Is It Individually Rational to Loosen Up Near the End of a Pandemic?

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With distribution of vaccines starting in the next month or so, should one rationally change one's behavior? If one assumes that one's choice in a period has no effect on other periods, then the answer is no. Holding risk of infection constant, the decision calculus is essentially the same in each time period of a pandemic, reflecting the trade-off between the costs of infection (including death) and the cost of social distancing in that month.

But the periods of a pandemic are not independent. Infection conveys at least some degree of immunity, and this explains the common sentiment that maybe it would be worth getting Covid over with. All else equal, it makes more sense to distance at the end of a pandemic (just before vaccines) than at the beginning. Getting sick at the beginning of the pandemic saves one from having to worry about it for the rest of the pandemic, while getting sick at the end of the pandemic doesn't buy one any freedom from worry.

A quick simulation analysis quantifies this: Suppose that social distancing destroys one-quarter of the utility of being alive each month, that the risk of infection if not distancing is one in twenty (and zero otherwise), that the risk of death given infection is one in one hundred, and that one will live fifty more years if one does not die in the pandemic. If the pandemic will last twelve months, a person looking only after his or her own interests should distance only for the last four months and only if not yet infected.

Similar logic can lead to another counterintuitive result, that past some level of infectivity in the general population, one should be less cautious. If viral spread is so pervasive that you are eventually likely to become infected even if you are cautious, you might as well get infected earlier rather than later. At relatively low risk levels, increased prevalence of Covid should lead a rational maximizer of self-interest to greater precaution, but at very high risk levels, increased prevalence could rationally lead to reduced precaution, at least if those previously infected have less reason to socially distance.

Near the end of the pandemic, however, this possibility is unlikely, because the first argument outweighs the second. With infection rates very high and a vaccine around the corner, one would thus expect rational people to act more carefully rather than less. And yet, we see reduced social distancing and ever-increasing rates of infection. Why? Part of the answer surely lies in changes in the weather, but that may be an incomplete explanation. There may be individual incentives to act with less caution, even if the social calculus still tilts in favor of heavy social distancing.

Some of these incentives are obvious: Maybe costs of compliance increase over time. It is not so hard to comply for a while, maybe even fun, but loneliness grows. And the risk of death from infection has fallen over time. Both these answers focus on the amount of time from the beginning of the pandemic to the present, rather than on the duration of the pandemic that remains. Might there also be arguments that it is individually rational to be less careful, the closer we are to the end of the pandemic? Yes.

Let's assume that individuals care to some extent not only about the prospect that they themselves will get sick, but also at least somewhat about the prospect that they may infect others. At first, it might seem that this should make no difference. It doesn't matter whether the costs one takes into account are costs to oneself or costs to others. It's still best to be more cautious near the end of the pandemic.

But multiplier effects may be greater earlier in the pandemic. One must worry not only about infecting others, but also about those whom they might infect, and so on. Much of the costs of one's own lack of care may be many degrees removed. But if the end of the pandemic is near, then multiplier effects might be stopped, as soon as everyone receives the vaccine. It may be too early for logic of this sort to matter. But the most vulnerable people might receive vaccines in December, reducing the indirect costs of infecting others today. Also, if we are nearing the top of the wave, individual incentives at self-preservation will soon kick in, reducing multiplier effects. Similarly, if one believes the story that people will be more careful shortly before being vaccinated, that itself is an event that will reduce the infection multiplier, and so there is less reason to be careful beforehand. I am skeptical that this line of thinking explains current behavior, though. It seems more likely that people are becoming more indifferent to others' welfare than that they are rationally taking into account that social distancing might not advantage others as much.

A separate argument is based on the iterated prisoner's dilemma. If many individuals' interest narrowly conceived is to not socially distance but society as a whole benefits from everyone social distancing, then the game is a many-player iterated prisoners' dilemma.

The two-player version is simple enough: It may be that for each of two roommates, it would be collectively rational to socially distance but not individually rational. In a one-period game, each roommate would not cooperate, regardless of the other roommate's choice, just as each prisoner in the prisoners' dilemma has an incentive to rat out the other regardless of what that person does. But when the game will be continued over multiple periods, each roommate may cooperate given the continued cooperation of the other roommate, applying a strategy like tit-for-tat.

