I’ve been considering this post for a while, mostly because I love the way Sarah Hoyt approaches the subject. Assume a Spherical Cow of Uniform Density in a Frictionless Vacuum.
Any time you build a model, you simplify things. Usually you try to hide the fact that your assumptions include uniform/repeated actors – like Non-Playable Characters. But the assumptions are always there. And they are usually wrong. Some assumptions that I’ve tripped over. Markets are rational. Investors are rational. People with a college degree probably have a grasp of middle-school-level mathematics.
And the reason the whole country is on lockdown is that “the models tell us [something the politicians don’t understand], so their only response is to panic. And shred the Constitution. Well, there are those who see it as an opportunity to shred the Constitution, not so much out of panic, but out of malice.
Assumptions about people are tough.
You see, people don’t always behave the way you expect. And frankly, they find ways to get around things they don’t like. Or they just do unimaginably stupid and crazy things.
To be fair to the left they never have — and possibly never will — understand that. Their whole program is the idea that human beings are fungible. Having glomed on the idea some humans are not like the others, they of course decided to sort humans by external or largely irrelevant characteristics.
No, I DO NOT in fact understand why the collectivists, the people who keep wanting to do what the group is doing, and who are more socially oriented than any of us fail to get people. Except perhaps that G-d has a sense of humor. (Low one, puts itch powder in your pressure suit.)
It is why politicians pass a law expecting outcome X, and while the do get some of X, usually, they also get a whole lot of X+A or X-A or even ξ (That is the Greek letter Xi) as people decided that they don’t like the law, or don’t like certain aspects, or they see entirely new opportunities presented by the effects of that new law that were not anticipated by the politicians. People are not (for the most part) NPCs, just responding to every external stimulus. They are not like that spherical cow in a vacuum.
In the world of disease modeling, it means that the virus moves differently between a population that lives in apartments, takes a lot of public transportation, and in general is a lot more crowded, than it does in a place like the high plains or the outback of Ohio. That doesn’t even consider cultural differences. And Sarah Hoyt should know about those, because she grew up in Portugal…
And I understand that in Italy, as in Portugal, as in, for instance, France, people kiss a lot more. Adult men might not, unless they’re close(ish) relatives, but women and children get kissed by everyone from close kin to total strangers.
All of those create conditions for the virus to explode. In Italy, in France, in Spain. I understand it’s not exploded nearly as much in Portugal, but I also wonder how much of that is Portuguese reluctance to go to the doctor or the hospital. Because “the hospital is where you die.” (Yes, sue me. Some cultural assumptions remain. Which is why my husband is the one who normally drags me to the hospital.) Because, you see, we DO know for at least one of the clusters, the hospital was making it worse. Go to the hospital for any other reason, catch Winnie the Flu.
While not all of that will apply to New York, all you have to do is look at the conditions on public transit in that city to know that it is a contributing factor.
Let me put it to you another way. I remember the last time I was on an elevator. It was in January, when I stopped into the county administration building to pay my real estate taxes in person. On the way out, the elevator was there. So why not? It is only one floor, but…
As for when was the last time I was on a train or a bus, I have no clue. Probably, it was in an airport, shortly after 9/11. (Airfare was stupidly cheap in late 2001 and early 2002, and I took advantage, flying somewhere for the weekend probably twice a month.) How many people in New York ride in elevators every day? Or trudge up and down through communal staircases? Do those handrails ever get cleaned? How many people ride the subway every day? every week? The virus is different in and around New York City. I wish I could remember who said this, but I don’t. If half of the deaths from COVID-19 were in Montana and Idaho, would New York City be on lockdown? I don’t think so.
Then you have to ask, does smoking, or living in a polluted city or region, constitute a comorbidity? I choose to live somewhere, where the air is clear. I grew up about two miles from, what was at the time, the oldest operating oil refinery in America. Trust me, I appreciate clean air. (Even when it didn’t catch on fire, which it did from time to time, the pollution was wicked.) And what are the pollution/smoking impacts in the places where the mortality is high?