Scandimania – EOH 9/15

Sweden is having its moment in the sun now that Europe is seeing a second outbreak of cases, social stability in strict lockdown countries is fraying, and the severe economic damage is beginning to be seen. Through an approach that granted autonomy and information for the average Swede to make their own decisions, Sweden’s  economic damage  from COVID-19 is less than Europe and other Nordic countries . From this second outbreak of new cases, European leaders are silently embracing the “Swedish approach” schools are open, restaurants are open, and society is attempting to continue onward in some version of “normality”.


L.A. County walks back Halloween ban, says trick-or-treating ‘not recommended’

Don’t worry, I will find even more ways to make your life inconvenient.

Less than a day after issuing new health guidelines that banned trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities, Los Angeles County public health officials walked back the decision Wednesday. Citing an inability to maintain safe social distancing and the potential for gatherings beyond household members, county officials initially nixed trick-or-treating along with other Halloween traditions, including haunted houses and parades. But Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that the guidelines have been “slightly revised.” Ferrer said the change distinguishes between activities originally prohibited under the health officer order from activities that are “not recommended.” “This year, it’s just not safe to celebrate in the ways we usually do,” Ferrer said. “We are recommending that trick-or-treating not happen this year.” The Department of Public Health previously said that because some of the traditional ways in which Halloween is celebrated do not allow contact with non-household members to be minimized, it is important to identify safer alternatives. “Trunk-or-treat” events involving car-to-car candy dispersal, which are sometimes held by churches or schools, also are not recommended under the revised order. The news was not well-received by some residents, and even a few celebrities took umbrage with the rules. (Warning: Link includes profanity.) “I do not agree with the new measures in place,” said Joanna Cortez, an Elysian Valley resident with two nieces and a baby on the way. “Trick-or-treating is an outdoor activity,” she said, noting that wrapped and packaged candy can easily be sanitized before being consumed. “We can have measures in place like social distancing and leaving out candy in a bowl for children versus actually handing out candy.”

The Doctor Is In: Scott Atlas And The Efficacy Of Lockdowns, Social Distancing, And Closings

Big tech is censoring heterodox views yet again, Youtube takes down this video for not following “WHO guidelines” which WHO is even confused about. 

Dr. Scott Atlas is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, an accomplished physician, and a scholar of public health. For several weeks, Dr. Atlas has been making the case in print and in other media that we as a society have overreacted in imposing draconian restrictions on movement, gatherings, schools, sports, and other activities. He is not a COVID-19 denier—he believes the virus is a real threat and should be managed as such. But, as Dr. Atlas argues, there are some age groups and activities that are subject to very low risk. The one-size-fits-all approach we are currently using is overly authoritarian, inefficient, and not based in science. Dr. Atlas’s prescription includes more protection for people in nursing homes, two weeks of strict self-isolation for those with mild symptoms, and most importantly, the opening of all K–12 schools. The latter recommendation is vital for restarting and maintaining the economy so that parents are not housebound trying to work and educate their children. Dr. Atlas is also adamant that an economic shutdown, and all of the attendant issues that go along with it, is a terrible solution—the cure is worse than the disease. Finally, Dr. Atlas reveals some steps he’s taken in his own life to try to get things back to normal.

The Children in the Shadows: New York City’s Homeless Students

Ever-lockdown in New York continues to fail it’s most vulnerable populations. 

When schools in New York City abruptly closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Prince, a bright, chatty 9-year-old bursting with kinetic energy, found himself at home plodding through the Google Classroom app on his mother’s phone. The limbo that came with the shutdown was not a new experience for him. He and his mother, Fifi, who is 29, had been homeless for nearly his entire academic career. (To protect their privacy, their personal nicknames are being used to refer to Fifi and Prince.) He had attended five different elementary schools and missed many weeks of classes by the time the city’s schools went online-only. Like many of New York City’s more than 100,000 homeless schoolchildren, Prince was familiar with uncertainty and isolation, with not knowing what day it was. For nearly all his life, he had lived under the curfew imposed by homeless shelters, with no visitors or play dates allowed at his home, and had adapted to long, endless waits at city agencies. Quarantine had coincidentally found him better situated than he had ever been: For the first time in Prince’s memory, his family had a precarious hold on a rental apartment in the Bronx. Since Prince was little, teachers have been telling Fifi that with the right challenges and encouragement, he has enormous academic potential. Before the pandemic, Fifi had been looking for bigger academic opportunities for Prince, researching charter schools and gifted programs. All that was now on hold. It was disappointing for both of them that Prince was not really learning anything as they tried to peck through screens, but they’d been there before.


COVID-19 and the Path to Immunity

A brief report on the path to COVID-19 immunity. It will be shorter than you think.

