Debt Rattle October 14 2020


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    Tim Groves

    While we’re waiting for Bill to reply, we might note that comparing countries East and West on numbers of COVID cases is a bit like comparing apples with oranges.

    The COVID case counts are certainly related to the number of COVID tests given. The more tests performed, the more positive results are obtained and the more COVID cases are counted.

    According to Statistica, as of October 12, the US (population 328 million) has performed over 118 million tests and the UK (population 67 million) 27 million tests. Meanwhile, as of October 9, a total of around 2.3 million people in Japan (population 126 million) have undergone such tests, and as of August 24, over 1.8 million COVID-19 tests were conducted in South Korea (population 51 million).

    If the number of tests performed in South Korea and Japan were increased from the current 2% of population to the US level of over 30% or the UK level of 40% of population, it is likely that the number of COVID cases (positive test results) would increase by an order of magnitude.

    Other factors are more speculative. Obese people are a lot less common in East and Southeast Asia than in Europe and North America. There are huge differences in patterns of diet, medical treatment, medication and air conditioning use. Overall, East and Southeast Asia are further south than much of Europe and North America and so get stronger summer sunshine. Social cohesion and a strong sense of national identity in the East may reduce overall levels of irritation and stress. They drink a lot of green tea. They don’t shake hands or hug very much. They are less likely to be couch potatoes. And different countries have different endemic diseases and live with different pathogens that may modify the ways in which people react to the presence of COVID-19.

    Now, masks may make a huge difference to COVID infection rates. Superficially, it’s plausible and reasonable to think that they do. But it that is the case, what is your explanation for why the CDC reported last month that 71 percent out of a group of 154 COVID case-patients contracted the virus despite reporting “always” wearing a cloth face covering or mask for at least 14 days before illness onset, and a further 14 percent contracted the virus despite reporting “often” wearing one at least 14 days before illness onset.


    Boogaloo: to make a valid comparison between two populations the only, or nearly the only, variable
    would have to be the use of masks, or their non-use. As to why the big disparity between the numbers
    we’re given for SK as compared to USA, there are any number of possible answers other than masks-
    the better public health system there (US being about the worst in that, as we know); better prior
    general health of the citizenry (check the US comorbidiities, esp obesity and diabetes; perhaps
    a more virulent strain in US, and so on. In short, you’re not comparing like with like, at all.

    You, too, are welcome.



    As a followup to my last message, here is how the KCDC is defining a confirmed case (according to the Englisg version of the official website):

    A person who has been confirmed to be infected with the infectious disease pathogen according to the diagnostic testing standard, regardless of clinical manifestations

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