Friday, August 21, 2020

Apples to Apples

In trying to find proper comps for America WRT C19, I have to conclude that there are none which are excellent, perhaps not even very good. It is fair to have industrialised nations as our starting point, and places so small that a single one-off event (or lack of them) can change the picture too quickly.  Andorra, San Marino, and Liechtenstein are not comps, whether for good or for ill.  There are Latin American countries - our own hemisphere -which have recently seen many cases, but I can't see Peru as a serious comp.  We share a border with Mexico, and parts of that country have similarity to parts of this country in more than one way, but "industrialised" seems out of reach.  Ditto Brazil. We are narrowing to Europe and the Anglosphere pretty quickly, I think. Japan clearly qualifies as a first-world nation, though it is very much an island, and was culturally willing to isolate long before any of this. They remain solidly racist and homogeneous, resenting the Chinese and looking down on Koreans and especially Filipinos, so their degree of international contact has never been at European or American levels. Russia, China, and India are powerful economies and have industries but can't really be regarded as industrialised.

Which leads to the next criterion, degree of international contact. Europeans have both contact with each other, often at places of great population density, and contact with the rest of the world.  America has two long borders, mixed between population dense and sparse population areas.  We have a great deal of international contact, much of it coming in by air. Canada less so, but still considerable. Australia has a great deal of regional contact, New Zealand and South Africa not so much. Even a lot of Europe isn't in the same league, here. Because many come in by air, the international contact is in many places, well into the heartland.  Somewhat true of Canada as well, though Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are the main contact points. Not nearly so many as America or in Europe.  By population it's a comp, but by area - that is, how much international contact per square kilometer, even if only measuring the southernmost parts - not quite so much.  As both population and area seem to be mattering with CoVid, that's worth noting.

Because the NYC metro area has so dominated the American statistics, over a third of the deaths, and other major metros have had similar problems, I think the presence or absence of such areas is an important comp. A lot of people have criticised what New York has done, but what would they have done differently?  Not sending infected persons to nursing homes is a biggie, and worth mentioning, but what else?  Close the subways?  Then Ubers upon Ubers. What about elevators?  How do NYC apartments function without elevators?  This is going to weaken a lot of possible comparisons.  France has Paris.  The UK has London, and bonus points for the Midlands cities.  Argentina may work it's way onto the list simply because of Buenos Aires.  Japan might work it's way back on as well.  Mexico City is huge, but I think it is usually described as "sprawling." Amsterdam, Brussels, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, etc - not so much high-rise, not so much density. Canada has Toronto, not quite a megacity, but plenty of skyline. Montreal a little less. Vancouver probably not.  We are into places that are populous, have skyscrapers and some density, but just not Manhattan or downtown Chicago. Half-credit?

Does ethnicity or racial composition matter, either in terms of disease resistance or willingness to go along with restrictions?  We don't know.  There was some thought blacks were more susceptible, but there are now studies showing that for equivalent symptoms this is not so. Are there cultural elements of less personal space, less willingness to follow directions, more need for interaction?  Don't know. I imagine immigrants tend strongly to the habits of their countries of origin, and this dissipates over the generations. I know the Swedes have had large difficulties with the Somalis completely ignoring any restrictions.  Is that true of other Africans?  It's hard to imagine it having much residue among African-Americans, whose ancestries stretch back centuries here. For that reason, Hispanics are likely mixed in terms of assimilation in terms of public disease-related behaviors. Norwegians, Israelis and the Japanese are highly self-disciplined people, well ahead of Americans, I suspect. If you tell them something is required for the good of everyone I think they pretty much do it. If I try to think of a group that is not especially self-disciplined, that list is long, and I'm not sure we can make it accurate.  What would we measure, and do those things actually correlate with disease behavior?

If there is any such factor, then there is really no comp  for America.  We have more diversity, and more of it recent, and more of that poor, than anyone.  The Canadians have a bit more First Nations, Chinese, Filipino, and South Asian (India), but have few blacks or Hispanics. Some from the Middle East, but not like here. And they are probably the closest in diversity. Europe thinks it has a lot of immigrants because it has gotten them recently, but not even close to American levels. What they think of as a cultural takeover is an average year here. I suppose there might even be some advantage to that, if groups huddle together infecting only each other, but I think it is more likely that such behaviors would create dangerous reservoirs of infection.  Still, I don't know.  Maybe this last one is a very big deal, maybe it's a nothing. Measuring rates of minority infection and/or death is going to be difficult to separate from purely urban, population density, shared public transportation factors.

Add to my list, please.  I have an outline of what America's comps are and what we look like in relationship to them (short answer: mixed), but I'd like to be more confident I am looking at the right stuff.  Make your case.


David Foster said...

