnson and Trump, cracked under the load eventually. They have no chance against this optimal strategy.

If they succeeded in putting society in a state of panic, we will most likely find ourselves in outcome 2; because the probability of the event being fatal is low. Which enforces this behavior pattern, and creates a dangerous precedence. We are about go get flooded with “thank you everyone, thanks to you obeying orders, staying at home, allowing us to monitor you digitally, trusting us – thanks to this we are all saved, and we have just 100 dead, with an average age of 95. It is true, it is now difficult for all of us because we have no savings, and no pension, and bread costs 20 shekel and cottage cheese costs 20, and we cannot find the keys to the courts, but what is all of this, compared to the life we have all won!” – yeah, right, only thanks to that; no because the probability for a large-scale disaster because of this virus was always Epsilon.

In order for the situation to change, and not repeat, we need that smart people think independently, and will call for sanity. To present dry numbers. And to convince others to join. Politicians could then hang off this group, in order to climb down the tree. However, sadly, smart people understand they can only lose here, personally, and that is why we do not see them.

If we continue this way as a society, we will see another type of people taking matter into their hands. And it will not help us, if this is what “time will tell”. We have a responsibility already now to think independently. The picture is clear enough (especially with Taiwan and Singapore already present a different model of coping with the disease) for us to understand that something else is taking place here, different than what we are being told, and the picture is clear for weeks already.

March 22 (conversation with R)

Yes, the link you said mentioned a few of the points we discussed, good to see people start to wake up. If it will really continue for a while longer, the price people will have to pay won’t be “some price”, it will be huge, my dear friend. And if it were a real disease, like the Spanish Flu, we would have the moral strength, as a society, to rise above that. At the moment everyone understands that they were knowingly lied to, and were put into an artificial state of panic, bitterness will spread in the public, and the recovery will be accompanied by loss of trust and suspicion, which have never brought up the positive sides of human psyche. For some reason this remind me that an army in defense there is a higher chance of winning, then the attacking army, because the defensive army has the high moral ground. In the lack of real threat, what we did here was a senseless attack on our way of life, and not a defense against a virus. And we should have seen this in advance, right away, and not in a hindsight.

March 23 (conversation with R)

Like it also written in the other link you sent, for several long weeks we already know enough to understand that the measures which were taken are too extreme. The data is available to everyone (that is how I personally reached this conclusion).

Notice another small nuance we did not discuss yet – while the common flu kills also children, and many of them, as well as old people, this calm virus kills only sick old people. This is known for a long time already, and would point to having a partial quarantine only, to protect the old.

For example, in Moscow the mayor ordered old people aged 65 and above, who have existing chronic diseases, to stay home (and receive some money). This, roughly speaking, is all that would be indeed with this virus (two other measures would be to put people who return from abroad in quarantine, and to open field hospitals with a huge supply of ventilation masks).

March 27 (chat with K et al)

The audience is not asked to do any hard work of approving the claims as you said, because the links provided are not to claims, they are to hard data by the the official health institutes themselves, not a 3rd party. You have raw data at your disposal. The Italian published updated numbers, here is the raw official data without opinions.

March 27 (chat with K et al)

If I may include a link to a scientific paper that I think gives a good framing it is this one, again full of data (9 years old, numbers have only became worse since then):

And all I ask my esteemed audience, is to read the current data from the Italian source, and the data in the paper I just linked to, and give me your opinion on which of these two diseases justifies the complete shut down of the world.

March 27 (chat with K et al)

Number you asked me before, about Intensive Care Unit (ICU) usage by covid vs. flu. You claimed covid is more severe than flu, in this regard - this is false. Data points: flu here, covid here.

The rate of ICU usage among patients who are hospitalized with flu complications is about the same as of people hospitalized with covid. Stop reading twitter, and start looking for raw data points.

To be more precise: for covid, ICU rate is maximum 20% (hard to calculate precisely because they use different denominators; for flu it is percent from hospitalized, for covid it is rates from those infected, which is an under-estimate), for flu it is 15%-19%.