The iterated prisoners' dilemma breaks down as the end of the game nears. There is no reason to cooperate in the final period of the game, just before administration of the vaccine, because there will be no benefit from doing so in generating further later cooperation. But if that's true, then there is no reason to cooperate in the penultimate period of the game, and so on. In the real world, cooperation is not black-and-white. Social distancing occurs on a continuum that is not easily measurable, and so each roommate's failures at social distancing may matter only if repeated over a sufficient number of periods to amount to a clear violation of the cooperation norm. Later in the game, the benefit from weakly signaling cooperation becomes attenuated. Each roommate rationally loosens up, while still claiming to be taking every reasonable precaution.

But what if there are many millions of players? One's own individual actions will likely have a negligible effect on infection rates in society as a whole, so why should one ever cooperate? If one cares about social welfare, even though not enough fully to internalize effects on others, the iterated prisoner's dilemma story becomes plausible. One infects others not only with the virus but also with non-cooperation, and one may worry about multiplier effects with non-cooperation too. Later in the game, this is less worth worrying about. For your behavior to have an indirect adverse effect on others, it must cause others to behave recklessly and for that in turn to lead to infection, but such effects are less likely in the end game.

But one doesn't need to think that people care about the effect of their behavior on the national average level of compliance to believe the iterated prisoners' dilemma story. Each of us belongs to small groups–families, workplaces, and so on–and in these groups it is more plausible to believe that one's own refusal to socially distance will lead to a breakdown of cooperation. These small groups can themselves be seen as atomistic actors in broader communities, concerned themselves about setting a good example.

The mechanism works less through conscious worries about indirect effects than through social norms. And we should not be surprised that social norms will break down as the pandemic proceeds. The anticipated end of a social norm may lead to the breakdown of the social norm even before the end, just as an anticipation that one's company will switch to business casual next month might lead people to go casual this month too. If I will be able to violate social distancing soon, it may be less of a breach of the social distancing norm now. At one level, this is illogical; the social norm should survive until it is no longer needed. But if one thinks that others may think that still others may think that it is logical to transition gradually into reduced social distancing, then one may be less scolding of someone who breaks social distancing prematurely. Anticipating a lower cost of breach, more will break the social norm, in a vicious circle.

I am not arguing that people should break social distancing norms. We need them more than ever with the end of the pandemic in sight! But it is good to be realistic in acknowledging that it may well be individually rational for many people not to socially distance, even when it is socially destructive, especially people whose own risk from Covid is low. That recognition can help us solidify the social norm. If we are past the point where social norms can serve as a useful form of social opprobrium and informal regulation, that may be justification for increasing the force of formal rules and laws. The greater the breakdown of norms in combatting a negative externality problem, the greater the case for government regulation. If the breakdown in social distancing reflects a rational individual calculus partly attributable to the upcoming end of the pandemic, individual incentives must be recalibrated, and there is no reason to expect private ordering to achieve optimal compliance levels.

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  1. If viral spread is so pervasive that you are eventually likely to become infected even if you are cautious, you might as well get infected earlier rather than later.

    Assumes the level of care does not improve during the pandemic, that the disease is as well-known and understood throughout the pandemic, that the medical profession learns absolutely nothing during the pandemic that improves care and treatment.

    1. If you contract covid now, you are so much less likely to die than you were in March.

      I’m personally taking a lot more small risks because now I know that a small infectious dose is unlikely to make me severely ill. I can hang out with others in a room with HEPA filtration and lower the risk of a large infectious dose, and if I only do this weekly it’s also unlikely I’ll spread the disease on if I should become asymptomatically infected.

      1. I’m mostly the opposite, since I was (perhaps naively) never super worried about getting severely ill or dying from Covid since I’m not too old and don’t have any co-morbidities. But the more I read about some of the chronic conditions that people end up with post-Covid, the less I want it.

  2. People have fundamental human rights. So opinions about what people should do are a mere curiosity. They may do as they wish, within their rights.

    1. I’m interested to know what “fundamental rights” are and where they come from. I would also presume that opinions about what people should do are more than mere curiousity if they rise to the level of influencing executive or judicial action.

