Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Odds And Ends - Stocks, Cures And Strength Edition


Yesterday, I called Monday's close as the market low for this particular crash. It's now the fourth major crash I've experienced as an investing-conscious creature. I might be getting the feel for them or I might be a total idiot. In any case, my favorite and really my only investment advice blog, Calafia Beach Pundit, thinks the worst is over as well.


The inestimable Tim Eisele left us a link to an excellent blog giving real information about candidate cures for the Chinaman's Cough. It's called In The Pipeline and the post of March 24 suggests that chloroquine-based treatments may look so promising because the virus is so weak. Almost everyone recovers so small-scale tests don't have enough participants to show an improvement over a placebo. The French study where 20 out of 20 (or 40 out of 40 or whatever it was) recovered may have been a false alarm as it's highly likely that 20 out of 20 would have recovered anyway. Unless you're at risk already, the thing is pretty wimpy.

There's a WSJ article today where a pair of math nerds argue persuasively that the death rate could be an order of magnitude or more lower than we think. That wouldn't surprise me. Wife kitteh and I are pretty sure we've had it already.
Population samples from China, Italy, Iceland and the U.S. provide relevant evidence. On or around Jan. 31, countries sent planes to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, China. When those planes landed, the passengers were tested for Covid-19 and quarantined. After 14 days, the percentage who tested positive was 0.9%. If this was the prevalence in the greater Wuhan area on Jan. 31, then, with a population of about 20 million, greater Wuhan had 178,000 infections, about 30-fold more than the number of reported cases. The fatality rate, then, would be at least 10-fold lower than estimates based on reported cases.

Next, the northeastern Italian town of Vò, near the provincial capital of Padua. On March 6, all 3,300 people of Vò were tested, and 90 were positive, a prevalence of 2.7%. Applying that prevalence to the whole province (population 955,000), which had 198 reported cases, suggests there were actually 26,000 infections at that time. That’s more than 130-fold the number of actual reported cases. Since Italy’s case fatality rate of 8% is estimated using the confirmed cases, the real fatality rate could in fact be closer to 0.06%.
I think that echoes what the data seems be saying from the In the Pipeline blog post. You'll need a massive study to find a cure because Chicom Flu isn't very dangerous. Hopefully.

Update: A doctor friend of mine on Facebook chatted me this take on the chloroquine plus azithromycin treatment.
Both meds are easy to take and I Rx azithromycin a lot already. I agree with the author that it is something (to try) and we should use it earlier. Couldn't hurt.

There is a saying, "neither be the first nor the last."


I've been watching a nearby relationship recently while dipping back into some of my self-improvement books. I learned something that I'm sure the rest of you have known for quite some time.

Strong people support those around them. Weak people tear them down. Sometimes all you need to improve a relationship is to get one or both of the participants to realize that the other person is asking for help in an area where they are incompetent.

Competent people didn't get that way all on their own. God gave them abilities and others wrote books to share wisdom gained from personal experience to give us shortcuts to better lives. Yes, the competent people worked to improve, but a little humility mixed with a realistic assessment of expertise and some Christian charity to others could result in a lot less criticism and hurt.

Just sayin'.

Wuhan Flu Hobbies

It's been too cold and humid here to take the next steps with my MGB project, so I've spent my time reading and pondering. The weather ought to clear up tomorrow and then I'll get back to doing something productive instead of navel gazing.

My time hasn't been completely wasted, I've spent it ... oh, who am I kidding? My time has been completely wasted. Completely.


tim eisele said...

I think the quotes from the WSJ missed a point that would dramatically simplify their analyses. They list several cases where a substantial pool of people were all tested, and all of the infected people in that pool were identified.

If what we really want to know is what percentage of cases turn serious, there is no need to then try to estimate a "true prevalence in the greater population". We already have a pool of people that includes all infected people from a specified group, including all the people in that group who didn't know they had it. It is then trivial to track those infected people to see how many get seriously sick and whether any die. And then you're done. No need to introduce any dubious population statistics at all.

K T Cat said...

The problem with that, as I understand it, is that you can't tell who has already had the disease and gotten over it. The test don't reveal cured people.

tim eisele said...

That may be a bit of a problem, but I don't think it is going to bias the results much. We still have a snapshot of "all the infected people in a group at time t", and we can then track the progress of the disease for those people from there. We will still have a pretty good estimate of the no symptoms/mildly sick/deathly ill/dead rate for those people. The only way I can think of to get better statistics would be to take a group of known uninfected people, toss in an infected person, have them give everyone a big hug and a kiss, and wait a month while testing everybody every few days. Which I'm pretty sure would never pass the medical ethics review.

At the same time, the "population statistics" approach in the WSJ article is going to have the same errors due to not being able to identify the "got betters", amplified massively by throwing in a lot of needless random uncertainty. If you want to know a thing, you should measure that thing as directly as possible, with as little mathematical faffing about as you can manage.

Incidentally, please note that I'm not saying their result is wrong, just that they selected an unnecessarily roundabout way of arriving at it.

K T Cat said...

Good points.

As for throwing healthy people in with the infected, the cruise ship examples show what happens there. They still didn't have a lot of infected people at the end. This is most definitely not a reenactment of The Stand.

K T Cat said...


Ilíon said...

I have either a regular flu or the "Chinaman's cough". And frankly, whatever I have isn't nearly as tough as what I suffered through for nearly two months in late fall/early winter.

Ilíon said...

Concerning the $2 trillion "relief package" of your money, and mine, that the politicians are so eager to spend --

There are about 330 million people in America. To make the math transparently easy, let's assume that of those, tax-paying adults are 200 million in number.

So, with that assumption in place, we can easily see that the politicians are going to borrow-and-spend $10,000 per every tax-payer.

Where is that kind of money going to come from? WHO will get stuck with the bill for this borrowing and spending? Do *you* have that much extra money, that you can afford to just hand it over to the bureaucrats who rule us?

Basically, the politicians are promising to "give" you a "free" $1200 ... after first *taking* an extra $10,000 from you ... and your grandchildren.

What is this going to do to inflation? How much of this money will be siphoned into the private pockets of politically well-connected persons?