Don't Believe The Hype!

Have you read the recent studies claiming that many more people have or have recovered from the coronavirus than are counted officially?

So have we.

It’s great news, right? It suggests that the fatality rate is MUCH lower than currently calculated and we’re making progress towards national herd immunity, right?

Not so fast, warns Chris.

He pulls up the actual research studies behind the headlines and show how shaky both its methodology and conclusions are. They’re so bad that other scientists within the research community are calling for an apology.

As much as we wish the hype were true, now is a critical time to ensure we’re dealing with accurate data. Bad data = bad decisions. Bad decisions = bad outcomes.

Meanwhile, Chris also notes the absolute carnage going on in the oil markets, with near-term oil contracts now trading at negative prices. This is historic and will have MASSIVE implications for the economy and the financial markets going forward.

You’ll be hearing more from us on that soon. So stay tuned.

And in the meanwhile, keep working on starting/expanding your garden.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

This out-right angers me. These people are dumb as a doornail. The flu never stacked up refrigerator trucks at the hospitals in new york… nor did they ever have mass trough graves from the flu in new york… These people are arrogant and I call for all of them to go to jail and hand over every dime they have to all the victims when this is said and done. In fact , I am not sure execution would not be in order under the US constitution.

We seem to have flattened the curve, leveling off to around 30 thousand new cases in the US each day. Hospitals in hot spots are stressed, but less so in other places, so maybe this would be considered “manageable”. But 30K/day is only ~1 million/month, and for herd immunity we need around 80% of the population, say 265 million, to have been exposed and developed immunity, if that immunity is even enduring. At this rate, that’s 265 months, or 20+ years away. This is a ludicrously crude scaling calculation, but it shows that without an effective medical solution, our timescale is months and years, not days and weeks. Yikes.

How many of you are preparing for a second wave of infections and deaths in a week or so?

Hi from down under.
Today’s updated data. (NZ population 5 million)

5 new cases today, all from known sources.
From yesterdays release it was stated that there had only been 5 cases of community transmission since the first of April.
From Chris here a few days ago re rates of undiagnosed cases indicated that for every
case there would be 6 undiagnosed/asymptomatic cases.
If this data is correct, it would imply that very few of them are infectious or we would have seen more community cases ( ones where they could not find the source )
Over the last few days they have been doing random testing at supermarkets.
About 1400 tested, 0 positive. ( no antibody testing available here yet? )
Yesterday the full on lock down was extended 1 week (to total of 5).
So on Monday we will go from level 4 to 3. Schools, bars restaurants etc closed. Fast food drive through only. retail stores no customers allowed in stores, social distancing etc still on. (Schools can take under 14 yr olds of both parents are working and cannot have family look after the under 14 )
Two weeks later it will be reviewed pending number of cases
Going forward all arrivals to spend 2 weeks under government controlled isolation

A while after someone here did the math on how long you need to flatten the curve for, our politicians were all suddenly talking ‘flatten the curve’ (I also saw a reference to the honey badger!)
For friends and family I ran the numbers for them based on 6 un-diagnosed for every confirmed case, using Italy as an example, and came up with over 4 years.
Said the numbers for NZ come out the same.
They all immediately realized the idea had a big problem…
Regards Hamish

Weighing in from here in Switzerland.
So the federal government wants to open back up in Switzerland. To remind everyone, Switzerland went with a restrictive response to the pandemic:

  • no groups with more than 5 people, and only when there were 2 meters between people
  • all non-essential shops closed (so only pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, clinics, etc)
  • restaurants for take-out allowed
    The stores that were open took social distancing seriously. Tape was applied to the floors in front of the checkout counters – two meters apart. Entrance into the shops was regulated. Alcohol disinfectant was available and required (on hands) before entrance was allowed. An employee was wiping down shopping carts with alcohol between customers.
    So last Friday it was announced that starting on April 26th other non-essential shops can open, but social distancing will not be relaxed. Day-cares will also reopen.
    On May 11th schools will reopen.
    On June 9th universities will reopen, and potentially bars & restaurants.
    However, if they notice an increase in cases between any of these, the go back to lockdown mode. So the idea is, a gradual relaxation of the lockdown, with a lot of time in between to see how it is going.
    They are also interested in serological testing on a voluntary basis. Their goal is to test the people working in the supermarkets, pharmacies etc in order to determine if the precautions that were put in place for these people were successful, or if these people had been exposed to the virus despite the precautions.
    So all-in-all a conservative model to move away from the lockdown.

