Baseball is back, and only a week late. As a fan with an infant, even though my Mets are somehow already without our top two starting pitchers, I am thrilled. Things are not fully open without opening day. Aside from putting masks on for the subway, life is now fully back to the way it used to be.

Someone told me they had Covid this morning, and I treated it exactly the way I would have if they’d said they had a cold. I checked to see if I’d been exposed (I hadn’t), I wished them a speedy recovery, but I in no way worried about the situation. People get sick sometimes, things go around. It’s life.

Europe’s situation is somewhat less comfortable, but everyone has rightfully decided to get on with life regardless. I am impressed. This new wave there will start declining soon enough, as there are not enough people left to infect for it to do otherwise.

Here cases are picking up a bit in some areas as BA.2’s dominance sets in, but still at low levels. I do not expect any serious trouble.

China is another story.

Executive Summary

  1. BA.2 now dominant. Cases high in Europe, inching up in some places in USA.
  2. China’s attempts at containment seem doomed to fail.
  3. Congress agrees to let us spend $10bb on Covid treatments.
  4. Deaths finally drop a lot in USA.

Let’s run the numbers.

The Numbers

Predictions

Prediction from last week: 210k cases (+11%) and 5,100 deaths (-10%).

Results: 178k cases (-1%) and 3,823 deaths (-34%) (!).

Prediction for next week: 190k cases (+6%) and 2,950 deaths (-23%).

Note: Florida reported 0 cases and 0 deaths this week, 0 cases two weeks ago and a lot of cases one week ago. For now I have set all three weeks to be equal to half the cases reported a week ago, and this week’s deaths at half of last week’s deaths. It’s pretty embarrassing at this stage to think you can only report case numbers every two weeks but I do think this is an intentional choice on their part. I also undid the -123 deaths in West Virginia one day this week, which is obviously a correction of past data.

Failing to catch the Florida situation last week was part of the reason I predicted +11% last week (and from a too-high base) but I still would have predicted a slight increase in cases, so these results definitely exceed expectations.

On deaths, this is amazing news, and seems like it confirms the ‘these deaths are largely not actually Covid deaths’ as the explanation for why the death rate has looked so high. I did not dare actually predict the drop, but I can’t see any other explanation.

Deaths

I do not expect this to revert. Quite the opposite. I expect things to continue to improve, as the giant numbers of past Covid cases fall out of the ‘with Covid’ window.

Cases

BA.2 goes from 55% to 72% of cases for week ending April 4.

The South did not decline as much as this indicates but I do not want to do too many manual corrections. The only substantial increase is in the Northeast, where BA.2 has taken over, with New York seeing enough increase to catch up to the entire Midwest region. I continue not to be all that concerned about this.

Ontario wastewater numbers not looking so good.

Presuming BA.2 and BA.1 show up similarly in wastewater (I don’t have any reason to think they don’t, but they might not) it does look like things are headed close to the previous peak. Which is super weird, given how many people were recently infected, but also it seems highly unlikely things would get substantially worse this time around, there simply aren’t enough people left to infect.

Scott Gottlieb speculates we might be catching only one in seven or eight cases. Which would mean the virus is rather harmless.

UK case levels are very high.

However, a reminder that these huge numbers of cases are not entirely a bad sign.

As usual, hospitals are the place to be concerned, and there are claims we should be concerned.

You can see that the BA.2 wave in the UK is effectively slightly milder, but also not much smaller than the BA.1 wave. The situation is not good, but the good news is that no one is flirting with making a bad situation worse via new restrictions, and this too shall pass relatively soon.

Physical World Modeling

New immunity study just dropped (study). Looking great.

Never reason from a (Covid-prevention) rules change.

Nate Silver proposes the theory that Europe imposed restrictions during BA.1 Omicron, which limited its spread, which is why it is experiencing a surge under BA.2. This strikes me as a reverse morality play. Case levels in Europe for BA.1 were extremely high and it does not much matter what restrictions were in place.

Mina thread about how symptom onset relates to vaccines. Breakthrough infections cause faster immune reactions, which means faster symptoms, which makes it easier to control spread because you realize you are sick earlier relative to when you are infectious. This explanation is great.

Of course, the vaccine also improves the timeline in other ways, but this shows why things may be better for you even without that help.

China

What was the plan?

Whoops. And agreed, testing everyone was never going to get it done, although perhaps failing slower so you don’t get blamed was the plan?

Here are Chinese cases on a log scale, the majority are still in Shanghai but far from all.

This looks very over to me. I do not want to fully count China out, but I do not see how they come back from this. The reluctance to shut down Shanghai was understandable, but by the time they did shut it down it was clear that the problem is simply going to keep showing up elsewhere and at other times.

A woman made the mistake of trying to go to Beijing, which will require five weeks quarantine: Two weeks on arrival, then a week self-arranged in Shanghai because she arrived there, then two weeks in Beijing. Bad luck to have flown into Shanghai, but even without that this is still a month.

Drone orders Shanghai residents under quarantine ‘not to open the window or sing.’ There are so many different levels of wrong there.

That’s not the worst of it. There are supply chain issues when no one is allowed outside. What do you do when you got no food?

If it is day 16 of locking down one of the world’s biggest cities, the people aren’t allowed to open windows and have no way to get food, and cases still aren’t declining either there or across the country, what is the plan?

The sooner China admits it has lost and starts preparing to mitigate the damage, the better off they will be. Continuing to lock down Shanghai is digging the hole deeper.

Prevention and Prevention Prevention Prevention

White House uses obviously correct ‘test negative before you exit quarantine’ protocol, ignoring obviously incorrect alternative CDC protocol.

Belgium requires all indoor spaces have CO2 monitors.

Among other things, Bryan Caplan reports that ‘Covid caution’ in Eastern Europe is almost entirely over.

Covid tests. Our price cheap ($3/test).

RCT shows that you can get an additional vaccination per $1 spent using Facebook ads that feature Trump’s vaccine endorsement. Or at least, you used to be able to do that.

Think of the Children

Good news or bad news?

The results:

The media reaction (from what seems to be a reliably quite terrible reporter):

The confusion:

The simple explanation:

This results in claims and results like this tragedy.

Now featuring this remarkably straight face and short nose.

I have no idea why the courts are involved on either side of this, either.

Our kid’s preschool thus is forced to force our four year old child to mask, despite everyone knowing this is pointless and stupid.

Once again: After two years of isolation, no, the kids are not alright.

In Other News

The good news is we now have the very non-zero quantity of $10 billion of Covid funding, as per the deal announced by Mitt Romney.

The bad news is that we continue to have $0 in additional Covid funds, this is paid for by ‘repurposing unspent Covid funds,’ and also $0 for foreign Covid response aid.

NYT travel advice for the Covid era is outright ‘stop being poor.’

Links for NYC free testing and same day Paxlovid.

CDC announces plan to ‘revamp’ agency, Gottlieb is so close to the right take.

Challenge trial where people will strive not to have died of dysentery.

Scott Sumner on lack of social trust and how it relates to vaccination and excess death.

About that whole Gain of Function Research problem (direct link).

Includes this from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Here is Kelsey Piper on risk of man-made pandemics created in name of prevention. I’ve decided to allow links to Vox when it’s her work.

The Atlantic reviews some very bad Covid predictions from early in the pandemic.

Not Covid

New large RCT: No benefits to a low salt diet. Which is good news.

California has 40% less small businesses than it had two years ago. Things do not seem to be improving on this front.

How the senate works when it works.

New to LessWrong?

New Comment
5 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:44 PM

NYT travel advice for the Covid era is outright ‘stop being poor.’

If that's based on this source, I strongly object to this characterisation.

The quote:

Make sure you have extra funds or plenty of room on your credit card in case you need to extend your trip to recover from Covid. (You still need proof of a negative Covid test for international travel.)

They doesn't say "stop being poor" - it's not an actual quote by the NYT, as implied here, but instead by some Twitter user. And the author of that NYT piece is not in fact responsible for the fact that if you get Covid in some countries, their laws might in fact force you to prolong your stay. That's hardly satisfying, but it's certainly not the fault of that NYT author.

I very much appreciate the way you cover Covid and politics, but this is just repeating some dumb partisan cheap shot based on entirely misrepresenting someone's words. And it's not operating on Simulacra level 1 whatsoever. I've come to expect better from you.

This NYT article is a bit closer to deserving the "stop being poor" criticism:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/well/live/ba2-omicron-covid.html

... indeed, if by that you mean that it's paywalled and I can't even check it T_T.

Disable Javascript on the page.

New large RCT: No benefits to a low salt diet. Which is good news.

The study showed no benefit specifically in patients with chronic heart failure (functional class 2-3). Here's what that means: 

Class II - Mild symptoms (mild shortness of breath and/or angina) and slight limitation during ordinary activity.

Class III - Marked limitation in activity due to symptoms, even during less-than-ordinary activity, e.g. walking short distances (20—100 m). Comfortable only at rest.

- New York Heart Association guidelines (the same ones used in the study)

I'm no expert on hypertension and sodium intake, but here's a review about salt and hypertension (i.e. in pre-heart-failure), including an evolutionary biology angle.

Personally, I would be careful about extrapolating this study's results to other functional classes. Could be that low sodium diets are mostly effective as a preventative, or that they still matter in advanced heart disease, or in other diseases such as kidney failure.

But good to see evidence relevant to these specific diagnoses.