Jimbob Does Coronavirus

Humor is important as a means of poking holes in narratives that assert beliefs contrary to reality. Jimbob has become a force skewering notions of climate change, as well as other distorted ideas comprising the “woke” PC canon. Those inside the believer bubble will not be affected, but the important audience are those ignorant or agnostic about the so called “progressive, post-modern agenda.”

A previous post Best Cartoons Madebyjimbob provided an introduction to this artist, along with his point of view.  This post presents his more recent images related to present pandemic foibles.

SSTs Flat Start 2020 March Update

The best context for understanding decadal temperature changes comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature in recent years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.  More on what distinguishes HadSST3 from other SST products at the end.

The Current Context

The chart below shows SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3 starting in 2015 through March 2020.
A global cooling pattern is seen clearly in the Tropics since its peak in 2016, joined by NH and SH cycling downward since 2016.  In 2019 all regions had been converging to reach nearly the same value in April.

Then  NH rose exceptionally by almost 0.5C over the four summer months, in August exceeding previous summer peaks in NH since 2015.  In the last 4 months of 2019 that warm NH pulse reversed sharply.  Now in 2020 the first 3 months show little change from last December, particularly in the NH and Tropics.  Meanwhile the SH bumped upward in March, causing the global anomaly to rise as well, slightly lower than the peak in August 2019.

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 were first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back below its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added three bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year.  A fourth NH bump was lower and peaked in September 2018.  As noted above, a fifth peak in August 2019 exceeded the four previous upward bumps in NH.

And as before, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.  The major difference between now and 2015-2016 is the absence of Tropical warming driving the SSTs.

A longer view of SSTs

The graph below  is noisy, but the density is needed to see the seasonal patterns in the oceanic fluctuations.  Previous posts focused on the rise and fall of the last El Nino starting in 2015.  This post adds a longer view, encompassing the significant 1998 El Nino and since.  The color schemes are retained for Global, Tropics, NH and SH anomalies.  Despite the longer time frame, I have kept the monthly data (rather than yearly averages) because of interesting shifts between January and July.

To enlarge open image in new tab.

1995 is a reasonable (ENSO neutral) starting point prior to the first El Nino.  The sharp Tropical rise peaking in 1998 is dominant in the record, starting Jan. ’97 to pull up SSTs uniformly before returning to the same level Jan. ’99.  For the next 2 years, the Tropics stayed down, and the world’s oceans held steady around 0.2C above 1961 to 1990 average.

Then comes a steady rise over two years to a lesser peak Jan. 2003, but again uniformly pulling all oceans up around 0.4C.  Something changes at this point, with more hemispheric divergence than before. Over the 4 years until Jan 2007, the Tropics go through ups and downs, NH a series of ups and SH mostly downs.  As a result the Global average fluctuates around that same 0.4C, which also turns out to be the average for the entire record since 1995.

2007 stands out with a sharp drop in temperatures so that Jan.08 matches the low in Jan. ’99, but starting from a lower high. The oceans all decline as well, until temps build peaking in 2010.

Now again a different pattern appears.  The Tropics cool sharply to Jan 11, then rise steadily for 4 years to Jan 15, at which point the most recent major El Nino takes off.  But this time in contrast to ’97-’99, the Northern Hemisphere produces peaks every summer pulling up the Global average.  In fact, these NH peaks appear every July starting in 2003, growing stronger to produce 3 massive highs in 2014, 15 and 16.  NH July 2017 was only slightly lower, and a fifth NH peak still lower in Sept. 2018.

The highest summer NH peak came in 2019, only this time the Tropics and SH are offsetting rather adding to the warming. Since 2014 SH has played a moderating role, offsetting the NH warming pulses. (Note: these are high anomalies on top of the highest absolute temps in the NH.)

What to make of all this? The patterns suggest that in addition to El Ninos in the Pacific driving the Tropic SSTs, something else is going on in the NH.  The obvious culprit is the North Atlantic, since I have seen this sort of pulsing before.  After reading some papers by David Dilley, I confirmed his observation of Atlantic pulses into the Arctic every 8 to 10 years.

But the peaks coming nearly every summer in HadSST require a different picture.  Let’s look at August, the hottest month in the North Atlantic from the Kaplan dataset.
The AMO Index is from from Kaplan SST v2, the unaltered and not detrended dataset. By definition, the data are monthly average SSTs interpolated to a 5×5 grid over the North Atlantic basically 0 to 70N. The graph shows warming began after 1992 up to 1998, with a series of matching years since. Because the N. Atlantic has partnered with the Pacific ENSO recently, let’s take a closer look at some AMO years in the last 2 decades.

AMO decade 032020
This graph shows monthly AMO temps for some important years. The Peak years were 1998, 2010 and 2016, with the latter emphasized as the most recent. The other years show lesser warming, with 2007 emphasized as the coolest in the last 20 years. Note the red 2018 line is at the bottom of all these tracks. The black line shows that 2020 began near average, but is showing higher temperatures the last two months that any year in the record, including 1998 and 2010.


The oceans are driving the warming this century.  SSTs took a step up with the 1998 El Nino and have stayed there with help from the North Atlantic, and more recently the Pacific northern “Blob.”  The ocean surfaces are releasing a lot of energy, warming the air, but eventually will have a cooling effect.  The decline after 1937 was rapid by comparison, so one wonders: How long can the oceans keep this up? If the pattern of recent years continues, NH SST anomalies may rise slightly in coming months, but once again, ENSO which has weakened will probably determine the outcome.

Footnote: Why Rely on HadSST3

HadSST3 is distinguished from other SST products because HadCRU (Hadley Climatic Research Unit) does not engage in SST interpolation, i.e. infilling estimated anomalies into grid cells lacking sufficient sampling in a given month. From reading the documentation and from queries to Met Office, this is their procedure.

HadSST3 imports data from gridcells containing ocean, excluding land cells. From past records, they have calculated daily and monthly average readings for each grid cell for the period 1961 to 1990. Those temperatures form the baseline from which anomalies are calculated.

In a given month, each gridcell with sufficient sampling is averaged for the month and then the baseline value for that cell and that month is subtracted, resulting in the monthly anomaly for that cell. All cells with monthly anomalies are averaged to produce global, hemispheric and tropical anomalies for the month, based on the cells in those locations. For example, Tropics averages include ocean grid cells lying between latitudes 20N and 20S.

Gridcells lacking sufficient sampling that month are left out of the averaging, and the uncertainty from such missing data is estimated. IMO that is more reasonable than inventing data to infill. And it seems that the Global Drifter Array displayed in the top image is providing more uniform coverage of the oceans than in the past.


