Monkeypox

“Monkeypox causes a flu-like array of symptoms, but also comes with a distinctive rash; one telltale sign is the fact that lesions often appear on the palms of hands. So far it seems that the cases are being caused by viruses from the West African clade, which triggers milder disease than the other family of viruses, called the Congo Basin clade. All monkeypox viruses are cousins of the one that caused smallpox, the only human virus to have been eradicated.”

-Helen Branswell, “A CDC expert answers questions on monkeypox.” STAT. May 19, 2022

In sum, monkeypox is not like COVID-19. It requires close contact. It can be transmitted by respiratory droplets when there are sores in the mouth, but it’s not the primary vector. The West African clade has a 1% fatality rate, which is much less than the 10% of the Congo Basin clade. The high death rate probably is due to West Africa’s poor access to health care.

There’s already a vaccine for monkeypox. This is not going to be a global pandemic like COVID-19. But, it is a serious disease, and it is prevalent in an unprecedented level.

If you must know more about it WHO has a monkeypox course.

The Pandemic Cyclone

“This chart shows the daily number of new Covid-19 infections in each state over time. The y-axis is the population-normalized number of new infections per day; the x-axis is the rate of transmission (Rt). Each dot is a state or territory of the US, colored by region, and the area of the dot is proportional to the estimated number of new Covid-19 infections on that day.

https://observablehq.com/@chrisjkuch/covid-hotspots

I thought this was an interesting way to visualize the time series data.

Masks are the Pandemic Marshmallow Test

“The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on delayed gratification in 1972 led by psychologist Walter Mischel, a professor at Stanford University.[1] In this study, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. During this time, the researcher left the room for about 15 minutes and then returned. The reward was either a marshmallow or pretzel stick, depending on the child’s preference. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures.[5] A replication attempt with a sample from a more diverse population, over 10 times larger than the original study, showed only half the effect of the original study. The replication suggested that economic background, rather than willpower, explained the other half.[6][7]

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment,” (accessed December 7, 2020), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment

It occurs to me that masks might be the pandemic equivalent of the marshmallow experiment.

Black Death, COVID & Renewal

“So, our outline for today:

1. Renaissance Life was Worse than the Middle Ages (super-compressed version)

2. Where did the myth come from in the first place? (a Renaissance story)

3. Why is the myth of a golden Renaissance retold so much? (a post-Renaissance story)

4. Conclusion: We Should Aim for Something Better than the Renaissance”

—Ada Palmer, “Black Death, COVID, and Why We Keep Telling the Myth of a Renaissance Golden Age and Bad Middle Ages.” ExUrbe.com. June 4, 2020.

What does the history of Black Death suggest for our post-COVID-19 future? A complicated question. This is a precis, i.e., most essential points, of a book length answer to that question. Academic and long, but also interesting.

Kondratiev Waves & Social Unrest

“In the United States, 50-year instability spikes occurred around 1870, 1920 and 1970, so another could be due around 2020. We are also entering a dip in the so-called Kondratiev wave, which traces 40-60-year economic-growth cycles. This could mean that future recessions will be severe. In addition, the next decade will see a rapid growth in the number of people in their twenties, like the youth bulge that accompanied the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s. All these cycles look set to peak in the years around 2020.”

-Peter Turchin, “Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade.” Nature 463, 608 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/463608a

“What does it mean for the current wave of protests and riots? The nature of such dynamical processes is such that it can subside tomorrow, or escalate; either outcome is possible. A spark landing even in abundant fuel can either go out, or grow to a conflagration.

What is much more certain is that the deep structural drivers for instability continue to operate unabated. Worse, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated several of these instability drivers. This means that even after the current wave of indignation, caused by the killing of George Floyd, subsides, there will be other triggers that will continue to spark more fires—as long as the structural forces, undermining the stability of our society, continue to provide abundant fuel for them.

-Peter Turchin, “2020.” Clio Dynamica on PeterTurchin.com. June 1, 2020.

Counterglow

“This map shows factory farms and other animal facilities in the United States.”

Counterglow

“The map is meant to offer a rare bird’s-eye view of the scale of the industry, while also providing a research tool for activist investigators. Kecia Doolittle, the leader of the team that created the map, is an animal rights activist who has participated in a number of farm investigations herself. Footage uncovered by Doolittle and others over the years has revealed conditions such as overcrowding; wounded, sick, and dead animals left in pens with the living; painful procedures like tail removal and castration without anesthesia; and physical abuse by farmers, at times resulting in boycotts or criminal charges.

Most recently, as The Intercept reported on Friday, activists with the organization Direct Action Everywhere captured footage of a harrowing mass kill method called ventilation shutdown. The closure of meatpacking plants due to Covid-19 outbreaks has left farmers with nowhere to take mature livestock; in response, they have exterminated millions of animals. One particularly torturous tactic involves corralling pigs into a barn, closing the doors and windows, and shutting down the ventilation system. ‘This causes the buildup of excessive temperature and moisture from body heat and respiration of the animals and results in death from hyperthermia,’ according to guidelines from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, which endorses ventilation shutdown in ‘constrained circumstances.’

Doolittle said that despite her knowledge of the industry’s brutal practices, this method caught her off guard. ‘I didn’t believe it was real,’ she said. To Doolittle, the use of ventilation shutdown should be a call to action, and more than images are needed.”

-Alleen Brown, “Animal Rights Activists Uncover the Locations of Thousands of Factory Farms.” The Intercept. May 31, 2020.

In light of the recent protests, it is hard not to notice that the way we treat The Other, whether it be people of a different race or different species, have a commonality.

Time to Mitigate, Not Contain

“We have long needed a Plan B for the scenario where a big fraction of everyone gets exposed to Covid19, and for this plan I’ve explored variolation and other forms of deliberate exposure. To be ready, variolation just needs a small (~100) short (1-2mo.) trial to verify the quite likely (>75%) case that it works (cuts harm by 3-30x), but alas, while funding and volunteers can be found, med ethics panels have consistently disapproved. (Months later, they haven’t even allowed the widely praised human challenge trials for vaccines, some of which would include variolation trials.)

-Robin Hanson, “Time to Mitigate, Not Contain.” OvercomingBias.com. May 28, 2020

I’m thinking an intervention that involving volunteering to get COVID-19, when there are no effective treatments and with a fatality rate somewhere between 0.5-1% is going to be a hard sell. If herd immunity is at 60%, this means a death toll of almost 1 million in the United States, on the low end.