Community

In Case You Missed It

This time last year, we were writing about the Health Hazards of Loneliness (many!), Irish Democracy (not exclusively Irish), trying recipes: Frybread (good) & Dried Corn Soup (we’re doubtful), and learning about the insects we see at this time of year, both indoors and outdoors (Crane Flies).

How unhealthy is loneliness?

Are isolation and loneliness actually bad for our health? Do they increase the risk of dying?

Irish Democracy

I started looking for a definition of “Irish Democracy.”  Found all sorts of descriptions of government in the Republic of Ireland – but nothing that described the unorganized ignoring of laws that lack popular support.  The term “Irish democracy” refers to uncoordinated, wide-spread civil disobedience.  An example is a sign in the window requiring face masks by order of Governor Bullock – and once you’re inside, you’re the only one masked. I started into a store, pulling my mask on.  The guy in a Stetson alongside me was humming “Desperados waiting for a train.”  I haven’t… Continue reading Irish Democracy

Fry Bread

South Dakota’s official state bread is Fry Bread – Probably the best I ever tasted was with wojapi when I visited the Lower Brule Reservation.  I was fortunate to meet, and get to know, Mike Jandreau, who was Tribal President.  His first question was, “What do you know about tribal sovereignty.”  I could answer competently because I had traveled with Joel Clarenbeau as he studied the topic.  The Lower Brule Reservation was settled under the leadership of Chief Solomon Iron Nation (1815-1894), a man who accomplished a great deal for his people.  I don’t have the… Continue reading Fry Bread

Dried Corn Soup

Once, when I visited the Lower Brule, I was served soup made from dry field corn.  There was no large explanation, just the opportunity for the wasichu to recognize how tough the times were in the first days of the reservations and the last days of the buffalo.  While it’s not five-star cuisine, the recipe probably has a place with anyone who stashes a couple bushels of dried corn in the emergency rations stash. 1 lb. lean boned beef, cut in cubes1 tbsp. bacon drippings4 c. water1 c. dried corn1/2 tsp. salt Brown meat.  Add water;… Continue reading Dried Corn Soup

Winter Crane Flies: widespread and little-known

As I was walking over to my in-law’s place one chill and sunny afternoon, I happened to spot a fly. A gangly, long-legged fly, seeming to bounce up and down in the brisk winter air. Unlike the cluster flies lining the edges of our ceilings, this one was fairly active, despite the temperature.

Community

Trego School Went to Distance Learning Last Week- Back in Person

Last week, Trego School went to distance-learning in response to a covid exposure in the school, in accordance with the school’s Health and Safety plan. School resumed in-person this week.

A bit before this time last year, Trego School was also doing distance learning. That August (2020), the school had installed shields around the desks, HEPA filters, as well as filters in the school’s heaters. Since we hadn’t had all that much in the way of local cases, the filters proved of far more utility for filtering the smoke out of the air that September.

Filters come to Trego School

Trego School’s Health and Safety Plan includes HEPA filters installed in air purifiers and in the heaters. While the filters for the heaters have not yet arrived (and are not expected to be needed soon, given current temperatures), the others are here. HEPA filters specialize in filtering out the really small, things measured in microns… Continue reading Filters come to Trego School

Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Canadian Libertarian Leader on Mandates

Tim Moen, from up near Edmonton, has led the Canadian Libertarian party for the past 7 years.  His views regarding the unacceptability of pandemic mandates are available at timmoen.net.  He doesn’t write like the late L. Neil Smith – and the article I’ve linked to is definitely beyond Biden. 

Moen starts with details on the non-aggression principle – while he describes it as completely as Smith did, it’s a bit harder read:

Libertarians hold that the only morally legitimate use of force is in response to the initiation of force against a person or their property. So when we are determining whether the use of force is ethical (or legal in a libertarian order) we need to know whether the force was initiatory or defensive (in response to initiatory force).”

He adds

The argument being made by radical centrists (ie most politicians and establishment bureaucrats) is that all sorts of force must be used during a pandemic in the name of protecting people or decreasing pandemic spread or death. Libertarians do not judge government force (policy) based on whether it had the desired outcome, we judge it based on whether that force is moral or immoral, defensive or initiatory.”

Moen offers thoughts on essential and non-essential workers:

During the covid pandemic the government divided people into two classes; essential workers and non-essential workers. Ironically the language “essential worker” used to be used by government to force striking employees to go to work and now its being used to force people to not work. If you disobey government orders and open your “non-essential” comic book store, restaurant, or movie theatre you’d get some warnings and eventually men with guns would come and use force to shut you down. Is this force justified?

A business owner is not initiating force against anyone by opening his store and serving customers. The customers are not initiating force against anyone by patronizing that store. So any force used against these peaceful people engaged in consenting activity ought to be considered criminal. It is not defensive force because it is not responding to any initiation of force. On the other hand if a person in that store is covid positive then they are initiating force against others assuming that their exhaled air containing harmful contagious pathogens is being inhaled by those around them. Force would be justified against the force initiator but not the innocent individuals.”

It isn’t an easy read – but he does make his points and reasoning clear – which is a lot different than most of the political rhetoric we read.

Community

School Started on the First

It’s that time of the year again. Classes at Trego School started on Wednesday, September 1st. The Back to School BBQ will be held on Friday, September 10th.

School enrollment at the start of the school year is nearing 30 students. With a fourth classroom teacher hired, class size averages about 7 students per class (7.25 to be more precise).

The district was able to use part of the district’s ESSR (covid relief funds) to fund the hiring of that fourth teacher, a decision made to help keep class sizes small. While classrooms are still multi-grade, most classrooms hold only two grades.

The official count for this year’s enrollment isn’t actually in- for funding purposes, the count happens only twice a year. The first is in October. If enrollment reaches thirty, the amount of funding the school receives will increase.

Looking at the broader trend, we last discussed Trego School enrollment back in January.

Data as of January 2021

This year’s start of 29 is a bit lower than January’s 31. Not a steep decline, but the trend merits watching.

Community

You Need to Check the Experts’ Math

This offers a perspective on covid survival rates, but screws up some simple statistics:

0-1920-4950-6970+
100.000%100.000%100.000%100.000%
-99.997%-99.98%-99.5%-94.6%
0.003%0.02%0.5%5.4%
100% – Survival Rate= Infection Fatality Rate.

It’s official data.  It purports to be from CDC.  The author implies possession of a MD.

The math is screwed up.  By a factor of 100.  I learned the difference between decimals and percentages in the fifth or sixth grade – this isn’t a mistake at a graduate stats level, or even freshman stats. It appears someone releasing official data screwed up.  We need to check the math even on official data.

This site https://lincolnmtcovid.com/ has local numbers – and you can contrast them against the CDC statistics:

The local numbers show some anomalies when we compare and contrast them with CDC statistics.  The Libby area shows a cumulative 1,190 cases (in a population of 9,772  that’s 12.2%).  North County shows 467 cases (in a population of 6,470 that’s 7.2%) and Troy shows 258 cases (in a population of 3,435 that’s 7.5%). 

Lincoln County death rates can’t be contrasted with the CDC percentages – the tyranny of small numbers makes it impossible.  That said, in the 70+ age range that the CDC figures identify as a (corrected) 5.4% infection fatality rate, Lincoln County’s charts show 24 deaths in 311 cases – 7.8% – 44% more fatalities than national statistics.  The 3 deaths in the 50-69 age range, with 557 total cases work out amazingly close to the national 0.5% infection fatality rate.

There’s not enough data for me to infer causality.  It is good to have local data available – and I do wonder why the infection rate is higher in Libby.  Checking the math when you can is a good idea.

Community

Have You Two Been Vaccinated?

In the past couple of weeks, Renata and I have been asked “Have you been vaccinated?” by several different people.  Now I don’t mind saying yes – but I’m not sure that the question really is what it sounds like.  I think the question is “Can we visit your place with certainty that we won’t catch covid?”  Perhaps the question is “Have you been immunized?” 

