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What we Mean when we say CoVid-2019 is Like the Flu — 23 Comments

  1. Hey, stop being rational… The internet is no place for that nonsense. lol

    Let’s talk about how this is a good thing.
    First, many companies are evaluating their “work from home” policies, creating those opportunities where they don’t already exist, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s a plague or just flu season, if people stop coming to work out of fear, that impacts the bottom line. This panic has made that very clear and companies are now seriously looking at how to make accommodations.

    This is good. It pays dividends long after the panic subsides. Imagine a year from now, this has blown over. But Bob in the office gets the flu. He could take a few sick days from his PTO and leave the office in a bind for a week, wasting his time-off and the company is falling behind due to his absence. He could come in anyway and infect half the office, so he saves his time off, but causes more damage. Or he works from home when sick, where he’s more comfortable, doesn’t infect anyone, gets paid normally, the office doesn’t fall behind in work or have to offer overtime to others to pick up the slack, and Bob gets to use his time off for when he feels good and can enjoy a relaxing vacation instead of saving half his PTO every year on the off chance he might get sick and need it.

    Another mitigating measure companies are taking… the four day work week. People work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days. This reduces everyone’s exposure to everyone else by ~20%. You and hypothetical co-worker Mike work different days, and there is one fewer day per week your shifts overlap where you would be exposed to each other, reducing the odds of transmission of a disease between you significantly. In companies with a lot of employees, this has an appreciable effect. Additionally, if someone does get sick, there is now a 3/7 chance instead of a 2/7 chance that it occurs on their day off, resulting in fewer call-ins for illness and a secondary reduction in transmissability averages.

    There are plug-ins for scheduling software for larger companies that track viral spread and adjust dynamically to mitigate it. If you call in sick (without knowing the reason, it  works statistically), employee schedules can be rearranged to isolate those who have been exposed to you. Say you work at a fast food chain. If you call in sick, your next shift is scheduled for periods when there is less customer traffic, and the people you’ve worked with prior to calling in sick are in a higher risk pool for becoming ill themselves, and while they show no symptoms, you have someone scheduled on-call to cover a shift in anticipation of one of them calling out in a few days so you don’t end up short-handed. It’s an ethically gray area, legally as well, but it does reduce impact on business and the public at large. You could say it serves the greater good, but as you know innocent people can circumstantially end up on the wrong side of the greater good and get fucked. And this is all machine-learning driven so good luck getting anyone to explain the justifications used by the algorithm. But with a large enough pool of data, the best overall action can be derived from complex patterns. For better or worse, companies are much more aware of this today than they were three months ago.

    Telemedicine is finally starting to take off in the US. This is good, it lowers healthcare costs and is much more convenient. It also reduces exposure to disease. If you’re not sick, the best way to get sick is sitting in a clinic waiting room for an hour surrounded by sick people while waiting for a doctor to talk to you about your non-contagious skin issue or toenail fungus or imagined restless leg syndrome, lol. A lot of doctors visits (especially consultations) can be done in a video conference. Obviously you still need to go in for blood work, Imaging etc, but a significant amount of visits can be reduced which is good for everyone.

    These things – Telemedicine, telecommuting, dynamic scheduling and the four-day work week are in most cases much more efficient. Most industry has been trending to them slowly over the last 15 years, but they are a radical change for businesses and people in general. It’s dismissed as crazy because it’s different than what people are used to. But situations like this send people scrambling for any solutions they can find. Now they’re receptive to alternatives and willing to reconsider their preconceived notions.

    It’s like telling a neighbor you’re a prepper. In their mind, you’re a crazy guy with a horde of guns and MREs waiting for the illuminati’s black helicopters, lol. Their minds are set on the preconception, however wrong it is. But when the power goes out for a week and they look in your window to see all the lights on… Now you’re not crazy, you’re smart. We’re seeing the same shift in perspective on a societal level, especially in business. First, we need to get past the panic stage, then consider what options we have to mitigate this or potential future outbreaks. Then of those solutions available to us, can any of them be integrated into what we do so they also pay dividends in other areas and improve productivity and efficiency, increase revenue or reduce expenses? Wherever the answer is “Yes” advancement is made.

    This is exactly what you teach. Holistic strategies, turning problems into solutions, etc. And it’s happening on a large scale, all on it’s own. That’s awesome. The panic response does get all the attention, but there are more pragmatic responses (perhaps born of panic) that are still very useful.

    I think these topics would make for an awesome non-CoVid-19 show, lol. Just how business and society are changing, and how people are preparing for those changes. A guest-show to explain telemedicine for example could be huge, especially with so many rural listeners. Telecommuting for work… that touches on economics and personal freedom, as well as general preparedness. Many of us remember the early days when you recorded on your commute to work. Now you work at home, you can attest to the change that makes on lifestyle. The four-day work week and dynamic scheduling play into topics like workplace automation, which has been a major concern of this audience. For example, my company is moving to only remote work (why have the overhead of an office if it just hosts people who work on computers?). That also means we’re not tied to geography, we can hire anyone from anywhere in the world. So employees are competing globally in the job market. But at the same time, you can be hired by millions of companies offering good wages, not just the businesses in your local area. That’s a huge fundamental change to job markets happening on a large scale right now. Most people will be touched by this change in the near future if they haven’t been already. In some cases it will be good, for others it will be bad, but it is happening now and will continue to do so.