Worth noting that the ICU rate for flu is consistent across all age groups starting from age 0, and covid is skewed to have a very low rate for people aged < 45, and higher for older people.

March 28 (chat with K et al)

[following a claim that the duration of stay in ICU is longer for covid than the flu] OK, for flu I found it here: "For all patients, the mean number of days on ventilation was 14.8 ± 11.8. The mean length of ICU stays was 12.7±10.2 day"

For covid I find this: "we applied median lengths of stay of 12 days based on the analysis of available unit record data and 8 days for those admissions with ICU care".

Same ballpark, with flu slightly higher.

I hypothesize that it is because the severe cases for both diseases manifest themselves as an acute pneumonia. Treating acute pneumonia probably follows the same protocol, so you get the same length of stay in ICU.

Now that we cleared also this point, please agree with me, that with 40,000,000 infections of flu every year in the US alone, the burden of 100,000 infections of covid (80% of which end as a mild headache) is not going to move the needle much.

March 28 (chat with K et al)

I am following this from data point of view since the moment Russia closed its borders (that's what first got me curious); that's end of January. The aspects that you point to, are not specific to you, this is the sad part - they are collectively being raised in numerous conversations I and people I know are having. The media is pumping, and the output is identical among all people who are not thinking critically. Not only that the output is identical, but also the timing is identical. So when you raise these points that you think are original (most recently ICU rate and length), but really (and we both know it) did not come from you raising your head over a pile of papers and hit by a thought/question, but rather from the equivalent of a tweet, at the same time, my sister is having the exact same conversation in Israel with friends. And look how easy it was to refute it with data. Now, once proven wrong with data, the media is going to move to the next seemingly-logical argument, you are going to bring it up, my other friends will bring it up, my sister's friend will bring it up, etc. Note, that currently, you do not have a continuation argument, after the ICU one was debunked. We need to wait to the media to feed it. It started with "we're all gonna die", proven wrong. Media started pumping "protect the old!". That's debunked (almost no people without pre-existing conditions die, death age in line with life expectancy). Media started pumping "flatten the curve". Proven wrong again. We all wait to the next spoon feeding. Bonus if you can think ahead about what the next line will be, so we can debunk it together with data.

March 28 (chat with K et al)

I am completely disconnected from the media for a month and a half already. For over a year, my main channel into what is happening, was Ben Shapiro's channel on youtube, which you will be right classifying as conservative. However, on day 1 of his coverage of the corona crisis, which was well into my independent research, he made it clear that he buys into the common narrative, and did not, as the majority, examine the data himself. Once I saw this disconnect, I shut down my own access to his channel, and I am media-free since then. I open links I am being sent, many time I am sorry I did that, but that's it. All other reading is papers linked from other academic papers, and official figures by the health institutes (the UK has a beautiful, albeit very long report on flu you might want to read). So at least in this instance, your claim is unsubstantiated.

March 28 (chat with K et al)

To simplify the life of whoever finds it difficult to collect data themselves, I prepared a full list of all the death cases from "corona" in Israel, as context to the new orders which further limit civil rights:

  1. 88 years old men, with "numerous and substantial" pre-existing medical conditions.
  2. 67 years old woman, suffering from a severe pre-existing medical condition.
  3. 87 years old man, with various pre-existing conditions, including dementia, diabetes, and brain injury.
  4. 76 years old man, with "substantial" pre-existing conditions.
  5. 83 years old man, with pre-existing medical conditions.
  6. 91 years old woman
  7. 83 years old man, with pre-existing medical conditions.
  8. 89 years old woman, with pre-existing medical conditions.
  9. 76 years old woman, with "severe" pre-existing conditions.
  10. 93 years old man, with "severe" pre-existing conditions.
  11. 73 years old man, with "numerous" pre-existing conditions.
  12. 80 years old man, with pre-existing medical conditions.
  13. 92 years old man, with "numerous and substantial" pre-existing conditions.

Prize to whoever is able to identify a pattern here.

