# Lockdown Test

Let’s do a little experiment about lockdowns.  This experiment will hopefully demonstrate how vital the lockdowns were, or were not, in fighting COVID.

I am going to show you graphs with the “new cases” and “daily deaths” on 7-day rolling averages for two different states.  One of the states will be a lockdown state, and the other will be a non-lockdown state.

It is essential to point out that these are not just random, cherry-picked comparisons.  These states were chosen for these reasons.

• The two states border each other.
• The two states are within two of each other in the ranking of US States by population.
• The two states are within two of each other in the ranking of US States by population density.
• The largest cities in each of the states are of similar size.

The states share geographic location, population size, population density, and largest city size.  This combination of characteristics is about as solid a comparison as you can possibly make.  The only difference between the states is that one went on lockdown due to COVID, and the other didn’t.  Let’s compare.

This first chart is daily new cases of State A and State B.

The next chart is the daily deaths of State A and State B.

Now, guess whether State A or State B is the lockdown state.

Now, let’s do one more.  First, daily new cases for State C and State D.

And daily deaths for State C and State D.

Again, guess whether State C or State D is the lockdown state.  I will reveal the identities of the states in a few days.

There is a lot of controversy about COVID deaths, so let’s do a deep dive.  There are plenty of theories about how we are undercounting COVID deaths, and there are theories about how we are over counting COVID deaths.  I am not going to get into all of those theories at this point.  Instead, I will see if there is a method by which we can test the accuracy of the COVID death numbers.

There is a concept called mortality displacement.  Here is a clip from Wikipedia:

Yes, I realize that Wikipedia is not dependable, but this is a good definition of what I am going to try and identify.  We are going to look into the average or expected mortality rate for the United States over the last four months and see if there was any excess mortality or displacement.  This approach is the best shot at quantifying COVID deaths without depending solely on the COVID death counts that have had a lot of problems.

Here is a look at the mortality numbers for all causes in the United States since 2015.

Pretty shocking, right?

First, there are a few things to identify.  This is not a chart of COVID deaths, this is a chart of deaths from all causes in the United States.  They are still counting for weeks over the last month because those numbers take time to come in, and they will certainly be much higher than they are now.  So, we can only use the data up and until June 1st to test the numbers accurately.

We will use March 9th as a beginning date.  That is a pretty good starting point for COVID.

The first step would be identifying the number of expected or normal deaths per month over this time (March 9th – June 1st).  The easiest and best way to do that is to see what the average increase in deaths is year over year.  As our population increases, we have more deaths each week.  Using the data from the last four years, 2015-2019, the average increase year over year is approximately 783 deaths per week.

We can add that number to the number of deaths per week in 2019 to approximate how many expected deaths would have occurred during 2020.  The total for the period beginning March 9th and ending June 1st is 668,716.

Next, we can total up the actual deaths from all causes in that same period.  That total comes to 772,338.

The difference in expected deaths from all causes during this time and the actual deaths during this time is 103,622.

The count presented by the different sources had us eclipsing 100,000 COVID deaths on approximately May 27th.  If you add in another 3,622 over the next five days getting to the June 1st end date of our little math experiment, you find that the numbers are pretty much spot on.

What does this mean?

If you have the theory that the numbers presented are low and we are undercounting, you are most likely wrong.

If you have the theory that the numbers presented are high and we are overcounting, you are most likely wrong.

I admittedly went into this expecting there to be a discrepancy.  What did I find, nope, there is not one.

However, a couple of points moving forward.

On June 26th, several states starting counting what they call probably deaths.  What this did show is we are probably going to have inaccurate numbers moving forward, because the current methods seem accurate.  We shall see.

Second, there is another portion of the definition I gave you before that is relevant.

This concept of harvesting, while gruesome, is a strong possibility.  If the overall number of deaths now declines over the next months, it would indicate a forward shift in mortality rather than an accurate measure of COVID’s effects.  This harvesting effect is a distinct possibility because of the high percentage of individuals over 80 and in poor health, which this virus most affected.

