Coronavirus

Lockdown Supporters Embraced Wildly Wrong COVID-19 Projections That Fit Their Preconceptions

The episode illustrates the perils of confirmation bias on both sides of the debate about disease control measures.

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A month ago, The New York Times published an internal Trump administration document that predicted the United States would be seeing 3,000 COVID-19 fatalities per day by June 1, raising the national death toll above 200,000. The document also projected that the daily number of new confirmed cases would exceed 200,000 by then—i.e., by now.

"The numbers underscore a sobering reality," the Times reported. "The United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks to try slowing the spread of the virus, but reopening the economy will make matters worse." It said "the projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways."

The projections that supposedly confirmed that fear were widely cited by people who argued that states such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas were inviting a public health disaster by lifting their lockdowns too soon. But the projections turned out to be wildly off, predicting more than three times as many daily deaths as we have seen so far in June, nearly twice as many total deaths as of June 1, and nine times as many daily new cases.

Lockdown supporters have since moved on from those obviously erroneous predictions. But the way they were loudly touted and then quietly abandoned illustrates the perils of confirmation bias for people on both sides of the overheated debate about COVID-19 control measures.

The White House immediately disavowed the alarming projections highlighted by the Times, saying the document did not reflect the views of the administration's coronavirus task force. The projections "should not be taken as a forecast," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany cautioned. "This 'study' considered zero mitigation, meaning it was conducted as though no federal guidelines were in place, no contact tracing, no expansion of testing, while removing all shelter in place protocols laid out in the phased approach of the Opening Up America Again guidelines for individuals with co-morbidities."

For critics who believed the president and like-minded governors were bent on reopening the economy, no matter the cost in human lives, those reassurances carried little weight. But according to the epidemiologist who produced the projections, they were a work in progress based on one possible scenario that he did not necessarily view as likely.

The document leaked to the Times is identified as the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Some of the pages also carry the logo of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is part of HHS. While the White House and some press accounts described the projections as the CDC's work, they were actually produced by Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, under a contract with FEMA.

The day after the Times story appeared, NPR interviewed Lessler, who described the projections as "preliminary work" that was "always intended to be shown to people who were fully aware that this was work in progress, not a final result." NPR noted that the projections reported by the Times were "based on only about one-third of the scenarios that Lessler will be including in the final projections." It explained that "the incomplete projection published in The New York Times of more than 200,000 new cases and more than 3,000 new deaths per day by June 1 is just one of many possible scenarios."

How much confidence did Lessler have in that particular projection, which has since been decisively contradicted by reality? "I do not know if it is likely," he said.

Lessler told NPR he did not know who created the graphs in the leaked document or for whom they were intended. "To see an incomplete version of his work disseminated and discussed so publicly was all the more unnerving," NPR reported, because "it's obvious from the graph that the simulations he's run thus far are not that robust—since they fail to predict the actual number of deaths to date." That's a detail the Times might have noticed if it hadn't been so eager to present the document as evidence of recklessness.

By now the Times, an enthusiastic advocate of lockdowns in its news reporting as well as its editorials, has consigned this embarrassing episode to the memory hole. But it provides a lesson for all of us, regardless of what we think about the merits of sweeping restrictions on movement and economic activity as a response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Human beings have a strong tendency to latch onto evidence, no matter how dubious, that reinforces what they already believe. There is no hope of eliminating that cognitive bias. The best we can do is try to keep it in mind.

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107 responses to “Lockdown Supporters Embraced Wildly Wrong COVID-19 Projections That Fit Their Preconceptions

  1. (My shocked face)

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  2. Hey Sullum- it was also used by people like you to say that all those (projected) deaths were the fault of the administration and its inability to get tests out there. And this is important, because it was 1) those bad projections and *critically* 2) People like you insisting that GOVERNMENT MUST DO SOMETHING that caused every power holder to jump on the Lockdown wagon. Every little delay was compared with those projections as an indictment. Every little mistake would have been little EXCEPT for the virus porn you were using to put the blame on leaders before anything was well known.

    But now you are going to sit back and tell us it was all about those projections, had nothing to do with your fear mongering.

    1. the hysterics and willful embrace and acceptance of the quarantine and stripping of rights of 350million americans for an undetermined amount of time and with no metrics put in place for what success looks like by this magazine should tell you everything you need to know about the writers of this publication.

      1. How convenient for the ruling caste that, just as the lockdown narrative receives more pushback and becomes impossible to maintain, we get riots because of “racism” instead of totalitarian government destroying people’s lives and the economy.
        Very. Convenient.

        1. Headline today at Legal Insurrection: “Whitmer Lifts Stay-at-Home Order Now That People Need to Go Out and Riot.”

        2. Yes, when one narrative fails to properly control the actions of the 90%, another comes along to justify a continuation of the exercise of state power. I’m not buying what they are selling.

    2. Jacob Sullum never supported enforced lockdowns. Stop projecting.

      1. Actually, going back through Sullum’s articles (at least the headlines) throughout the lockdowns, it does seem to show that he wasn’t one of the bad ones. My apologies for my comment below. It can still apply to several other writers for this organization.

