Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Coronavirus Ontario Long Tail & Reopening Thoughts

Lots of people are talking now about when and how we're going to be able to unlock and get "back to normal", so I figured I'd join that corus.  Some interesting links first:
In my previous post, I predicted Ontario would end this phase mid May with between 8-12k cases. Sadly, in the last few days, we HAVE NOT seen the kinds of declines in numbers of new infections that I was hoping for. Here's a table of how it's been going:
Reporting DateConfirmedDaily new confirmedDaily Growth RateCompound 7 day rateDaily tests done
Wed, Apr 1584474946.2%7.0%6010
Tue, Apr 1479534836.5%7.7%4852
Mon, Apr 1374704216.0%8.0%5065
Sun, Apr 1270494016.0%8.3%6844
Sat, Apr 1166484116.6%9.0%2050
Fri, Apr 1062374788.3%9.7%5573
Thu, Apr 957594839.2%10.9%4097
Wed, Apr 8527655012%12.0%3237
Tue, Apr 747263799%13.3%2568
Mon, Apr 643473098%14.3%3750
Sun, Apr 5403840811%17.2%3708
Sat, Apr 4363037512%17.9%4585
Fri, Apr 3325546217%18.5%4020
Thu, Apr 2279340117%18.4%4859
Wed, Apr 1239242622%19.5%6245

You can see that it's been basically flat in terms of the number of new cases per day, with the "peak" such as it is on Apr 8th, itself several days later than I would have predicted based on our lockdown date. And recently it hasn't even been declining in percentage terms, let alone absolute, which is terrible.

Basically, we're looking at a decline here more like they have in Italy than they have in BC (or Australia, or Korea, etc), and that means that (a) it'll take a lot longer to get to a place where we can open up and (b) we'll end with a far higher number of cases.

Why is our tail longer? I think it's basically two reasons: (1) our testing has been somewhat crappy, so some of the cases we're reporting now actually come from earlier, i.e. our peak is actually larger than it looks (this crappy testing is also evidenced by our fairly high case fatality rate, currently at 4.6%) and (2) our lockdown has sucked, in the first week we didn't properly close most businesses in Ontario, and even now, our social distancing isn't great (I can see how crappy it is in Trinity Bellwoods Park, and also at the local Metro).  I think we ARE getting better over time, e.g. with actual proper PPE on the staff at Metro now, and more people taking the distancing seriously, but it's taken way too long to get here, and we're seeing that in an extended flat period in the cases, rather than a decline as we all hoped to see by now. I think we WILL see it start to decline eventually (hopefully in a few more days, once we work through the testing backlog again), but it's clear that we're in for a lot more cases than a quick decline (like happened in BC) would have predicted.

Anyway, the net-net is, my prediction now is that we're going to need to stay locked down until the end of May, and that we're likely to have 15-20k cases by then.

Beyond the end of May, a few Reopening thoughts:


Paintings on Canvas: Outbreak & The Return

After my last two attempts, I decided that I've become skilled enough to stop painting on art paper, and move to actual canvas. I have a total of six canvasses (and plan to give at least one to a housemate too), so these things are precious! I've completed two, and I have plans now for a third.  Click images for a larger version.

First painting: I call it "Outbreak", it's the planet Earth, with a coronavirus infection! My layering idea (paint the background first, etc) worked really well here. Overall I'm super happy with the painting, it totally conveys the sort of emotional tone that I was going for, and my artistic choices (making the landmasses bigger than they really are, making a crescent moon even though that's not physically possible if the Earth is fully illuminated) I think worked well.