Probably needs to be more focus on the *city* level rather than the *state* level, which is how the data is getting mostly rolled up. Think how much variance there is among areas within NY State, for example.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good start, that.

Famcaps said...

People are struggling to find reasons why different cities, areas, countries are affected differently by Covid. If we do a serious analysis of the whole world a year from now (and not just are happy we've got a vaccine and try to forget about these trying times), we might find some correlations, but I doubt it will be any strong ones. When we suggest any explanation why one place is hit harder, we can always find a counter example that contradicts that explanation. I think it's mostly coincidences and things we can't do anything about.

Anonymous said...

In Canada we took the C19 virus seriously right from the beginning in March. Our news was full of advice to socially distance, and we still have our news outlets rattling on about C19 best practice to this day. Americans are not allowed in, for obvious reasons. We are not perfect by any means, but our stupid seems to be less than in your country, when considering responses.

In America you denied its existence, then that it was a problem that would soon resolve its self, and now you seem to admit there may be a problem, as so many people die. Its really this that is the difference, in our very different outcomes at this point. You still do not take it very seriously and mass gatherings, Sturgis for one, are creating their own waves of infection.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

So you prefer to repeat what you say on every post about C19 rather than comment on the subject of the actual post. You may find that people don't answer you very much when you do that.

Anonymous said...

You want the reasons for the wide spread of C19 in your country to be somehow amenable to some kind of statistical analysis. Its not really. Its the difference between your response and other more useful ones, that makes you the biggest store of C19 on the planet.

As schools go back it will just get worse. I love my granddaughter very much but I'm staying away from her.

bs king said...

So I'll admit I've fallen behind on your COVID posts of late, but have you mentioned the role obesity is playing at all? It's a pretty big factor in mortality and serious cases, and the US went in at a major disadvantage:

I briefly saw your post from a few days ago about Laos. A quick Google suggests 5% of their population is obese. We're at 36%. Peru is at just about 20%.

Even if it doesn't kill you, it does suggest it will put an extra burden on hospitals in hard hit regions, which might lead to the kind of frantic onslaught that leads to more deaths.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good point.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I will add that morbid obesity likely shows an even greater difference between America and other countries.

random observer said...

Well, I'm in Ottawa and I thought our response was better than that of the US, too, but not by much and with some of its own serious flaws.

We lacked any large constituency for, and any large authorship of, claims that "it's just the flu."

We have fewer people who take personal advice on conduct from heads of government [that's never wise, regardless of who it is, and I find it rather alien to my makeup anyway, so that's my bias. I can't understand either millions doing what Trump says, or millions complaining that the first group just did what Trump said, because I don't understand doing that] and more who followed simple fixed procedures from professionals.

Our health professionals seemed to have it together a little earlier than those of the US, whose failures have gotten some play but also been obscured a bit, or so it seems at distance.

On the other hand;

We seemed not to take border closure as seriously as we could have, as early. By about 2-3 precious weeks.

That's just one negative for us but I think it was an important one.

Our health officials were also not clear and/or dishonest on masks for a time.

We also had decent sized hysterical constituencies for not wearing masks early on because they were useless or dangerous, then for wearing them everywhere because they were panaceas, then for not wearing them because they were fascist.

Overall, last I looked our death toll was just over 10% that of the US. By our usual metrics, in which we are 10% of everything, that means we were doing just a bit worse than we should have been, relative to the US. I haven't checked today- we possibly have dropped under that marker as US numbers kept going up. Either way, we weren't hysterically different.

We also have the advantage of fewer large cities and nothing comparable to NYC, LA or Chicago.

Some responses that bewildered me were common to both nations- I get the suffering of those who are sick, or have loved ones who are sick or died, or who lose jobs and have no income. Those are real problems demanding sympathy and patience from those luckier or better positioned. But a surprising amount of complaint came from people whose chief grievances seemed to be that they couldn't go to bars or restaurants, or the movies, or drive across state or provincial lines to visit grandma at Easter. Or, in the UK, that one couldn't have one's "holidays" on the continent.

I mean, these aren't exactly "the war", are they?

There were and are many issues to be discussed regarding lockdown;s impact on the economy and society, livelihoods, and non-COVID cost in lives, as well as specific constitutional matters, perhaps. But I never until now had such a strong sense that millions of North Americans don't think government has any power over them at all save as the provider of ever more services and demander of ever more day to day resources, but no real power in an emergency. Or that so many seem to have such a low threshold for what constitutes a real imposition.

I might be willing to argue whether or not states or provinces can impose emergency border controls against one another [I gather it actually had been done in the past, both using militia to control raiders and police to control fruit...] or other lockdown measures, but I don't grok people who think these are huge, tragic personal impositions or inherently tyrannical.

OK, rant off.