Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Hash

Leftover odds and ends.

If you haven't read Borepatch's piece today, Corona Virus and the Illusion of Science, I want to point out a couple of things.  First off, go read.  Borepatch excerpts and gets the important points from a piece by The Reference Frame piece.  But I think the original source that

Then he goes through the exercise called “bounding the problem” in order to try to put realistic limits to numbers on the axes.  All in all, his arguments seem rather reasonable.
What is the capacity of the healthcare system?

This is a difficult question and cannot be answered in a short post like this. The US has about 924,100 hospital beds (2.8 per 1000 people). California has only 1.8. Countries like Germany have 8. South Korea has 12. (Their hospital system got overloaded nonetheless.) Most of these beds are in use, but we can create more, using improvisation (for instance using hotels and school gyms) and strategic resources of the military, national guard and other organizations.
More important is the number of ICU beds, which by some estimates can be stretched to about a 100,000, and of which about 30,000 may be available. About 5% of all COVID-19 cases need intensive care, and without it, all of them will die. We can also increase the number of ICU beds somewhat, but the equipment that we need to deal with sepsis, kidney, liver and heart failure, severe pneumonia etc. cannot be stretched arbitrarily between them.
I won't go into everything he has, but he assigns numbers to a whole host of variables to try to turn this conceptual graph into one with real numbers.  It looks very, very different.

The peak of the flattened curve, where we just barely touch the capacity of our healthcare system is about 2500 to 2600 days out.  That's around seven years.  Worse, the time to almost no cases stretches out nearly 4500 days; over 12 years.  Can you imagine living in the current state of the last self-isolating, toilet paper-hoarding week for 12 years?  Seven years? 

Bach also says, and this is very important so don't miss this:
My back-of-the-envelope calculation is not a proper simulation, or a good model of what’s going on either. Don’t cite it as such!
Go read!

While on the subject of the COVID-19 emergency, you should also look at Willis Eschenbach's piece on Watts Up With That, “The Math of Epidemics.”  Willis' main point is that when we talk about exponential growth of the pandemic, that can't happen - or it least it can't happen for very long.  The supply of new people to get infected can't support that growth for much time.  The real growth curve is the one I showed 10 years ago and re-posted a few weeks ago, the Logistic Function.  Willis uses a name I'll confess to having never heard, the  “Gompertz Curve.”  Then he goes on to plot some data from various measurements against the Gompertz Curve.  This one is the total deaths from the Wuhan Virus in China.

As a By The Way, there was to be SpaceX Starlink launch again this morning of another 60 satellites.  The launch aborted at T=0 in the count, which means the controlling computers saw something they didn't like and shut the engines down.  The vehicle was safe - nothing blew up on the pad or anything dramatic like that, it just shut down.  As of now, there's no announcement of what went wrong and when they plan to retry.  Since it's Sunday, I expect all the usual sources are self-isolated. 

Double BTW, remember the SpaceX Starship SN01 tank blowing up on February 29th?  They had started on building SN02 before that happened, and tested it last Monday night, March 9th.  The test was a success, with no repeat of the problems from SN01. 


  1. Blew it up on the last day of Feb and had a new (improved) one tested on the 9th of March. This is not your dad's NASA!

  2. We don't need to be 'socially distancing' ourselves for such a long time. That's ridiculous. We just need to do it until vaccines are in mass production. Clinical trials of the first one start today.

  3. Why should we trust vaccines?

    1. You don't have to. You can depend upon drinking cow's piss and bathing in cow manure for all I care. I'll get it because I have two of the risk factors.

    2. Expletive deleted to you. I'm asking a legitimate question about telling everyone that something that usually takes YEARS to test is "perfectly safe and effective" after a week.

    3. Where do you get the idea a vaccine will be ready to deploy in a week? The best I heard is by next fall.

      The reason it's ready to test now is that it's a small change to a virus being developed for SARS and put on the shelf when that disappeared. If it's what I read about a few weeks ago.

    4. Sorry - brain fart. it's a small change to a virus being developed for SARS should be "a small change to a vaccine being developed for SARS."

    5. No, BlueCat57, you didn't a legitimate question about this particular vaccine going into trials today, you asked a very general question about all vaccines. The only people who have ever asked me, "Why should we trust vaccines?" have been idiot anti-vaxxers. I'm sorry if that's not what you meant, but that's what you wrote.

    6. No, Larry, you are a thoughtless neanderthal. If you had taken about one second to THINK before you ASSUmed what YOU thought my question was about you would have understood that:
      1. It was a SHORT, quick question related to THIS vaccine.
      2. That there are very few actual facts being reported about anything coronavirus so questioning the ability of readying a vaccine in a short period of time should be questioned.
      3. That in general the flu vaccines we are told to get each year are usually for the WRONG strain of flu and therefore ineffective.
      4. That if the news is correct, the coronavirus is mutating, so how are they going to get it right?
      5. That the motive of getting out a vaccine to fight the virus is PURELY financial. Don't think so? Are YOU working for free?

  4. I never trust new technology where the hardware is serial number 01, just sayin'

  5. @SiG, we can't delay long enough to save them all. We can delay long enough to save a few more, long enough to work on vaccines and treatments, long enough to get a few more ventilators into service.

    All we can do is buy some additional time before we saturate acute care.

    Don't forget all the people sick as a dog AT HOME. They won't be going to bars anyway, nor to school or work. Keeping a few more of them healthy for a while longer might make the difference for this community or that. Certainly keeping a few more LEOs, Drs, butchers bakers and candlestick makers functional for an extra week or two will help.

    It's not all just about the 5%. (and when did it change from Cuomo's 20% hospitalized with a small portion being acute to 5%?) Those with mild to bad symptoms are going to benefit from a slowdown in infection rates.

    It's still going to hit like a train. For the tens or hundreds of thousands of acute patients, saturation means death. For their families, grief and trauma will take a tremendous toll. And in those families, there will be moderate to severe cases eating every minute of their time for weeks. Even without closures, productivity would plummet as people were either home sick or home as caregivers.

    We'll know for certain if this is a horrible mistake that locks us into tyranny for decades, or if it was doomed from the start.

    China still exists. I don't think it's "the same" as it was. Certainly people won't be as eager to depend on them after this, which should have lasting detrimental effects for the Chinese. What comes out of the brutality wrt their people and politics, and lowering the average age, we'll find out eventually.