USS Pearl Harbor deploys Global Drifter Buoys in Pacific Ocean

Canada Bends the Curve April 28 Update

Kung Flu in Canada is reported at Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

The image presents coronavirus data as of the latest statistics complete to April 28, 2020. Note that Quebec accounts for half of all cases and deaths, most of them in Montreal, and mostly elderly residents in group homes. From the underlying data we can see that this covid 19 outbreak started toward the end of the annual flu season. Here are the daily reported tests, cases, and deaths smoothed with 7 day averaging.
Note how cases early on rose along with the higher daily rates of testing, then held steady April 4 to 15 as testing declined slightly.  Both testing and new cases then rose peaking on April 22 with 1806 new cases.  Since then testing has ramped up sharply while new cases have tailed off to 1657 yesterday.  Deaths per day have been flat at 146 in the last week. (All daily figures are averages of the 7 day period ending with the stated date.) Tests also peaked at 26,417 on April 28, about twice the daily number when April started.

The cumulative graph shows how the proportions held during this period.
Out of a total 754,800 tests, 50,015 (6.6%) cases were detected, the same rate holding since April 20. 2815 have died (5.7% of cases).

Background from Previous Post

With coronavirus sucking all the air out of room globally, I got interested in looking at how the Canadian national flu seasons compare with the new Wuhan virus. The analysis is important since there are many nations at higher latitudes that are in equilibrium relative to infectious diseases, but vulnerable to outbreaks of new viruses. Where I live in Canada, we have winter outbreaks every year, but are protected by a combination of sanitary practices, health care system and annual vaccines, contributing to herd immunity.

For example, 2018-19 was slightly higher than a typical year, with this pattern:
The various flu types are noted, all together making a total of 48,818 influenza detections during the 2018-19 season. A total of 946 hospitalizations were reported by CIRN-SOS sentinels that season (age = or >16).  Source:  Annual Influenza Reports

A total of 137 (14%) ICU admissions and 65 (7%) deaths were reported.  The seasonality is obvious, as is the social resilience, when we have the antibodies in place.

For further background, look at the latest Respiratory Virus Report for week 13 ending March 28, 2020. [In this Respiratory Virus Report, the number of detections of coronavirus reflects only seasonal human coronaviruses, not the novel pandemic coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) that causes COVID-19. Kung Flu statistics are above at the beginning.]

For the period shown in the graph, 320560 flu tests were done, resulting in 32751 type A positives and 22683 type B positives. That is a ratio of 17% of tests confirming conventional flu infection cases. Public Health Canada went on to say in reporting March 22 to 28, 2020 (week 13):
The percentage of tests positive for influenza fell below 5% this week. This suggests that Canada is nearing the end of the 2019-2020 influenza season at the national level. [Keep that 5% in mind]

Summary:  It’s true that total cases and deaths are still rising, and everyone should practice sanitary behaviors and social distancing.  But it appears that we are weathering this storm and have the resources to beat it.  Let us hope for reasonable governance, Spring weather and a return to economic normalcy.

Postscript:  Good News from Calgary and Hamilton

The Calgary Herald reports U of C researchers to begin hydroxychloroquine trial on COVID-19 patients.  Excerpts in italics with my bold.

A provincewide clinical trial led by the University of Calgary will test the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients, with the goal of reducing pressure on hospitals and preventing further infections.

“There is minimal evidence for use of hydroxychloroquine to use it, but there is enough (evidence) to study it,” said Metz, the acting facility medical director at Foothills Medical Centre and a professor in the department of clinical neurosciences at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“It just has to be done. If this drug does, indeed, reduce the severity and help people get better faster, it can help us in flattening the curve.”

The “HOPE” trial, to begin April 15, will target 1,600 Alberta outpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at risk of developing severe symptoms. The study will determine if hydroxychloroquine can prevent hospitalization for those at highest risk of developing a severe illness.

Participants will give their permission to Alberta Health Services after testing positive for COVID-19 and provide their contact information to U of C researchers. They’ll then be screened for safety and eligibility through a telephone interview and review of their electronic health record.

Those patients accepted will be sent hydroxychloroquine to their homes and will be required to take the drug over a five-day period. Researchers will follow up with participants seven and 30 days after starting the treatment.

Metz said timing of the trial is crucial and must begin within 96 hours of confirmation of a positive COVID-19 result, and within 12 days of symptom onset.

Should the drug prove effective, it may reduce the pressures that COVID-19 is expected to put on the health-care system.

“If we can keep more people out of hospital, then we’re not going to have that huge rise in hospitalizations and more people can get better at home,” she said. “Our system will get back to normal life or whatever we choose to move to in the future.

“We’ll be able to get there if we find this works.”

Hamilton Health Services starting an Anti-Covid19 study this month

Title: Anti-Coronavirus Therapies to Prevent Progression of COVID-19, a Randomized Trial

The ACT COVID-19 program consists of two parallel trials evaluating azithromycin and chloroquine therapy (ACT) versus usual care in outpatients and inpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19. The trial is an open-label, parallel group, randomized controlled trial with an adaptive design. Adaptive design features include adaptive intervention arms and adaptive sample size based on new and emerging data.

Experimental: Azithromycin and Chloroquine Therapy (ACT)
Chloroquine (Adults with a bodyweight ≥ 50 kg: 500 mg twice daily for 7 days; Adults with a bodyweight < 50 kg: 500 mg twice daily on days 1 and 2, followed by 500 mg once daily for days 3-7), plus Azithromycin (500 mg on day 1 followed by 250 mg daily for 4 days)  Source:  ClinicalTrials.gov

See also Preemptive Coronavirus Therapy Positive Update

Some coronavirus humor.


Bad Idea: Politicians Decide Essential Business

Right now in the midst of governmental lockdowns and closedowns, political officials are deciding who shall earn and therefore eat, and who is not “essential” and must stay home.  As Leon Trotsky saw in the soviet system, when the state takes over enterprises it gains the power to starve those who won’t obey.

How the US is presently veering in that direction is described by Manhattan Contrarian Frances Menton New York Progressives Officially Determine That All Wealth Comes From The Tooth Fairy Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Despite having one of the most draconian lockdown orders in the country, New York has ended up as the epicenter of the disease. With about 6% of the nation’s population, New York has more than 40% of the deaths (22,275 of 55,341 as of this evening). 

Let’s look at a couple of New York’s policies in detail. When it came time to forcibly shut things down, what exactly got deemed to be “nonessential” (and therefore shuttered) versus “essential” (and therefore able to continue)?

Consider, as an example, the construction industry. Which category does that industry fall under — essential, or non-essential? Or Is some of it essential and the rest not? At first, it looked like all construction was going to be deemed “non-essential.” But then on March 27, a week after the initial lockdown order, a publication called The Real Deal reported that, after getting “pressure” from “city officials and workers,” the State had decided to make exceptions for projects in the areas of “infrastructure, healthcare facilities, and affordable housing”.

I don’t know of any basis to say that there is any less risk of spread of the infection among workers on, say, a public housing project versus those on a new market-rate condo building. So the obvious line between “non-essential” and “essential” is that those things that are non-subsidized and fully-taxpaying are “non-essential,” while those things that are tax-exempt and/or publicly subsidized are “essential.” And we have made this decision as a result of “pressure” from “city officials and workers,” who clearly have political clout, whereas workers and developers in the private unsubsidized construction industry clearly do not have clout. Fortunately, here in New York, the things that pay the bills can be deemed “non-essential,” because the bills will just then be paid by the tooth fairy.