Bonus to whoever manages to justify, given the pattern he has uncovered, the martial lockdown in Israel and the 900,000 fresh unemployed people. Good luck =)

March 29 (chat with K et al)

There is a de-escalation tactic that I start to see emerging from material I receive.

At this point, the herd is frightened by the media. Extremely smart people (some are on this thread!) are locked into position because they didn't think critically in time, and now a cognitive dissonance is preventing them from parsing data as they would normally do; they are therefor effectively disabled. In this situation, my tactic, of calling bullshit of the whole thing and proving this is known for weeks, is only making the herd and the smart people lock up further, in suspicion and disbelief, as the media (their only channel to the truth) is still pumping the story and does not give them the calm signal.

So it is not working.

The tactic which I see emerging, is telling the herd that it's good we did what we did, but it is no longer needed because of scientific facts A and B (mentioning only in small letters that A and B are known for weeks already). A much smarter approach than what I employ, but I was never the political guy.

March 31 (chat with K et al)

More important data, from Switzerland's central statistics agency:

What we see is a band of modeled number of deaths (weekly) which normally take place. We see that towards the end of March, we see a small breach of the band upwards, representing a higher-than-usual number of deaths.

However to take this into perspective, we need to look at past years. See 2015:

The first breach in 2015 is due to the common flu, the second breach is a result of the heat waves that year. This was more than +20% increase in number of deaths, and it was due only to the common flu. We did not stop the world back then. Another point to watch, is that during 2015 we also breached the band of young people's death count, because the common flu is lethal also to them, unlike covid-19.

Here is another, from 2017:

The full list of charts is here.

This is the final nail in K's coffin, though he is not going to admit it, and instead he is going to claim (predictably) that only thanks to the harsh measures taken, did we end up having such an insignificant number of deaths. Yes, surely. Or maybe the virus is not really dangerous.

April 7 (chat with E)

At its core, the logic employed by the commenter can be summed as:

Uncertainty => Probability greater than 0 for a fatal event => Stop the world

They admit that the data is not fully understood, yet they support stopping the world, because we cannot know what would have happened had we not stop the world.

This is a flawed logic, which assumes, at its basis, that stopping the world comes without any consequences, in particular, no cost in human life – an obviously wrong assumption. Only if the cost is zero, will a probability of greater than zero suffice to perform the action.

Moreover, we frequently encounter situations where the probability for a catastrophic event is non-zero, and yet, we have never stopped the world.

The correct logic is:

Uncertainty => Probability greater than T for a fatal event => Stop the world

When T is a threshold which depends on the cost. In the case of stopping the world, T is high – and maybe, the highest ever to be used.

Here it is worth to stress – the commenter must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the probability is greater than T. It is not enough to estimate that this is the case, because by talking about probability we are already estimating. In other words, the commenter must prove a high enough lower-bound.

For example, let us examine the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where 3,700 people were closed with the virus for a month and a half, without proper medical treatment, and with a lower than usual level of hygiene. If 10% of the people would die – the commenter would have had a crucial data point for proving a high lower-bound. In reality, 0.5% have died. Also in Sweden, Singapore, and Taiwan – the only countries where a quarantine was not enforced – there is no significant mortality rate. Iceland, as the commenter have mentioned, is another negative example.

This is a proof by contradiction, that T is not high enough beyond a reasonable double. Had T indeed be high, we would have seen a lot more death cases in areas where the virus was freely “running loose”.

Another example, that the commenter could have brought in order to prove a lower bound, is an experiment in monkeys. Such an experiment was performed with the Spanish Influenza virus in 2007. See All monkeys died within a week. There is no, and cannot possibly be, such result with the current corona virus.

In Israel, so far, not more than a few people die, without having pre-existing medical conditions which are the true reason for the their death.

The commenter doubts the validity of the various reports, and by doing so he proves that we are lacking the certainty required for taking steps with such severe consequences. If all human rights are conditioned on the existence of doubt among those who make decisions, then there are no human rights. Human rights must be, therefor, completely unconditional.