Excess deaths

The Economist has published many interactive graphs:

Although the official number of deaths caused by covid-19 is now 6.2m, our single best estimate is that the actual toll is 20.7m people. We find that there is a 95% chance that the true value lies between 14.4m and 24.3m additional deaths.

Including their methodology and source code.

This article summarizes: What a Single Metric Tells Us About the Pandemic:

As a measure of pandemic brutality, excess mortality has its limitations -- but probably fewer than the conventional data we've used for the last two years. [...] It accounts for huge differences in the age structures of different countries, some of which may have many times more mortality risk than others because their populations are much older. And to the extent that the ultimate impact of the pandemic isn't just a story about COVID-19 but also one about our responses to it -- lockdowns and unemployment, suspended medical care and higher rates of alcoholism and automobile accidents -- excess mortality accounts for all that, too. [...]

But the U.S. took the opposite course. In 2020, the U.S. had done a bit worse than average among its OECD peers. In 2021, when pandemic outcomes were often determined by the relative uptake of American-made vaccines, the U.S. did much, much worse than that. In country after country in Europe, the pandemic killed a fraction as many last year as it had the year before. In the U.S., it killed more. A year ago, it was possible to defend the American record as merely below average -- worse than it should have been but not, judging globally, cataclysmically bad. Today, it is cataclysmically bad, which is both outrageous and ironic, given that it is largely American vaccine innovation that has changed the pandemic landscape for the rest of the world. [...]

How did this happen? The answer is screamingly obvious, if also, in its way, confusing: The U.S. drove an unprecedented vaccine-innovation campaign in 2020, which empowered much of the world to turn the page on the pandemic's deadliest phases, then, in 2021, utterly failed to take advantage of its power itself. But what is perhaps even more striking is that American vaccination coverage isn't just bad, by the standards of its peers, but getting worse. About two-thirds of Americans have received two shots of vaccine, a level that is in line with Israel and not far off from the U.K., though below many other wealthy countries. [...]

But over the last six months, the country has had an opportunity to make up that gap with boosters and has simply not taken it. Only 29 percent of Americans have had a booster shot of vaccine, which puts us behind Slovenia, Slovakia, and Poland and means that less than half of those people happy to be vaccinated a year ago have chosen to get a third shot through Delta and Omicron. Booster campaigns seem like an obvious opportunity for easy public-health gains, yet remarkably few Americans seem to think it's worth the trouble.

And here's an email exchange I had just yesterday. We are catastrophically fucked.

From: ...
To: jwz@dnalounge.com


I am vaccinated but don't have my booster, me and my friends would like to come to DNA lounge and I had a lot of fun last summer but haven't been able to anymore, is this going to change anytime soon?

Let me know,


From: jwz@dnalounge.com
To: ...

Go get a booster.

From: ...
To: jwz@dnalounge.com

I have had covid twice... I don't see the point

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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26 Responses:

  1. bluknight says:

    I just had a similar conversation on Fetlife, of all places, regarding the ramp-up to DEF CON 30. Quoting the skiddie:

    I was there last year and while it was a treat, the endless mask stuff made it difficult to enjoy. This year I hope is going to be more normal and a lot more fun.

    My takeaway from that (and your interaction above) is that apparently masks, vaccinations, and even washing your fucking hands are buzzkills and therefore, shouldn't be done if you want to have fun.

    We are, indeed, fucked. Usually by people who should know better.

  2. Dan Hugo says:

    I worked a vaccine POD in Jan 2021 as a CERT volunteer, got my 2 Moderna shots early for my age group. Got the Moderna booster 3 weeks to the day prior to CES 2022 and double-masked it all days, keeping the distance, took the self-tests 5 and 7 days after, both neg. Proactively masked, stayed in, worked from home, took an Epidemiology seminar from Johns Hopkins when this all started, read all of the papers, watched JAMA and TWiV over any of the idiots online, I remain uninfected. Whoot!

    Did all of those help? Were any of them unnecessary? Don't know. I'm not the one to actually make that determination, but none of them were outrageous (well, working from home as software eng was maybe easier than for some). The numbers (such as the excess mortality figures) will provide a lot more insight than Joe Rogan ever will, but few people will find those conclusions and ever fewer will grok them.

    In the mean time, we live in a world where what happens to me is more important than how my actions happen to others. Witness smoking cigarettes... who cares if non-smoking service industry employees were suffering more than the person smoking thanks to how science works; masks are not a mitigation measure, but an inconvenience. Etc, etc.

    Watching all of this in Las Vegas
    (TWiV is This Week in Virology, go to Microbe.tv and consume)

    • Elusis says:

      Meanwhile, I spent two full days being utterly miserable with immune-response side effects from booster #2 (and two more being pretty crap). In the past 15 months, I've spent over 2.5 weeks "sick" in order to try to avoid being REALLY SICK and possibly disabled for life.

