May 18, 2021

COVID is Collapsing in Washington State: Just as Predicted!

Three weeks ago, there were fears that COVID was increasing again and Governor Inslee was thinking of backtracking on reopening the State.  

Local papers were carrying stories warning that herd immunity was impossible.

But a careful analysis of the numbers, as provided in my blog of May 1st, showed the opposite:  that Washington COVID cases were about to plummet.

And that is exactly what has happened.   

Consider a plot of Washington COVID cases from March 1st to May 16th below, showing both daily cases and a 7-day average (data from the WA Department of Health website).


The daily cases (and 7-day average) peaked in late April and then declined rapidly by roughly 40% through mid-May.  Note there is a weekly cycle of collection, with some days with better collection than others.

Washington State COVID is collapsing.  And it makes perfect sense.

If you read my earlier blog, the analysis started by trying to get a measure of the percentage of residents (of each state) that possessed antibodies to COVID,  This was done by adding the percentage vaccinated to the percent that was immune because of contracting COVID.  

You simply can't look at vaccinations alone, as some have done.  And to estimate the percentage with COVID immunity, I multiplied the number of reported cases by three, since there are many cases that are not reported or are asymptomatic.   There is strong support in the scientific literature for this multiplier, with several papers/reports based on serology data.

Then I compared this measure of the population's antibody rate to the change of COVID for the previous two weeks (last half of April) for all 50 states.

 I was stunned with the result.  Once my measure of COVID immunity got to roughly 70%, the number of cases collapsed.   A transition to herd immunity was occurring.


Oregon's cases dropped like Washington's:  Exactly as Expected

At the end of April, Washington State and Oregon were national outliers with rising cases, while the rest of the country had declining new cases of  COVID.  Why?  My index explained it all. WA and OR were LOW outliers in my index, mainly because our states had not had as many COVID occurrences.   Thus,  WA and OR were fertile grounds for COVID spread. 

But we were getting close to the 70% level and within days we would cross the magic number as vaccinations continued apace and plenty of folks (mainly young people) were getting COVID.

And it happened just like clockwork.

Our state crossed the threshold of approximately 70% total of my immunity index in early May and the state COVID case rate rapidly declined.  

And it won't be going up....both because increasing numbers are getting the vaccine (and, yes, some are catching COVID).  Plus, the warming weather is highly favorable, with people spending more time IN THE COMPLETELY SAFE outdoor air and opening their windows.  Plus, increased sunshine is a potent killer of COVID.  Only a radically different viral variant could change the story....and there is no hint of that at this point.

But what is happening now you ask?  

And is every country in Washington State showing declines?   The answer is no and that demonstrates the power of my approach.

Consider the ten most populated counties in Washington State.  Here are their corresponding immunity indices.  There are BIG differences. King and Yakima counties have the highest indices (about .7--70%), mainly because both had a lot of COVID cases.  But Whatcom and Clark counties are low--around .55.


So what happened in these counties the past months?  First, the counties with high values (over .7)

King County has been in decline all month.


And Yakima has been falling for longer because many COVID cases got them to .7 early.

Contrast their experience with Whatcom County, where the immunity index is low.  Rising well into May.  Same with Clark County.


I have looked at all counties in the State and the signal is clear:  once the immunity index gets to approximately .70, the case rate declines.

I could show you more, but the message is clear, an immunity index based upon BOTH past infection and vaccinations appears to be highly useful in explaining past COVID cases and provides a way to see into the future.    

Several epidemiologists contacted me after my first blog, and they supported my analysis.  And if any have any concerns with the above, let me know.   If there are flaws, I want to know them.


This is a good example of the scientific method:  creating a hypothesis based on data and then making a prediction based on the hypothesis (that COVID herd immunity accelerates when the immunity index gets to roughly .7).   If the prediction fails, one goes back to the drawing board. This time the hypothesis appears to be supported by new data.

My question:  why isn't the Washington State Department of Health doing such an analysis?

61 comments:

  1. IIRC, Dr. Scott Gottlieb predicted much the same and for similar reasons.

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    1. You, my brother live in the place of fear that was created for the gullible. Deaths tied to this minor disease were widely over reported and the vaccines’ side effects were hidden.