        1. Shoot first and ask question later, huh?
          Actually, the lockdowns were done that way, too …

    3. 40 million unemployed now because of that view. Since you had so many prescriptions for what should be done during the virus to champion “safety” over liberty, I’d love to hear some of your ideas on what should be done about the disease of a media that can completely lay ruin to a massive portion of society because of overreaction to some predictably bad models and studies. Do they have any financial liability? I’ll bet ad sales for didn’t take the same hit for media organisations that the rest of the economy. That is to say, ruining those lives was probably pretty profitable for news outlets. Food for thought.

      1. And people STILL support them.

        In Ontario, idiot Doug Ford idiotically shut down his province until end of June like the idiot he is. What a colossal sell out for conservatives.

        To me, at this point, it’s MALICE bordering on CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR.

        This is not governance. It’s ruling.

        1. I especially like your last sentence.

    4. That’s the problem with liars, now they tell us they were lying before. Were they lying to us then? Or are they lying now that the shut down is being lifted? Remember, we are dealing with the same caliber of bureaucrats that told the 911 First Responders that it was “safe” to go to work in a toxic hell. How many of them still survive?

  3. Everyone needs to be voted out of office.

    1. at mininum.

    2. More than I have ever been before, I’m for voting out incumbents.

      I might give Florida governor (I live in Florida) Ron deSantis a pass, depending on who’s running against him. But I’ll be gunning for the rest, starting with the Big One in Washington, and I’ll be supporting their strongest opponents.

  4. Where is my hat tip?

    1. 18 inches above the top of your head?

  5. Whenever I see a headline that starts with ‘Experts say…’ I always look to see what kind of ‘expert’ he or she is.

    One was listed as ‘An expert on disinformation’ which I assumed made him a politician, but no he was an academic.

  6. Somebody drag Tony out from under his bed and have him read this.

    1. I would prefer you leave him there – – – – – – – – – – – –

    2. You’ll have to contend with his mom to get into her basement first

  7. I can understand some people wanting government to rule over other people. That’s just human nature. “They’re not like us, make them conform!” And I can understand some people wanting government to rule over them. Once again, it’s human nature, just for people who haven’t socially matured. “Gosh, won’t someone tell me what to do?” Both these groups of people are idiots of course, but being an idiot is once again part of being human.

    But for the life of me I can’t understand this embrace of government imposed lockdowns. The shelter-in-place rules started out as voluntary. Companies telling their workers to stay home and work from home. But that wasn’t good enough and the demand was that government order everyone indoors. Then we got all these people loving it. They acted like the lockdowns were the greatest thing that ever happened to this country.

    It baffles me. I can understand the lackdowns. There’s a pandemic and it’s one way to prevent the spread. Government is incompetent and inept, but the basic idea of it is sound.

    But I have friends bitterly angry at Sweden for not enforcing a lockdown, even though their entire society is voluntarily engaged in the exact same rules of social distancing and mask wearing. “Without cops roaming the streets and randomly shooting people, they’re just have a spike in infections and all die!”

    I have close friends who have expressed the desire for the lockdowns never to end. Actual quote from memory: “Wouldn’t it be great if society did this all the time? If people wore masks all the time and never left their homes? Food could be delivered. Once they [sic] figure out the toilet paper problem, I don’t see why we can’t be like this all the time.” This person expresses the desire not to leave until mass vaccinations have commenced.

    I see similar opinions expressed online at Facebook. People who are yelling at other people for wanting society to open up. I saw the fan clubs start up for all of the governors cracking down. Fan clubs. It’s nuts.

    As near as I can figure out, it’s some deep seated desire for hardship. Not real hardship, they would not like that. They want the pretend hardship where they can pretend they’re toughing it out.

    1. I have close friends who have expressed the desire for the lockdowns never to end. Actual quote from memory: “Wouldn’t it be great if society did this all the time? If people wore masks all the time and never left their homes? Food could be delivered. Once they [sic] figure out the toilet paper problem, I don’t see why we can’t be like this all the time.”

      That did not happen. There is no way that’s real.

      1. I know many people through work who I can easily believe would feel that way. They freak out when I say I went somewhere “unnecessary”; I expect their reaction to be even more rabid for strangers.

        1. You work posting on NextDoor?

          1. Hey remember when you made a fool of yourself over a cold?

            We do.

            1. Except of course – you can never actually seem to link to a post where I’ve been wrong.

          2. Funny!

      2. Given some of the stupid shit some of my friends said, yeah, I totally believe it.

    2. “But for the life of me I can’t understand this embrace of government imposed lockdowns”

      and yet you’ve openly advocated , nee begged for Reason to censor people you don’t like.

      Perhaps you need to deal with the fact that you’re an idiot.

    3. But for the life of me I can’t understand this embrace of government imposed lockdowns. The shelter-in-place rules started out as voluntary. Companies telling their workers to stay home and work from home. But that wasn’t good enough and the demand was that government order everyone indoors. Then we got all these people loving it. They acted like the lockdowns were the greatest thing that ever happened to this country.

      It’s shit like this that makes think Loki from the The Avengers was onto something:

      “Kneel before me. I said… kneel! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”

      Hopefully that’s just my cynicism and pessimistic nature speaking, but I suspect a lot of people really do just want to be coddled and have their entire fucking existence be one big “safe space.” One more fictional quote to serve as a counterpoint to all that bullshit:

      “If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you oughta go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it’s not for the timid.” – Q from Star Trek TNG

      1. I want a recording of that speech; a huge bullhorn; and to be at the next event where a Democrat mayor kneels in front of a gang of looters and arsonists.

