15 May 2020

We will get through


Things to do in the belly of the whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Twice a week, I sit down and listen to our country's favourite virologist's podcast. He is a scientist by the book, someone who gets excited over a recent study regardless of the findings but because it was done carefully and with a high level of significance and proper statistics etc.
He tries - and succeeds - to explain the whole shitshow of media frenzy and panic stations and political scare mongering in rational, reasoned and factual words.

Our current national situation is, getting there. As long as we can keep the reproduction number (or R value) below 1 and preferably at around 0.75, we can handle the time to vaccine without overcrowding our medical services, using the hammer and dance approach, and in view of promising treatment strategies for those who get a bad case, keep the death rate minimal. 

The way I understand it:
1. The reproduction number, calculated daily by the national public health institute,  indicates how many people one person with the virus can infect. If the rate is equal to 1, it means that one person is infecting another, on average. We are currently hovering at or below 1, which is why a couple of social distancing measures have been relaxed. Should it climb and with it the number of new cases per 10,000 people in a district, we have to run for cover again. We are all becoming experts at numbers here.
2. Time to vaccine is - despite all the negative media headlines - estimated to be 18 months or thereabout, in other words, sometime before winter 2021. It take this from the virologist's mouth and I tend to trust him and his colleagues somewhat more than Tom, Dick or Harry on social media, regardless of how much expert knowledge they have gained from google university.
3. Read about the hammer and dance approach here
4. Promising treatment strategies are being researched in almost all science labs worldwide. I have great faith in this.

Enough of that. It is Friday, time for music.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is good to listen to the virologists who actually understand the science of the situation we are in. They are the best balance to the shouting lunatics, especially the ones who don't even consult Dr. Google.
Thank you for the lovely music. I've only heard one other song by Ray LaMontagne.
Take care there.

Ms. Moon said...

How I wish that the USA had leaders who listened to virologists and made plans according to their recommendations. This is so far from what's happening here. And so many people are dying needlessly.
Meanwhile, staying home is staying safe, I don't care what the government says.
I take faith in your faith. Thank you.

37paddington said...

I so appreciate your clarity, and that poem. Be safe. Hugs.

Steve Reed said...

We keep hearing about "the R" here too. Supposedly we're somewhere under 1, but given who's in charge and our level of opening I'm surprised. I wonder if it will stay there.

The quote is interesting, but it contains many forbidding images. "Review each of your life’s ten million choices." Please God, no! And treading water in the middle of the dark sea with my toes pointing into the depths? I mean, I understand what he's saying about uncertainty, but yeesh.

ellen abbott said...

it's good that some countries are listening to the scientists but not so here. at least we can garner some hope that there is progress being made, again, not here. our infections and deaths are still rising while Trump forces the poor and underserved back into the workforce so the better offs can get their haircuts and their manicures and so that meat is on the table daily even though so many of those workers employers are doing nothing to protect them. Trump and his toadies don't care how many people die. he thinks that if he can get all businesses to reopen then he will be on top again. he has no concept of the cost, in lives, in work lost, in businesses closed, in paychecks not received, of this pandemic. and all because he did not act, refused to act, still refuses to do the right thing.

am said...

Your clematis is beautiful. We will get through. I'm grateful for your helpful links.

Roderick Robinson said...

But how is R applied or measured?

My life so far said...

I loved the poem, the clematis and the music. I clicked on the link "The Hammer and Dance Approach", excellent read. Thank you so much.

I think I loved the poem the most. I am not a lover of poetry, school taught me to hate poetry because I never really understood it but this poem spoke to me.

"Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait."

I'm not good at resting and waiting but I am doing more of it as I get older and perhaps that is the purpose of getting older, to reflect back on your life, to take a look at the decisions you made, to learn more about yourself, to slowly change and have compassion for yourself.

Stay safe my friend.

beth coyote said...

How beautiful, that song.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Who is the virologist? It boggles my mind that people are rejecting the research-based opinions of the best experts int he field.

Joared said...

THanks for this and these links to Germany’s virologist. Poor national leadership continues in U.S. our Calif. governor and Los Angeles mayor and county trying to follow care but problems from unthinking citizens compromising the efforts. I tell my family it comes down to us doing what we need to do for ourselves individually, especially since my adult children and their families live in other states — one in the state with nutcases carrying weapons into that State House. Stay safe!

Sabine said...

The reproduction number, R-value, indicates how many people one infected person has infected on average in a certain time period.