    Just throwing that out there. Seems like the audience is dead-set on CoVid-19, regardless of what you say. These are some topics that can fit into that category to assuage everyone’s seeming thirst for anxiety, but also bring up some new discussions with perspectives and implications beyond a pandemic that are still in keeping with the intent of the show, and perhaps offers a way to inject a bit of optimism, or just have an interesting discussion about emerging trends in society and technology.

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    • Great comment I fully expect over time you will be attacked for it as it makes too damn much sense for the world in 2020

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  2. Thanks for the information.  I have been hearing conflicting information about whether it is temperature sensitive – one report was that it cannot survive above 85 degrees F, others have said that is not true.  Have you uncovered any information on this point?

    • Can’t survive at all is likely nonsense. Corona Viruses and respiratory viruses in general survive for far less time outside a host the hotter and more humid it gets. There is nothing unique about CoVid-19 in this respect it is true of all corona viruses and influenza. This is why the flu pretty much goes away by late spring every year, it is why there is not much of it in the tropics and there it really is limited to at least the dry season.

      There is no need to “uncover” this information it is common medical and scientific knowledge. Just look at how flu responds every year with very little attempt at containment https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm

      There is way to much misinformation going one and way too much insinuation that the truth is being hidden, etc. Even the media that is hyping it, as I said in between the hype is telling the truth about it.

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  3. Your analysis is pretty dang good, but I take issue with some of your comments from a recent episode (can’t remember which ep so commenting on your most recent COVID post) where you said people calling it SARS 2 are assclowns trying to scare people. That may be true for much of the media hype, but the “official” name of the virus is “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).”

    COVID-19 is the disease caused by the virus, standing for “coronavirus disease 2019” since that’s the year it popped up.

    https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/naming-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-2019)-and-the-virus-that-causes-it

    So calling it SARS 2 isn’t totally hype, it’s a semi-standard method of naming so we can all be on the same page about what we’re talking about. It doesn’t really work because so many people are unaware of that fact, many in the media and conspiracy circles willfully ignorant.

  4. The people I was referring to in calling it SARS-2 are the people that officially named it that.

    Not those repeating it.

  5. Great article, and I agree with almost all of your points. The only thing that doesn’t sound right to me has to do with Fact 6 (“infectiousness not being that high”) and how it relates to Fact 3 (“death & hospitalization rate”). While they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, given what we’re seeing so far it seems that accepting #3 would appear to weaken the argument for #6. Can you clarify how you see those two are compatible and not in conflict?

    At first glance I’d say the evidence looks stronger for #3 and less so for #6, so I’ll try to make the case for higher infectiousness. First, I think comparing COVID-19’s case spread to seasonal flu’s daily case count is an apples-to-oranges comparison given we’re dealing with exponential functions and both starting at different times (seasonal flu had a big head start without any attempted quarantine measures early on), so we won’t get a good picture for comparison until much later.

    Second, I don’t think we’ve previously seen any quarantine with the seasonal flu on the scale & scope of what China’s done for COVID-19, so the only data we have for how such quarantine measures work for the seasonal flu is what we have coming in now. Third, the analysts at the WHO have given initial estimates of 1.4-2.5 for R0, compared to average 1.3 for seasonal flu (other research estimates for COVID-19 R0 tend to be much higher so for the sake of argument I’m trying to stick with the most conservative expert estimates).

    And if your case for #3 holds, given their estimates for R0 are based on known cases wouldn’t the actual R0 be significantly higher than those estimates, and thus that much higher than the seasonal flu? Admittedly, what makes this whole subject difficult to pin down is the fact R0 is not a static number and changes with the social environment and people’s personal habits, so to say infectiousness comparisons are “fuzzy” would be a massive understatement.

    All that said, though, even IF I’m right I don’t think this takes away at all from your central point that there IS hype & exaggeration and that the degree of panic we’re seeing is absurd. Even with the market panic, I think COVID-19 is more a catalyst than a large driver of it, and that along with the recent oil price war there’s some fragility or issue in the credit markets or shadow banking sector that’s causing most of the damage. All there is to do for those trying to stay rational is to adapt to the circumstances & effects of the panicking herd… or put another way, “ride the wave of stupid” the best we can and see if we can’t pick up on opportunities on the way. 🙂

    • If I were to pick my own weakest contention in this article I would agree that point six would be where I would go, and I would say so much so that I should modify that one to make it clear it is more of a guess on my part that the rest.

      I don’t think that 3 makes 6 not possible though. You can totally have more undiagnosed cases and still be a lower contagion rate or about the same as the flu. The reason I feel the claim it is twice as contagious as the flu is over stated is that I honestly feel we would have a lot more cases (of the known variety) if so.

      Another way to put it, if it really is 2x as contagious as the flu the asymptomatic rate may be way way bigger than we think. Driving the death rate way way down.

      Though I may be wrong on this one, I concede that.

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  6. Thanks for all the info  you’ve been providing Jack.  Quick question.  I can’t seem to find how to “drill down” into the data on the website.  Am I missing something obvious?

    • Look at the bottom left you should see some options to drill down to current cases.

  7. Thank you. It was getting pretty lonely out here. Glad to find a confirmatory source for my husband and my own thoughts about the virus.   I found you on a search for flu. bell shape curve. coronavirus. farr.