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    2. I think it's really time to finally stop this paranoia about the "unvaxxed kids". Look at the CDC data! Since the beginning of the pandemic about 200 children under 18 have died of the flu while under 300 in the same age group have died of COVID, most of which related to serious pre-existing conditions. The chance of a child to have serious complications from COVID is so low that some European countries have no mask requirements for children under 12 even in school! What are we going to do going forward, keep kids inside a bubble until they have had dozens (or hundreds) of shots?

      The "Indian variant" is now being reported as not being any more dangerous than all other variants.

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    3. Fear and ignorance have ruled the world for the past 15 months. Breakthrough cases are VERY rare. Feel free to look at the numbers yourself. From the CDC before they changed the reporting rule for breakthrough cases: 95 million people are fully vaccinated in the United States. Of those, there have been 9,245 breakthrough cases. Half of these are in people over 60. Of the 9,245 cases, 835 required hospitalization and 132 died. Sorry to say but your fear of breakthrough cases is based on just that... fear. For comparison, based on the covid rates in the 20,000 people on the placebo side of the Pfizer vaccine trial, 95 million unvaccinated people would have resulted in almost 800,000 cases.

      Source: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/health-departments/past-breakthrough-data.html

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  3. Why isn't Wa. state depth. of health doingcsuch an analysis? Because it takes a brain like Fliff Mass to figure this out- and they don't have one. Or, there is an agenda at play. Maybe it's both!

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  4. Unfortunately, with COVID there is the idea (at least in the mass media) that only the vaccine can give you immunity. The disease can also give you immunity, but it seems to be ignored.

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    1. No money to be made if you make your own immunity.

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    2. It is not ignored, just some of the variants are showing signs of getting around the so-called natural immunity. So far the vaccines are quite robust but if you were infected with an early variant (even if your infection occurred later) you might be more susceptible than you think.

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    3. And even if you had Covid and a positive recorded test, it's possible you could be required to be vaccinated by your employer.

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  5. Yea, from what I can tell, I don't think the issue is that Washington State or public health is unaware of the need to include already-infected people in the herd immunity estimates, it's that there's a lot of uncertainty on how long that immunity lasts - natural immunity seems to start fading after ~6 months, so it's quite difficult to achieve herd immunity using natural immunity unless you get there very quickly, and even more difficult to communicate clearly to the public. Plus, natural immunity is more susceptible to variants, so it's not desirable from a public health communication perspective to tell the public we're in the clear without those people being vaccinated.

    Also, everything I've seen is that herd immunity estimates are between 70-90% of total pop, but WA is using 70% vaccination rate as the full reopening guideline (the lower end of the range) to account for the fact that some portion of the public has natural immunity already.

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    1. The 6 month estimate might relate to antibody presence in serology tests. However, I think we all know the mechanisms used by the immune system go beyond just antibodies. There is a T-cell and B-cell response. Thus, the virus is no longer “novel” in previously infected individuals. Unless we see reinfection on a significant scale, your hypothesis has yet to be proven true.

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    2. Correct, there's no proof, but it's generally believed by epidemiologists that this protection will be much weaker in the long run, and that the variants will be able to get around those defenses if they are novel enough. Even so, it's likely fine in the sense that we can predict a collapse in cases as Cliff shows and reopen faster when accounting for naturally acquired immunity, but when it comes to public health messaging, it would send the wrong signal (incentivizing "chickenpox parties, people to feel no need to get vaccinated if already infected, etc.). Thus my point that while the state is likely aware of the kind of modeling Cliff is doing, as evidenced by using the extreme low end of the herd immunity range rather than the middle for reopening requirements, it's not being publicized like the vaccination rates are. We already have enough confusing messaging from the CDC and government, I'm fine not muddying it more by telling people natural immunity will protect them in the long run.

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    3. Jay, I agree with you. This is why it is important that each individual makes their own research about whether the vaccine is right for them. Information like the one provided by Cliff is helpful. Everybody should be able to make their own decision about whether to accept the vaccine or not without any coercion or judgement.

