Flattening the curve

You might have heard about “flattening the curve” of the Coronavirus spread.

Please note: That is a very good idea.

I just don’t like being lied to. Thank you also to this medium.com author for pointing out that “The curve is a lie” earlier – I still have some remarks:

This illustration – also available in comic form, also in animated – is a very good example of how to irritate people with statistics. Essentially, the graph isn’t really a lie, it’s just wildly irritating. Let’s do some additions you just might find interesting:

Now, the axes don’t have any kind of numerical scale. That’s not exactly helpful.

Given a linear scale, it’s improbable that the total number of infected people vary that much – the grey curve does not fill the same area as the pink curve. It’s thus a logarithmic scale – that would look somewhat like this, if base10-logarithmic:

This way, it gets way more realistic where the “capacity” line is, even though that is a little low if we go up to over 100m daily infections. Doesn’t matter, though – this is just irritating the public with weird scales; most university professors don’t really grasp logarithmic scales, so I’ll stop bothering you with that and we just pretend the graph is not totally against all experience of every virologist ever and we really can reduce the total number of cases (smaller grey area) by prolonging the spread.

To be fair, they don’t really know if any given virus will infect 30 or 70% of the population (after that, it’s really hard to find someone not infected, thus rates will inevitably fall). Best case – you also don’t know if the virus will just die out long before that, as do most viruses. But we’re talking a global pandemic, so let’s assume it won’t do us the favor of just dying out. Thus, we can go back to my original graph – oh, and let’s ignore the non-severe cases; they’ll be fine.

This graph might make you uncomfortable, but wait: you didn’t already forget that the “health care system capacity” line was a lie, right? It’s actually much lower, depending on where you live. The US claims to have around 62.000 ventilators in hospitals plus a “national stockpile” of the weirdly precise and thus reassuring number of 9.800 – let’s make that a total of 70.000 respirators for a population of 330 million.

For Germany, we have numbers, too – there’s 25.000 ventilators for a population of ~80 million. You might see differing statistics on that, because, obviously, nobody in the vast epidemic planning bureaucracy ever bothered to count, but you’ll get something like this:

Other statistics put Japan at the top with 12 hospital beds with ventilators, Germany ans South Korea at 9, the US below that.

If you do the math, 70.000 ventilators for 330m people come down to 21 per 100k population for the US, while Germany reaches 31. That may be because most German ICU beds feature a ventilator, while the US ones obviously only have one for every other bed. Problem here is: If you catch COVID-19, chances are you’ll die just the same, whether if you’re in an US ICU bed with no ventilator or on your sofa at home.

Doesn’t matter much – let’s start with the German number – 30 beds at 25.000 ventilators. Now, some virus specialist says we need rather 90.000 ventilators, but the German government just ordered 10.000 – that’s a plus of 50%. Boris Johnson of the UK ordered “everything you can supply, price doesn’t matter” – a good idea, given they don’t even (proportionally to population) have half the ICU beds Canada has, and Canada has half those of the US or Germany.

Let’s add these data into our graph – and assume the German government ordered an useful number:

So – if our well-paid politicians and their advisers are correct, mitigating the peak of the disease (by any means possible) and spending that time upping your ICU capacity like crazy, then the graph does make sense.

So does anything a dictatorship would do: Curfews, shutdown of public life. So does avoiding large congregations. Especially does not visiting old people.

Are we suddenly caring about other people?

Nah – just think about you having to tell your little brat that, remember, when he had the delicious cake while you went to yoga class, just a few days before that little cough? That’s why granny is dead, now.

4 Replies to “Flattening the curve”

  1. First, we don’t exactly know, what the tests really test. Looks like they test for the presence of any type of Corona-Virus, not distinguishing between the new type from Wuhan and the other 10-20 types which are around. It looks also like the “common flu” has been caused by Corona-Viruses for a few decades already at roughly a 10% rate (the other 90% are other respiratory viruses). Under these conditions, the statistics don’t say much about the Wuhan-Flu, reliably.

    R naught or R0 has to come down (that is the average number of people infected by Virus-carriers). The very best way to do this is individual self-isolation for around 4 weeks, if everyone did this. And it doesn’t matter what “stage” of the infection spread we are in – it is the only way to get rid of the virus finally. Since we (in general) don’t do this, the virus will come back after a while, in waves. Flattening the curve doesn’t make much sense then.

    Which are the companies who produce, sell and maintain respirators and ECMO machines? I guess with the gains from your Put options, the money might be well invested with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well… ventilators are a niche market with 20% share @ Dräger and another 30% with a privately-owned Swiss company.

      Dräger made 20% Friday already, and up another 20% today with a short peak around lots more; but neither the preferred shares nor the normal stocks are what I’d consider a sound “investment”, given they’re still hardly back to their 5-year average.

      That short-term gain is thus rather pure hype as German government ordered 10.000 units from them; but essentially, so did the British from *everyone*, thus at least Irish Medtronic (says “Nellcor / Puritan Bennett” if you go to a hospital) should have risen steeply, which they didn’t. GE went up 5% friday but dropped 11% today, Philips dropped on both days.

      In short: That “investment” would have been rather “gambling” if you didn’t at least read the friday afternoon announcement, which I didn’t.

      Gambling with a thousand Euros of play money on the DAX is nice – and I didn’t really make those 800%; I don’t really do stock markets. I just had that crazy idea to buy something (not unlike you, here) and moaned to a friend who does risk management for [big company] that it already doubled – and _she_ said “go buy anyway”. I owe her a really nice dinner at the Tantris in Munich – if the chef survives ;), leaving me with a dinner below 320%. Still.

      As to the virus numbers: I thought about writing something about that, but honestly, nobody knows anything. We don’t have number of tests administered for all countries, the WHO is taking wild guesses for CFR which range wildly (0.1% dead in China ex. Wuhan, ~9% dead in Italy), and I didn’t even know about your “other viruses” point yet, I though heard about false negatives. With current numbers, I can safely say that between 6.500 (most of them are already dead, that 2% margin is safe) and .7 billion people will die. That’s not exactly helpful.

      As to self-isolation: All of my village center is full of idiots in cafe’s, with kids and grandmas. That measure won’t help if you’re not China – or at least Austria. _Test_, like South Korea, then isolate. With military with flamethrowers around the area. Can’t shoot people nowadays, can we?

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: