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Bad Horse


You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart. -- W. H. Auden

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Jun
22nd
2020

Everfree Northwest is off · 3:41am June 22nd

See Convention Planning.

In related news, Corgi Events posted an explanation of why they haven't cancelled any of their events, including Denfur in Denver in August. It's not because they're not worried; it's because they signed venue contracts that don't allow them to cancel, and pandemics don't qualify as an "act of God". (I guess lawyers never read the Bible.)

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Comments ( 31 )

Maybe there can be a Discord substitute in the vein of Ponyfest?

5290426
They already have one planned, actually! Keep an eye on their website.

They could read the Bible if it was translated into Legalese, but so far no one has considered doing this.

I have a lot of sympathy for con organisers. If they go ahead and someone gets the disease, then the massive reputational damage that would cause may mean their con's future would be doomed anyway. Or they may end up way below expected attendee numbers and get nowhere near the amount of (eg) food sales previously agreed. It's a horrible position to be in, and everyone can only hope that amicable agreements can be reached with venues as seems to have been the case for most cons so far.

Here in the UK, there's been some talk (at quite high levels, though I think only unofficially) of making "pandemic" a legally protected reason for cancelling events, with contracts forbidden from excluding it. That would need a change in the law, though, and I don't know how likely it is actually to happen any time soon.

I guess lawyers never read the Bible.

The problem, as Fielding so eloquently noted, is that when we do we treat the commentary with equal authority to the text.

silvadel #6 · June 22nd · · 11 ·

Fear is the mind killer. I'd have just held it at this point. There comes a point where you give up too much life in the pursuit of safety. People would make their own decisions as to whether to come.

5290552
The trouble is that young, fit people can still be carriers. So it's not just a case of making your own decisions, unless you stop worrying about the older and more vulnerable sections of society or expect those people to shut themselves away for your benefit. With a highly infectious, highly dangerous, widespread disease, it cannot simply be a question of individual responsibility, at least unless you're prepared to put yourself in full-on quarantine for a while (weeks, not days) after you get home. We can't all sit at home forever -- but the "it's over, we'll do what we want" approach (which, I need to be very clear, I am not accusing you of) is a highly dangerous one.

5290562
And even if you're destined to survive it, people I've known that have contracted it have wanted to die while sick. They say it feels like your lungs are melting.

5290571
Indeed. Everything I've read and heard about this disease, including first-hand from people I know who've come through it, puts "You don't want it" right at the top of my thoughts. I've had flu (proper flu) in adulthood so I know what that's like. I had shingles a few years ago. I'd rather have both together than Covid, and by a long way. Anyone who does the "it's no more dangerous than flu!" line at this point is a fool and can be safely ignored. You're much more likely to survive it if you're young, but the risk of being hospitalised is still substantial. You just probably won't die while being treated.

I fear that many places (the UK included) are making some of the same mistakes San Francisco did a hundred years ago. I know that was flu and that this disease won't be the same, so I'm not saying this will happen again. Like anyone else, I sincerely hope not. But they relaxed too early, under economic pressure, while New York was more cautious. SF ended up with a far bigger second wave and had both more deaths and a worse economy than NY a few years later.

Based on what's been happening lately, it seems like for the mid-tier genre conventions (by which I mean the conventions in the ten to fifty thousand attendee range or so for hobbyists; the big beasts of the jungle, your SDCCs, your Gen-Cons, have a different dynamic) the magic number is somewhere in the vicinity of six weeks to a month now.

Basically, the venues don't want to let you cancel penalty-free too far in advance; it sets an ugly precedent from their point of view, they want the money and the booking. The events themselves don't want to cancel too far in advance either, in case things are better by the time the actual date comes around (three months seems like a long time!) or even just people have collectively decided they don't give a shit anymore.

But then the clock ticks closer to the even date. Things don't get much better. And so far, eventually, what's been happening is the venues have been blinking. Just about every time. They decide they don't want a reputation as either the venue that destroyed a convention or recurring event because they forced it to be held and nobody came, OR the reputation of "they held it, people came, it turned into a petri dish." These conventions already are unhealthy for a non-trivial number of people; "con plague" has been a thing for years. Who wants their venue to have the reputation of spreading an ACTUAL plague? Nobody.

Sometimes the arrangement is a quiet one; they demand you commit to 2021, everything is transferred, that's it. Other times things are simply cancelled. But so far many if not most venues HAVE been blinking on this... once you're close enough.