Vaccinated and immune have two different meanings.  The history of smallpox vaccination shows the differences over a thousand-year timeline.  The first vaccinations recorded are in China, after 1000 CE.  They’d grind up the scabs from someone with smallpox, and blow the dust into your nostrils – along with something like a 2% mortality rate.  Since the death rate from smallpox was about 30%, it seemed like a decent risk.  This practice was variolation, not vaccination.

This development was state of the art until Jennings developed vaccination about 800 years later.   You remember, he took matter from the sores on a cow that had cowpox and injected it into people.  The latin word for cow – vacca – became the root of the word “vaccination.”  Since cowpox wasn’t smallpox, it took the risk of death down to about zero – but the minimal controls of the early 19th century kept the effectiveness down.  Jennings methodology didn’t guarantee the inoculation actually included cowpox.   Even as smallpox was eradicated, the vaccine was only 95% effective – but a 95% effective vaccine wiped out smallpox. 

Life is a game of percentages – the only certainty is death . . . but we don’t know when.  When my colon cancer was diagnosed in May, 2009, the prediction was June, 2012.  The prediction changed when Rick Holm convinced his colleagues to humor me and look at the 2002 chest X-rays.  Just old scars, no new metastasis.  It changed the diagnosis from stage 4 to early stage 3.  All from looking at one 7 year-old X-ray. 

CDC says my two doses of Pfizer should be 84% effective.  Israel’s health ministry rates it at 39%.   Personally, even 39% effective is worth getting the vaccine – I have made a point of getting flu shots that were no more effective.  But the answer to “Have you been vaccinated?” isn’t really a simple yes or no if the question is actually “Have you been immunized?”

I think my friends are happier visiting with the knowledge I’ve been vaccinated, and not knowing the percentage effectiveness.  Vaccinated generally translates to less chance of getting sick – but few vaccines are 100% effective.  The recent infectiousness of this last covid outbreak has demonstrated that vaccination is not synonymous with immunization. 

A Science for Everyone, Community

Other Vaccine Effectiveness

I got the Covid vaccine as soon as I could.  I think I might have been vaccinated earlier but for the manner in which the local government picked folks to vaccinate – I wasn’t sitting by the phone when the call came in, and that healthy, outdoors behavior put me a couple weeks later than I wanted.

I’m one of the people who was in line for the polio vaccine – and it wasn’t far out of the experimental stage.  A classmate who is with you in kindergarten one day, then gone, and the dread word polio makes for a willingness to step up for vaccination.  As a kid, I didn’t know that the Salk vaccine was only 65% effective against one strain, and about 90% effective against the others.  Multiplication and division were still challenges back then – but I got the vaccine.

I don’t need a perfect vaccine – the vaccine is to improve my odds.  I get flu vaccinations, and the table from CDC https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/past-seasons-estimates.html shows how that works.   The important part is “Adjusted Overall VE (%)

Table. Adjusted vaccine effectiveness estimates for influenza seasons from 2004-2018

CDC calculates vaccine effectiveness estimates through the U.S. VE Network

Influenza SeasonReferenceStudy Site(s)No. of PatientsAdjusted Overall VE (%)95% CI
2018-19Flannery 2020 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA3,2542921, 35
2017-18Rolfes 2019 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA8,4363831, 43
2016-17Flannery 2019 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA74104032, 46
2015-16Jackson 2017 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA68794841, 55
2014-15Zimmerman 2016 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA93111910, 27
2013-14Gaglani 2016 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA59995244, 59
2012-13McLean 2014 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA64524943, 55
2011-12Ohmit 2014 WI, MI, PA, TX, WA47714736, 56
2010-11Treanor 2011 WI, MI, NY, TN47576053, 66
2009-10Griffin 2011 WI, MI, NY, TN67575623, 75
2008-09UnpublishedWI, MI, NY, TN67134130, 50
2007-08Belongia 2011 WI19143722, 49
2006-07Belongia 2009 WI8715222, 70
2005-06Belongia 2009 WI34621-52, 59
2004-05Belongia 2009 WI76210-36, 40

The important thing is that, in 15 years of data, the best record the vaccine had was 60% effectiveness.  The worst was down to 10% effectiveness.  If I’m playing blackjack, and I can get a 10% edge, that’s good.  If I can get a 60% edge, that’s great.  I don’t expect a vaccine -particularly one that had a rushed development-  to be 100%.

