Delta variants distort our risk perception


It’s worth noting how easy it is to find this consistency despite the chaos last winter. Part of the reason is that the residents of Ibasu believe in a set of common facts and figures based on scientific consensus: The virus spreads through the air, masks and ventilation systems are effective, and it is better to be outdoors than not at all. With these assumptions shared, relatively few parameters can be used to encapsulate an astonishing number of situations—grocery operations, outdoor barbecues, a day in the office. In the spring, roommates are still calculating their risk points (for personal responsibility, and because the degree of freedom fluctuates with the local case rate). But Katherine Olsen, the actual person in charge of the project, told me that this title helped her internalize something safe. In most cases, she knows what her hopes and needs are each week, and how many points they will cost. The pandemic risk has become passive.

That was before this summer’s whipping, before vaccine It seems to mean that the pandemic is over until it doesn’t.mathematics Yes Now it’s more chaotic and harder to intuitively. Delta and rising case rates make each activity more “expensive” because of the higher spread. However, discounts can also be offered with other vaccinated people, because these people are unlikely to be actively infected (and may spread the virus, although the latest data is more obscure). As the Microcovid team explained in their July update, vaccination also means a larger overall budget because the risk of death and hospitalization is much lower. The question is how much should our budget increase?

Setting a baseline budget has always been tricky. This is important because all activity calculations revolve around it, but it is also the least statistically based. “It’s really about feeling,” Olson told me at the time-it’s both personal and scientific. For Ibasho, the initial budget of 10,000 microcovids per week was derived by discussing their personal risks and their feelings about the risks to their loved ones, as well as their global sense of responsibility-they cannot live strangely because they also help spread the virus beyond Their pods. Variants and vaccines have not changed these factors, even if the balance between them has changed.

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I’m not sure what I think about the budget. Outside of my report, I have not personally used Microcovid. As a relatively isolated young man with a partner and no children, keeping my risky affairs in order is not urgent. But this week, the sudden resumption of restrictions made me feel uneasy, and I decided to do some calculations on the Microcovid website. I participated in the activities of the previous few weeks: errands without a mask, dinner at home, dance floor. (The last one, when I counted the number of participants who were not far apart, I ended up sending out a blood red code: “Dangerous, high risk.”) So will I do it again next weekend? According to the current case rate, absolutely not. Then I started to make adjustments: put on a mask (which is needed indoors in San Francisco anyway), remind myself that indoor parties may still be held outdoors, stop clubbing, and remember to eliminate some major risks to help me better accept the extra smaller.

These calculations have a sad summary: life in August 2021 is not living in the present, but the sum of our experiences. It is about redefining the risk of a global pandemic as a series of street intersections, rather than making them forget like satellites buzzing harmlessly above their heads. For more than 500 days after San Francisco’s initial asylum-in-place order, enter the joys of life into the calculator and list the losses, and admit that the possibilities for one person are limited, which is difficult to spend more than 500 days. But it feels like a healthy way to show it all. Maybe it will accelerate the return to a more free life. I have been limiting my budget because the number of cases in California is rising rapidly, but I also know that as a vaccinated person, when this surge subsides, I will relax a bit because it will eventually be. We will face the long-term virus risk and take preventive measures. For me, once the number of cases is the same, life will include getting lower and lower.

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