I can’t say the same for France versus Switzerland. Thanks to this blog I went months ago to a hardware store pretending I was buying masks for painting 3M with valve (if I get sick this type of mask it does not protect others). No one was buying masks - I was surprised - my wife wouldn’t let me wear them at first - there waren’t any recorded cases in our area. CBellu, we are doing the same things as you have listed. To get R0 below 1 - got to wear masks all the time out of the house - with everything else you said.
For me the key point that we are not discussing here:
If you get sick, what happens to you - what is your protocol?
In France I phone 15 (emergency) they contact my doctor, I get tested. For the treatment that they give me - I HAVE NO CHOICE. I can’t drive down to Marseille and ask for a treatment by Dr Raoult. The government has made it their policy to screw things up at every step - I could write pages about this - not allowing a treatment including Hydroxychloroquine from the very start falls into their apparent strategy to give the worst possible results - creating the most panic and dispair. And we are just at the cusp of seeing what this will do to the economy. Malthusian philosophy - too many people vying for too few assets - Club of Rome stuff - Limits to Growth.
I am not asking you to join me on my rant, but rather:
Do you know what the treatment is in your area once diagnosed?

Just a small note regarding the Swedish strategy on this. The strategy is simply “keep a low body count”, which translates to “protect the people that would end up in intensive care from even getting the virus” and the main focus has been elderly (70+). So they are ok with everyone getting the virus at some point or another, as long as we don’t end up in the hospital, or dying, that’s ok.
The reason they aren’t invoking forced isolation (yet) is because they expect this to be a long battle and keeping people locked up isn’t a long term solution.
Also, they recently tested 100 random samples of donated blood and 11 of them had antibodies. Sure, small sample, but at least they didn’t know they were being tested as opposed to the Stanford study. (source - They also say in the end that of course there is a margin of error that they approximate to 20%. So worst case is 9 out of 100. Which is still far off from 80% but it’s a start.

Just a quick story from my past. I went into my broker’s office in 1987 a week or so before the crash. I saw someone I know and went over to say hello. She volunteered to say that she wasn’t doing anything risky like I do. To which I replied, if everyone is doing the same trade (type of investment) at some point eventually that trade becomes more risky.
All that to say - buying Gold - I have NEVER heard a financial advisor (in banking) admit that owning Gold could be less risky than a dividend yielding stock.
What happened yesterday for crude oil is a lesson worth learning - because futures markets govern the way Gold and Silver are manipulated by Central Banks and many feel that it our (precious metal holders) time at bat.
Like at Le Mans - the drivers start outside of their cars. Get ready.

One pillar of Sweden’s strategy appears to be the belief that there is very little asymptomatic spread - “don’t go out if you feel ill”. I don’t expect that to pan out too well.

There are two parts to this testing project. 1) to understand how close we are to “herd immunity”, and 2) to calculate the denominator in the CFR.
This second goal is, to me, the most critical thing government can be doing right now, because the denominator will tell us how severe is the threat we face, and that threat level should inform our policy decisions and what our response should be to it.
If the CFR number is 0.1% (i.e., “the flu”), locking down the economy is just silly. If the CFR is 3%, then a lockdown might be a rational response. I’m guessing the true CFR is somewhere in the middle.
We have seen hints that the true CFR might - might - be somewhere around 0.3-0.5%, assuming a non-overloaded hospital system. Which, by the way, we managed to avoid quite successfully.
If my guess is in the ballpark, and if this virus tends to (mostly) kill the people who also tend to die during normal influenza season, then we might decide, as a nation, that we just have to suck up a certain number of deaths via virus, as opposed to the (possibly greater) number of deaths in the population from suicide, depression, and poverty that are direct results of the lockdown.
We should probably do the math on the latter, while we’re at it, so we keep everything rational.
But right now, we just don’t know the denominator, so we can’t even start to have any sort of rational discussion.
So - in summary - we need that denominator.
If I were Bad Orange Man, I’d order my flunkies to get me that denominator, and get it to me yesterday. Then we could assess together as a society just what sort of danger we are facing and what our response should be.
Using, you know, science.
If CFR isn’t that bad, then we open things up, and just deal with the surge of cases we’re likely to get. Because we will know for sure that poverty and depression and suicide from lockdown will end up being collectively more lethal than SC2. Theoretically. If we had the denominator.