Smallpox was ended with a vaccine that was about 95% effective – “Effective smallpox vaccines have a vaccinia titer of approximately 108 pock-forming units per mL, and more than 95% of individuals develop a ‘take’ with neutralizing antibodies after primary vaccination. “ It’s worth remembering that it took several centuries to develop that vaccine.

Vaccines are more a statisticians game, or a gambler’s science.  Today’s polio vaccine is about as close to 100% effective as you can get.  The vaccines aren’t magic bullets – but they are better bullets.  It may take a while – but I’m betting the Coronavirus vaccines will become increasingly effective.  The problem is that the scientists are working on better vaccines, and politicians and administrators are working on press releases.

A Science for Everyone

A Covid Risk Calculator

Johns Hopkins has a covid mortality risk calculator that is both interactive and online: https://covid19risktools.com:8443/riskcalculator 

Remember, I like statistics and correlations, and covid has provided a bit of an enigma since the data came out from the Diamond Princess outbreak last year.  This calculator takes in age, health and location and coughs up your probability of dying from covid.

My own numbers were reassuring – I answered the questions . . . age 71, height, weight, history of asthma, cancer and diabetes, and the model churned out that I was 1.1 times as likely to die of covid as the model’s norm.  Essentially I was at a normal risk.  The analysis was:

“Based on the information you have provided, the tool estimates that you have 1.1 (95% CI: 0.95 – 1.3 ) times the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the average risk for the US population.

Based on the estimated risk, you are categorized to be at Closer to or lower than average risk based on the following chart:

Further, based on the information available from pandemic projections in your state of residence, the tool estimates an absolute rate of mortality of 0.6 (95% CI: 0.3 – 1.3 ) per 100000 individuals in subgroups of the population with a similar risk profile to yours during the period of 05/15/2021 – 06/04/2021. This estimate is calculated based on the CDC’s Ensemble mortality forecast data.

*95% CI: Error bounds with 95% confidence.”

It’s a model – and only as good as the data that went into its development.  That said, Johns Hopkins has a pretty good reputation, and I would guess they will continue to refine the model.  Scientific method and statistical analysis do not allow perfect data for the individual.  That said, I like having a model that I can use.  Give it a try with your own data.

Demography

Life Expectancy Reported Down, with multiple reasons

I’ve seen another release about the US life expectancy dropping a year during 2020 – but this one didn’t credit Covid exclusively.  It pointed out that the US Life expectancy has been dropping for several years due to an increase in drug overdoses and suicides.  Please remember – causality is inferred, not statistically proven.

Covid, with most fatalities occurring among the the oldest, has a hard time reducing the life expectancy by a year. (Social Security has its work on life expectancy, going back to 1940, another table, for life expectancy at specific ages, is available at here)

The article reminded me of the drop in life expectancy that followed the end of the Soviet Union.  That was credited to alcohol overdoses, violent death, and suicides.  The chart shows that it happened there, so it can happen here.  The thing about the calculated life expectancy is that one 21-year-old male death takes 55.91 years from the life expectancy chart, while a 75-year-old male death takes only 11.14 years from the collective pool.

The Soviet figures suggest that a major economic or governmental change can have some immediate changes – though today’s Russians, who made it through the collapse of the Soviet Union were back on track in 2019.  CDC has released data showing excess US deaths in 2020, but they are by state and weekly.  Hopefully they will condense the data – 50 states and 52 weeks make a spreadsheet that takes a lot of effort to get through.  Summing up the data to one nation and one year will make it a lot easier to comprehend,  The data that is currently available is at this link.  It is interesting to look at – and I expect that they will have it compiled at a national level soon.