      1. There are numerous books and other writings on the subject of fundamental human rights. Knowing more is within your grasp if that’s what you really want.

        Executive and judicial actions are also little more than a curiously without armed enforcement personnel willing to do executives’ and judges’ bidding. And even then, those personnel can’t be everywhere.

      2. “I’m interested to know what “fundamental rights” are and where they come from.”

        Rights are exactly and precisely those that other people are prepared to extend to you and nothing more.

  3. The leftist, Chinese Communist style shutdown destroyed $4 trillion from the world GDP. That poverty will kill 130 million people by starvation. The shutdown is the biggest mistake in human history.

    Can you put that in your calculus?

    1. Post a link to the source of your data lest it be dismissed out of hand.

      1. It’s David the Delusional.

        Dismissed out of hand is precisely what you’re supposed to do.

      2. The UN and World Bank published a report that said that about 1.1 billion people would face “food insecurity”, with 80 million in Africa facing “sever food insecurity”, but I couldn’t find any predictions of starvation deaths. 130 million seems an excessively high number for new deaths, considering that the normal yearly death toll to starvation is ~10 million. A doubling I could believe, 10 times I don’t.

        The IMF estimates a 3% global drop in GDP, with the US and the EU contracting 6%. World bank expects global GDP to be $81T-82T, down from $88T in 2019, a drop of roughly 7%. 2019 forecasts for the world were 3% growth.

        Almost all of this is attributed (rightly or wrongly) to the lockdowns implemented by the various governments.

        So the money claim seems to be on track, or even underestimated, based on the various international sources.
        The starvation claim seems wildly overblown.

        1. COVID-19 has resulted in a huge economic cost, but it is difficult to determine how much of that cost is attributable to mandatory lockdowns and how much of it is attributable to the millions of people who decided to stay home to protect themselves and their loved ones. Since the time of the bubonic plague, most people have stayed home during pandemics to protect themselves and their loved ones. It’s true that mandatory shutdowns inflict an additional economic cost because some people are forced to stay home who would be willing to take the risk of going out, but it’s not clear that this additional economic cost is substantial. Sweden initially decided to go for herd immunity with COVID, but the economic consequences there were almost as bad as in countries that had mandatory lockdowns and their death toll was higher, and I believe they’ve now abandoned that approach. And it appears that the mandatory lockdowns in Australia and New Zealand were economically beneficial because, by successfully using relatively brief lockdowns to control the virus, they achieved long-term economic gain by inflicting short-term economic pain. Closer to home, Hawaii appears to have done the same thing.

          1. It certainly is hard to tell what people would have done had there been no government restrictions.
            However, we can make some guesses – by quite simply looking at what people did in the times and places there were no or only light restrictions.

            In the US, Q2 showed a 31% drop in GDP, during the time when pandemic fear was highest and restrictions tightest. As restrictions lightened up (and as people stopped obeying) we saw a Q3 growth of 33%.
            Sweden is not a good comparison, because although there were only minimal mandatory restrictions, the government made some “strong recommendations” and most people obeyed those. A sort of “worst of both worlds” approach.

            New Zealand is a terrible nation to compare on anything, as it is a small, heavily isolated, mostly rural nation. But even so –
            Australia had a 7.1% Q2 drop (different measure than US, BTW – by the YTD standard, US was 3.1% in Q2 and 2.9% in Q3).
            New Zealand saw a 4.9% Q2 drop.
            Despite the fact that it is the end of November, neither country has yet published their Q3 reports (that I can find, at least). However, I found estimates: Australia Q3 is expected to rise to -4%, and New Zealand to -1% or so. The US will probably outperform the Australian economy, and lag behind New Zealand.

            So, basically, it looks like the Q2 lockdowns were responsible for most of the GDP drop. Of the worldwide 10% drop from projected, it looks like voluntary human behavior changes might have been responsible for 2-3% of that.

  4. there is no reason to expect private ordering to achieve optimal compliance levels

    Optimal for who, Comrade ?