Then there is this report from NY Post NYC tailor defies state order: ‘I’m opening my doors come hell or high water’.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Eliot Rabin, whose Upper East Side boutique, Peter Elliot, is known for high-end men’s and boys apparel, refuses to follow a state order closing retail business not considered essential. He insists that his $85 pocket squares and $15,000 suits are part of the fabric of New York City: “Why is a liquor store essential and I’m not?” Rabin told The Post.

Though he’s not worried about catching the coronavirus, Rabin, who first opened his doors in 1977, said he’s taking precautions. “We’ll never put anyone in danger, ever.”  He added that he’s not worried about the consequences of being open, only the consequences for staying shut.

“I’m fighting for the soul of my company and my people. I’m doing what I think is right to protect my business and employees from this disaster,” Rabin said, noting that the long-time shoe repair shop across the street from his store packed up for good last month. “I hope everyone comes back, but I know they won’t. I’m doing the common sense thing to protect my business.”

The Deeper Issue:  Only Two Ways to Organize a Society–Jungle or Market

Bruce Pardy belongs to the Faculty of Law, Queen’s College, Kingston, Ontario. This post will provide excerpts from several of Pardy’s writings to give readers access to his worldview and its usefulness making sense of current socio-political actions.

In 2009 Pardy wrote Climate Change Charades: False Environmental Pretences of Statist Energy Governance  The Abstract:

Climate change is a poor justification for energy statism, which consists of centralized government administration of energy supplies, sources, prices, generating facilities, production and conservation. Statist energy governance produces climate change charades: government actions taken in the name of climate change that bear little relationship to the nature of the problem. Such actions include incremental, unilateral steps to reduce domestic carbon emissions to arbitrary levels, and attempts to choose winners and losers in future technology, using public money to subsidize ineffective investments. These proffered solutions are counter-productive. Governments abdicate their responsibility to govern energy in a manner that is consistent with domestic legal norms and competitive markets, and make the development of environmental solutions less likely rather than more so.

Pardy also spoke out in support of Peterson and against the Canadian government legislation proscribing private speech between individuals. His article in National Post was Meet the new ‘human rights’ — where you are forced by law to use ‘reasonable’ pronouns

Human rights were conceived to liberate. They protected people from an oppressive state. Their purpose was to prevent arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and censorship, by placing restraints on government. The state’s capacity to accommodate these “negative rights” was unlimited, since they required only that people be left alone.

If only arm twisting were prohbited beyond the ring.

But freedom from interference is so 20th century. Modern human rights entitle. We are in the middle of a culture war, and human rights have become a weapon to normalize social justice values and to delegitimize competing beliefs. These rights are applied against other people to limit their liberties.

Freedom of expression is a traditional, negative human right. When the state manages expression, it threatens to control what we think. Forced speech is the most extreme infringement of free speech. It puts words in the mouths of citizens and threatens to punish them if they do not comply. When speech is merely restricted, you can at least keep your thoughts to yourself. Compelled speech makes people say things with which they disagree.

Some senators expressed the view that forcing the use of non-gendered pronouns was reasonable because calling someone by their preferred pronoun is a reasonable thing to do. That position reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role of expression in a free society. The question is not whether required speech is “reasonable” speech. If a statute required people to say “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” that statute would be tyrannical, not because “hello,” “please” and “thank you” aren’t reasonable things to say, but because the state has dictated the content of private conversation.

Traditional negative human rights give people the freedom to portray themselves as they wish without fearing violence or retribution from others. Everyone can exercise such rights without limiting the rights of others. Not so the new human rights. Did you expect to decide your own words and attitudes? If so, human rights are not your friend.

These positions derive from bedrock reasoning by Pardy on the foundations of law and legitimacy. An insight into his thinking is his rebuttal of a critic The Only Legitimate Rule: A Reply to MacLean’s Critique of Ecolawgic Dalhousie Law Journal, Spring 2017

Ecosystem as One model of Society

An ecosystem is not a thing. It does not exist as a concrete entity. “Ecosystem” is a label for the dynamics that result when organisms interact with each other and their environment. Those dynamics occur in infinite variation, but always reflect the same logic:  Competition for scarce resources leads to natural selection, where those organisms better adapted to ecosystem conditions survive and reproduce, leading to evolutionary change. All participants are equally subject to their forces; systems do not play favourites.

In ecosystems, the use of the word “autonomy” does not mean legally enforced liberty but the reverse: no externally imposed rules govern behaviour. In ecosystems unmanaged by people, organisms can succeed or fail, live or die, as their genetically determined physiology and behaviour allow. Every life feeds on the death of others, whether animal or plant, and those better adapted to their circumstances survive to reproduce. Organisms can do anything that their genes dictate, and their success or failure is the consequence that fuels evolution.

When an antelope is chased by a lion and plunges into a river to escape, that action allows the antelope to survive and thus to reproduce. The offspring may carry a genetic disposition to run into water when chased by predators. There are no committees of either antelopes or humans deciding how antelopes will behave. Autonomy in ecosystems is not a human creation. It is not based upon human history or culture and is not a human preference.

Market as a Different Model of Society

A market is not a thing either. Nor is it a place. Markets, like ecosystems, do not exist as concrete entities. “Market” is a label for the dynamics that result when people exchange with each other. Bargains may be commercial in nature, where things are bought and sold, but they also occur in other facets of life. For example, in Ecolawgic I suggested that marriage is a kind of exchange that is made when people perceive themselves better off to enter into the bargain than not to.

As I said in Ecolawgic, “Laws and governments can make markets more stable and efficient, such as by enforcing contracts and creating a supply of money, but they create neither the activity of trading nor the market dynamics that the transactions create.”  A market is not a place or a legal structure but the dynamics of a collection of transactions. It does not exist before or independently of the transactions within it. The transactions make the market. Transactions are not created by governments but by the parties who enter into them.

People transact whether they are facilitated by governments or not. The evidence is everywhere. If it were not so, human beings would not have bartered long before there were governments to create money and enforce contracts. During Prohibition, no alcohol would have been produced and sold. Citizens of the Soviet Union would not have exchanged goods. Today there would be no drug trade, no black market and no smuggling. Cigarettes would not be used as currency inside jails. People would not date, hold garage sales or trade hockey cards. There would be no Bitcoin or barter. Try prohibiting people from transacting and see that they will transact anyway. They will do so because they perceive themselves as better off. Sometimes the benefit is concrete and sometimes it is ethereal. The perception of benefit is personal and subjective.

Ecosystems are Coercive, Markets are Voluntary

Ecosystems and markets share many features but they differ in one important respect. Violence plays an important role in ecosystems but is not a part of voluntary market exchange. Ecosystems are arenas for mortal combat. Lions eat antelopes if they can catch them. Nothing prevents taking a dead antelope from a lion except the lion’s response. There are no restrictions on survival strategies, and organisms do not respect the interests, habitats or lives of other organisms.