    4. How can they even pretend that never having to work, never having to get dressed, and having everything delivered to them is a hardship?

    5. “This person expresses the desire not to leave until mass vaccinations have commenced.”
      It’s not like we’re forcing them outside at gunpoint.

      1. My wife has this attitude. But she has lung issues, so somewhat justified.

  8. Remember when the anti lockdown protests were a threat to public health? Good times.

    1. I admit that with all the armed gunmen on the steps of the MI statehouse, I had trouble distinguishing the violent protesters from the non-violent ones. When nobody steals anything or so much as breaks a pane of glass, it gets real difficult.

    2. It’s unsettling to me how many smart people got rolled by these disgusting tyrants.

      1. “smart people”

      2. Unsettling? Maybe. Surprising? Not in the least.

      3. I know a physicist and micro biologist and they still believe even though all the evidence now says otherwise. I just don’t understand how they can not change they are blind to their own biases and this tells me how most science now is not confirmational but conformative science to pre conceived reports even when the early reports have been totally destroyed as bogus and/or flat out flawed to the point of uselessness. its just like the global warmist it doesn’t matter what is shown it is their religioun and everything else is racist denialism

      4. The smart ones are the ones whose votes didn’t count.

    3. We’re certainly going to see if opening up society presents a great danger or not, what with large numbers of people congregating in close quarters (albeit outside) across the country. If we don’t get a huge Covid spike I wonder what the Karens will say about that?

      I wonder, too, about the calls to defund the police. I’m all for it, but I wonder if they’ve thought through the consequences. They have big plans to “fundamentally transform” our society and that’s going to require a shit ton of coercion. Do they really believe that “rapid response social workers” will be up to the task?

      1. Do they really believe that “rapid response social workers” will be up to the task?

        What they haven’t told you (at least until the revolution is over) is that “rapid response social workers” is just a euphemism for “armed agents of the state with a monopoly on the use of lethal force and a mandate to use that force against anyone who refuses to conform to the new paradigm.”

        1. In other words, police?

          1. No. Police typically wear blue uniforms. These “rapid response social workers” will be wearing brown shirts.

      2. They’ve always believed that. There’s a joke that goes back to at least the 1970s about a liberal coming across a mugging victim and saying “The person that did this needs help!”

    4. It’s an established scientific fact that the virus can tell the difference between people who are just protesting so that “granny can get the virus and die” and those who are protesting for a “righteous cause” or some shit, and will leave the “righteous” protestors alone and only go after the meanies who want your grandma to die so that they can make a buck or two. If you weren’t such a science denier you’d understand that. /sarc

  9. The episode illustrates the perils of confirmation bias on both sides of the debate about disease control measures.

    Blaming ‘both sides’ in the headline while only blaming one side in the article is the closest we’re going to get to an admission that Reason fucked this pooch good and hard isn’t it?

  10. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Sullum, with whom I don’t always agree but whose arguments often make me take a hard look at where I disagree with him and why. Yes, I can be and have been persuaded by Mr. Sullum.

    That being said, . . .

    “The episode illustrates the perils of confirmation bias on both sides of the debate about disease control measures.”

    This is both-sideism. The two sides here were not equal and should not be given equal consideration.

    Those of us who opposed the lock-downs never advocating for using the coercive power of government to force people outside who preferred to isolate themselves. If you wished to isolate yourself despite there being no-lock down order, you would have been free to do so.

    That is not equivalent to, similar to, or like the lock-downs at all.

    Yes, I appreciate that Sullum was pointing out that both sides were subject to confirmation bias, but that isn’t the relevant point to me.
    One side was using the coercive power of government to force people to do things against their will, and the other side was not. That remains the central point regardless of whether they were both subject to confirmation bias.

    1. this 10000000000000x as an aside the disgusting chicken and egg logic used by people arguing that nobody would go to places even if they were open was easily one of the most ridiculous insane propositions I’ve ever heard.

    2. Not just was it not both sides, Reason was exceedingly supportive of one side. The one side that they should’ve opposed.

      Now, instead of something saying, ‘Accurate models or not, it’s not a reason to violate peoples’ civil liberties.’ we get ‘We should all really be more careful the next time we advocate violating peoples’ civil liberties.’

      1. When you fuck up, collectivize the fuck up to avoid personal responsibility

      2. And I suspect that was just pro team blue over pro team red crap. It started with the media blasting Trump for not having a national lock down policy, and once the media started showing militia people in Michigan protesting the lock-downs, suddenly being pro-lock down was the only acceptable policy in the minds of some of the newer staff .

        “When REASON speaks of poverty, racism, the draft, the war, studentpower, politics, and other vital issues, it shall be reasons, not slogans, it gives for conclusions. Proof, not belligerent assertion. Logic, not legends. Coherance (sic), not contradictions. This is our promise: this is the reason for REASON.”

        Lanny Friedlander
        Reason
        Volume 1, Issue 1

        https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/us/07friedlander.html

        There really does needs to be a libertarian publication like that.

