Nationals Baseball: AMA - Corona

Monday, March 23, 2020

AMA - Corona

So we don't want to talk about the corona virus a lot here BUT I figure I'd give you a chance to ask any questions you might have. Now you might say "Why would I ask you?" and that's a good question but first, consider it asking the entire group of people who may comment here, someone here may be an expert on what exactly your question is. Certainly a few here are going to be very well read on the subject.  As for specifically me, well my job is as a public health statistician. There are certainly people you bring in before someone like me if you want to interview, epidemiologists (who study how disease spreads), virologists (who study viruses), specific doctors or health professionals who have been through these things before. There are literally thousands of these, maybe tens of thousands, probably a couple in every minor city / major college, so there's no reason to go down to the C-Team if you are a TV or a paper. But I'm way more familiar with the topics at hand than Joe Schmo* out there, or even Dr. Jane Schmo* who has been very online during this. Given that I figured maybe I could help clear up a thing or two and if not - great. We move on to more fun stuff that doesn't involve possibly dying, unless it's Bobby Henley sending you home because then you are dead.

*Mr. Schmo got his degree in Communications with a minor in Portuguese

*Dr. Schmo (unrelated) is a Food Chemist who works in developing proper textures for crackers, chips, and other baked snacks. 


Anonymous said...

I'll start! For those who are satisfying the criteria for testing, what is the positive result rate coming back as? Do we have any sense yet as to the relationship between people showing the identified symptoms and those confirmed via test? (Asked by someone who was tested Saturday, having met testing criteria, and awaiting test results.)

Chas R said...

I guess my question has to do with re-infection. I have seen where many people who have gotten the virus, got sick, and are now well again. What about the re-infection rate? How many of those who got the virus, got sick, got well, have gotten sick again? Is there any view on the risk of re-infection or confidence that people who get sick are fairly immune?

blovy8 said...

What are the odds there will be any sort of season?

I'd recommend you listen to Fred Allen's radio shows if you haven't. His wife's voice as some kind of teenager is somewhat annoying, but his asides and ad-libs are great. Not quite the show quality of Benny, but better than Burns and Allen (although the year Artie Shaw led their band, he was a great foil). He works in a bit more topical stuff, but even that becomes interesting if you can get the context, which isn't all that difficult. I guess people were more tuned into NYC then, since they had no trouble loading up on LaGuardia jokes, for instance.

JE34 said...

China and South Korea have used different COVID containment methods. From what I've ready, China forcibly boarded up sick people in their homes, while South Korea tested the crap out of their citizens. The latter is clearly the preferable option, the Chinese government not exactly being big on this whole human rights business.

What is the big holdup in testing in the US of A? How difficult is it to create tests and administer them in every major city?

Also, what is the average annual rainfall in the Amazon basin?

Anonymous said...

I'd love to get a sense of true cases vs reported cases in my area. The big problems with reported case numbers is that 1) they're a lagging indicator, and 2) there's been undercounting due to testing issues, but looks like that's at least slowing in some localities. I have to imagine someone has done some modeling of what true cases are in a given US state/locality based on standard epidemiology models, with some fudge factors of for testing lack of availability, and delays in reporting results. Can you recommend any reputable sites that publish any of these models, at the state/local level? Or alternatively, is there a good formula for estimating true cases in my area as a function of reported cases?

Or is the confidence interval just so large to make any guess meaningless?

Harper said...

Anon - Very high. Well relatively - 10 to 11% is the number the government gave out a few days ago which is high in general. Louisiana a little after was nearly 1 in 3. But it's driven by lack of tests. The fewer tests the more only the sickest are getting tested and thus higher rates. So it depends on where you are but state department of healths usually have that info. Here is VAs for example (~7% when I looked at it)

They usually don't do it in the "who has symptoms but tests positive" but "who doesn't and does" you can't really work back from that to get the first without more info. Sorry.

Chas R - from what doctors who specialize in coronaviruses say is you can probably get reinfected. You develop anitbodies but they don't stick around forever so the further out from the infection the more likely you can get it again. Immunization doesn't mean you don't get infected, it means you have a strong enough response that when you are infected you don't show symptoms. Coronaviruses (like colds) seem to don't stick around as long. However, what that means is unclear. Will you have a lesser effect or the same?

blovy8 - any sort? I'd go pretty high because $. 70%? It might be a vert shortened season (under 81 games) with no crowds but I think they want something out there. I you are saying a normal season 120+ games with regular crowds. I'd go very low. 5%

Fred Allen you say. I'll check it out.