Markets, in contrast, proceed upon the judgment of the transacting parties that they are better off to trade than to fight. The hunter did not shoot the woodworker to get chairs, and the woodworker traded for meat instead of stealing it. They chose to trade because it made them better off than fighting. The reasons are their own. Perhaps they were friends, colleagues or allies. Perhaps they believed that harming other people is wrong. Perhaps they hoped to have an ongoing trading relationship. Perhaps fighting carried risks that were too high and they feared injury or retribution. Perhaps trading was less work than fighting.

For whatever reason, they chose to trade. This choice is not universal. People have traded throughout human history, but they have also fought. I do not maintain that trading is any more “natural” or inbred than fighting, but neither is it is less so. When people choose to fight, they are no longer part of a market. Markets are like ecosystems with the violence removed.  They are the kinder, gentler version of ecosystems.

There are only two models for legal governance and only one legitimate rule.

The logic is as follows:
1. In the wild, organisms compete for scarce resources. Those organisms better adapted to conditions survive and reproduce. Their interactions constitute ecosystems. No legal rules govern behaviour and might is right.
2. Human beings trade spontaneously. Parties enter into transactions when they perceive themselves as better off to trade than to fight. Their transactions constitute markets.
3. Moral values and policy goals are preferences whose inherent validity cannot be established. They are turtles all the way down. Therefore laws based upon those preferences lack legitimacy.
4. When governments use might to impose laws and policies that are illegitimate, they unintentionally imitate ecosystems, where might is right. Political constituencies use whatever means necessary to impose their preferences, and their opponents use whatever means necessary to resist. They are “autonomous” in the ecosystem sense: there are no inherently valid restrictions on behaviour. The result is a social order of division and conflict.
5. The alternative is to model human governance on the other system that exists independently of state preference: markets. If the model for human governance is markets, interactions between people are voluntary. People are “autonomous” in the market sense: they may pursue their own interests without coercion. Instead of imposing illegitimate rules and policies, the state uses force only to prohibit people from imposing force on each other. A plethora of sub-rules follow as corollaries of the rule against coercion: property, consent, criminal offences that punish violence and so on.
6. There is no third choice. Coercion is not right or wrong depending upon the goals being pursued since those goals are merely preferences. Their advocates cannot establish that their goals have inherent validity to those who do not agree. Therefore, giving priority to those objectives is to assert that might is right. If might is right, we are back to ecosystems, where any and all actions are legitimate.
7. If might is right, anything goes, and the model is ecosystems. If might is not right, force is prohibited, and the model is markets. Choose one and all else follows.

When I claim that a prohibition on force is the only legitimate rule, I mean the only substantive rule to govern relations between competent adults. No doubt the administration of a legal system, even a minimalist one, would require other kinds of laws to function. Constitutional rules, court administration, the conduct of elections and procedures to bring legal proceedings are a few of the other categories that would be necessary in order to give effect to the general rule.

No Property, No Market

But the existence of property rights must follow from a general rule prohibiting coercion. If it does not, the general rule is not what it purports to be. When people trade, they recognize the property interest held by the other party. It is that interest that they wish to obtain. When the woodworker trades chairs for the hunter’s meat, she trades “her” chairs for “his” meat. The trade would not occur without a mutual understanding of the possession that both hold over their respective stuff.

Sometimes those interests are recognized and protected by the law, which according to Bentham created the property. However, since markets arise even where no property is legally recognized, the notion of property must be prior to the law. Above I gave examples of markets that have arisen where no legal regime has protected property rights: prehistorical trade, alcohol sales during Prohibition, black markets in the Soviet Union, the modern day drug trade, smuggling of illicit goods, and the internal markets of prisons. Since trading occurs even in the absence of an approving legal regime, the notion of property must exist independently as well.

No Consent, No Market

Autonomy in the market sense means to be able to pursue your own interests and control your own choices without coercion. Consent is part and parcel of autonomy. Without the ability to consent, no trades can be made. Without trades, no markets exist. If one cannot consent to be touched, to give up property, to make bargains, to mate, to arm wrestle, to trade chairs for meat, to sell labour for money, and so on, then one is not autonomous.

If force is prohibited, then corollaries are laws that protect people from having force imposed upon them. Laws apply the force of the state to prevent or punish the application of force. A criminal law that prohibits assault is an extension of the general rule. A tax to finance the police department is legitimate if its purpose is to investigate and prosecute violent crimes. Traffic laws prevent people from running each other over.  Civil liability compensates for physical injuries caused by the force of others.

Illegitimate Laws, No Market

Illegitimate laws use state coercion to seek other ends such as enforcing moral standards, pursuing social goals or saving people from themselves. A criminal law that prohibits the use of drugs uses state force to prevent an activity in which there is no coercion. A tax to fund the armed forces to protect the peace may be legitimate, but one to take wealth from Peter to give to Paul is not. The legal regimes of modern administrative states consist largely of instrumentalist laws and policies that are inconsistent with the general rule, including tax laws, economic development programs, bankruptcy, patent regimes, mandatory government-run pension plans and MacLean’s version of environmental regulation, in which each decision turns on a political determination of the values to be applied.

It is either ecosystems or markets. Either might is right or it is not. If it is, then human society is subject to the law of the jungle where people are at liberty to fight like animals if they choose to do so. If it is not, then human society is a marketplace where people may enter into transactions voluntarily and the state may justifiably use force only to prevent or punish the application of force.

There is no third choice. Some might insist that coercion is not categorically wrong but that it can be right or wrong depending upon the other goals to be pursued. Those goals are merely preferences. They are
turtles all the way down. I do not maintain that other rules will not be passed and enforced using the established machinery of government but only that they have no claim to legitimacy, any more than other rules that might have been chosen instead. If force is used to pursue those preferences, why would others not use force to resist? Such a choice results in a free-for-all. If state force is right only because it cannot be resisted, that means that might is right. The administrative welfare state prevails not because it is justified morally or socially but because it has managed to secure a monopoly on violence. The imposition of government preferences is an invitation to those opposed to an arbitrary policy agenda to take up force against it.


In  a way, Pardy is warning us not to take for granted the free market social democracies to which we were accustomed.  Post modern progressive social justice warriors have decided that society is essentially an endless power struggle, that one group’s rights are gained only at the expense of another group.  In other words, it’s a dog-eat-dog, might makes right ecosystem.  Pardy says there is another way, which has been the basis for the rise of civilization, but can be reversed by governance that destroys the free market of ideas and efforts by imposing values favored by the rich and powerful.

Footnote about Turtles.  Pardy explains the metaphor:

In Rapanos v. United States, Justice Antonin Scalia offered a version of the traditional tale of how the Earth is carried on the backs of animals. In this version of the story, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger.  When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle.  When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies “Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down.”

Covid Statistical Shenangians

Babylon Bee sees the humor in this craziness: Latest Computer Model Predicts Between 0 And 12.6 Billion New COVID-19 Deaths By Summer.  Excerpts in italics  with my bolds.

U.S.—After several embarrassing and widely divergent revisions to the coronavirus projections of infection, hospitalization, and death rate used by government officials around the world to justify shutting down the global economy, experts at John Hopkins have now deployed a state-of-the-art super-scientific computer model and have now determined that between 0 and 12.6 billion people will contract the disease and be completely dead by summer.

