The hope is that the pandemic will be fully and truly over because case counts will be sufficiently low, and vaccination rates sufficiently high, that we can all agree to move on and resume our lives.
The fear is that this will never happen. Either cases will climb back up and be sufficiently high to justify a continued emergency state, or they won’t but people will react in a nonsensical and disproportionate way to a tiny risk, forever damaging or even destroying much of our way of life.
At this point, that potential reaction is the true risk factor. Children as young as five can be vaccinated, and anyone who wants one can effectively get a booster shot. There’s no risk left in the room that is different from many other background risks we all take every day.
Meanwhile, case counts stopped declining this week outside of the South, so the strategy of ‘wait until cases are much lower’ is looking like a less promising strategy than it did before.
For you, in your life, outside of official meddling, the pandemic is over for you, if and when you decide it is over.
If you want them to, your After Times can start today.
As far as my personal life is concerned, the After Times started last week. Pandemic over. I’ll still have to flash my vaccination card and toggle my mask on and off as required, but that’s all for show. It’s over. If my building keeps requiring masks and keeps refusing to let delivery people go upstairs, that’s annoying, but so is it when one’s day sadly requires pants.
This past week I dove a bunch into the logistical situation at the Port of Long Beach, and the Tweetstorm that helped change the container stacking rule in the city. That first post was my most widely read post ever by a wide margin. I wrote a follow-up, and notice that the logistics issues seem urgent in a way that Covid issues increasingly do not seem urgent. Perhaps I can continue to work on transitioning away from a Covid focus towards a focus on things that now matter more, on a variety of fronts. The more of these posts I can keep short, the better.
- Child vaccinations for ages 5-11 good to go.
- Case counts may no longer be declining.
- Vaccine mandate compliance very high when mandates are actually enforced.
Let’s run the numbers.
Prediction from last week: 400k cases (-9%) and 8,600 deaths (-10%).
Results: 442,620 cases (-1%) and 8,439 deaths (-11%).
Prediction for next week: 442k cases (no change) and 7500 deaths (-11%).
The death numbers are predictable. The case number is a major inflection point and will tell us a lot, given that cases stopped declining this week. It’s a very different story to see an increase versus no change versus a resumed decline, and all three are possible. For now I’m predicting no change, but it’s more likely that it meaningfully changes than that it stays essentially the same.
Deaths continue to follow cases with several weeks of delay.
There was little uncertainty here, which may change in a few weeks if case counts have stopped declining, but it’s rare now that the death numbers tell us much that we didn’t already know.
Numbers in the South continue to decline, but the increases in the Midwest and Northeast are exactly what we’d expect to see if we’re headed for a winter wave. Positive test percentages tell the same story, so this is probably not a data artifact. I don’t want to draw too many conclusions from one week of data, and child vaccinations are about to start which could help a lot, but the chances of things fading away into the background that easily seem a lot lower than they did last week.
Vaccines are safe and effective, and boosters make them far more effective. You know what might be less effective than the vaccine? Homeopathic treatment, also known as nothing. So here we are, Green Bay Packers.
What’s great about this story is Rodgers petitioning to have his homeopathic treatments ‘count as vaccination‘ and also the NFL pretending it didn’t know what the situation was while Rodgers was going around ignoring the rules for unvaccinated players. Whoops.
San Francisco wastes zero time, moves to impose vaccine requirements on five year old children after an eight week period to ensure that children have enough time to get vaccinated. How very generous of them.
That which is not forbidden is mandatory. That which is not mandatory is forbidden. If you’re voting to make something not forbidden in such a context, you really do need to consider that this is definitely going to happen.
As I’ve repeatedly noted, there’s a big difference between not getting vaccinated under normal circumstances, and not getting vaccinated even though it will get you fired. That’s a big difference.
It makes sense that the vast majority of the unvaccinated, when push comes to shove and their job is on the line, choose vaccination.
And that’s exactly what happens.
From 66% to 98% means that 94% of all unvaccinated employees agreed to get vaccinated.
What’s funny about the NYPD situation is that the same people who would have cheered and laughed at the cops for quitting, are also cheering and laughing at the cops for not quitting.
Air Canada suspends 800 more than employees without pay for not being fully vaccinated. That’s about 3% of their workforce, so right in line with other numbers.
