When it comes to Covid-19, lots of people have their heads in the sand.

Sam Bowman directed me to a good site for debunking all those idiotic Covid denialist claims, such as the supposed Danish study that “proved” masks don’t work.

Lyman Stone is a good place for estimates of excess deaths. The official Covid death total for the US (over 400,000) is probably an undercount.

Zvi Mowshowitz is a good place to go for the latest estimates of how the disease is progressing.

Scott Aaronson provides an excellent defense of challenge studies and other proposals to speed up the process.

And of course Marginal Revolution has been the best place to learn about the things that we should have been doing all along.



37 Responses to “Anti-ostrich”

  1. Gravatar of Oscar Cunningham Oscar Cunningham
    22. January 2021 at 12:17

    At least Scott Alexander is back!

  2. Gravatar of jg jg
    22. January 2021 at 13:59

    for what it is worth I looked up the authors of the british site

    ritchie is a psychologist
    Bird I believe is a WSJ reporter
    Neil O’Brien is a british MP
    Saloni Dattani is phd student in psychiatric genetics
    sam bowman is a senior fellow at adam smith institute
    lawrence newport, phd – legal historian in law
    mustafa latif-aramesh specialises in infrastructure planning, public law and advising on parliamentary procedure
    kitson – independent researcher, forecaster
    hoskin – no info.

  3. Gravatar of bob bob
    22. January 2021 at 14:15

    More CCP Propaganda by Sumner.

    CDC just admitted to overreporting, not under reporting. And they over reported by 130K (estimate). Of course, that is what everyone has been saying – including the doctors who admitted to reporting stroke, heart attack, and other deaths under Covid so the hospital could receive the govt kickback.

    Belgian Judge just ruled masks unconstitutional, forcing the CCP stooges to lift restrictions. Huge win for the liberty and freedom in the face of Sumner Tyranny.

    Pelosi and Biden force National Guard to leave capital and sleep in a garage without heat. Texas Governor Abbott calls them back, Trump opens his hotel for them free of charge, and Florida recalls their state troops.

    Real News over Sumner propaganda.

    Facts Matter.

    Sumner is a CCP stooge.

  4. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    22. January 2021 at 14:17

    Zvi Mowshowitz’s site looks great – aggregates a lot of different things in one place.

    From the British site:
    “Q. Why should I listen to you?
    A. All of our arguments link to credible, peer-reviewed literature where relevant. Don’t take our word for anything – follow the links, read the evidence cited on both sides, and decide for yourself.”

  5. Gravatar of Nick Nick
    22. January 2021 at 14:32

    Uh, no sorry. The best website on Covid is MedCram’s Youtube Channel.

  6. Gravatar of xu xu
    22. January 2021 at 14:46

    Are you an economist or an epidemiologist?

    12,000 epidemiologists signed the great Barrington declaration. Do you, the lowly economist, know more about medicine than those 12000? You clearly have no humility. And not surprisingly, those without humility – and those who think they know everything – tend to be the biggest “idiots”.

    The scholar in Chile who showed a judge, under oath, that the testing machine was flawed also stands by his study.

    But again, none of that matters. The only thing that matters is natural rights, and the inalienable, something you clearly have a difficult time grasping. Low intelligence? Probably!

    Let me help you understand: No executive branch has the right to unilaterally force others to wear anything, nor do they have the right to shut down businesses.

    And unlike you, those business owners create value that places food on the table for themselves, and the countless others who work for them.

    We will never allow apparatchiks like you to steal their inalienable rights.

  7. Gravatar of henry henry
    22. January 2021 at 14:58

    Xu is correct.
    This talk about masks is moot.
    If people voted for Masks, and it passed the legislature, then that is one thing.

    However, unchecked Executive power is quite contrary to American ideals. And groundless shutdowns that ignore UN guidelines and the Great Barrington Declaration (might be 15K signors now) is a rejection of science in favor of some global WEF agenda.