      I'm tired as hell of living like this, but it's what's left to us, apparently, thanks to the fact that masks are "no fun" and the Republican party is a death cult clown show.

  3. OperatorBastardus says:

    I guess it could help if the vaccines were more effective than they currently are. It is hard to convince someone who had two vaccine shots and STILL got the disease twice - after all, from their personal POV the vaccine failed. The part they do NOT know is how often they would have had the disease if it weren't for the vaccine, and how strong it would have been.

    But we have what we have, and it's better than nothing.

    It might have helped if people had been more nuanced in the vaccine campaigns. Just declaring it is "safe" and "effective" without further qualification, when counterexamples are walking around as we speak, is not wise. I know, the more detailed data was there and available, i.e. "reduces infections by x% and severe disease by y%", which was all nice and good - however the public messaging that made it seem like a panacea really did not work out.

    • Eric TF Bat says:

      They're trying to avoid imprecise language: "safer"... "more effective"... "decreasing your chance of hospitalisation".

      Which is weird for two reasons. First, we're already used to that in our advertising and media and can process it fine: "earn up to $17.50 an hour"... "part of a healthy breakfast"... "reached speeds of 140mph before plowing into the school bus".

      And second, precise is not the same as accurate. "I am 953 years, 4 months, 1 week, 2 days, 6 hours and 17 minutes old" is amazingly precise, but as it happens it's out by about 300 years.

      What is going on in these people's heads that they're not thinking about how to present their cases more coherently? Is it the usual states vs federal nonsense? We see the same in Australia, which is like the US in that it's not really a nation so much as a bunch of nation states in a trench coat. A little bit of the old central Soviet would be a Good Thing here.

    • Richard says:

      Pro tip: just stop reading after "nuance" or "nuanced" appears.

    • I’m not sure increased nuance in the vaccination campaign would have moved the needle in any meaningful way. One of our two major political parties, along with its media appurtenances, decided that it would be better for their political fortunes if they exacerbated the pandemic, and has actively worked against public health efforts—and our broader media seems to have become complicit in that scheme. In the face of that, it’s hard to see how public health messaging matters much except at the margins.

    • Elusis says:

      It is hard to convince someone who had two vaccine shots and STILL got the disease twice - after all, from their personal POV the vaccine failed.

      The failure rate of condoms, used perfectly every time, is 3%, but under typical use conditions is 12%. And yet, gay men in the late 80s/early 90s managed to create a culture of condom use because the alternative was the risk of what was at the time certain death.

      Of course, Christian Dominionists got the bright idea to teach their youth that there was no scientific or semantic difference between "has a failure rate of 3-12%" and "is useless for preventing pregnancy and STIs" because it turned out that without fear, young people might have The Unsanctioned Secks, and thus large portions of an entire generation were raised on sex ed that was not just inadequate but actively counterfactual.

      I'm sure there's no relationship here.

  4. Funkymonke says:

    serisouly, you bought the vaccine propaganda? are you for digital id also? good that i never have to come in dna lounge..

    • Chris says:

      "Man who would have never gone near DNA in a million years swears it off in brave, principled stand."

    • Carlos says:

      > serisouly, you bought the vaccine propaganda?

      The vaccine propaganda that eliminated long polio, smallpox, and many other diseases that regularly killed a percentage of the population every year? That propaganda?

      Vaccines are possibly the single most important discovery in the history of modern science. And the science-ignorant portion of the population, which have no memory of these diseases because vaccination wiped them out, now think vaccination is either a placebo, or worse, harmful?

      While dealing with people like that - including you, I suppose - is tiring and frustrating, the rest of us would appear to have a little less of it to deal with over the next decade or two.


      • AntaBaka says:

        "The more anti-vaxx there are, the less anti-vaxx there will be."

        Which is fine, I guess, if it would not impact all other people around those Typhoid Marys as well. It's all so damn tiring.

    • jwz says:

      Please don't feed the trolls.

      And remember that swearing that they are never coming to my nightclub is usually a solid indicator that they are not even in this country, like the above asshole who is posting from The Netherlands (currently at 22,000 reported COVID deaths).

      • Mac says:

        Why did you let this comment through? Don't you moderate/approve all comments?

        • jwz says:

          I don't moderate all comments before they get posted, though I do have a long list of people who have behaved badly in the past who go into the moderation queue automatically.

          I probably would have immediately deleted this one, but it already had a bunch of replies by the time I woke up, and I'm always torn about what to do in that situation.

          • Carlos says:

            FWIW when it comes up again...

            I'm perfectly happy for my comments to go down the memory hole if a message I replied to gets binned.

            I have exactly the same moderation strategy with some mailing lists I run. It's a free for all, no moderation -- until you prove, repeatedly and on the list, that you're an asshole with little to contribute. Then you go on the moderation list, and only productive stuff from you makes it to the list.