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    4. I don't know how you got that from my point - I don't agree with this at all. I have no idea why "do your own research" and googling a few random articles from conspiracy theorists would somehow get you to a better place than the literally hundreds of thousands of hours of painstaking scientific research. Now there's certainly people for whom vaccines don't make sense, as has been well documented (e.g. immunocompromised people), but again "doing your own research" wouldn't get you there anymore than simply listening to the science would. I also don't see where coercion comes into play, at no point has anything been made mandatory - you have every right not to to take a vaccine, and we have every right to keep everyone else safe from you (it's not that different than in public schools, where kids don't have to be vaccinated, but then kids don't have the right to a public school environment in that case). More than that, your decisions certainly have an impact on all of us, so I hope you choose to do the right thing so we can all move past this as quickly as possible.

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    5. Jay, when a vaccine is a requirement for keeping your job, or for obtaining a job, that is coercion. And it is not true that "this protection [from natural immunity] will be much weaker in the long run". There is no long-term data that indicates that. On the other hand, we don't know whether any of the COVID vaccines will make you more susceptible to variants in the future. This happened in 2009-2010 with the novel (swine) flu. People who had received the vaccine for the seasonal flu were more susceptible to the novel (swine) flu. This is published peer-reviewed science, not "conspiracy theory" as you claim:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850385/

      The part I "agreed" with you with was "We already have enough confusing messaging from the CDC and government". Hence the necessity (at least from my side) to do my own research about vaccines (like the article above). Sorry for not clarifying it in my previous comment.

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    6. I also wanted to add that being against "vaccine requirements" does not imply being against "vaccinations". There should be a distinction.

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    7. What is wrong with a vaccine requirement? It is how we got rid of small pox. It is how we are on the verge of getting rid of polio. It is why mumps, measles and rubella are rare. This idea that you should have the freedom to spread the deadliest disease in 100 years is horse crap. OK, AIDS is deadlier, but AIDS is a lot harder to get.


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    9. All vaccines that you mention are fully FDA approved. None of the COVID ones are. And it's not about "freedom", it's about bodily autonomy and self-determination. Also, smallpox has a 30% mortality rate while for polio it is up to 15%. See also my comment above and in this article about "Vaccine-induced enhancement of viral infections":

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7131326/

      There is a long list of reasons, but it goes beyond the scope of this blog, which I feel I have already hijacked enough ...

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  6. Hi Cliff, Very nice scientific approach. So here is another possible state to watch for your hypothesis to play out. Florida has 35.9% of the population vaccinated and has roughly 2.3 million reported cases of Covid infection. Using the multiple of 3 and a total state population of 21.5 million, they are just short of 70% vaccinated + infected and should see a rapid decline in the following weeks They had 2805 new cases yesterday. I will be following to see if it works out as illustrated. Take care.

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  7. The Washington State Department of Health isn't doing such an analysis because it doesn't adhere to the narrative of the political leadership. Simple as that.

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    1. Also - I do not think they are capable of something as complicated as what Cliff Mass has done. They can't even get their case counts correct. Check this interview out: https://omny.fm/shows/the-todd-herman-show/dr-clifford-no-useful-covid-data-in-wa-doh-databas

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  8. Cliff, your 70% level seems to be verified today on Dr. John Campbell's talk on antibody levels in England. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otDLT5VK1IE Their cases and deaths are way, way down between natural immunity, vaccinations, and pretty severe lockdowns. I'm unconvinced the lockdowns were necessary, except to slow the virus down a little bit. In some sense, the virus is going to do what it's going to do until herd immunity is reached.

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    1. Thanks for posting this Thomas. Dr. Campbell has been invaluable during this pandemic. I also agree that the lockdowns did little to slow the virus. Inslee slammed the door in November and cases continued to climb for months. Impact seem minimal. It's hard to control an airborne pathogen that requires an electron microscope to see...

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  9. Case rates among children are also dropping like a stone despite their lack of vaccination. I would love some analysis on whether this is simply seasonality or if adult to child transmission is what drives case rates for kids (rather than the other way around).

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    1. Honestly, we don't know the test rate in children. If children are being tested less frequently (parents often would have children tested only when they became symptotic).

