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COVID Update May 16: It’s the middle of May and we don’t know how we’re doing.

A lot of people of course think they do. 1/
We are having a predicted “lull” of new cases in May after unrestrained growth in cases in April.

Consider that we can now consider a lull 2000 Americans dying every day.

Much of this also reflects April. 2/
In May many of our states are taking steps towards “opening up.”

In fact the majority of states are. And those that are are doing it without all the tools we wish they would. And that many committed to.3/
We won’t really learn about May until June— as this lays out. Could be good, bad or somewhere in between. Though many do, it would be foolish to pretend we know. 4/…
What do we think? Well, the week of May 6, there were 165,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. This is down 25% from peak, 13% from last week. Since we are doing more not fewer tests, this is a good sign.

Still, 165,000 people w new COVID infections. Still, our 6th highest week. 5/
We also know that 1128 counties (out of 3000), which represent 40% of the population, are showing increases in new cases. Less than 0.4% of the country now lives in a county with no cases. 6/
Our top hot spots are counties with only 3% of the population but have 18% of cases & 21% of deaths.

Outside of NY & NJ, they are rural towns in Tennessee, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas & Minnesota. Factories & prisons are a common thread. 7/
Without enough tests, we won’t see the cycle of symptoms-cases- hospitalizations-ICU-deaths occur for a while. We have to make do with what we know.

We should stop guessing. And, in an unpopular opinion, we may want to stop criticizing Gov Kemp until we learn more. 8/
Some people will fixate on every pieces of good news some on every piece of bad news. Many have their narratives & will hear whatever they want to hear and fit it into what we think. 9/
We can try to guess based on these new fancy websites. It looks like we’ve dramatically reduced movement since before the outbreak. And it looks like we have let up recently, but only slightly. At least that’s how I read this. 10/
Some things look like they fit a pattern. For example, while we’ve never been as disciplined as other countries in crushing the curve, Hawaii looks like they stepped up their game considerably in an effort to eradicate COVID-19.

And New York has responded to its crisis. 11/
Texas and Georgia, both of which reopened, don’t appear to have dropped back entirely but there is some movement toward the normal. Governors are opening but people will still decide. TX cases are on the rise, GA dropping. Why? Impossible to say. 12/
Is the data above indicative of anything at all?

All movement and activities are not created equally. Some are safe. Some are not. 13/
The real question is what do we really know? I continue to believe not a lot.

We believe the virus transmits most indoors when there’s bad circulation & over long periods.

If more people are jogging but at a safe distance, more movement wouldn’t be bad. It would be good. 14/
The most interesting thing is what @NateSilver538 said to me on this podcast: we can’t know how much spread there is due to pure randomness. I learned more from Nate about what little we know and how murky the picture is. Listen below. 15/…
He makes the point that a single super-spreader could be responsible for spread more than any 10 policy differences. That there could be dozens of factors that drive spread that we don’t even know yet. This may all be obvious in 2 years but we now only guessing, 16/
Instead of following the facts we retrofit what we see into our pre-conceived beliefs. So many are sure GA will be a disaster in May.

We have to admit that we have no idea.

We do know however that what pain there is will fall on the poor, sick & old. 17/
If Georgia turns out bad, people will say “they knew it.” If it’s not bad, the same people will retrofit an explanation.

Instead we should say, we know some things for sure are a problem, but other things we’re still learning. 18/
What if it turns out that being outdoors at the beach & in the sun makes COVID hard to spread? What if the Florida beach parties weren’t that bad.

If it’s true, DeSantis didn’t know that at the time. But as Tom Petty once said about people who “get lucky sometimes.”19/
Right now in TX, cases are rising. In GA, cases are falling. Is it testing? Is it policy? Is it randomness? We don’t know.

What we do know is it’s bad. Lots of people are dying & we’re sitting at a high level of cases that overall aren’t dropping. 20/
We know for sure that certain things— arenas, jails, choirs, nursing homes, meat processing plants, close indoor quarters— spread the virus. We should stop those things until further notice.

But for all we don’t know, states will try things. And we will learn in June.21/
We do know that time is not on your side when an outbreak happens. Which is why testing, tracing & isolation are vital to beating this down.

When we don’t know, being conservative with our lives & our neighbors is a good idea. But it doesn’t mean things will fail.22/
The fact is culture more than science drives our behavior. Why some states open and some don’t. Why some will end social distancing & some won’t.23/
That’s not why Georgia is bad. Even if Kemp’s policies don’t end up causing massive spikes, they are still inhumane because they punish workers for doing what they believe is safe by eliminating unemployment compensation.
We all have to admit the possibility that we may be— and probably are— wrong about at least some of what we believe.25/
There will be a randomness to the results from May that we can’t explain. 26/
We will have spikes we understand because they’re hot spots. And other spikes we will only explain in retrospect with new facts.

And some spikes we expect but won’t materialize. Thanks God. 27/
Paying so much attention to the politics of the state leaders takes our eyes off the prize. Saving lives. 28/
May is like a massive trial on what things work and what doesn’t. We will be surprised to the good end to the bad. And hopefully we are smart enough to learn our lessons. 29/
In the meantime, we live with a death toll not a person in the country— no matter what they say now— would have found anything short or horrifying. 30/
Governors are going to do wise and unwise things. They will inch things open, as much to relieve cultural pressure, as anything. The economy isn’t on its way back we much as they hope so without better containment. 31/
But the unwise things will hopefully turn out better than we fear. That’s what we hope for.

It will be a zigzag bringing us forward. Our good decisions in the future will hopefully be informed by our mistakes today. 32/
So I got the date on the thread wrong. It’s the 15th. Either way we’re in the middle of May & we are at the beginning of an educated guessing game. 31/
Experts will do a great job explaining May come June once the results are in.

Meanwhile the smartest of us will learn. Our expectation shouldn’t be no mistakes. It should be not making the same one twice. /end
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