The end of the Covid-19 pandemic is within reach. The vaccines have been a roaring success and former Bell Labs physicist J.C. Phillips predicted it (see here). He argued that the spike protein, which is the business end of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has been optimized to such a degree in SARS-CoV-2 that even a small perturbation from a vaccine can disrupt it. While the new variants perturb the spike slightly and seem to spread faster, they will not significantly evade the vaccine. However, just because the end is within sight doesn’t mean we should not still be vigilante and not mess this up. Europe has basically scored multiple own goals these past few months with their vaccine rollout (or lack thereof) that is a combination of both gross incompetence and excessive conservatism. The Astra-Zeneca vaccine fiasco was a self-inflicted wound by all parties involved. The vaccine is perfectly fine and any side effects are either not related to the vaccine or of such low probability that it should not be a consideration for halting its use. By artificially slowing vaccine distribution, there is a chance that some new mutation could arise that will evade the vaccine. Europe needs to get its act in gear. The US has steadily ramped up vaccinations and is on course to have all willing adults vaccinated by start of summer. Although there has been a plateauing and even slight rise recently because of relaxation from social distancing in some areas, cases and deaths will drop for good by June everywhere in the US. North America will largely be back to normal by mid-summer. However, it is imperative that we press forward and vaccinate the entire world. We will also all need to get booster shots next fall when we get our flu shots.
One thought on “The final stretch”
1. I pretty much accept the ‘scientific consensus’ view (which I take to be summarized above).
2. I haven’t and can’t go through the data (international and state by state comparisons in USA) of how different rules about masks, social distancing, quarantining, lockdowns (closed schools, restaurants, etc) affect COVID spread.
Florida supposedly had different rules—but i looked at CDC data and they are in the middle of the pack in terms of per capita mortality. (Florida and DC i think are 25th and 24th place; Connecticut, NY and California, are up near the top. In Europe, my impression is Sweden, Germany. UK and others had different rules.)
I guess I wonder if the entire system reaches a common equilibrium. I sort of think of wildfires. If some property owners are very careful about things like down trees, brush, and burning trash, while others aren’t, do they suffer the same fate, or do you endm up with a patchwork of oases of green in the middle of burned zones?
3. As an aside there is a nice youtube tutorial / visual presentation on COVID science by Alison Hill of JHU/Harvard –which shows in pictures (graph theory) what the mathematical theories describe. It gives an intuitive understanding of the equations–which are much less intuitive to me. She also includes the more complex cases in which both human behavior changes, and the virus mutates. Hence its not a standard Erdos -Renyi (if i recall) random (or constrained) graph; its a graph in which the nodes and rules for ‘links’ between nodes are evolving.
4. Since I basically get my information from the radio (dont have or want a TV) , some on WWW, and scientific blogs or sites, you get all kinds of different information about COVID .
I was interested in the ‘dissident views’ by people associated with the Great Barrington Declaration, and Ioannidis of Stanford, and some in Europe–all of whom seemed to have good credentials, though if you looked at the groups they were funded by or had affiliations with you might question their analyses –ie was it science or propoganda?
(The same issue arose for the Nov 2020 election—one mathematician with impeccable credentials wrote a paper which seemed to conclude that Trump won Pennsylvania as well as the election. However he used data supplied to him by some polling firm, and he admitted both he and they were allied with Trump, and he later retracted his paper.)
The ‘dissidents’ did have a point–the ‘lockdowns’ did disrupt lives and schedules. These have health affects. In my area you couldnt even go to the local park –it was patrolled by the police—even though the benches are far apart. Its possible there was an uptick in crime because people with low wage incomes didn’t even have that and got desperate.
5. Usually the statistics are given as ‘uninfected’, ‘ infected but immune and asymptomatic’, ‘recovered’, or ‘dead’.
I sort of of wonder about cases like ‘semi-impaired’. Its like the difference, say, between ‘morbidly obese’ and just ‘sickly obese’.
I track homicides in DC and elsewhere (actually often first things i look at when i turn on the computer are the weather in DC . Potomac watershed and rest of USA ,the homicide count, and my bank balance.)
DC has had over 40 homicides this year, baltimore over 60, and philly over 100.
However if someone gets shot and due to the much better current health care due to alot of experience with gunshot wounds, people just end up in a wheelchair , this is sort of viewed as a success. “Homicide rate decreased’.
I have ‘anecdotal data’ that some people are ‘impaired’ or ‘not fully functioning’ from COVID and related issues—eg if you cant take a walk outside and are slightly obese or .have ‘asymptomatic or undetectable COVID’ then you get may fatter and sicker. Does CDC collect any data on that?
(I think this may explain the George Floyd case. He was intoxicated (fentanyl) but basically nonviolent and not even resisting arrest. If there is a child with HDAD who is ‘belligerent and out of control’ (i’ve known some) do you hold them down in a chokehold or just let them run it off?
(Floyd had been charged a long time before with a gun crime but that is almost standard in some areas—people carry guns and will use them to threaten people –but most of the people who do this are no more threatening than some of the affluent dogwalkers in my area who decide to sick their dogs on me because they view the public park as their private backyard. I have threatened to call the police on them for an unleashed aggressive dog.
“We are having a nice intellectual conversation about our divorce settlements , and you walk by so i tell my dog to bite you on the leg’. That time i just kicked the dog into the creek–but told them next time i’ll call the police. ).
I did one time –reported a person. Her dog would threaten anyone who walked by her house on a public sidewalk–everyone hated walking by that house. I gave a lecture to the dog and she called the police on me—said i was abusing her dog– i didnt even touch it–just telling it to calm down and be nice— —and i called the police on her. She moved shortly thereafter–sold that house, It now has a sign
‘ BLM and hate has no home here’ in the front yard’ —as do many other houses,
(Another question is where do people like Floyd get these guns. I know 2 places in MD a mile away where i think people get them using ‘straw buyers’.)
Regarding COVID, for awhile (maybe first half of 2020) there was not much of a ‘consensus’ –it reminds me of the history of quantum theory and relativity —including cosmology.
e.g. is the universe expanding? is the speed of light a finite universal constant? are there ‘hidden variables’ which make quantum theory derivable from classical or newtonian mechanics?
(I read the AAAS forum, and someone who described himself as retired from IT/CS fields recently posted a 16 page power point presentation in which he claimed found a flaw in special relativity–using form which derives SR from 2 postulates –relativity of inertial frames–or physical laws are invariant with respect to the observer– and finiteness and constancy of the speed of light.
He took issue with the first postulate–and was asking where he could find a physicist to prove or agree that his theory was correct..
I looked at his slides and responded that from my minimal knowledge of SR that he had confused Galilean relativity with Einstein/Minkowski/Lorenz/Poincare relativity. I also suggetsed he post his slides on a quora fiorum or physics stack exchange because there are real physicists there who someitmes answer questions.
AAAS moderaters said my comment violated their comment policy and I’d be banned if i made repeat offenses. (I took this as ‘you can’t criticize any theories by people who are paying members’.)
There is another current AAAS poster who says all of global warming is due to high altitude jet plane travel. So he suggests we reengineer planes so they never fly above 20,000 feet and this will solve CC, ACC, GW, AGW .—or whatever current acronym is used.
I view COVID as a bio-psycho-socio-economic political problem or phenomena (or tragi-covid-omedy or remedy) .
A recent paper in Theory Culture and Society (reminds me of E O Wilson’s and C J Lumsdens ‘genes mind and culture’ ) ‘towards eco neuro sociality–metnal health in adversity’ by people at Kings college UK has a similar view–tho0ugh its noithing new.)