  8. Gravatar of xu xu
    22. January 2021 at 15:06

    The Sumner apparatchiks, and the propaganda machines, will never allow a vote because they KNOW that the vast majority will vote to get on with their lives – which means no shut downs and no masks.

    Sumner’s pharmaceutical friends will lose the prospect of earning billions, and the disgusting power hungry pseudo intellectuals (i.e, Sumner) will lose their power.

    So the racket continues….

  9. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    22. January 2021 at 15:16

    I’m not convinced that challenge studies would have sped things up. Here’s Derek Lowe on the subject back in July (

    …The idea is that they would speed up vaccine development, giving us more data more quickly in Phase II trials…But I don’t think we need to run challenge trials at all – not under current conditions. We have areas where the coronavirus is spreading so well through the population that I don’t see the advantage…Getting a human challenge trial off the ground against the coronavirus will not be the work of a moment – there are many places that would simply not sign off on such a design. What sort of waivers will the participants need to sign? Remember, you’ve made them sick deliberately…
    Now consider who those volunteers would be – who they would have to be. Young, healthy people – who else? We’re already stepping close to the line with the whole idea, and giving it to anyone in a more at-risk population would surely step over it. But even the Phase I safety trials of the vaccines have brought in age groups that would be unacceptable in a challenge trial for Phase II, and the Phase II trials – since they’re taking place out “in the wild” can similarly enroll people who would never be in a deliberate challenge. This means that the data you would obtain from such a challenge is skewed heavily away from some of the people that you are going to want to treat first. Both efficacy and safety can (and do) vary by age, existing medical conditions and other variables that you’re going to have to make sure to not address in the challenge trial.


  10. Gravatar of TFKAA TFKAA
    22. January 2021 at 15:30

    My usual vote to ban xu/bob/henry/sarah. At this point I should just write my own bot that posts this. “We’re human and we’re coming!”

  11. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    22. January 2021 at 17:10

    12,000 epidemiologists signed the great Barrington declaration. Do you, the lowly economist, know more about medicine than those 12000? You clearly have no humility. And not surprisingly, those without humility – and those who think they know everything – tend to be the biggest “idiots”.

    Yes, Scott and Tyler Cowen who are notoriously ignorant of science and technology where Scott even admits that he is a Luddite – think they understand Covid-19 better than epidemiologists. Paul Krugman, also clueless about science, is the same.

  12. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    22. January 2021 at 17:57

    Todd you spineless liar, back again with a new argument? Scott will likely handle your idiotic take on the other thread on how the deaths since August are irrelevant, but if you’re going to talk about the Great Barrington Declaration maybe you can explain to us what all the critiques of it have missed? What’s your plan for protecting the vulnerable in an environment where COVID is widespread? Or have you just not read those critiques since they don’t fit your bias?

    You still owe at least five people here responses to their arguments on so many different matters. Better to cut run and pretend it never happened. And yet you dare to come back and pretend that never happened. Maybe we can raise some funds for therapy or a class in critical thinking?

  13. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    22. January 2021 at 18:02

    Also can you provide us with a citation of how Scott and Tyler are “notorious” for being ignorant of science and technology. Do you just not know what the word means?

    And we already covered the Luddite thing too. You just have no capacity to process new information.

  14. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    22. January 2021 at 19:15

    Sumner sets up a strawman and also pays (again) his debt to Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution, who made Sumner famous. Sumner is loyal: to his wife, to Tyler, to the CCP. As for heads in the sand, the real issue is why people still think the C-19 virus is not man-made. Even mainstream thinker Student in the other thread admits the virus could be chimeric. But it’s WrongThink to diss your new overlords, China, who recently have tied the USA in a PPP GDP basis.

  15. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    22. January 2021 at 19:45

    I’m glad to see that you’re chimeric virus theory remains unscathed by the evidence.

  16. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    22. January 2021 at 19:58

    Todd, a more productive suggestion: Maybe you could continue with your behavior but drop the ego?