If the value is above 1, the number of new infections increases and the disease is spreading. If it is less than 1, there are fewer and fewer new infections and if this continues, the epidemic will end. We have been told that a managable R-value to achieve economic and personal well being, not overstretch health services and keep death rate low, would be 0.75 over an extended time period, ideally until vaccines have been developed.

The R value is an exponential quantity. This means that even minor changes have a big impact.

The R value is based on statistical methods and can therefore only be estimated. In Germany, Covid 19 is a notifiable disease. Hence, all local health authorities notify the national health authority on a daily basis on positive test results. There are widespread testing facilities and laboratories to analyse the results. The number of unreported cases is considered to be so low as to not be of significance.

Anybody with symptoms or who believe they got it, can get a test. results are available within 24 hrs the latest.

In order to compensate for "slips", caused by late noticiations or massive local outbreaks, the German health authority uses the so-called "nowcasting" procedure (also used in economic foprecasting). For this purpose, the number of reported infections is determined taking into account diagnosis, reporting and transmission delays on the basis of two successive four-day periods.

Based on the fact that the time between incubation and disease onset is usually 4-6 days and taking into consideration that data collection may take up to 3 days (weekends etc.), the most recent R-value shows the infection process based on disease activityof one and a half to two weeks ago.

Also, we are usually given a "trend" value as single large outbreaks can affect the R-value and give a wrong picture if you look at it for just one day.

Tara said...

Love the song, and Ray's music. He goes deep.

Thank you for the links - I will go read. I'm scared and have a hard time these days seeing the light. But I do trust the scientists, and the numbers even though they are probably lower than reality. We will get through, someday.

Roderick Robinson said...

I thought that question might weedle a response from you. My ever-present aim in life. So it's all statistical theory, taken - rather optimistically - to two places of decimals. And, it would seem, the chewing up of a good deal of data from disparate sources. I'm sure it works well in numerate Germany and I'm impressed that those in charge have acknowledged the possibility of flaws, hence nowcasting.

And you've also answered a question I didn't ask but I should have: one of the key issues is response time since the politicians are desperate (though not quite as desperate as a certain orange-quiffed tyrant we're all familiar with) to minimise the prospect of economic Armageddon and wouldn't be above visiting one of those health authorities, grabbing a handful of data regarded as favourable, and building a whole new election campaign on an unrepresentative set of numbers.

In detective stories the rule is Cherchez la femme; in journalism it's usually Cherchez l'argent, here it's slightly different. I asked my original question because I hadn't previously come across any expanded background of R (admittedly my methods can only be regarded as slapdash - I'll get that in before you do) and thus I came to what I think I'm entitled to call the Urquell. Possibly with a terminal e depending on the wind up the subjunctive chimney.

"if you look at it for one day" are your final words and never a truer word not spent in jest. Ironically, British politicians - facing some truly depressing news about our position in these league tables no one wants to head - are telling us to ignore international comparisons. But any caveat of that sort should be catknip to all journalists, even those retired for nearly a quarter of a century and uneasily toying with the outriders of senescence.

Sabine said...

The remark, ah but it's just statistics, is a very common one from people not familiar with scientific research and one that would set a couple of the statisticians I have been working with into a frenzy of explanations. Without going into it too deeply - I am clearly not the person to do so - let me assure you that there is a an enormous difference between guesswork and the science of statitics. The latter works with frightful exactness and tests you wouldn't think possible. The magic words are significance and p-value and no scientific finding would get published let alone applied in areas such as epidemics and health.
I would apply the term guesswork to some of the opinion polls you find in various "news" outlets. But in medical science? Never.

Roderick Robinson said...

You're interpolating "just" which I never said. Statistics fascinates me especially as it relates to probability. What's more I have a track record:


though I'll forgive you for not being aware of this. Before I swam on to your petri dish I had another blogonym (Barrett Bonden) and another blog (Works Well). I was even moderately popular and people travelled long distances on camels to kiss the hem of my garment. When I chose to commit the blogistical equivalent of felo de se and close Works Well I made the truly fatal error of resurrecting myself within twenty-four hours (the precedents are rare and tend to go unbelieved) and people felt betrayed. I am paying the price these days with vestigial comment levels and Tone Deaf resembling a Hartlepools amateur production of Waiting to Godot.

My aim is to make facetiousness appear serious. It's a tough row to hoe and it's probably time to fade into Interim's background for a while. The allusion to Messiaen was definitely une voie sans issue.