“The panel of experts came together to give Americans the true picture of what we are looking at,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as he pointed to lots of completely accurate up-to-date charts and graphs from the study. “This is not just the flu. This is going to wipe out between 0 and 12.6 billion people before summer hits.”

As a result of the new predictions, the CDC has revised their guidelines for essential workers to not only continue to wear a face covering and regularly take their temperature, but to also begin praying to whatever higher power they choose as they await the impending death of everyone on June 1.

The CDC website was updated with an infographic informing Americans they had a final 34 days to “slow the spread.”

“We told everyone that there would be no ventilators and that hospitals were going to be overwhelmed across the entire nation by April, even with extensive social distancing recommendations and shutdowns in place,” stated Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force. “It didn’t happen quite that way, so we went to get better numbers. Now it looks like in this new expert modeling that everyone will actually die by June 1. We are super serious.”

“It is absolutely vital that no one shake hands ever again. Though after June 1 it won’t matter as much,” he added.

William Briggs does the forensic analysis of distorted statistical analysis and exaggerations at his blog Coronavirus Update XI — Robbing The Cemeteries To Pad Death Totals 

Read all about it!

  • As I predicted, they’re mining history to dig up old deaths. Now the forecasts won’t look as bad.
  • The man in charge of Pennsylvania’s health system got caught juicing coronavirus death numbers. How embarrassing.
  • America’s reported case ratio is 32% of world total. America’s reported death ratio is 24% of world total. In best medical system. Either we’re dying off fast, or our numbers are being juiced.
  • We have shown for weeks true infection rate must be higher; here’s why.
  • Estimated true cases about 20 to 40 million, worldwide.
  • Estimated true cases about 5 to 10 million, US.
  • Testing therefore can and will be used to drag this all out, by making it appear virus is spreading.
  • An interesting H1N1 comparison.
  • All-dead stats in comparison with other years is not in here. But it’s coming.

Month or so back I predicted coronavirus models would be treated like global warming models. In them, the modelers are always “discovering” new lower temperatures in the past (to make our times hotter). In the same way, and in order not to admit model failure, they’d have to make up the corona body deficit. Models said around median 175 thousand dead in the US even with full lockdowns.

When it became clear we weren’t coming anywhere near the original huge numbers, Fauci first modified the forecast. Like a proctologist discovering his missing pen, he pulled “60,000” out of his…stethoscope. Nobody questioned him on how he arrived at that figure.

Even that number began to look doubtful, though, as we saw. That’s when they switched from “dying from” to “dying with”. When that wasn’t enough, we heard of “dying with suspicion”. Remember that NYC “discovered” a few thousand deaths they called coronavirus, but which were never measured? Or did we already forget?

Even NYC’s “discovery” wasn’t enough. I predicted that since you can’t make up dead bodies, like you can with Chicago voters, for total all-death counts, they’d have to reclassify some older deaths as COVID. . . They’re doing it!

Swedish Pandemic Wisdom

The public health strategy in Sweden and its rationale are explained in an interview with the State Epidemiologist published in Nature ‘Closing borders is ridiculous’: the epidemiologist behind Sweden’s controversial coronavirus strategy. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images. H/T Tony Heller

Anders Tegnell talks to Nature about the nation’s ‘trust-based’ approach to tackling the pandemic.

As much of Europe imposed severe restrictions on public life last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus, one country stood out.

Sweden didn’t go into lockdown or impose strict social-distancing policies. Instead, it rolled out voluntary, ‘trust-based’ measures: it advised older people to avoid social contact and recommended that people work from home, wash their hands regularly and avoid non-essential travel. But borders and schools for under-16s remain open — as do many businesses, including restaurants and bars.

The strategy’s architect is Anders Tegnell, an epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, an independent body whose expert recommendations the government follows. Tegnell spoke to Nature about the approach.

Can you explain Sweden’s approach to controlling the coronavirus?

I think it has been overstated how unique the approach is. As in many other countries, we aim to flatten the curve, slowing down the spread as much as possible — otherwise the health-care system and society are at risk of collapse.

This is not a disease that can be stopped or eradicated, at least until a working vaccine is produced. We have to find long-term solutions that keeps the distribution of infections at a decent level. What every country is trying to do is to keep people apart, using the measures we have and the traditions we have to implement those measures. And that’s why we ended up doing slightly different things.

The Swedish laws on communicable diseases are mostly based on voluntary measures — on individual responsibility. It clearly states that the citizen has the responsibility not to spread a disease. This is the core we started from, because there is not much legal possibility to close down cities in Sweden using the present laws. Quarantine can be contemplated for people or small areas, such as a school or a hotel. But [legally] we cannot lock down a geographical area.

What evidence was this approach based on?

It is difficult to talk about the scientific basis of a strategy with these types of disease, because we do not know much about it and we are learning as we are doing, day by day. Closedown, lockdown, closing borders — nothing has a historical scientific basis, in my view. We have looked at a number of European Union countries to see whether they have published any analysis of the effects of these measures before they were started and we saw almost none.

Closing borders, in my opinion, is ridiculous, because COVID-19 is in every European country now. We have more concerns about movements inside Sweden.

As a society, we are more into nudging: continuously reminding people to use measures, improving measures where we see day by day the that they need to be adjusted. We do not need to close down everything completely because it would be counterproductive.

Restaurants in Stockholm have so far remained open during the pandemic.Credit: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

How does the Swedish Public Health Agency make decisions?

Around 15 people from the agency meet every morning and update decisions and recommendations according to the data collection and analysis. We talk to regional authorities twice per week.

The big debate we are facing right now is around care homes for older people, where we registered very unfortunate outbreaks of the coronavirus. This accounts for Sweden’s higher death rate, compared with our neighbours. Investigations are ongoing, because we must understand which reccommendations have not been followed, and why.

The approach has been criticized for being too relaxed. How do you respond to these criticisms? Do you think it risks people’s lives more than necessary?

I do not believe there is that risk. The public-health agency has released detailed modelling on a region-by-region basis that comes to much less pessimistic conclusions than other researchers in terms of hospitalizations and deaths per thousand infections. There has been an increase, but it is not traumatic so far. Of course, we are going into a phase in the epidemic where we will see a lot more cases in the next few weeks — with more people in intensive-care units — but that is just like any other country. Nowhere in Europe has been able to slow down the spread considerably.

About schools, I am confident they are going to stay open on the national level. We are in the middle of the epidemic and, in my view, the science shows that closing schools at this stage does not make sense. You have to shut down schools fairly early in the epidemic to get an effect. In Stockholm, which has the majority of Sweden’s cases, we are now close to the top of the curve, so closing schools is meaningless at this stage. Moreover, it is instrumental for psychiatric and physical health that the younger generation stays active.

Researchers have criticized the agency for not fully acknowledging the role of asymptomatic carriers. Do you think asymptomatic carriers are a problem?

There is a possibility that asymptomatics might be contagious, and some recent studies indicate that. But the amount of spread is probably fairly small compared to people who show symptoms. In the normal distribution of a bell curve asymptomatics sit at the margin, whereas most of the curve is occupied by symptomatics, the ones that we really need to stop.