    1. Yes, his final conclusion is quite silly. The negative externality problem is fundamentally unsolvable.

      The part that is missing is that there is even less reason to expect public ordering to achieve optimal compliance. The bureaucrats lack the value information to make a rational assessment and tend not to be our best and brightest in any event. At least with individual choice you are going to get some semblance of local maxima. A set of idiots choosing for everyone at the point of a gun tend to do far worse.

      1. A set of idiots choosing for everyone at the point of a gun tend to do far worse.

        That surely depends on the “value” accruing to the said idiots for the fun of ordering other people about. I might put a low value on their fun, but they might value it extremely highly.

    2. “‘there is no reason to expect private ordering to achieve optimal compliance levels’

      Optimal for who, Comrade ?”

      There are two sides to the fight, the human beings on one side and the virus on the other. Are you suggesting that you can’t tell the difference?

  5. A quick simulation analysis quantifies this: Suppose that social distancing destroys one-quarter of the utility of being alive each month, that the risk of infection if not distancing is one in twenty (and zero otherwise), that the risk of death given infection is one in one hundred, and that one will live fifty more years if one does not die in the pandemic. If the pandemic will last twelve months, a person looking only after his or her own interests should distance only for the last four months and only if not yet infected.

    Could you provide some detail on this simulation? The link just takes me to github.

    Among other questions, is that risk of infection a risk per month?

    If it’s not, then it must be right either to do no social distancing at all or to do it for the full year, since once you’ve stopped the cost doesn’t increase.

    So I assume it’s a monthly risk.

    If I’m totally cautious I get 2436 utils. That’s 36 during the pandemic and 4 X 600 the next fifty years.

    Every month I don’t distance buys me one util (1/4 of a month’s worth) at the cost of a 1/2000 chance of losing 2400 (the remaining 50 years. I’m ignoring the rest of the pandemic years lost).

    So I gain 1/4 and lose 6/5. Looks like a bad idea.

    This is an iota simpler than what you describe, but not a lot, given the small probability of dying from the pandemic.

    I may easily have something wrong here, and no doubt someone will eagerly point it out. What is my mistake?

    1. Yes, Prof A needs to specify whether his rate of infection is monthly or not.

      If it is a 5% chance per month, adds up to a 46% rate of infection over the course of the 12 months. Which seems high.

      I assume his infection fatality rate is not itself cumulative, month by month, but is simply 1% of the cumulative infection rate. So that would give our non-socially-distancing-over-the whole-year-guy a roughly 0.46% chance of death during the year.

      A 1% IFR btw is about double the CDC’s latest effort for 50-69 year olds. So we can assume that 1% probably relates to people in their 60s.

      I think the main dfficulty with Prof A’s approach, in purporting to examine individual incentives (which may of course include that individual’s own social objectives) is that it doesn’t distinguish between different sorts of individuals.

      For otherwise healthy under 50s, the costs of social distancing are high (loss of money, job, social life, partying, school, whatev) and the benefits pretty close to zero. Whereas for old folk or sick folk who don’t get out much anyway, it’s the other way round (with exceptions – eg sick folk who miss their treatment because of lockdowns etc.)

      So different people will have totally different incentives based on their age, health, personality, job profile. Aggregating these people together is not going to produce a sensible answer.

      1. So different people will have totally different incentives based on their age, health, personality, job profile. Aggregating these people together is not going to produce a sensible answer.

        This is true, of course, but I don’t think his intent was to describe the actual situation, but was rather to create a “stick-figure” framework for thinking about the issues.

        Unfortunately, the framework is unclear, at least to me and, apparently, you.

        1. Thanks for your comments. The github link takes you to the folder, but here is a more precise link: https://github.com/mbabramo/CovidCBA/blob/master/CovidCBA/Program.cs
          My point, of course, is not to model this particular pandemic or to model all aspects of a pandemic. It’s just to show that the individual case for social distancing will generally be at its height at the end of the pandemic. For some parameter values, it may be that it is always beneficial to socially distance or never beneficial to socially distance. My point is just that you can find parameter values where it is beneficial to socially distance only at the end of the pandemic. Perhaps one can produce a model where the opposite is true, but I was not able to do so with assumptions as easy as these.

          1. Thanks for the link. Working my way through.

            BTW, a few more comments in the code would be helpful.