        1. It’s too late for this one. This one is entirely driven by group think and conforming to the right social group in case you need a gig later. That aside there are still decent writer’s here. And I kind of think Robby has been completely red pilled at this point.

    3. Good points as usual Ken. Now that we’ve moved on to the next thing that can be used to destroy Trump before election day, we’re starting to see how disingenuous the people willing to use the coercive power of government were about safety.

    4. I noticed that too and was going to comment but you did it better.

      The other side was seeing the bull shit for what it is.

      The other side was insisting we continue to cower.

    5. Both-sideism, as you say. He pulled a punch, pulling which does him less than no credit.

  11. Don’t listen to the experts.
    Listen to your grandma;
    If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.
    Wash your hands.
    Cover a cough or sneeze with your handkerchief.
    Stay home when you are sick.
    Don’t take things from others.

  12. That is a bit like arguing that since people are rarely arrested for their religious beliefs, we have no need of the First Amendment.

    1. We just need to be more careful which experts we listen to when violating people’s 1A rights, that’s all.

      1. If they can create a model where you plug in some speculative numbers and make a really scary number pop out, you passed the test.

        1. Sort of like people do on this site to demonstrate what would happen if we have “socialism” in America?

          I would point out that absolutely none of the effects that were predicted by the economists here if the minimum wage was raised have come true.

            1. Clearly the issue is that Seattle didn’t also mandate hiring more workers, and giving those workers more hours. Oh, and that $15 an hour is some weaksauce bullshit. Seattle! Go $25 an hour or go home! Hell, why stop at $25? $50 an hour for all!

              1. And $75 an hour for those who don’t feel like working. Why didn’t we think of this before!!!!

          1. You have a hundred years of recent bloody history to show what happens if you institute socialism. Instead of 1% how are obscenely rich and decadent, you get 0.0001% who are all party loyalists. Everyone else either cowers in fear that they’ll say the wrong thing to their neighbor and die in a work camp or they starve to death. Socialism means the government owns everything and has a monopoly on the right to distribute as they see fit. When they have all the guns, money, water and food, what incentive do they have to give you a single goddamn thing if you don’t do as your told.

            If the minimum wage was had “absolutely none of the effects that were predicted”, please enlighten me as to why we there’s no manufacturing base in America left? You’re wrong about absolutely everything economically and it has been demonstrated time and time again leaving, no exaggeration, hundreds of millions of bodies in your wake. You’re wrong, move on and grow the fuck up.

          2. “…I would point out that absolutely none of the effects that were predicted by the economists here if the minimum wage was raised have come true.”

            I would point out that
            You.
            Are.
            Full.
            Of.
            Shit.
            Fuck off, slaver.

  13. The credentialed class is vastly over rated.

    1. Credentialed but not educated.

  14. How much confidence did Lessler have in that particular projection, which has since been decisively contradicted by reality? “I do not know if it is likely,” he said.

    This is why Lessler is an “expert”.

  15. “But according to the epidemiologist who produced the projections, they were a work in progress based on one possible scenario that he did not necessarily view as likely.”

    Possible. Not necessarily. Likely. Way to stand behind your projections, weasel.

    1. If it is said properly, those type of comments provide context and appropriate uncertainty.

  16. “It explained that “the incomplete projection published in The New York Times of more than 200,000 new cases and more than 3,000 new deaths per day by June 1 is just one of many possible scenarios.”

    In 2019 an average of 7,500 people died everyday in America. I bet most of the 3k deaths they predicted would have been a huge chunk of the 7.5k that were dying everyday anyway.

  17. There is no such thing as a “lock down supporter”. There is no group of people whose ideology is locking down the county. Instead they are government officials and public health experts trying their best to stop this pandemic using the data available at the time. Yes, in hindsight, as more data becomes available, it can be shown that some of the actions were not warranted.

    1. No such thing as a lock down supporter? Really?

      Quoth Brandybuck: I have close friends who have expressed the desire for the lockdowns never to end. Actual quote from memory: “Wouldn’t it be great if society did this all the time? If people wore masks all the time and never left their homes? Food could be delivered. Once they [sic] figure out the toilet paper problem, I don’t see why we can’t be like this all the time.”

      Also, a great number of the newly-unemployed are now making bank with the current unemployment bonus (UE benefits now average $26 freaking dollars an hour).

      There are also undoubtedly a great number of “civil servants” in your preciousss governmentses who are absolutely having the time of their lives bossing the populace around.

      So yeah, you’re either really ignorant or just a common partisan liar.

    2. “There is no such thing as a “lock down supporter”.”

      “Since last weekend the NOPD has received 808 calls to break up public gatherings, NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said during a press conference on Friday.”

      https://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/2020/04/03/new-orleans-police-enforce-social-distancing-rules/2941165001/

    3. Yes, in hindsight, as more data becomes available, it can be shown that some of the actions were not warranted.

      Holy fuck, you are absolutely insufferable. Referring to the suspension of what for 250 years have been considered unalienable rights, as ‘actions not warranted’ rises to the level of Stalinist revisionism. Go back to the Motherland, you worthless commie.

    4. There is no such thing as a “lock down supporter”. There is no group of people whose ideology is locking down the county.

