Friday, January 28, 2022

What "Endemic" Really Means

From today's Nature Briefing (from Nature magazine):
Misuse of the word ‘endemic’ in relation to COVID-19 is encouraging a misplaced complacency, says evolutionary virologist Aris Katzourakis. A disease can be endemic as well as both widespread and deadly. Malaria, for example, is an endemic disease that killed more than 600,000 people in 2020....

That article continues

...In other words, a disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly.... Ten million fell ill with tuberculosis that same year [2020] and 1.5 million died. Endemic certainly does not mean that evolution has somehow tamed a pathogen so that life simply returns to ‘normal’.

As an evolutionary virologist, it frustrates me when policymakers invoke the word endemic as an excuse to do little or nothing. There’s more to global health policy than learning to live with endemic rotavirus, hepatitis C or measles.

Stating that an infection will become endemic says nothing about how long it might take to reach stasis, what the case rates, morbidity levels or death rates will be or, crucially, how much of a population — and which sectors — will be susceptible. Nor does it suggest guaranteed stability: there can still be disruptive waves from endemic infections, as seen with the US measles outbreak in 2019. Health policies and individual behaviour will determine what form — out of many possibilities — endemic COVID-19 takes.
So what does "endemic" really mean?
To an epidemiologist, an endemic infection is one in which overall rates are static — not rising, not falling. More precisely, it means that the proportion of people who can get sick balances out the ‘basic reproduction number’ of the virus, the number of individuals that an infected individual would infect, assuming a population in which everyone could get sick. Yes, common colds are endemic. So are Lassa fever, malaria and polio. So was smallpox, until vaccines stamped it out.
One thing is for sure: ignorance, misunderstanding, misinformation, and disinformation will continue to be endemic, at best, with little-to-no likelihood of a vaccine.

A New COVID (Sub)variant

Now there's another new COVID variant unleashed, this one a subvariant of omicron. It's been tearing through Denmark, where it's called BA.2. (BA.1 is the original omicron.) Danish researchers say it's about 1.5 time more contagious than BA.1, but not any more likely to cause disease (or less likely, presumably).

It had already been starting to appear in many other countries, and now it's shown up in Texas, where it's called "stealth omicron," because

You cannot identify the type of variant through a PCR test like you can with omicron. Genomic sequencing has to be conducted in a specialized lab to identify the variant, which takes longer.

In Denmark, where stealth omicron cases are rapidly increasing, it went from 20% of cases in December, to 45% of cases two weeks ago, and now it’s about 65% of cases. “It’s moving fast, it’s taking over the landscape,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at University of California San Francisco.
So more reason to stay home, if you needed one.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sidney Crosby's Impressive Empty Net Goal

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored his third goal of the game Friday night, a hat trick, with some pretty impressive geometry. (Though after the game he said he was just trying to pass to a teammate over on the side and the goal wasn't intentional. You can say that kind of thing when you're a superstar.)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Latest COVID-19 Case and Death Rates, By State

The Kaiser Family Foundation has published COVID-19 case and death numbers, by state, as of 1/20/22. They are, unfortunately, not surprising.  

I'd just like to give some kudos to my governor, Kate Brown, who has maintained an indoor mask mandate here in Oregon since March 2020. Here near Salem everyone has been quite cooperative and still are. (I've heard stories that in red Oregon, on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, it's entirely different. But only a fraction of the population lives in that part of the state -- Western Oregon has 75% of the state's population.) From these data it looks like the mandate has made a real difference, and although some people give her grief for maintaining the mandate, it looks to have made a real difference.

Utah is interesting -- high case rate, low death rate.

COVID-19 cases per million as of 1/20/22


COVID-19 deaths per million as of 1/20/22

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Schrödinger Was a Pedophile

Apparently this has been known for a few decades, but quietly, and it's hitting the news again: Erwin Schrödinger, famous for his fundamental contributions to quantum mechanics, was a pedophile who preyed on young girls. Girls as young as 12 and 17. Apparently he admitted to impregnated a girl who was 17 years old, who had a botched abortion and was thereafter unable to conceive for life. From Futurism:
Perhaps most diabolically, the physicist kept a record of his abuse in his diaries, even justifying his actions by claiming he had a right to the girls due to his genius.