Here’s an ethics professor who got fired for not getting vaccinated, willing to take a strong stand and pay the price. Yes, such people exist, but they’re rare. It’s unfortunate that the second half of her statement repeats a lot of what I believe to be misinformation, rather than sticking to her principled position that the danger level of Covid-19 simply doesn’t rise to the level that justifies violating bodily autonomy.
This is in contrast to places where the alternative is weekly testing, especially when that weekly testing doesn’t actually happen. Those tactics are less effective.
The Federal mandate isn’t going into effect until January 4, if it happens at all. Companies might find ways to not enforce it, but I expect similarly high compliance rates at any companies that do enforce it, and among federal employees, if and when it does go into effect. Republicans are trying to kill the mandate.
Does this mean that work requirements are effectively mostly involuntary?
It could mean that, but it could also mean that switching jobs is annoying and expensive (and that for those where it wasn’t and they cared a lot about not being vaccinated, they simply already left), and it turns out that defiance of the vaccine mandate is shallow. In the face of actual costs, most fold like cheap tents. I’d expect the same if there was an (actually enforced) reasonably sized fine involved.
It also makes sense that many of the few who don’t do that are taking a stand for actual reasons, like allergic reactions.
There’s supposed to be medical exceptions available, but inevitably some people aren’t being given exemptions they need, because if you are sure to give out all the exemptions people need then lots of other people will get fake exemptions, so it’s very hard to not have this ruined for everyone.
There’s also this approach. It’s not a great look, but the logic behind it makes sense. You don’t get a death benefit in case of a suicide either, and also I’m not sure why those who want it shouldn’t be buying their own life insurance, which charges different prices depending on a wide variety of risk factors.
These days, workers who refuse to get vaccinated against covid-19 may face financial repercussions, from higher health insurance premiums to loss of their jobs. Now, the financial fallout might follow workers beyond the grave. If they die of covid and weren’t vaccinated, their families may not get death benefits they would otherwise have received.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority no longer pays a $500,000 death benefit to the families of subway, bus and commuter rail workers who die of covid if the workers were unvaccinated at the time of death.
“It strikes me as needlessly cruel,” said Mark DeBofsky, a lawyer at DeBofsky Sherman Casciari Reynolds in Chicago who represents workers in benefit disputes.
Other employers have similar concerns about providing death or other benefits to employees who refuse to be vaccinated.
NPIs Including Mask and Testing Mandates
This week’s investigation into our lack of reasonably priced or widely available rapid tests finds the same thing as every other investigation: The FDA dragged their feet sufficiently to drive most providers out of the market, so the few that are approved charge a lot.
Think of the Children
The referenced article makes the obvious point that vaccinated five-year-old children have almost exactly as much reason to wear masks in 2021 as they did in 2019. The fully vaccinated colleges are in deeply similar situations. For whatever reasons, the lives of young people are expendable and their experiences are not important, but their safety even at probabilities very hard to distinguish from zero has been declared paramount.
Young children being vaccinated opens the latest front in the war. Make no mistake, there is a war.
In Other News
I’m shocked, shocked to find politics going on in this establishment.
The things policy isn’t being driven by here seem right. The thing it is does not seem complete, as those in Public Health and who are Very Serious People or offer Elite Consensus clearly can compete with and sometimes overrule public opinion, often not for the better. But yeah, science? How many divisions does it have?
It’s easy to confuse cause and effect. Often the people approve of whatever restrictions such folks get put into place, and blindly follow ‘official guidelines,’ rather than the other way around. Politicians in many places think they’re following polls, and maybe they even are, but that doesn’t mean that regular people are meaningfully driving events. It does offer hope and a (difficult to implement) model of action, if one could convince the public directly.
In honor of polls driving policy, here are some recent poll numbers from Wisconsin, to give some context of where the public is on these matters.
Mask requirements for schools split parents down the middle, and are strongly supported by those without children. That’s before child vaccinations, which presumably will move the needle on that at least a little. The same people who support mask requirements are very concerned about children falling behind or having mental health problems (and also, in an unrelated note, inflation).
New Fluvoxamine results are in, and they look good. This now seems clearly like it should be part of the standard of care in appropriate cases.
I fully endorse that this is too good to check, so not checking.
Occasionally, in this world, there is justice.