Second painting: I called it "The Return", it's the famous dual-booster landing from the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch: Feb 6th, 2018. I'm super happy with how well the trees in the foreground worked, and the flames (which I was super worried about!), but the boosters themselves are a bit underwhelming. The framing is correct though - I'm totally glad that I added way more sky than the source image had, in order to get the 'rule of thirds' working. Probably the most disappointing bit of the painting though is the water; I actually repainted the entire water after the first very bad take, but even this second attempt is still not very good. All the "texture" waves that I tried to add really can't be seen, and it ends up looking more like a wall of blue than like the ocean. But I decided not to do a third attempt on the same canvas, it's clear to me that I don't know how to make it look like an actual ocean yet, so probably need to do a study or something. Anyway, overall, I think this one was decent, but it lacks the punch of the first painting, that's for sure.

Now working on a third canvas painting, which will feature Pixar's "WALL-E" robot! And special bokeh background.

Sunday, April 5, 2020


Coronavirus Long Term Thoughts

I'll get to the long term thoughts, a few brief updates and interesting data things first:

Updates) Ontario numbers have been higher than I was hoping they would be, so I'm revising my estimate upwards again from 3-5k to 8-12k. In this wave, i.e. till about June 1st. The numbers in the last two days have been encouraging in terms of being flat in number of new cases - hopefully this shows that our measures are working, and we can now expect a few more days of flat before we start to see a slow decline.  Obviously if they don't stay flat, my projection above is once again garbage. Ontario itself released models, which was super fascinating. Watch the April 3rd news conference. I agree with almost everything that was said, and I applaud Ontario for being brave enough to release the "sobering" projections. It's especially great to hear that their prediction show us having enough surge capacity in the health care system to meet the expected number of ICU/ventilators needed. The only thing I really don't understand is the projection for 3000-12000 deaths in the next 18 months (slide 13). They say they are hoping to keep the current wave to 200-1600 deaths (slide 12) depending on new measures we take soon. So obviously they feel that there will be somewhere between 1400-11400 deaths AFTER this first wave, clearly implying that they expect at least one more wave which is more serious / less contained than this wave. But surely that is preventable now? Are they instead thinking there will be a slow but steady level of infection which results in steady deaths? I ran some numbers for that, and it's 5+/day for the 18 months, which implies at least 200 new infections every day over that period - at that level we need to lockdown, so I don't understand how we can possibly get to that 3k-12k number. My suspicion is that it's designed mostly to make us know the importance of obeying all these measures, which IS a good reason. We all do need to be scared, and we all do need to stay the fuck at home (a bedtime story for adults, cover image shown above). Maybe I'm missing some third pathway though, where we can have that many deaths without either another epidemic or a steady level of infection which I think would lead immediately to an epidemic?

Data Things) Some cool links: Covid-19 Consumer Impact Tracker shows a lot of interesting charts about what's hot (DIY haircut up 221%) and what not (heels down 35%).  Google released some fascinating COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports where you can see how much travel behavior has changed in pretty much all countries of the world (with the curious exception of China!). Ontario is much less locked down than e.g. Italy, but more so than California, and at about the same levels as B.C., which is several days ahead of us and clearly showing that they have it under control now, so that's quite heartening. The wikipedia entry for 2020 coronavirus pandemic in South Korea is also amazing, so much detail and charts. That's case tracking done right.

Economics & Long Term Thoughts) Some links to good reading: Cities after coronavirus: how Covid-19 could radically alter urban life. The coronavirus: A geopolitical earthquake. Social Distancing During the Black Death. Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In. The Covid-19 crisis is a chance to do capitalism differently. Obviously there are TONS of this kind of story out there, and I've read at least four for every one that I linked here. I mostly haven't linked all the ones talking about V vs U shaped recoveries, etc.

I guess the first thing that I'd like to say is that this event is of massive historical significance. It's going to leave wounds, and cause changes, to a much greater degree than anything in recent decades - I think it'll end up being at least as significant globally as World War II, and possibly even more so. WWII really reset how generations of people thought about how we should structure society, and ushered in things like the welfare state, the Marshall Plan, and of course, the United Nations. It'd be very surprising to me if long term, this COVID-19 crisis doesn't create similar levels of geopolitical change. Here's a few obvious changes for the first decade, though of course, caveat emptor, these are all my opinions:

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