Do you think the approach has been successful?

It is very difficult to know; it is too early, really. Each country has to reach ‘herd immunity’ [when a high proportion of the population is immune to an infection, largely limiting spread people who are not immune] in one way or another, and we are going to reach it in a different way.

There are enough signals to show that we can think about herd immunity, about recurrence. Very few cases of re-infection have been reported globally so far. How long the herd immunity will last, we do not know, but there is definitely an immune response.

What would you have done differently?

We underestimated the issues at care homes, and how the measures would be applied. We should have controlled this more thoroughly. By contrast, the health system, which is under unusual pressure, has nevertheless always been ahead of the curve.

Are you satisfied with the strategy?

Yes! We know that COVID-19 is extremely dangerous for very old people, which is of course bad. But looking at pandemics, there are much worse scenarios than this one. Most problems that we have right now are not because of the disease, but because of the measures that in some environments have not been applied properly: the deaths among older people is a huge problem and we are fighting hard.

Moreover, we have data showing that the flu epidemic and the winter norovirus dropped consistently this year, meaning that our social distancing and hand washing is working. And with the help of Google, we have seen that the movements of Swedes have fallen dramatically. Our voluntary strategy has had a real effect.






Coal Needed to Power Recovery

By Conor Bernstein explains at Real Clear Energy  For Energy, Affordability, Reliability, and Balance Matter More Now Than Ever.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

While we are still in the throes of the crisis, it’s essential we already plan for the recovery. Affordable, secure and reliable power will be all the more important as the nation tries to get back on its feet.

But, if we aren’t careful, near-term market conditions could accelerate retirements of additional well-operating coal plants, further eroding the balanced electricity mix that has long ensured affordable, reliable power in markets across the country.

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, cracks were emerging in regional grids where fuel security and balance have been traded for increased reliance on just-in-time fuel delivery. Shrinking reserve margins, flirtations with rolling blackouts and spiking wholesale electricity prices are becoming far too common for comfort.

Michigan offers the latest evidence of the challenges emerging from the pivot away from coal. Just a week ago, the region’s grid operator, MISO, reported that capacity prices for the Lower Peninsula maxed out in their annual capacity auction. With a shrinking reserve margin, clearing prices for the capacity auction jumped 10 times what they had been a year ago.

This comes as Michigan utilities have closed more than a dozen coal plants since 2016 and have more retirements scheduled.

Wholesale electricity prices are going up just when consumers and industry need support for economic recovery. The timing couldn’t be worse. Michigan is turning to costly energy imports to ensure reliability. The takeaway should be clear: the shift away from coal – often driven by state policy – is coming with real costs.

As policymakers, regulators and utilities grapple with the ramifications of the pandemic, pumping the brakes on further plant retirements is a logical step to hedge against uncertainty and to ensure our balanced, affordable and reliable electricity mix doesn’t become another victim of this unprecedented moment.

Indiana, even before the crisis, had already moved to require additional review of proposed retirements to ensure utilities weren’t passing unnecessary costs onto consumers while weakening the reliability of the grid. A thoughtful, do-no-harm approach to the electricity sector is exactly what’s needed across the country as we confront the uncertainty of the months ahead.

The past several years have seen a shift away from what we know works – balance, certainty, fuel security – to increased reliance on thinner margins, weather-dependent resources and the inherent vulnerability of just-in-time fuel delivery. With global supply chains turned upside down, with chaos wreaking havoc across the oil and gas sector, and the economy shaken to the core, the era of flying by the seat of our pants into the unknown and of utilities filing a record number of rate cases needs to end.

Time and again, grid operators overestimate capacity additions while underestimating retirements. That kind of miscalculation, in a perilous moment like this, could prove disastrous. Now, more than ever, we need smart policymaking that puts reliability, resilience and affordability first. Ensuring we maintain essential coal generating capacity and properly value the security and balance it brings to the grid must be a priority.


See Also New York Nukes Itself

 Preemptive Coronavirus Therapy Postive Update

University of Minnesota is leading an important HCQ clinical trial, including collaboration with McGill University Montreal, University of Manitoba and University of Alberta. The initiative is called Post-exposure Prophylaxis / Preemptive Therapy for SARS-Coronavirus-2 (COVID-19 PEP) at ClinicalTrials.gov.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds. H/T Don Monfort

Study Objective:

  1. To test if post-exposure prophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine can prevent symptomatic COVID-19 disease after known exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
  2. To test if early preemptive hydroxychloroquine therapy can prevent disease progression in persons with known symptomatic COVID-19 disease, decreasing hospitalizations and symptom severity.

The Intervention Drug is Hydroxychloroquine. 200mg tablet; 800 mg orally once, followed in 6 to 8 hours by 600 mg, then 600mg once a day for 4 consecutive days  Other Name: Plaquenil

This is the April 22, 2020: Second Interim Analysis Update

On April 22, 2020, the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for the COVID-19 post-exposure prophylaxis trial has reviewed the cumulative safety data from 783 participants in the ongoing hydroxychloroquine prevention trial. The DSMB has identified no safety concerns or efficacy concerns at this time. We congratulate the study investigators on their enrollment thus far, and we will continue to provide oversight for the trial as specified in the DSMB charter.

Based on the event rate of COVID-19 illness observed in the control group, the sample size can be reduced by approximately one-third with approximately 200 more research participants needed to complete the trial to demonstrate conclusively whether or not there is a 50% reduction in symptomatic illness with a 5-day course of hydroxychloroquine after a high-risk exposure to someone with COIVD-19. The next interim analysis is scheduled for May 6, 2020. Ongoing U.S. enrollment is occurring at http://www.covidpep.umn.edu and in Canada at: http://www.covid-19research.ca

What Theory of the Disease Covid19 Suggests this Intervention?

A plain language explanation comes from WebMD by way of the Daily Star Bangladesh Chloroquine, zinc tested to treat COVID-19 infection

In the United States and Europe, a handful of clinical trials have begun to test ways to keep healthcare workers and other vulnerable people safe from coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Most are testing drugs called chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine that have long been used to prevent and treat malaria, and also as a therapy against rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The hope is that, given before infection or early in the course of the disease, the drugs will protect someone against infection and illness from the virus, or, if they do, will ensure that their case is mild. But whether these drugs will help, hurt or do nothing remains an open question.

The virus that causes COVID-19 uses a backdoor to enter the cell. As it enters, it is exposed to an acidic, vinegar-like environment, which is actually needed for the virus to get all the way inside. Hydroxychloroquine, metaphorically keeps the cap on the vinegar, Greene says, preventing acidification. Thus, there is a scientific rationale for how this drug might exert an antiviral effect.

Mahir Ozmen, a professor of surgery at the Istinye University, School of Medicine in Istanbul, Turkey, says he thinks the best way to use chloroquine is in combination with zinc and vitamins C and D. He is running a clinical trial, testing to see whether this combination protects health care workers and their immediate families – including his own.

Ozmen, who is collaborating with a chest medicine specialist, an intensive care physician, and two infectious disease experts, says he intended to include only 80 participants, but 98 quickly volunteered. He began in April providing prophylactic therapy, and expects to complete the trial by July.

