Category Archives: Healthcare

The misleading math of rural Coronavirus

Iowa Coronavirus growth

(Note: This post has been updated from a version previously published on April 12 at Bleeding Heartland.) Fifty-one cases of COVID-19 come out of one rural nursing home in northern Florida. A funeral in a small Georgia town is a key source for 150 cases of COVID-19 and eleven deaths. And then in Iowa on April 13, comes this announcement… Read more »

Update: The missing Coronavirus tests

No symptoms - no test

Two weeks ago, I posted some data that I have been tracking to try to get a handle on the actual case fatality rate (CFR) of COVID-19, as well as trying to estimate the untested, unknown virus-positive population out there. This is an update with some interesting trends and new data, as well as my take on why the “missing… Read more »

Avenging angels and the Coronavirus

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Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

During a recent medical visit, my physician, a nice young foreign-born guy, asked me what this quarter-inch round scar was on my upper left arm. “Smallpox vaccination,” I said. His question took me aback, but I later realized how distant in time the “Avenging Angel” of smallpox is in our collective past. Meanwhile, you can always count on preachers like… Read more »

Lifeboat ethics #2 – Ventilators and PPE

Pittsburgh Triage

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only near the beginning of March that I wrote a post about the literal application of lifeboat ethics that was being forced onto passengers on two cruise ships denied docking privileges to offload passengers still uninfected by the Coronavirus. At that point, only nineteen people had died of COVID-19 in the… Read more »

Why I won’t be in church on Easter morning

Nautilus shell

Politics meets religion meets mathematics. The political talk is that churches should open on Easter Sunday, April 12, and go back to “life as usual.” But the hard math says, “Please, do not do this!” One common talking point compares Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. so far (900+) to auto accident deaths (about 37,000 annually) and mocks the “big deal”… Read more »

Kids, can you say Fecundity?

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Nautilus shell

Note: this post has been updated to bring the data up to March 19, 2020. A little family secret: my maternal grandparents were very fecund. This word is not used much in normal conversation these days, and indeed it sounds a bit nasty. However, it simply means that they “went forth and multiplied,” which indeed they did fifteen times, with… Read more »

COVID-19 and real-life lifeboat ethics

Before there was the “Trolley Problem,” ethics classes would commonly haul out “Lifeboat Ethics” scenarios to stimulate class discussion. In my years of teaching ethics, I never used either because I dislike them both. They both ask the wrong questions, and they lead the Stephen Millers of the world to invoke horrendous “Lord of the Flies” government policies like caging… Read more »

The roll of the COVID-19 dice

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Bayes Theorem

“It doesn’t want to kill you before you transmit it.” – biologist Michael Farzan of Scripps Research That quote is not so scary as it sounds; it is basic probability math. The probability math of the COVID-19 Coronavirus variant has hit the news, and not in a good way. We have already seen the first reported cases in my county… Read more »

Am I my brother’s heathcare keeper?

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He Ain't Heavy

A drug treating seizures in small children formerly sold for $40 per vial. Mallinckrodt, the manufacturer, has raised the price to $39,000 per vial, causing one city in Georgia to expend over $2 million for just one employee’s child. [1] Yes, the manufacturer has “reasons” and the story is more complicated than the headline. Regardless of this complexity, does this… Read more »