          2. My point is just that you can find parameter values where it is beneficial to socially distance only at the end of the pandemic.

            Vaguely reminiscent of anecdotes from WW2, where – it is alleged – some Allied soldiers, including experienced troops who had been through lots of dangerous action*, became much less enthusiastic about pressing risky advances in the last few months of the war than they had been earlier.

            Presumably the math is that if you’re going to win anyway, in a few months, your chances of survival if you keep your head down have become a lot higher than they might have been a couple of years earlier.

            * particularly Brits, who had been in action for longer.

            1. Citing the Brits in the last months of WWII is misleading, as the Brits weren’t even fighting in the last months of WWII. Their involvement in the war ended when the Russkies beat Germany in May, and the war didn’t end until the US defeated Japan in August.

      2. “If it is a 5% chance per month, adds up to a 46% rate of infection over the course of the 12 months.”

        You’re bad at math. 5*12 =60 not (as you claim) 46.

        1. You’re bad at math. 5*12 =60 not (as you claim) 46.

          No, you’re bad at probabilities.

          A 5% chance of contracting COVID per month means there’s a 95% chance each month that you won’t. The chance you won’t contract it for 2 months is 95% of 95%. The chance you won’t contract it for a year is thus 95%^12, or 54%.

          The chance you will contract it over that period is thus 46%, as Lee said.

          1. ” The chance you won’t contract it for 2 months is 95% of 95%.”

            Speaking of bad at math…

      3. “For otherwise healthy under 50s, the costs of social distancing are high (loss of money, job, social life, partying, school, whatev) and the benefits pretty close to zero.”

        Some people might place the value of not spreading a deadly disease to people who can’t fight it off as somewhat higher than zero.

  6. So there’s a few things.

    1. More knowledge brings less fear, which makes it easier to break.

    2. “Quarantine fatigue”. Distancing for 1 month is easy. For 8 months…people get tired of it. They miss their grandkids.

    3. “See how the leader acts” syndrome. If Cuomo’s having Thanksgiving with family, and Gavin is having big indoor dinners, Pelosi is having her hair done, and Muriel Bowser exempts herself from quarantining to go to a funeral….People take it less seriously. Plus they don’t want to be “chumps”…

    4. Social distancing has a cost. Especially a long term social distancing. Those who violate it gain a benefit (political, social, economic, etc.) For many, that benefit outweighs the risk. And if they can convince OTHER people to socially distance, while they don’t….

  7. We generally do a very poor job of assessing the real risk of different things. People are quite afraid of tornadoes (if they live in an area that has them), but not too afraid of car accidents (as evidenced by the prevalence of careless driving); yet, over one’s lifetime he or she is exponentially more likely to suffer serious injury or death due to a car accident than due to a tornado. So, an unfamiliar risk is more scary than a familiar one. Now that the pandemic has gone on for several months it’s no longer such an unfamiliar risk – many people know people who’ve had Covid and gotten over it – so they regard it with less fear.

    This also brings in another psychological issue – confirmation bias. If one knows five people who’ve had Covid and they all got through it, the conclusion is usually that it must not be so bad. Yet, with a fatality rate of 1/100, any five people would be highly likely to survive, and the fact that they did proves nothing about the severity of the disease.

    1. KenInd,

      These are very good points.

    2. People are quite afraid of tornadoes (if they live in an area that has them), but not too afraid of car accidents (as evidenced by the prevalence of careless driving

      This is so true.

      Car accidents kill ~40,000 Americans every year. That’s 13 9/11 type incidents per year in the US for the last few decades. Yet absolutely no one blinks an eye.

      Collisions involving deer cost us $1 billion in property damage every year. Yet no one blinks an eye.

      1. Except the deer.

  8. You’re asking the wrong question. The right question is “given that COVID-19 has a 99.8% survival rate for those under the age of 70, what protective measures are we taking for this disease compared to other activities with a similar level of risk?”

    Driving a car to the grocery store is more dangerous than shopping in that store and catching COVID-19. If you’re willing to risk driving, then you should be willing to risk shopping, too.

    1. I agree that we should compare across risk categories, and driving is a nice example because that is also an activity where much of the risk cost is externalized.