    I know that everything you say being proved false over and over doesn’t impact you. But maybe the fact that you’re on Scott’s blog and that people generally seem to think that he’s right and you’re wrong, while not a reason for reflection, could be a reason to tone down your dismissive tone and self aggrandizement?

    Just a thought. I do not have an undergraduate physics degree from a no name university so this is just my uninformed opinion.

    Also, you know, the fact that this pandemic you continuously dismiss has now killed about 400k people in the US (or about 200k from March to August which you consider to be a far more encouraging number; and yes, I know that latter number is excess deaths not necessarily COVID deaths).

    Also, Tyler did start FAST Grants which actually made a pretty decent impact in combating COVID and him and his co-blogger pushed a number of policy proposals which are being adopted, though sadly many of the more libertarian ones have still not been. Sadly he chose not to pursue an undergraduate science degree so he can’t contribute productively. And you are right, he is a huge luddite, as can be shown by … no evidence whatsoever … except his friendship with several Silicon Valley CEOs and him being very highly regarded by “notorious” luddite Vitalik Buterin.

  17. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    22. January 2021 at 19:58

    Seriously this blog deserves a better class of critics.

  18. Gravatar of anon anon
    23. January 2021 at 02:37

    Assuming even only half of what is written in neutral, this puts NYT, and also WaPo and TheEconomist etc. in a don’t-believe-check-their-agenda-first group. For me.

    TAFKAA: simply because its Scott’s blog and people generally think he is right and XXXX is wrong, doesn’t make “what Scott thinks right”. Does “it is NYT’s website and generally NYT readers agree wokeism is right” mean wokeism is right? Or BLM was right to riot?

    Scott could be totally wrong to totally right or anywhere in between. If it is more on the wrong side though, that would mean the others that agree are wrong. Jus saying.

  19. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    23. January 2021 at 06:05

    TAFKAA, the people you’re responding to are not worth responding to, they’re delusional.

  20. Gravatar of Spencer B Hall Spencer B Hall
    23. January 2021 at 08:50

    Scott diverts the discussion from bad economics to the pandemic.

    There are essentially two errors in economics. One is that banks lend deposits. No, deposits are the result of lending. So, all bank-held savings are frozen, lost to both consumption and investment. That is the source of secular stagnation, not robotics, not demographics, not monopolization, not globalization.

    The other concerns the velocity of circulation. I.e., income velocity, Vi, is endogenously derived and therefore un-observably contrived (N-gDp divided by M) whereas Vt, is an “independent” exogenous force acting on prices (money physically exchanging counterparties, viz., bank debits to deposit accounts).

    Both conditions are rectified by driving the banksters out of the savings’ business (which can’t reduce the size of the payment’s system).

  21. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    23. January 2021 at 09:04

    @Carl – I find the logic on challenge trials by Derek Lowe strange. He is saying that people are naturally going to get the virus anyway, so we don’t have to actively expose them in trials. But what we really care about is reducing the number of people who eventually get the virus, and it is incontrovertible that we could have done challenge trials back in April or May and had solid data by June. Instead by relying on natural trials we got data by end of the year and was a result millions more people are going to get the virus. So there is a huge empirical issue with his assertion that it would happen anyway. Another point is that in challenge trials we know exactly how and when people are exposed, this means there is no waiting on getting enough statistical data to be sure the effects are not due to statistical chance and the people who didn’t get the virus just happened to be lucky. So this greatly speeds up the decision on whether the vaccine works and to what level, again saving lives.

    I suspect his real motivation to object to the trials was more the old trolly problem. People would rather standby than intervene in case they get blamed for consequences of their act, even if the logic is sound to intervene. We see this with the decision by the UK authorities to delay the second dose. People just cannot articulate why they object, other than the status quo bias – i.e. it was tested that way.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. January 2021 at 09:11

    Todd, When did I criticize the GBD? I may not agree with 100% of what they say, but much of the statement make sense:

    “As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
    The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

    The statement is vague on questions such as how to handle a kindergarten class taught by a 60-year old, so it’s hard to have a firm opinion.