“Seroprevalence data (antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein) estimate that there may be 10 times more SARS-CoV-2 infections than the number of reported cases. Thus, it is possible that 40 million to 50 million (12% to 15% of the US population) to date may have been infected with a detectable serological response to SARS-CoV-2. However, relying on population-based natural immunity, especially for populations at risk of greater disease severity, is not wise. Boosting specific neutralizing antibodies and TH1 immunity to high levels with an effective vaccine regardless of prior immune status may further protect these individuals. COVID-19 vaccines in development designed to prevent clinical infection, disease severity, or both show the induction of an anamnestic immune response to the spike protein with a second dose and can generate high levels of neutralizing antibodies comparable with or greater than those seen in sera samples from patients. The induction of sufficient CD4+ follicular helper T cells and inclusion of vaccine boosts, employed for several other vaccines where circulating antibody levels are critical for protection, may be needed to maintain levels of anti–SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies. Boosting antiviral CD8+ and TH1 CD4+ T cells recognizing spike and epitopes from other conserved regions of the proteome may also be crucial in limiting replication and disease severity. SARS-COV-2 may well follow the path of previous coronaviruses and become endemic in the population as another common cold virus. Thus, in the few “short” months since recognition of this virus, 2 keys paths to COVID-19 adaptive immunity are being unraveled and vaccines exploiting this knowledge are in rapid development.”

Are we overreacting to COVID-19?

Jay Bhattacharya and Sten Vermund debate if the scientific establishment overreacted to COVID-19.

Six months into a global pandemic and 63,000 scientific papers later, scientists and medical researchers continue to be perplexed by COVID-19. There are many unknowns with the virus, and one of the most controversial is how deadly it really is. Since the beginning of the pandemic, leading health institutions such as the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have warned that COVID-19 is much more dangerous than the seasonal flu and that, without expansive public health measures, millions of people around the world could die from the virus. But there are some in the scientific community who disagree. And they say they have the data to prove it. Antibody testing of large population groups indicates that we could be grossly underestimating the number of people who have been infected by the virus – which means we are dramatically overestimating the death rate. Given these findings, they question whether sweeping public health controls are the way to approach a possible second wave of COVID-19 this autumn.

Charts and Graphics

Field Hospitals Around the USA go Unused

The government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on field hospitals that no one used. 

COVID Death Rate by Total 2 Year Flu Intensity

There is a  statistically significant correlation between the mildness of recent flu seasons and COVID fatalities.COVID outcomes appear to be more related to the size of high-risk populations than policy decisions.

COVID-19 RT-PDC Real ™ Fast (In Latin America)

No lockdown Uruguay continues to be a bright spot in comparison to the rest of Latin America.. 

People who didn’t break lockdown are far more likely to think badly of those who did than leave voters are to think badly of remainers

The divide between lockdown and anti-lockdown people in the UK is worse than the debate over Brexit. 

Footfall is Recovering Much More Slowly in London and other Large Cities than in Smaller Urban Centers

A consequence of the flight out of big cities.

International News

Anders Tegnell and the Swedish Covid experiment

Turns out respecting  people’s freedom and honor human rights will make you popular.  

“At the start of this year, Anders Tegnell was just a low-profile bureaucrat in a country of 10m people, heading a department that collects and analyses data on public health. Today, he has become one of the best known — and most controversial — figures of the global coronavirus crisis. The 64-year-old Swedish doctor was meant to spend 2020 helping Somalia set up a public health agency as well as sending questionnaires out to Swedes to gauge different aspects of their wellbeing. Instead, his approach to Covid-19 — to keep schools, restaurants, fitness centres and borders open while refusing to follow China in imposing a formal lockdown — has seen him become an unlikely polarising figure for a polarised age. For many Swedes, their state epidemiologist has embodied a rational approach as other countries have appeared to sacrifice science to emotion. “I wish I were coming with you to see him,” one of Sweden’s leading chief executives confided to me just before I went to see Tegnell. “The way he has stood for what he believes in while the rest of the world does something else is admirable.” Public support for Tegnell has remained high over a period in which life, while very different to before, has been more normal than in many other countries. Such is his stock in Sweden that there are stories of people having his bespectacled face tattooed on their bodies, while some on the American and British right have seized on Tegnell as a champion of freedoms they feel they have lost during lockdown.”

Labour market effects of COVID-19: Sweden and its Scandinavian neighbours

Unsurprisingly without a lockdown, Sweden did better economically than it’s Nordic neighbors. 