For events in August, I'd expect a big big wave of cancellations if nothing changes (unlikely at this point) once everyone gets back from 4th of July weekend and realized August is right around the corner. (Remember, 4th of July is less than two weeks from right now!)

5290552

This isn't how it works. This SHOULD NOT BE how it works, especially with things that pose a grave risk of life and limb to folks beyond the ones doing it. We don't allow people to just decide how they want to drive because "they'll make their own choices" over how safe they'll be on the road. We don't allow asbestos to be used as an insulator anymore because people will "make their own choices" as to whether or not to risk silicosis. We took lead out of gasoline because people COULDN'T "make their own choices" about what they breath. And we institute safety measures during public health emergencies because individual choice when it comes to that sort of thing is an idiotic way of doing things.

This comment has been more polite, and taken you more seriously, than you deserve.

5290552
5290562
5290571

Those of us who have been paying close attention lately know that the largest increase in Covid-19 infections and deaths is in younger, fit people. Covid-19 can cause a problem known as "Cytokine Storm", which increases the risk of death for healthy people more significantly than for those with weaker immune systems.

5290574
Some young people do die from it, as well. It doesn't just attack the lungs, it has neurological effects and gets into other organs. Whether or not you end up dead is super random.

5290808
Sure. Hence my "probably". Overall, and other things being equal, a 25-year-old has a much better chance of survival than an 85-year-old. But it's still not 100%.

Wow, Sin City Murr Con just postponed less than three days before DoS. Lotta foalks gonna be stuck with plane tickets to nowhere.

5290499
Have you ever tried reading Leviticus?

5290599

This comment has been more polite, and taken you more seriously, than you deserve.

I don't like that sort of talk on my blog--not when it's in response to someone who was serious and polite.

Did you also oppose the recent street protests in the US?

5290574

You're much more likely to survive it if you're young, but the risk of being hospitalised is still substantial. You just probably won't die while being treated.

According to the CTP, as of today, 234,426 people have been hospitalized for covid-19 in America. According to the CDC, 490,600 Americans were hospitalized with the flu in the 2018-19 flu, and 810,000 in the 2017-18 flu. We'll have to wait to find out how many people had covid-19--if we ever do find out--before we can say whether it has a higher hospitalization rate than the flu. My guess at the moment is that it has a higher hospitalization rate, but that without any countermeasures, you'd have a similar chance of being hospitalized from it as from the flu, because it appears to be less-contagious than the flu (which runs to about 40 million cases of sickness per year in the US.)

The fatality rate in the US appears now to be 5%, which is much worse than I'd been thinking. I should've realized that before; the rate should be estimated by comparing deaths today to positives about 1 week in the past.

5292248
Once actually. You raise a good point, sir.

This sort of thing is why people buy insurance, but few people buy insurance against communicable disease.

Interestingly, the IOC actually insured the Japanese Olympics against communicable disease (among other things).

I'm sure the insurance companies thought it was easy money.

5292252
Present numbers suggest that the coronavirus is significantly more contagious than influenza; if fewer people get it, it will have been because we took massive countermeasures, whereas we pretty much just shrug and ignore flu season beyond immunizing some percentage of the population which is far from enough to give herd immunity.

The flu has an R0 value of about 1.3 (for every one person who gets the flu, they pass it on to about 1.3 others) though it varies from year to year (as low as 0.9 and as high as 2.1); the initial estimates for the coronavirus, when no one is taking precautions, were somewhere between 2.2 and 2.7 (about twice as infectious), but reanalysis of the Wuhan data has suggested a median R0 value of 5.7.

That's really quite high, which explains why it spreads like crazy - you're looking at some serious exponential growth.

As for relative hospitalization rates - the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 appears to be somewhere in the range of 10-20%.

The flu's hospitalization rate in 2019 was about 1 in 72 patients, or a bit over 1%, as it infected an estimated 35.5 million people.

So COVID-19 is both much more infectious, and much more likely to put you in the hospital if you do catch it.

5292399

if fewer people get it, it will have been because we took massive countermeasures

This is important, if only to stave off the Y2K Bug-style "See? The lockdown was pointless!" posts that are all over social media. While we don't have a control experiment to show us how many would have died if we'd just carried on,* I think it's generally accepted that the numbers would have been a lot higher than they actually are -- perhaps even more so if health services had been overwhelmed and there'd been Lombardy-style disasters everywhere.

* Brazil may be the closest, or Sweden if you'd prefer somewhere more akin to the rest of the rich world. Neither is doing well at all.

5292248

I don't like that sort of talk on my blog--not when it's in response to someone who was serious and polite.