      *passes gas that causes tears, not tear gas*

    5. Researcher Robert Phalen’s 2010 testimony to the California Air Resources Board: “It benefits us personally to have the public be afraid, even if these risks are trivial.”

      Different research, but still applies.

    6. I give you the Mayor of Champaign, Illinois…if the shoe fits, she’s wearing it.

      After the declaration of an emergency, the Mayor may in the interest of public safety and welfare make any or all of the following orders and provide the following direction:

      (1) Issue such other orders as are imminently necessary for the protection of life and property.

      (2) Order a general curfew applicable to such geographical areas of the City or to the City as a whole, as the Mayor deems advisable, and applicable during such hours of the day or night as the Mayor deems necessary in the interest of public safety and welfare.

      (3) Order the closing of all retail liquor stores, including taverns and private clubs or portions thereof wherein the consumption of intoxicating liquor and beer is permitted;

      (4) Order the discontinuance of the sale of alcoholic liquor by any wholesaler or retailer;

      (5) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing, or giving away gasoline or other liquid flammable or combustible products in any container other than a gasoline tank properly affixed to a motor vehicle;

      (6) Order the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of explosives or explosive agents, firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever;

      (7) Order the control, restriction and regulation within the City by rationing, issuing quotas, fixing or freezing prices, allocating the use, sale or distribution of food, fuel, clothing and other commodities, materials, goods or services or the necessities of life;

      (8) (a) Order City employees or agents, on behalf of the City, to take possession of any real or personal property of any person, or to acquire full title or such lesser interest as may be necessary to deal with a disaster or emergency, and to take possession of and for a limited time, occupy and use any real estate to accomplish alleviation of the disaster, or the effects thereof;

      (b) In the event any real or personal property is utilized by the City, the City shall be liable to the owner thereof for the reasonable value of the use or for just compensation as the case may be.

      (9) Order restrictions on ingress or egress to parts of the City to limit the occupancy of any premises;

      (10) To make provision for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing;

      (11) Temporarily suspend, limit, cancel, convene, reschedule, postpone, continue, or relocate all meetings of the City Council, and any City committee, commission, board, authority, or other City body as deemed appropriate by the Mayor.

      (12) Require closing of business establishments.

      (13) Prohibit the sale or distribution within the City of any products which could be employed in a manner which would constitute a danger to public safety.

      (14) Temporarily close any and all streets, alleys, sidewalks, bike paths, public parks or public ways.

      (15) Temporarily suspend or modify, for not more than sixty (60) days, any regulation or ordinance of the City, including, but not limited to, those regarding health, safety, and zoning. This period may be extended upon approval of the City Council.

      (16) Suspend or limit the use of the water resources or other infrastructure.

      (17) Control, restrict, allocate, or regulate the use, sale, production, or distribution of food, water, fuel, clothing, and/or other commodities, materials, goods, services and resources.

      (18) Suspend or limit burning of any items or property with the City limits and up to two (2) miles outside the corporate limits.

      (19) Direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened areas within the City if the mayor deems this action is necessary for the preservation of life, property, or other disaster or emergency mitigation, response or recovery and to prescribe routes, modes of transportation and destination in connection with an evacuation.

      (21) Approve application for local, state, or federal assistance.

      (22) Establish and control routes of transportation, ingress or egress.

      (23) Control ingress and egress from any designated disaster or emergency area or home, building or structures located therein.

      (24) Approve the transfer the direction, personnel, or functions of City departments and agencies for the purpose of performing or facilitating emergency or disaster services.

      (25) Accept services, gifts, grants, loans, equipment, supplies, and/or materials whether from private, nonprofit, or governmental sources.

      (26) Require the continuation, termination, disconnection, or suspension of natural gas, electrical power, water, sewer, communication or other public utilities or infrastructure.

      (27) Close or cancel the use of any municipally owned or operated building or other public facility.

      (28) Declare, issue, enforce, modify and terminate orders for quarantine and isolation of persons or animals posing a threat to the public, not conflicting with the directions of the Health Officer of the community.

      (29) Exercise such powers and functions in light of the exigencies of emergency or disaster including the waiving of compliance with any time consuming procedures and formalities, including notices, as may be prescribed by law.

      (30) Issue any and all such other orders or undertake such other functions and activities as the Mayor reasonably believes is required to protect the health, safety, and welfare of persons or property within the City or otherwise preserve the public peace or abate, clean up, or mitigate the effects of any emergency or disaster.

    7. “Instead they are government officials and public health experts trying their best to stop this pandemic using the data available at the time.

      But they listened to Neil Ferguson, who many sky-is-falling predictions for other “pandemics” were so, so, so wrong.

      I’m reminded of Armageddon…”I know the president’s chief scientific advisor, we were at MIT together. And, in a situation like this, you-you really don’t wanna take the advice from a man who got a C- in astrophysics.”

      And then, the irony: Ferguson had to resign his position after he broke quarantine while he was tested positive for COVID.

      From The Spectator (.co.uk):

      Below are six questions Steerpike would like to see Neil Ferguson pressed on the next time he embarks on a media round:

      Q1.

      In 2005, Ferguson said that up to 200 million people could be killed from bird flu. He told the Guardian that ‘around 40 million people died in 1918 Spanish flu outbreak… There are six times more people on the planet now so you could scale it up to around 200 million people probably.’ In the end, only 282 people died worldwide from the disease between 2003 and 2009.