I will revisit this math experiment in the future as the numbers keep coming in.  But for now, you can pretty much drop all the over counting and undercounting theories and go with the count presented as accurate for the number of people we lost to COVID.

# Mask truth, can we be reasonable?

It is amazing how our society is so fragmented and toxic that we can turn what should be a simple discussion about masks into a fight.  And just like our two-party system, we believe the reductive idea that masks are either good or bad.  As in all things, it is not that simple.  Can we all take a deep breath, look at the facts, and be reasonable?

The recent CDC and Navy report about the USS Theodore Roosevelt is an excellent opportunity to study a lot of aspects of COVID.  It is a rare opportunity where we have a control group to compare results.  In a previous post, I went into more detail about the study.  Here is the chart of those results indicating the reduced chances of becoming infected by different behavioral interventions.

Wearing a mask is the single most effective method of avoiding infection.  Not social distancing, not avoiding common areas, not hand sanitizer, not even washing your hands.  Wearing a mask is the #1 method of avoiding infection and reduces your chances by 20%.  That is not bad.

But remember, the primary reason for wearing a mask is to avoid spreading the infection to others.  Think about people in an operating room.  They do not wear masks to protect themselves; they are wearing masks to protect others.  Here is a doctor who tried to demonstrate the purpose of the mask.

And yes, I realize you cannot trust everything you see of social media.  But the doctor is right about limited the spread.  Here is an example that you should not believe. It is common shared tweet about oxygen levels that is entirely misleading.

She does not say how long she wears the mask, just simplistic pictures to try to make a false point.  Here is someone going into more detail about a lot of the science about wearing a mask.  You can read the entire report, but I will sum up its primary points.

• Yes, a mask does decrease oxygen levels.

You know what, I have to stop for a second.  Well, no shit, a mask decreases oxygen levels!  Shocking!  Wearing something over your mouth reduces airflow, which in turn reduces oxygen levels, especially over time.  How in the hell did you convince yourself that was stupid?  If you wear something that ultimately keeps out all droplets, like a plastic bag, you will not spread at all.  Of course, you would suffocate FROM A LACK OF OXYGEN, but at least you wouldn’t spread.  Did you think masks were freagin magic and only kept out COVID?  Okay, I am done with my rant.

• There could be an increased risk of severe reaction for those who are elderly with underlying conditions.

Does the increased risk of severe infection outweigh the 20% reduction in the chance of becoming infected?  I simply do not know, but I do know it is not a simple yes or no.

Okay, so this not a simple masks are good, masks are bad discussion.  But there are reasonable solutions if you will all just stop yelling at each other.  Let’s go through bullet points.

2. Mask use reduces the chances of spreading the infection to others.
3. Extended mask use can reduce the oxygen levels in your blood, which can create other problems. Depending upon your health situation, you may need to consider this issue.
4. If you are elderly with underlying conditions, you may need to look into the effects of wearing a mask versus not wearing a mask.

So, yes, wearing a mask can be very helpful.  But, it can also be harmful.  It is not a simple issue, no matter how much you want it to be simple.

As a HUGE critic of the lockdowns, I am not a critic of wearing a mask.  It does serve a purpose and is part of an excellent COVID fighting strategy.  Mask use is not about hype, but we do need to be smart and selective.

The most essential concept is wearing the mask to protect those who are most at risk.  Those people include the elderly and those with underlying conditions.  So at worst, keep a mask with you and pull it up when anyone around you is older or if they are wearing a mask.  If they are wearing a mask, then they may need protection.  Don’t be an arse.

If you are young and healthy, you may not even know that you are infected, so please be careful around those who are at risk.  Again, don’t be an arse just because you are not at risk.

I would suggest not wearing the n95 or higher masks, or at least do not wear them for an extended period of time, mainly depending upon your health situation.

Certainly, where the mask where it is required.

Bottom line, stop yelling at people who don’t do what your reductive thinking believes they should.  The issue is just not that simple, no matter how much you think it is.

Can’t we all just get along and work together?