And now a message from the Grim Reaper: Keep the beaches closed and observe social distancing

I don’t know, buddy. To my eye, everyone seems reasonably well-distanced in the backdrop of this clip. And if we’re rating the safest places in America right now, a hot, humid outdoor space bathed in UV radiation with plenty of ocean breezes has to be near the very top.

If he wants to do some reaping, I have a much more fruitful spot for him to target.

But then, judging by the death toll in NYC, he’s already well acquainted with it.

As horrendous as the number of deaths in New York has been, the data there lately is some of the most encouraging in the country. I wrote at length last night about how the daily number of deaths and new cases across the U.S. has plateaued; we’re no longer seeing the death toll accelerate but we’re not seeing it shrink either. The story in NYC is different. This really does look like the curve we’re all familiar with:

The current number of deaths per day is now far less than half what it was at peak. Nate Silver asks an intriguing question: Does NYC resemble a more traditional epidemic curve because it’s closer to herd immunity than other parts of the country? The plateauing we’re seeing in the national numbers suggests that the infection rate is now around 1; the decline we’re seeing in New York suggests that it’s below 1, which is also what happens once herd immunity is achieved. It could just be good old-fashioned social distancing that’s limiting transmission instead, with New Yorkers hunkered down more diligently than people in other cities because of the extreme threat there. But if it’s true that prevalence in NYC is much higher than it is anywhere else then there may be some sort of limited herd-immunity effect on the numbers too.

That is, by moving too slowly to lock down initially, New York may have blundered into an outcome not unlike Sweden’s. Lots of death up front and then — hopefully — a tailing off that never truly spikes again, even if it occasionally creeps upward.

It’s a strong enough possibility that I endorse this idea, even though it’s now been ruled out by Andrew Cuomo:

I suggested summer school in a post a few days ago. Schools need to squeeze in whatever opportunities for education are available given the likelihood of a second wave this fall. Kids will have ended up missing more than three months by the time summer arrives. Another bad wave of COVID-19 starting in October could cause them to miss the better part of an entire school year. Cuomo understandably doesn’t want to undo the gains New York has made towards stamping out the epidemic by reopening a major vector of infection, but precautions could be taken. Outdoor classes only, all kids in masks, regular hand-sanitizer breaks. Even half-days would be of some use in delivering partial education and giving parents a break for a few hours from having to manage small children at home. Oh well.

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