“Overall, the results suggest that the labour markets of all Nordic countries were hit hard by the pandemic, as well as by the subsequent NPIs. Starting in week 11 of 2020, we observe a sharp increase in newly unemployment and furlough spells especially for Norway and Denmark, but also for Finland. Sweden shows a similar but less pronounced peak in new unemployment and furlough spells, lagging behind the surge of its neighbours by around two to three weeks. When using the cumulative (total) number of new weekly unemployment and furlough spells, we again find the labour markets of Denmark and Norway to have suffered the most, followed by Finland and Sweden. Employing weekly regional stock data of furloughs (which is only available for Denmark and Sweden) shows a similar pattern. Specifically, we find a very large increase in Denmark exactly around the time of the lockdown in week 11, and for Sweden a similar but somewhat less strong increase around two to three weeks thereafter. In sum, the lockdowns of Norway and Denmark seem to have had the largest impact, followed by Finland and Sweden. Our estimates on the labour market are in line, though somewhat higher, than Andersen et al. (2020). Using bank transaction data from Swedish and Danish bank clients, they find a 25% drop in spending for Sweden versus a 29% drop for Denmark. The difference of four percentage points amounts to a 14% larger drop for Denmark compared to Sweden. Qualitatively, our results are also in line with the recent IMF’s Country Focus (IMF 2020), showing that Sweden experienced a small increase in GDP for the first quarter of 2020, contrary to almost all other advanced economies. Finally, our results find similar, but larger negative effects of NPIs compared to the study of Kong and Prinz (2020), who analyse NPIs and unemployment insurance (UI) claims across US states. However, we believe the Nordic countries provide a setting of (i) more similar exposure (regarding time and space) to the spread of COVID-19, while at the same time having (ii) much more variation in NPI strictness than most US states.”

No masks, no distancing: Schools in Denmark defy COVID-19 — with success so far

Denmark wants kids to have a normal education experience. . 

Every seat in Jens Rodgaard’s Grade 5 class is full — there is no physical distance at all. When a student raises their hand with a question, Rodgaard is by their side in an instant and leans in to help. “You have to be around them and help them, help them with spelling, help them make choices, and for proper teaching we can’t do that with the distance,” Rodgaard said. Students must sanitize their hands every time they enter the school and the grades aren’t supposed to mingle with each other. But there isn’t a mask in sight.  This is what Phase 2 of school reopening looked like at Ålholm public school in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week, a month into the second semester. “Right now we are trying to make things as normal as possible, [to] not scare any kids,” said Rodgaard, who has taught at Ålholm for 28 years. The school’s goal is to make the experience of education as normal as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.Other schools have more rules in place. At this stage, Denmark is allowing each school to come up with its own COVID-19 safety plans. Right now, the country’s strategy of containing the coronavirus seems to be working. Countries around the world, including Canada, have looked at the Danish model in designing their own school plans.

The evidence for the ‘Rule of 6’ is not promising

Boris Johnson’s government continues to enjoy the COVID Karen path. 

There are many incomprehensible things about Boris Johnston’s new “Rule of 6”: the arbitrary number; that it applies not just inside but outside where transmission is much less likely; that babies and young children will count towards the limit in England (but not Scotland or Wales); the unnecessary hit that the hospitality sector will face when so many businesses are already on the edge; the increase in loneliness and isolation that will be felt by the elderly who will find it more difficult to meet up with families. Less attention has been paid to whether this major restriction on people’s freedom to live their lives will actually be effective in reducing new positive tests. Let’s put to one side the argument that an increase in positive tests only matters (from a policy point of view) if it leads to hospitalisations and deaths increasing to an uncontrollable level. The Government are being guided by positive test numbers, so what is their evidence that these sorts of restrictions will lead to a reduction? Matt Hancock and the Chief Medical Officer both cited Belgium as a country where imposing a limit on the numbers who can socialise together had led to a reduction in new positive cases. It has proved to be an unfortunate choice of example as, since their pronouncements, the Belgium figures have started increasing again and at quite a rapid rate. But the CMO could have looked closer to home for evidence. Similar restrictions on family meet-ups have been in place in the Northern Lockdown areas since the end of July and so we have quite a lot of data to look at. It is not an auspicious picture for the “Rule of 6”. Far from stopping infections increasing, the Northern Lockdown areas have seen a much bigger recent increase in cases than the rest of the country.

Israel to Enter Lockdown Again as Second Coronavirus Wave Hits

Sadly, Israel enters a second national lockdown. 

Israel on Friday is to become the first developed country to impose a second nationwide lockdown, as its government struggles to contain a fresh coronavirus outbreak that has hammered the economy and divided the nation. The lockdown, which will last at least through early October, aims to prevent mass gatherings during the Jewish holidays that begin at sundown Friday. It will extend through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot—holidays that typically involve millions of Jewish worshipers attending synagogues and gathering for prayer services. If deemed effective, Israel will later move to localized lockdowns of coronavirus hot spots. Israel has one of the worst rates of daily coronavirus infections per capita in the world, and officials warn hospitals risk being overwhelmed ahead of the coming flu season. Over the past 24 hours, Israel has had 2,715 new infections and has 38,008 active cases overall, according to the health ministry. There are 513 patients in serious condition, and 1,108 people have died. “We want to curb the surge,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the cabinet voted to back the lockdown on Sunday. “We are not going to be able to be together with our extended families and some are going to see damage to their businesses.” Some other countries such as the U.K. have reimposed strict limits on gatherings as the threat from the virus persists or worsens. But Israel’s total national shutdown is the strictest re-imposition of such measures.

Suggestions on COVID-19 Testing 

At Rational Ground, we recently published an explanation and data analysis on why mass testing of health and asymptomatic people is counterproductive. 

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