JE34 - the lack of testing comes from many directions. Short answer is at the start (a month ago) we weren't planning for it. regulations were still in place that slowed testing and approvals for most applicants. The US developed one that was fast tracked was messed up. We were never planning for population level testing putting demand low so supply had no reason to ramp up. And large scale testing - like in South Korea - wasn't shown as effective yet.

So even though we're at a point now by week's end we should have plenty of tests we're like a month behind where we want to be. We needed to listen to experts and take a leap of faith getting started developing a TON of very fast tests a month ago but instead we didn't because we still felt maybe we wouldn't have to

You can look that up yourself. Try AskJeeves

Harper said...

Anon @ 1:57 - Deaths X 100 is a real quick and dirty estimate. If you have no deaths. Ooof it's a logarithmic increase so yeah the variance is going to be huge. And when case numbers are tiny they are also meaningless. One or two people might self-isolate very well making your projections meaningless as no one has it. You probably get up to a few dozen before you can start to apply a logarithmic equation out to 2 weeks using average US data and see what you get. You also might need to apply restrictions based on closures and other measures. I don't know of any places doing it but I can poke around. short of it is it's complicated but if you have 20 and community spread and no restrictions you probably actually have a few hundred.

JE34 said...

@blovy8 - is that the same Fred Allen from the old timey tv show What's My Line?

blovy8 said...

I’ve read opinions that they might just play games without fans to have a reasonable sample. I think if they can’t do half a season, they might have to get creative about scheduling or just load up on divisional games to cut down on the travel. Of course, the odd number of teams in each league makes that hard to do, but they may have more doubleheaders and odd days off or something for the sake of salvaging tv money with viable playoffs.

blovy8 said...

Yes, that Fred Allen, JE34. He had a famous radio feud with Jack Benny (fake of course]. While he had a couple of game shows, His tv career was spotty, and he died young. His monologues were sort of like Johnny Carson, where he got funnier when the jokes didn’t work.

Nattydread said...

Self-quarantined in Nairobi. The whole economy is shut down and there aren't any testing kits here, either. Kind of the calm before the storm. Waiting to see how corona plays out in East Africa. Two major music stars have gone down with corona in Europe. Manu Dibango, he of Soul Mokassa (ripped off by M Jackson) and Aurlus Mabele, king of Congolese Soukous. Missing baseball.

Harper said...

Oh no Nattydread. If people are following the shutdown, possibly doing it this early (25 cases) will help (then again without testing we don't know how "early" it really is) Stay safe.

Jimmy said...

When this ends it will go down in my mind as the biggest hysteria ever and we'll be lucky if it doesn't drive us to a great depression.

TwoGloves said...

@Jimmy - I agree with you - this is going to result in another great depression - there is NO business going on right now!!!

Totally off topic, but just saw that the Mets Thor needs TJ surgery!!

Harper said...

Jimmy - nah. This is serious. I mean it's the flu but 10X as deadly*, with no immunity in the population. If you don't act strongly to keep people apart you will have at minimum several hundreds thousand deaths in 2-3 months. There's no hysteria to this statement. That's just how disease spread works. We are used to and accept large number of deaths in the 10s of thousands but spread out over 6 months or a year. Several hundred thousand deaths constitute 10-20% of all deaths in the US in a year, so imagine that added on top of your normal circle of life concentrated in a small time frame. It will damage the economy any way you look at it unless you can somehow get people to stop caring about other people and not withdraw to care for the sick, grieve the dead, or fear for their own lives.

*we already passed the average deaths per day by flu yesterday. If we're lucky it'll only increase for about a week more but likely even if that happens we'll see a slower drop to cases/deaths than other countries because of our piecemeal efforts at containment.

W. Patterson said...

As is usually the case, responses to Harper's postings are certainly worth reading. Like, say,, it's educational to read inciteful comments.

And hope everything turns out okay, Nattydread. Keep us informed. (I'd send thoughts and prayers but a pizza would probably do more good.)

Matt said...

(Apologies about being off topic) Thor blowing out his arm is in the category of things you hate to see. But also, that this happened while the season is suspended is so very Mets. Right up there with Cespedes breaking his ankle dealing with a wild boar on his ranch.

Harper said...

Matt - no need to apologize. time to get back to thinking about baseball... or at least not virus

blovy8 said...

I suspect Sale and Syndergaard deciding to get their arms fixed is another point on the no 2020 season's side of the argument.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

Sounds like there's a decent chance that there will be a season, with potentially some weird scheduling and a neutral site WS to allow it to be later in the season ("neutral"=Miami because, let's be realistic...they ain't makin it). I'd bet it will be like the Asian leagues starting with no fans. I'm really surprised, though, that players are talking about being willing to do 1-2 double headers a week. They argue so much about travel/off days already, why lose them?

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