      How did he get this forecast so wrong?

      Q2.

      In 2009, Ferguson and his Imperial team predicted that swine flu had a case fatality rate 0.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. His most likely estimate was that the mortality rate was 0.4 per cent. A government estimate, based on Ferguson’s advice, said a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ was that the disease would lead to 65,000 UK deaths.

      In the end swine flu killed 457 people in the UK and had a death rate of just 0.026 per cent in those infected.

      Why did the Imperial team overestimate the fatality of the disease? Or to borrow Robinson’s words to Hancock this morning: ‘that prediction wasn’t just nonsense was it? It was dangerous nonsense.’

      Q3.

      In 2001 the Imperial team produced modelling on foot and mouth disease that suggested that animals in neighbouring farms should be culled, even if there was no evidence of infection. This influenced government policy and led to the total culling of more than six million cattle, sheep and pigs – with a cost to the UK economy estimated at £10 billion.

      It has been claimed by experts such as Michael Thrusfield, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, that Ferguson’s modelling on foot and mouth was ‘severely flawed’ and made a ‘serious error’ by ‘ignoring the species composition of farms,’ and the fact that the disease spread faster between different species.

      Does Ferguson acknowledge that his modelling in 2001 was flawed and if so, has he taken steps to avoid future mistakes?

      Q4.

      In 2002, Ferguson predicted that between 50 and 50,000 people would likely die from exposure to BSE (mad cow disease) in beef. He also predicted that number could rise to 150,000 if there was a sheep epidemic as well. In the UK, there have only been 177 deaths from BSE.

      Does Ferguson believe that his ‘worst-case scenario’ in this case was too high? If so, what lessons has he learnt when it comes to his modelling since?

      Q5.

      Ferguson’s disease modelling for Covid-19 has been criticised by experts such as John Ioannidis, professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, who has said that: ‘The Imperial College study has been done by a highly competent team of modellers. However, some of the major assumptions and estimates that are built in the calculations seem to be substantially inflated.’

      Has the Imperial team’s Covid-19 model been subject to outside scrutiny from other experts, and are the team questioning their own assumptions used? What safeguards are in place?

      Q6.

      On 22 March, Ferguson said that Imperial College London’s model of the Covid-19 disease is based on undocumented, 13-year-old computer code, that was intended to be used for a feared influenza pandemic, rather than a coronavirus.

      How many assumptions in the Imperial model are still based on influenza and is there any risk that the modelling is flawed because of these assumptions?

  18. But the way they were loudly touted and then quietly abandoned illustrates the perils of confirmation bias for people on both sides of the overheated debate about COVID-19 control measures.

    Not really. What it does is proves that models are no basis for public health action if you are incompetent at knowing what effective public health action actually is. And they are not really even needed when you DO know what effective public health is. The US has proved now that we are mind meltingly incompetent at public health. Did we (anyone) know that before all this? I’d guess no. I remember a lot of media attention in Feb re a 2019 report ranking every country re its ‘pandemic preparedness’. Where the top-15 ranking was:
    US
    UK
    NL AU CA
    TH SV
    DK SK
    FI FR SI CH DE ES

    That report was amazing in its timing – and couldn’t have been more dead wrong in its ‘rankings’. With the exception of Germany (and maybe Finland idk), the only countries in that ranking that have done a good even remotely mediocre job are the ones (roughly) in Asia – AU, TH, SK. Everyone else has been among the WORST performing countries among the high income group. It’s not a coincidence either. That sort of ranking produced ARROGANCE. And that arrogance pretty clearly produced a)an overreliance on the ‘experts’ who understood what the word ‘pandemic’ meant at the time that ‘ranking test’ was given because they were the ones giving the ‘answers’ on those tests/rankings and b)a deference to them by everyone else when they start jerking off with numbers.

    From the very beginning of this, there was almost no attention being paid to countries that quickly seemed to know what they were doing – most of which were in Asia until late-Feb when the virus ‘broke out’. Almost as if – we didn’t need to pay attention to what the minor leaguers were doing because the A team was not yet playing. Some of them did do the lockdown stuff – but not one of those examples was a lockdown done based on a model nor did it happen without a very clear to-do list of what actual activities (mostly trace/test) the lockdown was intended to buy time for.

    What even worse is that now – a few months later – what is painfully obvious is that the US is now mind meltingly incompetent at even trying to figure out why we were mind meltingly incompetent then. That does not bode well.

    1. Or, just maybe, there is nothing to be overly worried about, and the real headlines should have always been, ‘New Strain of Viral Pneumonia Is Killing People Already At High Risk From Viruses or Pneumonia’. There certainly was never a valid reason to respond to what was not yet a pandemic by placing viral-carriers in assisted living facilities which then killed enough people to call it a pandemic.

      Maybe you and your Proggie friends shit your pants for no reason, like you always do. People died. You should feel bad for having supported the people and policies that lead to those decisions.

      1. Nope, quadruple down! We already did that? Quintuple down! We already did that? Sextuple down! We already……… you get the picture.

      2. “Maybe you and your Proggie friends shit your pants for no reason, like you always do. People died. You should feel bad for having supported the people and policies that lead to those decisions.”