      Here’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the social welfare calculus: Americans make around 10 billion trips to the grocery store each year (122.8 million households * 1.6 trips/week * 52 weeks). Suppose the average distance to the grocery store is 5 miles. Then, there are about 100 billion miles round trip driven to grocery stores each year. Based on 12.5 deaths per billion miles, that’s 1,250 deaths per year. So, if we assume 400,000 dead over a year of this pandemic, for the average person to have equal risk from driving and grocery shopping, only 1 in 320 deaths (400,000 / 1,250) in the pandemic must be attributable to grocery stores. That seems highly unlikely to me, but our data is not good.

      You’re right, of course, that for someone under age 70, the risk of death is considerably lower, though for a good driver driving during daylight hours, the risk of a car crash is at least somewhat lower. It could be that the individual calculus of driving to vs. shopping in store is close, though I suspect that there’s still an order of magnitude difference.

      Meanwhile, I think you make a mistake in saying that “if you’re willing to risk driving, then you should be willing to risk shopping, too.” One might rationally undertake an activity when facing one risk but not when facing the same risk plus one other comparable risk.

    2. The question isn’t just one of individual risk. Young and otherwise healthy people seem to mostly recover from COVID just fine but while they have it they can spread it to someone who won’t easily beat it.

    3. If you’re willing to risk driving, then you should be willing to risk shopping, too.

      I’m not sure I follow this. Are you talking about the risk of driving to the grocery store?

      So then if I’m willing to take a 1% risk (making up numbers here) of driving to the store, I should also be willing to take the .1% (made up) risk of shopping?

      That’s not right. What it means is that driving to the store and shopping creates a 1.1% risk, and if I’m wiling to take a 1% risk I should also be willing to take a 1.1% risk. You see where that leads.

      There has to be a limit on how much risk I’m willing to take to go grocery shopping.

  9. The epidemic/pandemic was over a long time ago according to the CDC’s definitions then in place, but the definitions were promptly changed and as a result the Corona did not lose its epidemic status.

    1. Because, of course, if you stopped calling the coronavirus a pandemic, it wouldn’t be able to infect anybody anymore.

      the anti-science conspiracy theories just keep getting lamer and lamer.

      1. Because, of course, if you stopped calling the coronavirus a pandemic, it wouldn’t be able to infect anybody anymore.

        Of course not, silly rabbit. But when deprived of the scary label, it would gradually start to get lumped in with the rest of the plethora of things in the world that infect people but don’t cause us to shut down society and hide from each other.

        1. ” when deprived of the scary label, it would gradually start to get lumped in with the rest of the plethora of things in the world that infect people but don’t cause us to shut down society and hide from each other.”

          But the virus won’t change its behavior at all.

  10. There has never been any good evidence that masks help at all, in fact, the evidence indicated the opposite. The only meaningful relevant studies predated Corona. Just in the last few days, the first and thus far the only real study postdating Corona was finally published, after being suppressed for a while. The result of the study only adds to the evidence that masks don’t work.

    1. There has never been any good evidence that masks help at all, in fact, the evidence indicated the opposite.

      Sure..

      Just in the last few days, the first and thus far the only real study postdating Corona was finally published, after being suppressed for a while.

      Suppressed. By the deep state I guess. Always a conspiracy with you guys.

      1. Your Nature article is
        a) outdated, as it cites as a primary study, one from May,
        b) confuses aerosols and droplets,
        c) admits that its “pro-mask” study found cloth masks only block 10% of viral particles,
        d) spends almost a third of it’s wordage attacking Trump,
        and e) confounds N95 and cloth masks.

        There have been several publications that have done major metastudies of the effects of masks on disease transfer. These have all concluded that N95 masks work, goggles work, and cloth masks have no statistically significant impact on disease spread.
        These studies have come from:
        The NIH
        The CDC
        A peer-reviewed study in The Lancet
        a peer-reviewed study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

        There is a lot of evidence at this point that the cheap cloth masks you see people wearing have no impact on the spread of COVID. The only people left claiming the opposite are the science-denying members of the Church of Masks.