Walter Moore, author of the biography “Schrödinger, Life and Thought” published in 1989, said that the physicist’s attitudes towards women “was essentially that of a male supremacist.” Disgustingly, the biography seemed to downplay and even romanticize his abusive habits, and describes him as having a “Lolita complex.”

Schrödinger also attempted a relationship with a different 12-year-old girl, disgustingly writing in his journal that she was “among the unrequited loves of his life.” However, he decided not to pursue her after a family member voiced their concerns that the physicist was a, you know, unrepentant abusive predator.

The Irish Times article from which the Futurism article is sourced is available only to subscribers, but apparently it says there is a petition to rename a lecture hall at Dublin’s Trinity University that’s named after Schrödinger.

I won't be surprised if, given the environment on campuses these days, there's a small movement to rename his equation and cat, but I doubt that will succeed. What do you think?

Monday, January 17, 2022

1.5°C by 2033

Berkeley Earth has global warming at 1.2°C (a little higher than NOAA and GISS by 0.1°C) and is projecting 1.5°C by 2033, relative to 1850-1900, which is the baseline I think everyone should be using now if they can. (Or the oldest baseline they can obtain.)

Reminder: this tweet won't display properly in the Edge browser. Google's little joke, I guess.

Gasoline Prices vs Median Family Income

OK thanks to commenters I think we're honing in on the truth about gasoline prices, by comparing them to median family income since 1990. It paints a much different picture than comparing them to personal income per capita:

Clearly median family income is barely, if that, keeping up with gas prices, and that's only in recent years. And now falling behind again.

And just as clearly, median family income isn't keeping up with personal income per capita -- evidence of the widening income inequality, I guess.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Early Bud

Now there's a tree/shrub in front of my porch with buds on it. I don't think this is normal for central Oregon in mid-January. And the buds have been there for several days -- I only took this picture yesterday. The meteorological records say the average daily temperature in Salem falls to a minimum on Dec11-Jan5; usually the third week of January is the week with snow here, though this year it was Dec26-28. May still snow more, who knows. I haven't kept close tabs, but it seems very early to see a bud on anything here. 

Gasoline Price vs Personal Income

Here is the average US gas price vs personal income per capita, since 1990. Neither is adjusted for inflation, and both are set to a scale of 100 on 8/20/1990, when the gasoline data begins.

The personal income data is annual, so it ends in 2020.

So, at least for the average person, gas prices surged ahead under the oilman Bush, but income is now outpacing the price of gas over the last 30 years.

Even if you started working in 2010, you're still ahead, assuming you're getting the average increase in personal income.

But it never seems that way, does it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Price of Gasoline Isn't That High

Some people are complaining about the price of gas, and ok it is at a 7-year high. But both nominally and adjusted for inflation, it's been significantly higher much of the time over the last 15 years:

Gasoline prices here are the weekly US national average from the EIA's This Week in Petroleum, adjusted via the Consumer Price Index. The blurriness is brought to you by Google (who owns Blogger). Click on the graph to get a clearer version.

I keep track of what I pay for gas, and my mileage, and while I haven't adjusted it for statewide inflation here is what I've paid since two years before I moved to Oregon in 2006:

So there hasn't been much of any increase here, and would obviously be a slight decrease over time if adjusted for inflation. 

I think people (that is to say, Americans) just like to complain about the price of gas no matter what, think they have an inherent right to $2/gallon gasoline, and imagine their political leaders can do something about it (as I once sort of did). But it's mostly a function of the price of oil:

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

All Climate Data in One Small Place

Someone should put this on a business card and laminate it, and sell it at climate conferences, teacher conferences, and wherever science is discussed.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Sidney Crosby is a Class Act

Sidney Crosby is the best:

On the other hand, it's surprising how little you have to do to be labeled a "class act" when you're already a superstar.

Seriously though, I've never heard of a classless thing Sidney Crosby has ever done.

OK, maybe this. But it was against the Flyers, cross state rivals, cross state haters, who surely deserved it.