The Covid Fable

When we treat Covid as a simple morality play, we can end up making bad predictions.

Florida football fans at the Alabama game last month enjoying themselves in the free state of Florida. Credit…Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt – Oct. 8, 2021 – for The New York Times

My cmnt: Even tho’ this was written last October it applies equally well to today. First feel free to check out any number of articles I’ve posted on this site about: 1) Covid-19 has been used as a political ploy to steal the 2020 presidential election; 2) Masks and masking do not stop the spread of airborne viruses; 3) Florida has had better results than New York with its draconian masking, keeping kids out of school, vaccine mandates and shuttering of businesses; 4) Lib/Leftist/democrats give the big So-What when people they approve of hold massive super spreader events like BLM and Antifa protests in the summer of love 2020; 5) Lib/Leftist/democrats go out of whatever minds they have left when they see free, happy people enjoying things (like football games) they disapprove of; 6) testing for ‘cases’ is an utter waste of taxpayer money; 7) if you are not sick, it is not a ‘case’; 8) hospitals have been fudging the numbers to grab more Covid-19 taxpayer money; 9) almost all of the Lib over-hyped predictions about Covid have been wrong; 10) kids under the age of 19 have almost zero chance of getting seriously sick or dying from Covid; 11) people under the age of 55 and in decent health have virtually no problem with Covid whether they get it or not; 12) the dangers of the largely untested vaccines outweigh the benefits unless you are in an actual high risk group (i.e., over 80, really fat, have untreated comorbidities like diabetes, don’t exercise, don’t get outdoors daily, have low vitamin D levels, shelter at home, compulsively wear masks even while walking alone outside or in the shower, generally bad health, bad teeth, vote democrat); and last but not least 13) if democrats REALLY believed their lies about Covid-19 they would NOT let millions of undocumented democrats flood across our border untested, unvaccinated and sick with Covid.

My cmnt: I’ve edited this column to take out any gratuitous lib ‘verities’ (i.e., outright lies) that at this point are not worth repeating here. And I’ve added comments to correct mistaken statements as needed. But for the most part this guy is correct and that is why I posted him.

In the final weeks of this summer, with Covid-19 cases soaring and the rituals of autumn about to resume, many people assumed that the pandemic was on the verge of getting even worse.

Children were returning to classrooms five days a week. Broadway was reopening, and movie fans were heading to theaters again. In football stadiums across the country, fans were crowding together, usually unmasked, to cheer, sing and drink.

Given all of this — and the Delta variant — public discussion had a decidedly grim tone as the summer wound down. “It may only get worse,” read a Politico headline. “The new school year is already a disaster,” Business Insider reported.

The Washington Post cited an estimate that daily caseloads in the U.S. could reach 300,000 in August, higher than ever before. An expert quoted in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested the number could be higher yet. In The New York Times, an epidemiologist predicted that cases would rise in September because children were going back to school.

And what actually happened? Cases plunged.

The best measure of U.S. cases (a seven-day average, adjusted for holiday anomalies) peaked around 166,000 on Sept. 1 — the very day that seemed to augur a new surge. The number of new daily cases has since fallen almost 40 percent. Hospitalizations are down about 30 percent. Deaths, which typically change direction a few weeks after cases, have declined 13 percent since Sept. 20.

To be fair, forecasting a pandemic is inherently difficult. Virtually all of us, expert and not, have at times been surprised by Covid and incorrect about what was likely to happen next. It’s unavoidable.

But there is a pattern to some of the recent mistakes, and understanding it can help us avoid repeating them.

Let’s start by recalling a near-universal human trait: People are attracted to stories with heroes and villains. In these stories, the character flaws of the villains bring them down, allowing the decency of the heroes to triumph. The stories create a clear relationship between cause and effect. They make sense.

Books, television shows and movies are full of such stories. But for the purposes of understanding Covid, another form of mass entertainment — sports — is more useful.

Unlike novels or movies, sporting events involve true uncertainty. They are not part of a fictional world, with an author’s predetermined ending. And as is the case with more important subjects, like a pandemic, sports are subject to a lot of predictions. For these reasons, social scientists, including Nobel laureates, sometimes study sports to learn lessons about the human mind.

If you turn on almost any sporting event, you will hear tales of heroes and villains. Sports broadcasters often use moralistic language — with concepts like “clutch” and “choke” — to explain outcomes. The broadcasters turn games into “referenda on character,” as Joe Sheehan, who writes an excellent baseball newsletter, has put it. The athletes with strong character win, and the weak lose.

But anybody who watches sports for long enough will notice that these morality plays do not age well. Many athletes or coaches whom broadcasters long described as chokers (Clayton Kershaw, Andy Reid, Phil Mickelson, Alex Rodriguez, John Elway, Jana Novotná, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dan Jansen and many more) eventually won championships with clutch performances.

They did not have character flaws that prevented them from winning. They had been unlucky, or they had run into better competition. Until they didn’t.

The real world often does not lend itself to moralistic fables.

In the case of Covid, the fable we tell ourselves is that our day-to-day behavior dictates the course of the pandemic. When we are good — by staying socially distant and wearing our masks — cases are supposed to fall. When we are bad — by eating in restaurants, hanging out with friends and going to a theater or football game — cases are supposed to rise.

The idea is especially alluring to anybody making an effort to be careful and feeling frustrated that so many other Americans seem blasé. After all, the Covid fable does have an some truth to it. Social distancing and masking do reduce the spread of the virus. They just are not as powerful as people often imagine.

My cmnt: Social distancing is impossible to maintain, we now know that the vaccinated still get Covid, and masks don’t work at all.

The main determinants of Covid’s spread remain mysterious. Some activities that seem dangerous, like in-person school or crowded outdoor gatherings, may not always be. As unsatisfying as it is, we do not know why cases have recently plunged. The decline is consistent with the fact that Covid surges often last for about two months before receding, but that’s merely a description of the data, not a causal explanation.

My cmnt: “as unsatisfying as it is” – what a stupid, evil statement. It’s like saying, ‘I watched people swimming and almost none of them were eaten by sharks, yet we know sharks can be really dangerous and even tho’ statistically remote it was very unsatisfying that more people weren’t eaten.’

“We still are really in the cave ages in terms of understanding how viruses emerge, how they spread, how they start and stop, why they do what they do,” Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, has told me.

My cmnt: What a load of crap. These ultra weird, ‘novel’, viruses that pop up out of China are NOT from bats. They are from secret, Fauci-financed labs and are bioweapons. H1N1 (swine flu) and now Covid-19 (Wuhan flu).

In coming weeks and months, it is possible that the virus will surge again, maybe because of a new variant or because vaccine immunity will wane. It is also possible that the population has built up enough immunity — from both vaccines and previous infections — that Delta will have been the last major wave.

My cmnt: The “coming weeks and months” have happened (it’s now June 2022) and Covid is so not important that it would be a dead issue now if democrats didn’t still need it to steal another election in Nov.

We don’t know, and we do not have to pretend otherwise. We do not have to treat Covid as a facile referendum on virtue.

When caseloads are high, it makes sense to take precautions, even if we can’t be sure how much they matter. When caseloads are lower, it makes sense to take fewer, because almost every precaution has a cost. Other than that, the best we can do is get vaccinated and, as Osterholm says, stay humble.

My cmnt: No, not caseloads, rather when actual hospitalization FROM Covid not WITH Covid while admitted for a some other, nonrelated reason – are high then we can create more hospital beds as President Trump did for that monster ingrate Andrew Cuomo, quit sending people sick with Covid to nursing homes (yeah, that was you Cuomo), keep the schools open (kids are NOT at risk), everyone go to work not just the so-called essential workers, and like Sweden keep living our normal lives.

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