        That assumes JFree, the cowardly piece of lefty shit, is decent enough to be embarrassed.
        S/he’s not.

      3. And yet – you and your ilk can never actually link to a post where I ‘shit my pants’ advocating a lockdown. I have always disagreed with those of you who persist in saying ‘this is just the flu’ – and have even put numbers to that. Haven’t changed my numbers one iota. Though of course not the numbers – millions, billions, trillions, infinite fatalities that you all seem to perpetually lie about.

        I now know belatedly that it won’t matter one whit what the fatalities are in the end. It will ALWAYS be ‘just the flu’ to you because you have internalized this into your political identity. This never has and never will and never CAN have anything to do with a disease. This is all just about the tribalism of DeRp. DeRp is the only thing that is real to you morons.

        All just part of that mind melting incompetence.

        1. JFree
          June.4.2020 at 7:22 pm
          “And yet – you and your ilk can never actually link to a post where I ‘shit my pants’ advocating a lockdown…”

          Yep, shame on me for not copying and saving at least one of your pathetic, whiny posts, claiming anyone who avoided the lock-down was ‘ENDANGERING OTHERS!!!!!!!’.
          Why, you and Hihn had regular mutual love engagements, telling us all how bad this was going to be and how only by following our top men, could we avoid a disaster.
          And now you deflect your pathetic whining by claiming ‘incompetence’ in others.
          Fuck you with a running, rusty chain saw, you cowardly piece of lefty shit.

        2. JFree
          June.4.2020 at 7:22 pm
          “And yet – you and your ilk can never actually link to a post where I ‘shit my pants’ advocating a lockdown…”

          Well, we do have archives, so it wasn’t all that hard:
          —————————
          JFree
          May.12.2020 at 10:53 pm
          “The plague killed one-third to one-half of Europe’s population. A variety of different viruses killed up to 80% of the New World. Don’t try to blow smoke that deadly viruses aren’t really deadly because they can’t spread much.”
          Yep, no pants-shitting and fear-mongering there. Not at all!
          ————————-
          JFree
          May.12.2020 at 11:11 pm
          “Point to that post then. You assholes who think this is the flu continually lie and repeat a lie about what I have said.
          I projected about 800k-1million fatalities in early Feb – a roughly 0.8% fatality rate. With the big wave of fatalities being this fall/winter. And yes I was talking about exponential growth IN EARLY FEBRUARY when you clowns were dismissing it all because there were only 10 cases or something
          AFAIK there is not one thing I’ve written that I would either change or that I’m wrong about. And certainly nothing that you bozos have ended up correct about.”
          Yep, the fear-mongering is well under controls there.
          There’s more, you cowardly piece of lefty shit, but your not worth any more of my time this evening.
          Crawl in a hole and stay there.

          1. You can write?

            800k-1 million fatalities – with most occurring this fall – is not ‘fear mongering’ and certainly has nothing to do with lockdowns in April and early May. It is certainly an inconvenient fact for you and your ilk, that there are 108k fatalities so far in a two month period that includes only months when respiratory droplet-spread viruses tend to disappear. But it is a fact. If you are fearful of facts – well then to you everything and anything is ‘fear-mongering’ and you are a sackless delusional wuss.

            As for what may happen when normal sniffles season starts back up later this year – with covid19 now fully present in the US from the start? Well that may be fearmongering. And for you and your ilk, the only solution is to confront that fear head on. Don’t get a flu vaccine. Swap spit with everyone who has the sniffles then. And make sure you stick asparagus up your nose everyday after you ingest your daily zinc/penny supplement to ensure that the zinc can get into those upper respiratory cells.

            The true public sign of courage and resistance to fearmongering this fall will be wearing a MAGA cap with asparagus hanging out of your nose. THAT will prove that you ain’t some retired retarded soyboy who will be manipulated or bullied into a second lockdown. Let the world SEE that you aren’t the sort of American who can be messed with by the Chinese with their slant-eyed viruses and that you support a strong economy.

            1. “800k-1 million fatalities – with most occurring this fall – is not ‘fear mongering’ ”
              Yes, it is; It is the projection of a cowardly piece of lefty shit.

              “and certainly has nothing to do with lockdowns in April and early May.”
              What does that have to do with anything?

              “It is certainly an inconvenient fact for you and your ilk, that there are 108k fatalities so far in a two month period that includes only months when respiratory droplet-spread viruses tend to disappear.”
              It’s nothing of the sort; it’s a bad seasonal flu year.

              “As for what may happen when normal sniffles season starts back up later this year – with covid19 now fully present in the US from the start?”
              More bullshit.

              “Well that may be fearmongering. And for you and your ilk, the only solution is to confront that fear head on. Don’t get a flu vaccine. Swap spit with everyone who has the sniffles then. And make sure you stick asparagus up your nose everyday after you ingest your daily zinc/penny supplement to ensure that the zinc can get into those upper respiratory cells.
              The true public sign of courage and resistance to fearmongering this fall will be wearing a MAGA cap with asparagus hanging out of your nose. THAT will prove that you ain’t some retired retarded soyboy who will be manipulated or bullied into a second lockdown. Let the world SEE that you aren’t the sort of American who can be messed with by the Chinese with their slant-eyed viruses and that you support a strong economy.”
              Is that straw man heavy, you cowardly piece of lefty shit? Maybe Hihn will show up to help you carry it around.
              Ram your PANIC!! up your ass, stick first and sit on it.