    Also, Covid is not just dangerous for the old, it’s also dangerous for people in the 55-64 year old group, which in modern society is no longer viewed as being particularly old.

  23. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    23. January 2021 at 09:57

    First, he’s not anti-challenge trials on principle. He just thinks COVID is not a good case because we can’t really identify a cohort for whom we can say you’ll be okay even if you get it. Even today, we have lots of COVID “long-haulers”. And, in the early months, when you believe we could have gotten a head start, we knew even less than we know now. Someone would have to assume that extra liability to get some extr

  24. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    23. January 2021 at 09:58

    Whoops. Sent too early while editing. Please ignore my previous post.
    You’re selling him way short. First, he’s not anti-challenge trials on principle. He just thinks COVID is not a good case because we can’t really identify a cohort for whom we can say you’ll be okay even if you get it. Even today, we have lots of COVID “long-haulers”. And, in the early months, when you believe we could have gotten a head start, we knew even less than we know now.
    Secondly, as he points out, the advantage you would get is you would make the Phase 2 trials smaller so you could avoid having the problems you mention of statistical chance (he makes the judgment that with how widespread COVID was in the hot spots the statistics would be robust). The disadvantage you would get, should your vaccine fail, is you would have coupled your trial with a healthcare effort for treating everyone in the trial because you gave them the disease.
    Which would you prefer? Managing a larger study or having the responsibility of caring for people you infected with a potentially deadly pathogen?

  25. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    23. January 2021 at 18:00

    Scott: “Also, Covid is not just dangerous for the old, it’s also dangerous for people in the 55-64 year old group, which in modern society is no longer viewed as being particularly old.”

    You are simply wrong about this. There is a higher risk for those in this age group with severe obesity or a heart problem but kindergartners don’t have the viral load to transmit.

  26. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    23. January 2021 at 18:03

    I found this article with some background on the COVID crank epidemic really interesting:

  27. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    23. January 2021 at 19:29

    Correct on the Kindergartners IMO though of course it’s easy to find 10 other examples. Wrong on the 55-64 group of course.

    But more fundamentally it’s just so boring having these stupid arguments about facts that one can easily look up. I hate to admit it but I’m starting to get tired of refuting every misinformed comment and just generally getting tired of having to put up with Todd. I’m sure everyone who knows him in real life can relate.

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. January 2021 at 12:02

    Todd, Wrong again.

  29. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    25. January 2021 at 06:14

    I will be the last guy standing on my criticism of Covid numbers. First, it clearly exists, and it clearly causes deaths. And I also agree that excess deaths are what matters most. Even if the CDC baseline is off the number of deaths are clearly higher than normal by a huge amount—-in statistical terms.

    If 99% of people who get it do not die (it’s more than that), it is a very odd disease. It combines an ability to attack everyone and kills by the shear number of bullets fired.

    But the numbers also seem manufactured. What I mean by that is at every age group, the increase in deaths in percent terms are almost the same. For example, the increase in the percent of deaths of 80 year olds who die with Covid, is basically the same as the percentage increase in deaths who die with Covid as 50 year olds. Maybe that is true for all diseases——if true, we can call it Rulle’s Law. But I don’t think that is true with past pandemics.

    Also, CDC claims about 1/4-1/3rd of excess deaths do not “involve” Covid. That is pretty large. Some assume they are really Covid deaths. But what if they are not, as CDC says? That opens a Pandora’s Box. Why is it not possible that some large number of people who died with Covid, also really died from something else?

    If that were true, what could explain it? My guess is change in human behavior in large part caused by various policies but also by fear. In the beginning I am sure we were inadvertently causing deaths by poor treatment combined with poor policies. NYC/NJ had a 6 week streak of between 3-6 times normal death rate. That is astounding.

    Does any of this matter? Yes. Our reaction to Covid may have increased the amount of people who died versus just letting the disease go unabated and uncommented on. It still blows my mind the CDC still claims 40-80 million people contracted (yet we think we know daily deaths today) H1N1 yet only 10-20k died. We did not declare an emergency for 6 months.

    masks? I assume they help. Social distancing? Supposedly, the 6 foot rule is irrelevant if less than 15 minutes.