            "What's that, you say? You sent a message to the list and it didn't come through? Can't imagine why that would happen."


  5. Dan Hugo says:

    The vaccines do not provide sterilizing immunity. That would have been nice, but that is not how vaccines work (sometimes it is, but often, not).

    The vaccinated case fatality rate should address that question. Is it worth it to feel crappy in some cases after getting one of the shots? Ask a dead person.

    Here in Vegas, NAB is coming up in a week (as I type this). They have two requirements (which I will editorialize):


    Be vaccinated (and thus, still potentially infected and infectious)

    Test negative with a qualifying home test or PCR test 48 hours prior, so you can still be infected by someone who is vaccinated but infected.

    And, while Las Vegas is showing more BA.2 variant evidence in waste water (ie toilet flushes), the numbers Vegas (Nevada) puts up are for residents, NOT for tourists. So, we're having people from all over the country (and beyond?) come here every week, packing them in to casinos and convention halls with poor education and zero data collection (and no mask or testing requirements in general), then sending them home.

    Ponder this: SARS-COV-2 was detected initially in Seattle about 2 weeks after CES 2020 here in Vegas. If you visit the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, you can see the stats yourself... the top 5 domestic cities of origin for people visiting Las Vegas, historically, are... Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Now think back to how the virus was spreading in those early days.

    I felt like crap for a few days on each of my THREE Moderna shots, and I still wear a mask (KN95+Surgical, fwiw) in most circumstances, because (see above about vaccinated vs tested) why the flick not?


    • jwz says:

      Test negative with a qualifying home test or PCR test 48 hours prior, so you can still be infected by someone who is vaccinated but infected.

      That's all pretty much useless at stopping community spread, though.

      Home tests are good at answering the question "am I definitely still infectious right now?" but are fucking worthless at answering the question "am I currently safe to be around other people?" You can be infectious for over a week before showing any symptoms or before a home test will notice anything at all.

      And even with a PCR test, 48 hours is far too wide a window, especially in an environment like a casino or trade show where your number of close contacts is in the hundreds or thousands per hour.

      • tfb says:

        Although anecdotal data is anecdotal, here's some which made me think. I had a small show of prints which I kind of had to go to. And the gallery person, who had been doing LFTs several times a day and getting negative results, gave me (I am very sure) Omicron. I then gave it to my wife (she could have got it in the gallery but she was there for a far shorter time than I was). This was before our criminal (not hyperbole) prime minister declared COVID over so we had as many free LFTs as we could eat as well as PCR tests. We both tested negative on the PCR tests (we only had one this time around). My wife tested consistently positive on one sort of LFT but not on the other. I tested consistently negative on both. And by 'consistently' I mean 'twice a day for 10 days, doing the tests carefully'. We were both symptomatic, although she was worse than me.

        So technically I don't know if I had it but, well, sharing a bed with someone who definitely did and also being symptomatic: I pretty clearly did.

        So I don't know how reliable the tests are, but clearly well below 100%. I am confused by the PCR results as I thought they were meant to have pretty low false negatives.

    • Not Frank says:

      I recall reading at least one report from someone who had a severe respiratory ailment post-CES 2020 that realized it sounded an awful lot like COVID-19 after the fact. I suspect it was this story: https://www.apmreports.org/story/2020/04/23/covid-infected-attendee-ces-tech-conference

      • Sean says:

        I attended CES in 2019 and remember seeing asian folk flying in wearing masks, and thinking: smart. And while I was there I got SO FUCKING SICK I had to stay extra days in Vegas to recover, as I could not get out of bed. First prize: a trip to vegas. Second prize: two trips to vegas.

    • Kyle Huff says:

      There are no human vaccines that provide sterilizing immunity, not even the vaunted HPV vaccine. Source: Amy Rosenfeld
      Google returned this nice 2021 Atlantic article about it:

  6. nooj says:

    Um, what?? "TSA will not enforce Covid mask mandate on planes, public transit after court ruling, White House says" (https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/18/florida-judge-overturns-cdc-mask-mandate-for-public-transit-planes.html)

    - A federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled that the CDC had overstepped its authority when it issued a mask mandate for planes and other forms of public transportation.

    - The CDC mandate is no longer in effect and the TSA will not enforce it at this time, a Biden administration official said.

    - The White House is reviewing the court's ruling and the Justice Department will decide whether it will appeal, according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

  7. Jack the ripper says:

    Well I'm never coming to your club! But that's because I'm on the wrong side of an ocean.
    But more to the point, thank you for keeping me scared so that I don't relax. I get some of my covid news from trusted jwz.org because to be honest, most other places have given up. We're going "back to normal". Fuck normal. I'll wear my mask, and I'll get people thinking I'm silly, because no one else is. And I'll probably still get the disease, because eventually everyone is likely to.
    Life sucks, then you die. But I'd rather not get a nasty virus in the mean time, because that would be more sucky.

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