Silvadel's comment was immensely unserious, and my response to them was very polite given its demonstrated lack of seriousness.

Did you also oppose the recent street protests in the US?

Not sure how that's relevant, but no.

5292764 What on earth makes you think his/her comment was at all unserious? Silvadel is serious and concerned. I have more evidence of this than you, since Silvadel has PMed me on the subject, but the comment you're responding to has no trace of frivolity. Any lack of seriousness you perceive in it is a projection by you.

(Silvadel didn't complain about your comment. He/she PMed me after I responded to it, and didn't say anything about you.)

Not sure how that's relevant, but no.

Again, I'm flummoxed that you fail to see how it's relevant. You reamed Silvadel for suggesting that it might be okay for a couple of thousand people to have a meeting, yet you're okay with hundreds of thousands of people having meetings all over the US--if it's your kind of meeting. And somehow you don't even notice your double standard, not even when I point it out to you.

5292399 Viruses don't have an R0 value. That's a property of a virus plus an environment. The initial estimates of "R0 for covid-19" were all made from outbreaks, which means they were perfect storms, and wild over-estimates of transmissibility under normal circumstances. (Also, as I noted in my earlier post, only one of these estimates in any way adjusted for the number of tests given per day, and IIRC that one gave an estimate of R0 = 0.4.) R estimates given retrospectively for a flu, on the other hand, are calculated from its spread across the entire country, so that R is useful. Agencies try to estimate the "R0" for a flu early in its spread, and that R0 is of some use, because it's averaged from across the country. But an R0 calculated by the spread of a virus in Wuhan (pop. 11 million) is irrelevant to anything other than the spread of that virus in other super-metropolises in the same climate, at the same time of year.

As far as infectivity, you might be right; I haven't done a careful study. Let's try:

The first known coronavirus case in the US was on Jan. 16. The first stay-at-home orders in the US were in CA on March 19; 9 states had them by 3/23; half of US states did by 3/28, which is 10 weeks after 1/16.

Approximate the US response as "half of the US began countermeasures 10 weeks in, all of the US began countermeasures 11 weeks in".

See this graph:
cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/20704.jpeg
"Assume" the fraction of positive tests at each time is proportional to the number of infections at that time. I put "assume" in quotes because this might not be entirely correct, depending on how tests are given, but is much more probable than the term "assume" implies.

Now approximate the curve in that graph as a normal centered on 18 weeks in, with a standard distribution of 6 weeks. Looks like a reasonable match to me.

10 weeks in = 1.333 sd before midpoint; cumulative total fraction = .092
11 weeks = 1.16, .123

fraction of cases which would occur before countermeasures = [EDITED] .5*.092 + .5*.123 = .1075 .
number of cases before countermeasures = 40 million * .1075 = 4.30 million

So: If you accept my equating Jan 16 with the start of the flu season, then, { if you think there were already more than 4 million cases of covid-19 in the US by 3/28, then, yes, it's as contagious as the flu. If not, it isn't. }

The main question here is which bias wins when we compare a breakout from an unknown number of initial cases in January, to the onset of a flu season in the fall. There were probably? fewer cases of covid-19 in the US in January than cases of flu at the "start" of flu season. On the other hand, a flu's transmissibility varies seasonally, and is near zero at the "beginning" of the flu season. Covid-19, being a type of SARS, is probably maximally transmissible in January thru March.

Another question is how to compare number of flu cases with number of covid-19 cases. Flu isn't usually tested for, so I don't know how the CDC comes up with its estimates of number of cases.

5292252
The problem is logistical. You don't need ventilators for everypony hospitalized with the flu. If too many people are hospitalized at the same time, there will be a lot of needless death and chaos.

5293631
And to ponyback on the rest of the conversation, the only reason we have so few hospitalizations is that we have been taking the most aggressive countermeasures in a century to stop the spread. The death count on this is going to be much, much higher if a vaccine doesn't come quickly enough.

5293634

the only reason we have so few hospitalizations is that we have been taking the most aggressive countermeasures in a century to stop the spread.

We have fewer hospitalizations than we would have without countermeasures, but would we have had fewer hospitalizations than a typical flu if we'd taken no measures?

  • Say there would be H total hospitalizations with no countermeasures.
  • Estimate that the number of hospitalizations before countermeasures were taken was .1075H . (See my reply to TD above for the reasoning: 5293565)
  • Total cumulative hospitalizations by 10 weeks in was 16363; total by 11 weeks in was 35991 (Covid tracking project).
  • Hospitalizations b4 countermeasures = .5*(16363 + 35991) = 26177.
  • Expected H = 26177 / .1075 = 243,507, which is around half as many as for a typical flu season.