      Due to the propensity of COVID to be asymptotic in children (especially the early strains) then we could have some hidden transmission/infection occurring. On the flipside, there also might be more immunity in children than we think for this exact same reason. While the new variants are showing signs of possibly starting to get around some of the infection-based immunity but if children are still mostly asymptotic, many of the cases will go undetected.

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  10. Let's just hope that the governor reads this blog!

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  11. Washington State has gone from less than 50% of the national infection rate to 50% over. So not entirely smelling like roses. The death rate is staying relatively low, which may imply mostly young people carelessly contracting the disease.

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  12. This will go down as the bigget public health disaster in our country's history, and it was caused by a severe overreaction by our public servants. Except they've been exposed as not being servents of the public, but instead the willing quislings of Big Pharma, teacher's unions and the tech oligarchs that are intent on destroying the middle and working classes of the US.

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  13. Because big pharma gets in the way of reality. No one wants to talk about natural immunity which brings a higher level of natural antibodies.

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    1. I don't think this is the case with COVID. Data seems to show that immunity from vaccines is superior to "natural" immunity. And antibodies are antibodies - your body doesn't produce one type of antibody for vaccines and a different type for an illness.

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    2. The .gov really only has the data from vaccine distribution as their irrefutable data set. The exposed are an estimate. So, if I was a government official not wanting to stick my neck out too far, I would base the floor for herd immunity on the vax data and have the exposed be a safety margin.

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    3. "antibodies are antibodies": This is incorrect. Antibodies are very specific. mRNA vaccines induce antibodies only against the spike protein. Natural exposure induces antibodies against multiple sites of the virus and less against the spike protein. Only time will tell whether and how the mRNA vaccines will interact with new variants of SARS-CoV-2 or cross-interact with other viruses whose attachment is also mediated by spike proteins.There is something called "antibody-dependent enhancement of infection" where antibodies actually stabilize the active conformation of the attachment-mediating viral protein:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-00789-5

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    1. Full disclosure from Wikipedia: "The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a conservative non-profit association founded in 1944. The group was reported to have about 5,000 members in 2014. The association has promoted a range of scientifically discredited hypotheses, including the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS, that being gay reduces life expectancy, that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer, and that there is a causal relationship between vaccines and autism. It is opposed to the Affordable Care Act and other forms of universal health insurance."

      Make of that what you will.

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    2. The point remains that COVID-19 illness is suspected to induce T cell immunity:

      https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/t-cells-recognize-recent-sars-cov-2-variants

      "In their study of recovered COVID-19 patients, the researchers determined that SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T-cell responses remained largely intact and could recognize virtually all mutations in the variants studied."

      That's what I make out of it.

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  15. "If there are flaws, I want to know them." This is a huge reason I come to your blog, Cliff. This is what a scientist who is sincerely intellectually curious--and humbly searching for truth--asks of the world around him/her/etc. Would it be so hard for those scientists who bask in the public eye to perhaps start with, "I may be wrong, and would love to know if/how I am, but here's how I interpret the data..."? As always thanks for a great post.

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  16. Thank you for reinforcing the primary tenets of the scientific method.

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  17. Lots of sound support for your theory, sir.

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  18. Cliff, I think your analysis is reasonable, and I like that you're humble enough to state that your analysis may have flaws and it's only as good as the data you have at hand.
    I think that looking at the data from the virus has been very interesting, but I also think it will take a long time to truly understand the raw information. The question that complicates the data is did people actually follow the lock downs or other government suggestions? There was no enforcement of any of the rules. I know many people who essentially ignored the lockdown in November and gathered with families and friends during the holidays.

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  19. You let through trash posters all the time but you block legitimate comments now? Keep it classy, Cliff.

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    1. time2lose.... I will not publish comments with obscenities as in your comment. P..cm

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  20. There have been some folks suggesting that this blog post is somehow speaking against vaccinations. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I have been vaccinated and encourage everyone to do so. But it is important that society has a good idea what is happened, based on the best scientific analysis.

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  21. There's a lot of news about The Seychelles seeing a Covid outbreak despite 60% vaccination rate. There's also no commentary on the fact that the Seychelles never saw any significant infection for 14 months prior. Natural existing immunity from past infection is a huge factor.