Ozmen says, “Hydroxychloroquine helps the zinc get inside the infected cells to destroy the virus, and vitamins A and D support immune function”. He gives volunteers a low dose of hydroxychloroquine every 3 weeks, and a vitamin tablet every day – or every other day for people prone to kidney stones. At the end of the trial, each participant will be checked for antibodies to COVID-19, suggesting an infection, whether they realised it or not.

This kind of prophylaxis will give us the time to develop a vaccine that will offer protection to everyone.

In perhaps the fastest-moving, large prophylaxis trial, researchers at Duke University are leading a US$ 50 million collaboration across hundreds of American healthcare systems, which will test 15,000 volunteers. Half the health care workers will take hydroxychloroquine, and half a placebo. Other drugs could be added to the study if they prove promising for preventing or lessening infection, says Adrian Hernandez, the trial’s principle investigator.

In France, researchers are running a trial with 1,200 healthcare workers to test prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine or a combination of two HIV drugs, Lopinavir and Ritonavir, which failed as a treatment in people with severe COVID-19 infections but may work as prevention. It is expected to take 6 months.

In a 40,000-person trial led by the University of Oxford in England, participants in Asia will receive chloroquine or a placebo, and in Europe, hydroxychloroquine or a placebo. That trial is expected to take a year.

Footnote: A more detailed hypothesis for testing is provided by Dr. Scholz and Dr. Derwand of Leukocare in Munich (PDF here). Excerpt:

Based on the evidence of therapeutic effects of CQ/HCQ, their possible pharmacological effect as zinc ionophores and possibly underestimated specific and unspecific antiviral effects of zinc, we hypothesize that the combination of CQ/HCQ with parenteral zinc in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients may help to improve clinical outcomes and to limit the COVID-19 fatality rates.

Due to the existing substantial evidence, we propose to amend current clinical trial designs to test this hypothesis in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients by including at least one treatment arm with oral CQ or HCQ in combination with zinc. However, because of the better clinical safety profile HCQ should be preferred. To avoid interindividual differences of oral absorption rates and because of possible gastrointestinal side effects of oral zinc supplementation, it is proposed to use parenteral zinc preparations which are approved and clinically already used.

Ole Oleandrin!

John Solomon writes at Just the News Does military’s biodefense lab hold a key to future coronavirus treatment? Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Little noticed research on oleandrin extract from flowering plant gaining steam.

Sign outside the Fort Detrick installation, where the Army’s premier biodefense lab is located. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Though often omitted from public conversations about pandemic solutions, the U.S. military has a huge stake in fighting deadly infectious diseases and quietly has been researching novel treatments for years at its secretive biodefense lab at Fort Detrick.

The reasons are mission obvious. With soldiers deployed in exotic locations around the world where novel viruses like Ebola, Zika or bird and swine flus can strike with lighting speed and alarming fatality, the Pentagon wants to make sure it has treatments to keep its forces from being disabled

It’s from that body of research that an intriguing potential remedy, an organic extract, has emerged. And of all sources, it comes from the common but toxic flowering plant oleander.

Dr. John Dye, chief of viral immunology at the USAMRIID lab at Fort Detrick, confirmed to Just the News that his team began testing the extract known as oleandrin a few years ago and found it was effective in fighting the Ebola and Marburg viruses. The Army lab is now ramping up a rapid plan to test oleandrin against COVID-19.

“We found that at non-toxic concentrations, oleandrin was efficacious at slowing and halting viral growth in tissue culture assays” for the Ebola and Marburg viruses, Dye said in emailed answers to questions.

Because those viruses are enveloped, just like COVID-19, the lab is pressing ahead to do similar tests on the theory that the extract may have similar effects on the coronavirus at the center of today’s pandemic, he said.

Oleandrin “fully inhibited” the Marburg and Ebola viruses in petri dishes, suggesting the natural compound has “broad spectrum efficacy” and may also have “antiviral efficacy against other enveloped viruses,” the researchers’ presentation declared in 2017.

It was that data that gave Dye’s lab an interest in testing oleandrin against COVID-19 now. If the in-vitro tests show it works, the next step would be human testing in clinical trials.

Because oleandrin already has wide user in cancer trials and comes from a plentiful flower product, it has advantages in getting to market more quickly should Fort Detrick’s tests and then subsequent clinical trials find it is effective and safe, he added.

Nerium oleander

Crash Course in Epidemiology

Many people including me are getting educated about public health science regarding infectious diseases. An earlier post A Lesson in Mortality discussed ongoing mortality statistics as a context for processing the coronavirus numbers. Another post Don’t Confuse The Virus and the Disease noted the difference between getting the virus and getting the disease. This post is concerned with how the pandemic is proceeding and the prospects for the future.

First is a presentation of the textbook outbreak model called SIR, which stands for Susceptible, Infected and Recovered (or alternatively Removed) and indicates the three possible states of the members of a population afflicted by a contagious decease. (Source is here) Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In setting up a simple outbreak situation example, the authors note a number of assumptions to be taken.

In order to demonstrate the possibilities of modeling the interactions between these three groups we make the following assumptions:

  • The size of this population grows with immigration and declines with natural deaths.
  • Infection depends on contact of infected with not yet infected and not yet immune, i.e. with susceptible members of the population.
  • The decease is not really dangerous. It does not increase mortality.
  • The number of infected has no influence on migration and on the healing rate of infected.
  • Infected can be healed, and once they are healed they are immune against the decease.
  • The risk of contagion is equal for all members of the population.
  • Newly immigrated are neither infected nor immune.

A causal diagram for these assumptions could look as follows:

The linked paper goes into the maths for calculating changes in stocks and flows, and the time to reach a steady state. Without going into the details, let us consider this paradigm in relation to our present situation. By comparison, novel coronavirus pandemic has several complicating features, especially: uncertain mortality impacts, uncertain immunity after recovery, unequal risk of contagion.

Since the virus SARS-CoV-2 is new, it is assumed that everyone is susceptible. But at this stage we have little data to confirm or contradict that. There are indications that large numbers of people are getting the virus without getting the disease. For example, residents of a large homeless shelter in Boston were tested with surprising results.

The Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program noticed a small group of people had tested positive for the coronavirus at a shelter in the city’s South End. To be safe, they coordinated with the state government to do universal testing of the shelter population over two nights. Out of the nearly 400 guests tested, 146 tested positive for Covid-19, according to Dr. Jim O’Connell. “This caught us unprepared, but the even more surprising finding is we screened all of them, and none had a fever, and very few had other symptoms,” O’Connell said.

Another sampling was done in Northern California also showing much higher rate of infection than previously estimated. These are indications, not yet conclusive until structured random sampling is done in enough places to establish a pattern. That analysis was done after the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, and is reported at CDC by Carrie Reed et al. Estimates of the Prevalence of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, United States, April–July 2009. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Through July 2009, a total of 43,677 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A pandemic (H1N1) 2009 were reported in the United States, which is likely a substantial underestimate of the true number. Correcting for under-ascertainment using a multiplier model, we estimate that 1.8 million–5.7 million cases occurred, including 9,000–21,000 hospitalizations.