        1. That’s not entirely true.

          Cloth masks tend to limit the transmission of the virus, by impeding droplet spread. IE, they work best on people who are infected, to prevent them from spreading the disease

          They do very little to impede people being infected by the virus (IE, on people who don’t have the virus)

          1. Cloth masks do no statistically significant effect to influence the spread of the disease.

            They do stop some of the large droplets, but a large number make it through anyway, as does almost all of the aerosol. The amount that makes it through (or around) the mask is more than enough to infect others.

            1. Yes, distancing also works, to an extent.
              At 1m, you have about an 80% reduction in viral material.
              At 2m, it’s about 90%.
              At 3m, it’s about 93%.

            2. This is the usual deliberate conflation of different types of masks.

              Yes, N95 masks work.

              One of eight studies claimed that 12-to-16 layer cotton masks worked, and seven of eight claimed they did not. Overall, the metastudy concluded that 12-to-16 layer cloth masks showed no significance.

              The 2-to-3 layer cloth masks that people are buying and using do not work. Zero studies showed that they had a significant effect upon disease spread.

        2. You claimed in different paragraphs, that cloth masks have no effect and that they block some droplets.
          Which of these do you actually want to argue? Pick one and stick with it.

          1. There is no statistically significant effect.
            In other words, to simply it for people like you that are mathematically illiterate: it doesn’t matter if the masks stop a few droplets, because the infection rates are indistinguishable.

            Since I used big words there, I’ll make a simple analogy.
            A t-shirt absorbs some of the force of a gunshot. And yet, it makes no statistical significant change in the resulting wound.

            1. “In other words, to simply it”

              Gee, thanks for simplying it. That really helped.

  11. “Getting sick at the beginning of the pandemic saves one from having to worry about it for the rest of the pandemic, while getting sick at the end of the pandemic doesn’t buy one any freedom from worry.”

    Willful ignorance is a hell of a thing. We’ve known for months now that people can, and have, been infected with COVID-19 more than once.

    1. We’ve known for months now that people can, and have, been infected with COVID-19 more than once.

      At what rate ?

      1. There is one confirmed case of a re-infection with a different strain.

        All the other potential cases have turned out to be relapses.

        1. Sure, conveniently enough, the data you provided no citation for just happens to behave in a way that fits your preferred version of reality.
          No reason to be skeptical of that, is there?
          Besides, the virus will go away by itself when the weather turns colder.

          1. Well, I used thing thing called an “internet search engine”, and requested links to web pages containing the terms “COVID” and “reinfection”. Then the magic happens, and thousands of websites containing those words were sent to me, as a series of links.

            In the first few links, I found a Bloomberg article discussing the topic, a CNN article, a Dutch website tracking all such cases world-wide, and so on.
            I suggest you learn to use these new-fangled tools. It only takes a few seconds, and you can learn a lot of information about the real world that you’ll never discover in your fevered imagination.

            Incidentally, I must correct myself: As of last month, there are now two likely cases of reinfection in the US, and 24 worldwide. The rest of the suspected cases have been dismissed as relapses.

            1. You suggest I learn to do your homework for you.

              No, I don’t fucking think so, you lazy ass.

    2. It seems to be very uncommon. Most of the value from insisting that the recovered follow social distancing protocols probably arises from (1) the difficulty of distinguishing the previously infected from the uninfected, and (2) the moral hazard problem from providing benefits to get sick.

  12. The problem is, how, exactly, does one know that they are near the end of a pandemic? This is something that can’t really be established until afterwards. Consider that the Trump Administration has been claiming to be “rounding the corner” of this pandemic since around mid-May, and it’s bigger now than it has ever been.

    1. True. But Trump’s claims had no basis in fact. By contrast, now several companies credibly claim to have developed vaccines that effectively combat the virus. Of course, not all of the vaccines may work as well as well as is asserted, but it seems probable that at least one of them will do so. If that’s correct, it’s not unreasonable to believe that we’re nearing the end.

      1. Having a vaccine available doesn’t mean we’re near the end of the outbreak if people insist on not getting vaccinated. Besides the normal anti-vax crowd, you also have people suspicious that the Trump administration may have cut corners regarding the safety and effectiveness of the purported vaccine(s).

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