5292399

That's really quite high, which explains why it spreads like crazy - you're looking at some serious exponential growth.

I think much of the confusion on this point is because the seasonal flu spreads in both cities and in the country, whereas covid-19 spreads very quickly in cities, but in the country spread very slowly, if at all. All the evidence I've seen shows that covid doesn't spread without extended exposure, on the order of 15 minutes of standing near infected people who are talking. Even people living unknowingly in the same house with someone who has it don't usually catch it. These circumstances are met frequently in cities, but less often in rural areas.

(I say "if at all" because the number of cases that occur in rural areas seem, eyeballing them, to be less than you'd expect even if people in those areas can catch it only when they visit a city. Perhaps rural people more-often develop immunity to it, from being exposed to it in doses long enough to activate the immune system, but not long enough to be infected (e.g., standing in a line for 2 minutes, talking to a clerk for 20 seconds). )

The method and ease of transmission seem to be different. This is also part of the reason for the uselessness of R0 values estimated from outbreaks in big cities.

5293741

All the evidence I've seen shows that covid doesn't spread without extended exposure, on the order of 15 minutes of standing near infected people who are talking.

It'd be hard to make a less-correct statement than this that didn't sound insane.

Defer to the medical experts (epidemiologists) on this one. You literally do not know what you're talking about here.

Also, it's not a plague unless there are open sores. If it were giant locusts or rivers turning into blood*, that would be covered.

(* = only type AB negative is covered by the Basic Value plan)

5293521

What on earth makes you think his/her comment was at all unserious?

It's content?

"A hobbyist convention, which are ALREADY huge petri dishes, should go forward in the middle of a pandemic, encouraging people to attend because they can decide for themselves if it is a good idea or not!" is a demonstrably unserious idea, and I should not need to explain why that is.

You reamed Silvadel for suggesting that it might be okay for a couple of thousand people to have a meeting, yet you're okay with hundreds of thousands of people having meetings all over the US--if it's your kind of meeting. And somehow you don't even notice your double standard, not even when I point it out to you.

I would submit that "a hobbyist convention under circumstances that are very likely to spread a pandemic disease" is a much different situation than "people taking to the streets to protest the constant, ongoing murders that police visit upon their communities with impunity under circumstances that, as near as anyone can tell after the fact, has spread the disease minimally, if at all" are two wildly different situations that should not in any way, shape, or form be judged equivalently. Flattening them both to "a meeting" is creating equivalencies that do not, and should not, exist.

5293741

I think much of the confusion on this point is because the seasonal flu spreads in both cities and in the country, whereas covid-19 spreads very quickly in cities, but in the country spread very slowly, if at all.

The coronavirus spreads most easily by being in close proximity with someone with the coronavirus. The closer you are, the longer you're exposed to them, and the worse the type of exposure, the higher your odds of infection.

Some number of virus particles get out into the air/onto surfaces/whatever, and each one has a certain chance of infecting you if you should inhale it/ingest it/otherwise get it into your body. So we would expect, rather than there being any sort of “magic number”, that your odds would be largely based around total exposure. The lower your exposure, the lower your risk of getting the disease. Avoidance strategies like masks/not touching your face/standing further apart lowers the number of viruses that you’d be exposed to. Being 5 feet away from someone who is sick for 15 minutes is probably about as bad as being 10 feet away from them for four hours, all other things being equal.

Longer, closer proximity would naturally increase the risk, but I’m sure that getting a good model would require far more research than we really presently have time to do properly.

So avoiding being in close contact with people for any significant period of time is probably a good idea, but it’s probably not as helpful indoors, because of the recirculated air and the lack of UV light killing the virus (as the virus degrades orders of magnitude faster in direct sunlight than indoors in the shade).

Someone who spends their whole time working on a farm that everyone on the farm lives on is at a very low risk of infection because they have very low rates of exposure to outsiders and they’re outside under UV light all the time, which reduces the virus’s life expectancy in the environment massively.

The catch, however, is that most people who live in rural areas don't actually do this; only about 10% of people who work in rural areas actually work in agriculture.

Most people in rural areas work in local town centers, do natural resource extraction, or work in other local facilities, or live in the periphery around larger towns and cities - I live in a rural area but only two people in my neighborhood don't work in a town of over 50,000 people.

In a city where everyone goes everywhere by car, the risk is not much different than it is for rural people who go everywhere by car, assuming you end up working with a similar number of people.