Human cases of influenza A pandemic (H1N1) 2009 were first identified in the United States in April 2009 (1,2). By the end of July, >40,000 laboratory-confirmed infections had been reported, representing only a fraction of total cases. Persons with influenza may not be included in reported counts for a variety of reasons, including the following: not all ill persons seek medical care and have a specimen collected, not all specimens are sent to a public health laboratory for confirmatory testing with reverse transcription–PCR (RT-PCR; rapid point-of-care testing cannot differentiate pandemic [H1N1] 2009 from other strains), and not all specimens will give positive results because of the timing of collection or the quality of the specimen. To better estimate the prevalence of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 during April–July 2009 in the United States, we created a simple multiplier model that adjusts for these sources of under-ascertainment.
To estimate the total number of cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009, we built a probabilistic multiplier model that adjusts the count of laboratory-confirmed cases for each of the following steps: medical care seeking (A), specimen collection (B), submission of specimens for confirmation (C), laboratory detection of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 (D), and reporting of confirmed cases (E) (Figure). This approach has been used to calculate the underrecognized impact of foodborne illness in the United States.

Using this approach, between April and July 2009, we estimate that the median multiplier of reported to estimated cases was 79; that is, every reported case of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 may represent 79 total cases, with a 90% probability range of 47–148, for a median estimate of 3.0 million (range 1.8–5.7 million) symptomatic cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in the United States. Likewise, we estimate that every hospitalized case of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 that was reported may represent a median of 2.7 total hospitalized persons (90% range 1.9–4.3). This represents a median estimate of 14,000 (range 9,000–21,000) hospitalizations (Table 2) and thus an estimated ratio of hospitalizations to total symptomatic cases of 0.45% (range 0.16%–1.2%).

Based on that experience and samplings coming to light, it seems likely that novel coronavirus has infected far more people than documented, and could be on the order of 75 per confirmed case. Thus, if today worldwide confirmed cases are 2.7 million, then the suspected infected number would be be on the order of 200 million.  If we stay with the US context, the 0.9 million reported cases could represent 68 million infections.  That result can be seen either as good news or bad news. If your concern is to control people, then the interpretation is the one found in the CNN report: Asymptomatic coronavirus cases at Boston homeless shelter raise red flag.

On the other hand, asymptomatic results can be a positive, depending on two additional factors: incubation and viral load. There is evidence that people who get covid19 sickness are already shedding virus during the 7 to 10 day incubation period even before symptoms. Those infectious people are the concern for controlling the spread. At the same time, there are apparently a lot of people (numbers unknown) who had the virus but resolved the infection without symptoms, I.e. without getting the disease. This cuts against the assumption that populations are completely susceptible to Covid19, i.e. have no immunity to counter this virus. And persons who defeated the virus were unlikely to be shedding it in the high loads needed to cause disease in others.

As Vinay Kolhatkar writes at The Savvy Street The Pandemic: Cardinal Numbers No One Talks About. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

SARS-CoV-2, aka coronavirus, aka SARS-2, is not the same as COVID-19, aka C-19. The former is the virus, the latter is the disease that one may get from it.

Human beings have an immune system that resists or controls viruses that invade or reside in their bodies. Writing in The Scientist, Professor Eric Delwart, who investigates human and animal viromes, says [emphasis mine]:

Most viruses are neither consistently pathogenic nor always harmless, but rather can result in different outcomes depending on the health and immunological status of their hosts. The less pathogenic a virus is—the lower the percentage of infected people who become sick—the larger such case-control studies need to be to detect a difference between the groups.

Given the large number of viruses detected in healthy hosts, it is likely that some of the viruses initially found in sick hosts are simply harmless coincidental infections.

“Viral load” is the term virologists use to denote the strength of the virus—is it an army of thousands, or an army of millions? Higher the load, greater the chance the virus may win the battle. Then the immune system must bring in the artillery—for example, by increasing body temperature, so as not to lose the war (death).

Even a small viral load may be detected in a diagnostic test. But the host may never get sick.

The global “confirmed cases” daily number had been growing until April 11. On March 1, there were 1823 new cases confirmed, and on April 1, 74,407—40 times as many.

The media told us that this is an exponential growth in infection.

But that increase in detection (confirmed cases) from March, 2020 is positively correlated to the number of tests performed. See the plot of tests per confirmed case in Our World in Data—most countries were not testing much, if at all, before March 2020.

But detection is not the same as occurrence. When did the virus contagion begin?

Not when tests began—that’s when the media started lecturing us 24/7 on the stats. The virus commenced its worldwide spread at least as far back as December (possibly November) 2019. But the late-2002 SARS-1 China was not the same as the late-2019 SARS-2 China, in terms of its booming middle class traveling overseas, the 50 million overseas Chinese citizens making home visits, and the ugly coincidence of the Lunar New Year celebrations in January 2020.

The horse may have bolted back in December 2019. Shutting the gate partially in March 2020 was ineffectual for contagion containment. Nevertheless, economic suicide was never justified. In developing countries, e.g., India, where interstate migrant workers need casual work for survival, where city public transport is so crowded that contact tracing is beyond impossible, where child malnutrition and other infectious diseases take a much bigger toll, any lockdown is exceptionally counterproductive.

Now only herd immunity, obtained by exposure to the “clever” virus or the vaccine, will end the war. Workplaces may need to insist on protective gear and social distancing—our immune systems have a better chance of beating a lower viral load. And the vulnerable should isolate themselves. People testing positive to the virus should also isolate themselves.

But a test that reveals we were free of this virus yesterday is no guarantee that we are free of it today—the negative test has no value for our ability to roam freely. What we really need to know is whether we have long-term antibodies.

Serological tests also help get estimates of herd immunity levels in various populations, which can put international airline travel, concerts, and nightclub reopening on a much sounder footing—“no new cases for a week” in a shutdown area could hide many of those 50 times asymptomatic carriers roaming around.

It’s time to focus on a new set of numbers.

That research priority is echoed in a policy paper by William V. Padula at US National Institutes of Health Why Only Test Symptomatic Patients? Consider Random Screening for COVID-19. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In the context of a pandemic during which many people may be infected but asymptomatic, a similar logic suggests that allocating scarce diagnostic resources towards those who do not exhibit warning signs of infection is crucial. If asymptomatic patients are less likely to follow public health guidelines such as social distancing or self-isolation compared to patients who do exhibit symptoms, then providing information to asymptomatic patients that they are infected is a critical step in mitigating disease transmission.

During the brief amount of time that the US has been able to study the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been substantial evidence to support the belief that many of the infected population are asymptomatic. For instance, according to Nishiura and colleagues, the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship had an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection prevalence of 30.8% in an adult population [5]. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently reports that about 4% of children are asymptomatic and 51% have only mild symptoms [6].

These data imply that while symptomatic patients are worth screening to properly manage them, the US should consider randomizing testing in the general population or potentially shifting test resources away from symptomatic patients and towards those who are least likely to consider themselves infected.