    I assume we can count deaths—-although it takes 1-2 years to get a final number—-Covid kills. We have a couple of vaccines. Hopefully they work. But what have we learned? Not enough.

  30. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    25. January 2021 at 06:44

    @TAFKAA and Tacticus

    “this blog deserves a better class of critics”
    ‘The people you are responding to …. are delusional”

    Should we assume you exclude yourself from these comments? This is a blog, not SSRN. You two, with your bizarre handles, as you hide from your bosses, seem to believe you actually are above the norm. But you are not. I would say you are arrogant, but that would be too complimentary. . Scott let’s anyone on this site—-and he permits the dumbest and most rude commentary—-including insults to him.

    That is one of the reason I like it. To be clear, I even enjoy you two——we get to see all types—and that includes me too.

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. January 2021 at 09:24

    Michael, Instead of just random speculation, why not read Lyman Stone’s analysis?

  32. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    25. January 2021 at 14:25

    Michael, Out of the group of henry/bob/sarah/xu, Todd, Tacitus, and myself it’s the last two you have a problem with? My first fifty or so responses to Todd were pretty polite but I eventually got angry with all the name calling and lying. I’m pretty sure 99% of the readers here (and 99% of people in general) would never think of behaving that way. Also, I do not have a boss.

  33. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    26. January 2021 at 06:40


    Good point!

  34. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    26. January 2021 at 06:46


    You may have a good point.—-But I read it, so I commented——I do have this response mechanism——sometimes——-when people call others dumb. I am sure I have done that too ——-thanks for your reasonable response. (My boss comment was a joke—-good for you on “no boss”)

  35. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    26. January 2021 at 06:58

    @ Scott

    I do not think my comments are,”random” speculations. They are speculations, but based on info provided by CDC.

  36. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    26. January 2021 at 07:46


    Read your Stone link. We both agree about excess deaths. He seems to disagree with CDC’ s estimate of excess deaths that are not Covid related——because he says they are due to respiratory issues. That is a speculation. His excess deaths are slightly higher than CDC——but CDC in a footnote states they are comparing apples,to,apples —-i.e., deaths that were known at the same time 2020 was known. He assumes otherwise. He ignores that we have counted flu deaths historically differently than we do Covid. We started using the old flu count method, and changed it to the current method of “with Covid”.

    He ignores the “section 2” appearance of Covid on death certificates—-which is the strongest argument for potential over count , not under count.

    His correlation is silly. Of course the correlation is high——it would be just as high regardless of true cause of underlying deaths—it is due to excess deaths and the existence of Covid —-that creates the correlation—does not mean anything else. It is circular ——if with Covid means from Covid —-which for counting it does—-the correlation would be the same.

    I am not saying he is wrong. I am saying I disagree (which is different) . I,do,have a Bayesian on this due to the counting change in March—-politics. Must be truthful!

    Bottom line is all these deaths are real and ultimately it has been due to Covid. My difference to him is I believe it is possible—-probable actually——that our policies, and rhetoric, caused much of these deaths—-and it is unknowable at this point (recall there is no science on the incremental effect Covid has on those with other conditions) what was directly versus indirectly caused by Covid.

    My “evidence” is CDC believes 120000 excess deaths are not Covid related ——therefore, it is consistent (not a proof at all) that it is possible that many “with Covid” deaths are not caused by Covid. But then what would they be? Why excess deaths of “with Covid” not caused by Covid? For the same reason excess deaths with no Covid exist.

    I am making a point. If I am right, that is not good. Yes, still a speculation as is Stone’s discussion. I would rather he be right obviously. I think that goes without saying—but said it anyway.

  37. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    26. January 2021 at 11:20

    The reason I would hope Stone is right—-is it is a straight medical issue. if I am right we became victims of unintended consequences, not just the disease—-and that is something we would likely repeat.

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