The most at-risk places are places where people take public transportation, like buses and subways, because it means that on your way to work, you're exposed to a huge variety of random people who also take mass transit. This is why New York City got in such a dire predicament; it's the least car-centric city in the US.

This greatly increased everyone's risk of exposure because instead of just being exposed to home + work + groceries, you add on "an evershifting number of people on the subway".

This meant that the virus had a huge number of possible hosts to jump between; the more contacts you have, the better the virus is at spreading.

Obviously rural folks don't run a huge risk of transmission via public transit; there is little if any public transit in rural areas.

However, there's several vectors which are probably worse in the countryside than they are in the average city.

The first is churches, as rural areas tend to be more religious and have higher church attendance.

Churches (and other, similar religious facilities, like mosques) appear to be excellent vectors for the transmission of the disease. The initial outbreak in South Korea happened due to a church, and we've seen a number of superspreader events here in the US where hundreds of people were infected via churches. Church attendance is higher in many rural areas, and many areas have a large proportion of the population who go to just a few churches. These are major hubs for the transmission of the disease. It's hard to say whether the sharing of communal wine is to blame, or simple close proximity on pews (or in mosques, while being arranged to kneel in prayer) but whatever the case, this appears to be one of the higher risk things people can do.

The other is food processing facilities, which are also commonly seen in rural areas.

We've seen a lot of spreading events at food processing facilities, such as the meat packing plants. Beyond the fact that this puts a rather disturbing light on the sanitation in such places, it seems that working together in close proximity, possibly with biological materials that might be good at letting the virus linger on its surface, makes these places vulnerable, as a lot of these places have been hubs for infection across the US.

In Oregon, [the place with the highest infection rates is actually one of the more sparsely populated parts of the state.](https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/fff9f83827c5461583cd014fdf4587de) Benton County and Lane County both contain cities (Benton County of 50k+, Lane of 250k+ between the Eugene-Springfield area), but have very low rates of infection, while Union County is extremely rural and has the highest infection rate in the state. There’s several counties over in Eastern Oregon that have high rates of infection.

The Union County outbreak was [caused by illegal church gatherings.](https://www.newsweek.com/89-percent-oregon-countys-coronavirus-cases-linked-church-outbreak-1512837)

So I wouldn't be so sure that the risk profile is lower in the country than it is in the city. Indeed, a number of low-density rural counties in Oregon have higher infection rates than more densely populated urban areas.

While the virus seems to be at its worst in big cities with lots of public transportation, I’m not sure if it’s any worse in car cities vs rural communities.

5293565
The flu numbers are estimates, I'm afraid, and probably only good to plus minus ten million or so based on reported symptoms.

They can be distorted if there's some other thing that looks like the flu but isn't actually influenza.

As for R0 - you're right that it is virus + environment, but we don't really do much to lower the infectiousness of influenza, while we did a great deal to lower the infectiousness of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Given that we still had millions of people get sick, I think it's pretty likely that the disease has a very high R0 in the case where we do nothing, probably higher than influenza.

Of course, in all fairness, the global population has no known background immunity to SARS-CoV-2 while there is some degree of herd immunity to influenza, so influenza's actual infectiousness in a totally naive population is probably higher than the R0 we see in real life.

You're correct that there are some major limitations to the data, but this disease appears to me from the numbers I've seen to be more infectious than the flu. I suspect that fewer people will catch it than the flu overall, at least in the developed world, due to precations taken by the government, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the virus was "less infectious" in the sense that it was harder to catch.

5293800

Defer to the medical experts (epidemiologists) on this one. You literally do not know what you're talking about here.

TQ, I do in fact know what I'm talking about. I didn't say it was true; I said,

All the evidence I've seen shows that covid doesn't spread without extended exposure, on the order of 15 minutes of standing near infected people who are talking.

All the evidence I've seen. I've not yet heard about a single case of covid-19 which was traced to an exposure of less than 15 minutes. I saw one study which found that every incident they were able to trace involved more than 15 minutes of close contact. Sadly, I don't remember now which study it was.

If you can find an epidemiologist who's documented cases of transmission in less than 15 minutes, please provide a citation or link. If you can't, then why say I don't know what I'm talking about?

I'm sure there are some cases of fast transmission, but the probability of transmission seems to be proportional to the length of contact. So 2 people talking for half an hour are about a thousand times as likely to transmit the virus as 2 people who pass each other in the street without stopping. If so, that means transmission will be so dominated by people with extended exposure that transmission by short exposure will be barely detectable.

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