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    1. You overlook the fact that the vast majority of their vaxxes come from China, whose vaxxes work no better than a coin flip.

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  22. Going by the science, the state should be 100% open now as opposed to a month from now. Implication being, with the option to get the vaccine or just take one's chances and be exposed, the numbers fall in place with vaccinated in conjunction with those exposed. Its fair to say that with the vaccine, the individual mandate does have merit. It means its time to be adults now.

    Now since this is the beginning of the end and the start of the "shouldawouldacoulda" phase, many will re-iterate that the individual mandate was ALL there ever needed to be and perhaps the lives saved were not worth the disruption in commerce nor the infringement on personal liberty.

    Those comments are not without substance and can be respected as a reflection of having a free society. It of my OPINION however that such reflections are a bit lacking in empathy at the very least. Disappointing but not surprising. Returning to being more objective, WITHOUT the vaccine option, the governments were warranted in their actions to safeguard the public. Mostly without the vaccine, the public can't be trusted to do what is in the general best interest. Without the vaccine there is no option to protect one's self from others expressions of "liberty". Basically, I want the option of your liberty not to take away mine. If that option doesn't exist, than I am A-Ok with the government intervening, as much as it pains.

    Anyway, its time to get on with life, however that may be. Go get your shots. If you refuse for whatever your convictions are and the end result is exposure, than its your fault. The consequences should be 100% yours. Lets be adults.

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    1. OK, and let's discuss who should be 100% responsible for the ruined lives that were lost because of the yearlong shutdowns. Family businesses that were viable for decades all up in smoke (pun intended because of the suddenly allowed widespread rioting, because...science!). Not to mention the soaring suicide rates that were reflected in people not being able to communicate in person with those that they were closest to, being held virtual prisoners in their own homes. Not to mention the government squandering trust that had been built up for many lifetimes, again - all up in smoke. Pray tell, whom pays for those consequences?

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    2. The businesses would have been shutdown either way. People don't go to restaurants if they think they are going to die. Sweden had a lot more dead, and just as bad an economy as its Nordic neighbors, despite taking a less restrictive approach.

      Our failure was not in being too restrictive, but in failing to handle this from the beginning, like the Asian countries. Severe lockdowns and contract tracing work, and they recovered relatively quickly (with far less dead, and far less taxpayer money spent taking care of the sick).

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    3. If anyone can propose a scenario where everything stayed open 100%, no mandates of any kind, and business remained as usual, feel free to share.

      I can't come up with anything where I can sleep well at night. In retrospective, I do not see how this whole scenario could have played out differently in such a way where the outcome was 100% positive. That is just me, and I am not the brightest bulb.

      Anyway, basically what is being touched upon by Eric Blair is who is going to pick winners and losers. Which is....both unfair and unrealistic.

      Eric, I own a small business and I opened it in July of 2019 and thankfully, its still open. Its been a lean couple of years and has tested every iota of my resolve. During that time, my dad passed away and a few friendships ended due to differences of opinion related to current events. I still feel like I got lucky, in spite of all that.

      Yes, it would of been a blow if if my business tanked on top of everything else, but life goes on. That is the key take away here. Life goes on and maybe we all should be happy that for so many of us...it will.

      There are no guarantees in business, just like in life. Small business especially, since you make that conscious decision to free climb, as in no ropes or safety nets, for your livelihood. You as a small business person have to build those safety nets for yourself, but ultimately that is a decision left to you and you alone.

      Still, I am not going to condemn an employee, customer, or myself to grievous illness or death, just for a buck. Its not worth it. My business could fail and I have to go back to working for Corporate America or the USG for a while. That is fine, been there done that. They will both take me back if I so choose. The point is mostly about getting to live to fight another day. Not just for myself but for everyone who deserves that chance.

      My OPINION is that Inslee did a fine job. He handled it to the best of his ability during some very dark times. I could not comprehend the difficult decisions he had to make and all the pressure. For him and all the other governors, who had to balance politics, commerce and public safety, this has been their most challenging era in modern times. Covid really was/is about the governors and the states they are entrusted with, for better or for worse. THEY were the ones who got stuck with the task of picking winners and losers.