        3. You continue to bleat like a rabbit in a trap. The fallacy in your thinking is so deeply ingrained that you can’t get around it. I get it. This is not the pandemic you wanted. It doesn’t kill children or working age people, so it is not going to be the spark to light the funeral pyre of capitalism in America.

  19. No. They embraced wild speculation because it gave them an excuse to grab more power.

  20. And nobody will be punished for these mistakes, that is a sad fact.

  21. They weren’t “preconceptions.” Decisions were made with very limited information. That information was so limited because Trump eliminated W and Obama’s ‘early warning system,.’ The crucial missing piece was our own scientists working on the ground with China when the virus emerged. Lacking that working knowledge and early warning system, states and localities were forced to act on unnecessarily limited information. We now know they were overly cautious, but hindsight is 20/20. If it weren’t for the fundamentalist libertarian idea that all tax cuts are good and cuts to any government program are good, the early warning system never would have been eliminated.

    1. “…That information was so limited because Trump eliminated W and Obama’s ‘early warning system,..”

      Your TDS seems to have eaten your cite.

  22. “was leaked to the Times…”

    The questions not asked… Who leaked it? Why?

    We know the motives of the Times. Their news editors have widely been reported to have assured staff that although their focus on Russia failed to remove Trump, they would find another angle. So publishing anything with an eye toward making Trump look bad is fully expected.

    But what of the leaker?

    The Trump administration began with an article in the Times from “sources in the Obama White House” touting the many people that had been enlisted in a conspiracy to leak classified information after the inauguration with the purpose of disrupting the Trump administration and inspiring an independent counsel and impeachment. (March 3, 2017)

    There has been a long list of highly political and not always accurate “leaks”‘ from “sources in the administration” since Trump took office. Many of these leaks have been simple opinions that are reported as fact.

    In this case – a draft graph of one version of a set of scenarios was leaked as if it was “the settled science that the administration is ignoring”. And that’s exactly how it was treated. In fact, this interpretation spread so far and wide that even “The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” used it to lament the anti-science bias of the current administration and to speculate at the vast numbers that would be killed by their incompetence in ignoring the scientists.

    Well… now we know that it all was a lie. That never was “the recommendations of scientists”. And whoever leaked that single document had to have known that. So…. either they leaked more than that one scenario and the NYT lied. Or they pulled off one version that they felt would spin an interpretation that they desired – which in itself is a lie.

    Either way, we know the motive. It was a political motive to lie about internal deliberations at the white house.

    This is something that has not been isolated to this one event. Every week, CNN, NYT et. al. regale us with tales of some white house discord or other. They all have been adamant that everyone in the administration quietly confides in them that the president is incompetent and they all are completely dysfunctional and incapable of doing their jobs.

    The government is a very large organization. The administration is supposed to have career government people working there who are professionals that carry out the will of the president. But in a post-Obama world, politically motivated people are obviously being encouraged to act as internal saboteurs and moles, working with the opposition media to bring down the administration.

    This cannot be good for America. Even granting the assertion that Trump is uniquely bad for the job, secret sabotage and “resistance’ by civil servants is destructive to the very fabric of the government. The Obama administration and the nation’s leading democrats pushed for and have cheered on this development. They seem to think that because they are Democrats, this practice will never be used against them. For some reason, they believe that their stranglehold on the mainstream press will continue indefinitely, allowing them to safely ignore any such threats in the future, as the press will not pick up the mantle of opposition when they are in power.

    Well… if the last 3 months have taught us anything it is this: Things change. They change quickly and they change in unpredictable ways. I really don’t think it was wise to create a precedent of working to undermine the administration from within – even if you happen to be a progressive democrat who stood with Her and are seething with a blind hatred for the Cheeto President.

  23. LOL – not holding my breath waiting for a retraction or even an acknowledgment that they were being perhaps a bit irresponsible – this is the NYT after all who are now locked into egging on the rioters, looters and protestors who are flouting the “social distancing” protocols so widely touted as necessary.

  24. Very efficiently written information. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work. For sure i will check out more posts. This site seems to get a good amount of visitors.

  25. Just so people have some facts to go on here is the CDC stats on reported COVID deaths through 5/30. (I’m sure there is some lag time in the reports)
    Deaths by age group
    88,243 Total deaths reported
    65-74 years 18,360

    75-84 years 23,612

    85 years and over 29,214

    80% 71,186 88,243 Total

    Under 65 17,057 20%
    This has held pretty consistent over the last month.

  26. Every year my finance guy does a Monte Carlo projection of my finances, which essentially runs several thousand variations of what could happen going forward and from that probabilities on which we can base investment decisions.

    Every year I get my copy and say, “Sweet, at 65 I’ll have $80 Million!” (the highest possible projection), to which he replies, “or $225,000).

    The people at the NYT are smart enough to know how these work, but they want to deliver a certain message, so they choose the one that fits their message. BTW, who reads the NYT these days?

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  27. NPR noted that the projections reported by the Times were “based on only about one-third of the scenarios that Lessler will be including in the final projections.” electrician camarillo

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