Alligators, Florida Man, and Covid revisited

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It was just two weeks ago that I posted about the famed “Florida Man” meme, the (almost always) men who are absolutely sure that they are right when they are embarking on some dangerous action that is really wrong. And then, just this past week, we took guests to southwest Florida’s Myakka River State Park, where you can walk through a lovely forest canopy high up in the trees or watch from a safe distance while many alligators bask in the sun on the banks of the Myakka River.

Or not from a safe distance:


Seven alligators sunning along Florida’s Myakka River. Photo by the author from a safe distance.

Now, it may be that this big old gator up front has absolutely no interest in Florida Man and his son approaching on the riverbank. I missed getting a picture earlier of a family with their toddler children walking in the same area. And, not in the picture are even more alligators in the river nearby with just their eyes and snouts above the water. This is a cheaper thrill, at six dollars per carload entrance fee, than Universal Orlando’s roller coasters. But it explains why we are likely not going to see U.S. uptake rates for Covid-19 vaccines go much higher, even when they remain free and when people continue to die at a rate of over 1,000 per day.

A significant subset of Americans loves roller coasters, shooting big guns, and driving fast while tipsy. Most of them will see zero downside consequences from these choices. But statistically some will become “Florida men.” Americans have unprotected sex a lot and cheat on their spouses. They believe they are experts with chain saws and deep frying turkeys at Thanksgiving. And they can eat a lot more than they exercise off. They regularly elect buffoons, grifters, and war mongers to higher office. They will visit fragile and elderly relatives while infectious with Covid and send their sick kids to school. All while the Greek Fates scream, “Don’t do that!”

On the other side of the probability coin, billions of dollars are spent on lotteries annually by people who can least afford it and will not win. Billions more dollars are spent on food “supplements” that never get any higher on efficacy tests than the FDA’s standard of “GRAS” (“generally recognized as safe”), and do not even need to hit that low bar before being marketed to the general public. In short, Americans waste money on what are more often expensive placebos.

Many, if not likely most, Americans live daily on the wrong side of the math with important bets for both potential benefit and harm.

That prior post about “Florida Man” was about how to tell if you are dead wrong. I will admit here that I have been dead wrong about the ability of well-presented science, math, rationality, and free tested-by-millions drugs to influence the decisions of a broad swath of risk-taking Americans as we approach one million dead fellow citizens from what is now a very controllable virus. Now, we have passed the 60% vaccination mark, which is encouraging, but with the high statistical “R-naught” transmissibility of the ever-evolving coronavirus, I no longer believe that we will reach the required level of vaccine-induced immunity to stop the virus from mutating further. Any change in fully-boosted vaccination rates will be slow and incremental. I’m still working through what the consequences of that will be in the next calendar year, but we should see that million-death mark by the Fourth of July 2022.

That’s all. I was wrong. Sorry. I wish you good luck in the New Year 2022. Mask up and get boosted. It improves your odds incrementally. You will need it.

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