This is total deaths recorded - it’s a lagging indicator and different in scope from the daily published count of hospital deaths:

(It's also only England and Wales.) Don't know if this demolishes my theory that our shut down would be reducing the mortality from flu - could some Covid-19 pneumonias be counted in that little bump in "Influenza and pneumonia"?

Ok. Let’s take “Be Like Sweden”'s numbers at face value as an exercise. Using most conservative numbers from this test (9% of the population has antibodies), over a population of 10.2 million people, with 1580 deaths to date, then that would be a CFR of (roughly) 0.017%.
CFR = 9% infected x 10,200,000 pop / 1580 deaths
Influenza’s CFR is 0.01%. So this is not quite twice as bad.
But wait, what about the lag? Ok, let’s factor in a lag - it takes time for people to die from infection. So let’s triple the deaths. 1580 becomes 4740. That gives us a CFR of 0.51%.
Worth shutting the country down for?
[Now someone can run off and check to see if they used the low-quality Chinese antibody tests…]
It will be 18 months before a vaccine will be ready. Assuming it doesn’t have problems too.
Now - herd immunity. Assuming a 10-day doubling time for SC2 in Sweden (they have definitely ‘bent the curve’, without a lockdown), how long will it take for herd immunity?
With 918k people infected today (9% of 10.2M), Sweden is 3 doublings away from having 70% exposed.
With a 10-day doubling time, that’s just 30 days away.
In Sweden, this thing “goes away” sometime in June.
Anything wrong with my assumptions here?
[EDIT: here’s a chart on Sweden’s stats - daily data, rather than cumulative]

No sooner did I open my “mouth” than the WCB got back to work - knocking risky gold (futures - get it in your mind - futures) down to alleviate future pain on stocks.
OK Adam and Chris - for all your freebe guys - how about a Monthly SP chart going back to January 2009 to show the absolute carnage done to stock market so far.
Yes, I’m only kidding. Lots more to come.

That gold plunge was actually caused by a mammoth drop in the front month crude futures, which plunged $12 in about 2 hours - to $11.79. Front-month crude below $12. Something to remember.
After yesterday’s negative prices in the delivery month, traders do not want to be long crude right now - what with those full storage tanks and all.
Gold fell -30 [to 1682], silver -0.50 [to 15.09], platinum -42, palladium -217, all driven by the - near-panic again today in the crude oil futures markets.
Not much of a bounce yet for gold & silver.

Gold had been going up into the London opening. Think LBMA.
Yes indeed Don’t believe the hype!
From our good friend Didier.
He says, It is not only in Paris where the devine guessing occurs. In Marseille we also have our Gods. Here are their predictions (authenic) during the course of time with the number of patients in ICU (reanimation) at AP HM.
Like a hurricane model - same idea - in red, real life experience.
End the confinement sooner than May 11th.

Ohio Prison Mass Testing of Everyone Finds Lots of Infected

One state prison, Marion Correctional Institution, has become a hot spot of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ohio, with at least 1,828 confirmed cases among inmates. [In addition, 109+ staff are also infected.] "Because we are testing everyone — including those who are not showing symptoms — we are getting positive test results on individuals who otherwise would have never been tested because they were asymptomatic." There are currently 2,400 coronavirus cases among inmates in [all of] Ohio's state prisons, along with 244 staff members. The numbers could rise this week: A prison in Pickaway County began mass testing on Sunday.
I will be very interested to see how the next month goes in Ohio. Will prison death rates spike? Will infected prisoners be released and sent back to their communities to both 1) infect others, and, 2) bring low-grade sociopathic crime back to their communities?  

Thanks for dissecting the Stanford study. I suspected it was completely wrong by applying the CFR estimate to New York City. Taking the deaths there and the population size, it was clear that the Stanford estimates were way out. But I didn’t see where they went wrong so thanks again for doing that work. Perhaps you could offer your peer review, to save time ensuring it doesn’t get published?

Dr. Albert Bartlett, one of my hero’s, liked to say, “do the math.”
So, the US population is somewhere above 329,546,904. I’ve looked around at recent charts and what I see is daily testing levels around 14,000 to 16,000 per day. That makes me wonder how we get new cases showing up in the neighborhood of 30,000 per day. That implies that, if some people test negative, we are testing more than 30,000 per day. Which number is right?
So, being really generous, let’s say we are testing 50,000 people per day.
The math: 329,546,904 population / 50,000 tests per day / 365.25 days per year = 18.04 years to test everyone in the US.
If you use 20,000 tests per day, it’s over 45 years to test everyone.
The reality is, our government isn’t very useful any longer.