      Hopefully Jay Inslee finishes his term, exits politics and enjoys a happy retirement.

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  23. Jo Nova has written an article on her website about the dangers of COVID variants as they might be emerging in the future:

    https://joannenova.com.au/2021/05/did-they-forget-to-tell-us-leaky-vaccines-may-trigger-an-arms-race-that-makes-covid-more-dangerous/

    She says: "What if mass vaccination with imperfect vaccines could promote the survival of nastier strains of Covid? What if the leaky vaccines act like a filter for more dangerous versions of SARS2? This doesn’t happen with most vaccines, only “leaky” ones ...... Leaky vaccines generate a half-baked immune response — one that stops illness, but allows transmission, so a vaccinated person can theoretically infect others. This is bad but not awful — as long as the virus gets eliminated in a timely fashion. But if the virus can cloak itself from the immune system, and hide in protected cells, then it can keep replicating for a long time, and eventually, randomly, it will escape the imperfect immune response. Those mutants will be resistant to the antibodies or t-cell tricks. Thus newer strains of Covid may arise that are already pre-loaded with goodies to get around our immune system."

    My view is that it may be four or five years before we know with any reasonable certainty whether or not most of the danger from the COVID pandemic has actually passed.

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    1. Yes, and your "progressives" want everyone to be required to wear masks forever, and the teachers' unions want their members to be paid union salaries not to work. Educating children is nowhere on their list of priorities.

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    2. It will be years before the world has access to vaccines, and like most diseases (e. g. polio) it may be many years before it is wiped out (if ever).

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  24. Inslee is clever, but not smart and not honest. Remember, this is the doofus who declared a "climate emergency" in WA State to create a presidential campaign slogan, followed almost immediately by heavy rain. LOL. In his first election campaign, he promised to oppose tax increases; as soon as he took office, he broke that promise, and has gone on to sign the largest tax increases in WA State history.

    Of course, the Democrats love it. As a former Seattle resident and former Democrat, I attended a bunch of precinct committee meetings there. One absolute certainty is that no Democratic Party meeting can last more than 5 minutes without a call for more taxes.

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  25. Thanks, Cliff Mass, for being a voice of reason based on plain data analysis! In this Covid world there is unfortunately so much simple fear perhaps panic driven information that voices of reason are easily overheard.

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  26. I fear the answer to your question Cliff is that the Washington State Department of Health is not staffed with first rate scientists and is currently being directed by a partisan politician who is not very bright.

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  27. I wonder how history will grade our response to the coronavirus. I'm of the opinion it won't be kind!

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  28. Jeff, how history judges our response to the coronavirus pandemic depends in large part on who writes the history, does in not?

    For one example, the central role Donald Trump played in speeding up delivery of the COVID vaccines is now being written out of the history of the pandemic and is being replaced with the narrative that very little progress was being made on the vaccine front until after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president.

    My view is that the United States is a highly diverse nation demographically, culturally, ethnically, and geographically, so that a one-fits-all panacea response to the COVID-19 pandemic was never going to be successful in this country.

    As the course of the pandemic evolved, the experts changed direction in response to how the direction of the pandemic actually moved, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, just as they are doing now.

    In any case, public opinion strongly supports a full reopening of the economy, even at the risk of suffering higher casualties than might otherwise be the case if tight lockdowns continue. The experts have no choice but to accept this decision and to do their best to support a choice the body politic has made of its own free will.

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  29. I do think you are onto something and I've had this thought but there are two factors that may be difficult to factor in which could make your results a bit overstated (but not completely). First, there are an unknown number of people who have had covid but who have chosen to get vaccinated. You might be able to get an estimate of that number and adjust the analysis. The Second, and more unknowable at the moment, is that we don't know how long people who have had Covid retain antibodies. It seems from early studies that the worse the case the more antibodies people develop and the longer they last. But I haven{t seen good studies for less serious cases yet. I think those two factors are why you don't see much discussion about this.

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    1. In the long run, you need T-cell immunity. There are already indications that exposure to the COVID-19 disease induces the production of T cells:

      https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/t-cells-recognize-recent-sars-cov-2-variants

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