Juan Cambeiro


I'm Linch Zhang, an amateur COVID-19 forecaster and generalist EA. AMA

What news sites, data sources, and/or experts have you found to be most helpful for informing your forecasts on COVID-19?

Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

In an earlier Twitter thread, Trevor Bedford says "my rough guess would be that an infected individual would on average transmit to one further individual each day in the protest setting" — so I think he was using 0.9/0.95 as the R0 to estimate the impact of the protests. https://twitter.com/trvrb/status/1269395234762285056 But I don't think this is a safe assumption and I'm concerned that the R0 might be significantly higher than ~1 in a mass gathering.

In any case, the most reliable modeling I've seen (and that Trevor cites) estimates that the current overall background R0 in the U.S. is already back above 1. :/ https://covid19-projections.com/#current-us-projections

Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

I'm not convinced that we would have already seen a significant uptick in reported/confirmed case numbers quite yet (weren't the largest protests this past Saturday?). The median incubation period is ~5 days, most people don't get tested at the time of symptom onset, and the PCR test turnaround time still seems to still be at least a day or two. Perhaps most importantly, most of the protestors seem to be relatively young and so many may be asymptomatic or may have mild cold/flu-like symptoms. I'm more interested in (and concerned about) any secondary transmission events that may involve older family members that protestors might live with/come into contact with. Many of these older folks would presumably have more serious symptoms and so would be more likely to show up in confirmed cases/hospitalizations data over the coming weeks.

I think perhaps the most informative case for the determining the effect of protests on overall transmission might be New York City. In recent days it has been at record lows in terms of confirmed cases/hospitalizations/test positivity rate, it has one of the highest number of tests per capita of any state/country, it has seen large protests, and it is has not reached the phase of reopening that involves activities known to be high risk (for now, it's just construction/manufacturing and curbside pickup — no schools, dining in restaurants, bars, etc.). I'm keeping an eye on this Metaculus question (which has already been mentioned elsewhere): https://pandemic.metaculus.com/questions/4590/how-many-confirmed-new-covid-19-cases-per-day-will-there-be-in-new-york-city-for-the-week-of-june-15th-to-june-21st/

As for scapegoating, I agree that it's likely and it's extremely unfortunate. I think few (if any) of us would disagree that this is a just cause. But it is nevertheless concerning that there are mass gatherings in the middle of a pandemic, whatever the reason for them might be. A big concern of mine is that the credibility of messaging by the public health community may have taken a huge hit. Many public health professionals were (rightly) telling everyone to stay home as much as possible and then seemingly disregarded their own advice to participate in/support the protests. If (in my view, when) a second wave comes, will public health messaging to again stay home be viewed through a far more partisan lens than has already been the case?

Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

I don't know why the discussion is being limited to the R0 being 0.90 or 0.95. Is it not plausible — indeed, likely — that the R0 might be 1, 1.1, 1.2 or even much higher? Anything above R0=1 would imply a cascade of transmission events that would result in far more deaths than any figures these analyses are showing, and it seems reasonable to be very concerned about that even if these transmission chains are stopped or burn out at some point in the near future.

Will protests lead to thousands of coronavirus deaths?

Trevor Bedford's back-of-the-envelope calculation estimates 200-1100 deaths per day of protests. Note that his analysis assumes an R0 of 0.95, which is definitely not a safe assumption. https://twitter.com/trvrb/status/1269533303536664576

Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

There doesn't seem to be any local transmission in the US yet - so for now, I guess it probably wouldn't help much (though it would still help prevent the spread of the common cold/flu!).

If/when there is local transmission, following this advice will be very important.

Should we talk about altruism or talk about justice?

Thanks for writing this!

What about x-risks? Do you think it would be helpful to frame the importance of protecting/enabling the future existence of vast numbers of happy people in terms of justice? Perhaps an argument can be made that it isn't fair to future/current generations that they aren't given the opportunity to exist/continue to exist? This is obviously a more difficult case given that there would be no stakeholders if a true x-risk were to occur - and the presence of stakeholders may be required for the idea of justice to even come into play(?)