More on Covid models

The early Covid-19 models that tried to predict possible death toll from Covid-19 in various countries received a lot of attention because numbers were large and alarming, but the worst case scenarios were based on limited data and nothing being done to stop the virus from spreading.

But a lot has been done to try to limit the death toll, and models have been continually refined, but there are still have quite wide variations due to not being sure how quickly or drastically restrictions will be lifted, and other unknowns.

Modelling is not very important in New Zealand now because we have very few new cases per day and deaths per day have been 0 for a few days and were never more than 4 a day. We still have quite tight restrictions with only gradual easing indicated, so we should be able to keep Covid deaths to not much more than they are now, at least for the next month or two.

Modelling is a bigger deal elsewhere as while the death toll in many countries may have flattened it is still quite high. For a couple of weeks now deaths have averaged around a couple of thousand a day in the US. The situation there is quite complex with different infection rates and different restrictions across various states, and some states are starting to lift restrictions.

FiveThirtyEight takes an interesting look at models, showing wide ranges in single models and differences between models looking ahead only for the next month (May).

Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed — And Why They Disagree

Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the devastation to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground.

FiveThirtyEight — with the help of the Reich Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — has assembled six models published by infectious disease researchers to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll.

Forecasts like these are useful because they help us understand the most likely outcomes as well as best- and worst-case possibilities — and they can help policymakers make decisions that can lead us closer to those best-case outcomes.

And looking at multiple models is better than looking at just one because it’s difficult to know which model will match reality the closest. Even when models disagree, understanding why they are different can give us valuable insight.

The article goes on to explain each of the six models and also looks at state by state breakdowns.

What this shows us is how imprecise models are.

But the US models suggest that models from a month or so ago predicting 100-200k or so deaths may have been reasonably on track, From now a lot still depends on the success or otherwise of containing the spreading of the virus, the success in particular in keeping it out of aged care and rest homes, and the time taken to find effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine.

The current official death toll in the US is about 65,000 and if the death rate continues as at present that will reach 130-140k by the end of May. Even if on average the death rate halves it will still be over 100k by then.

Clinton surge, voting under way

Hillary Clinton has surged in polls since last week’s debate, but it’s probably more a sign of Donald Trump tanking than Clinton suddenly being seen as wonderful.

And while election day is still a month away, November 8, absentee voting has already begun in one state at least.

Five Thirty Eight now rates Clinton a 75.5% chance of winning to Trump’s 24.5%.


It’s not over for Trump, the trends have turned dramatically a few times, but it’s looking downhill for Trump since a poor debate and a worse week following that.

Also from FiveThirtyEight: North Carolina Is Becoming A Problem For Trump

Hillary Clinton continues to gain ground in our presidential forecast, as it becomes clearer that last week’s debate was a turning point in the race. In fact, the polls we added to our database on Tuesday may have been Donald Trump’s worst since the debate. They included surveys showing Clinton leading Trump by 9 percentage points and 10 points in Pennsylvania, by 6 points and 2 points in North Carolina, and by 3 points in Nevada.

One particular area of concern for Trump is North Carolina, where the polls we added on Tuesday were the fourth and fifth since the debate to show Clinton ahead there. They also had favorable trend lines for Clinton, withSurveyUSA showing her with a 2-point lead rather than a 4-point deficit in their early August poll, and Elon University showing her up by 6, instead of down by 1 point in their mid-September poll.

North Carolina is not a state where you want to be trailing in the polls in October, hoping for a late comeback. That’s because it typically has high rates of early and absentee voting. In 2012, for example, about 60 percent of ballots in North Carolina were cast before Election Day. Absentee voting is already underway there, while in-person early voting begins on Oct. 20.

So absentee voting has already begun in North Carolina, and over half of the votes there in 2012 were cast before election day.

And  Trump’s Doing Worse Than Romney Did Among White Voters

Donald Trump’s strategy in this campaign has been fairly clear from the beginning: Drive up Republican support among white voters in order to compensate for the GOP’s shrinking share among the growing nonwhite portion of the electorate. And Trump has succeeded in overperforming among a certain slice of white voters, those without a college degree. But overall, the strategy isn’t working. Trump has a smaller lead among white voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012, and Trump’s margin seems to be falling from where it was when the general election began.

Four years ago, Romney beat President Obama among white voters by 17 percentage points, according to pre-election polls. That was the largest winning margin among white voters for any losing presidential candidate since at least 1948. Of course, even if Trump did just as well as Romney did, it would help him less, given that the 2016 electorate will probably be more diverse that 2012’s. And to win — even if the electorate remained as white as it was four years ago — Trump would need a margin of 22 percentage points or more among white voters.

But Trump isn’t even doing as well as Romney. Trump is winning white voters by just 13 percentage points, according to an average of the last five live-interviewer national surveys. He doesn’t reach the magic 22 percentage point margin in a single one of these polls.

So WikiLeaks or other dramatic outside factors aside it looks like Clinton is in a strong and strengthening position, and Trump has to try and turn things around. Instead he seems to keep doubling down on being outrageous. Sometimes it looks as if he is trying to deliberately lose support.

Being an anti-candidate worked for Trump earlier in the marathon presidential contest, but it seems to be working against him now.

The vice-presidential debate between Mike Spence and Tim Kaine seems to have been ruled in favour of Trump’s running mate but whether that will make any difference is debatable.

Washington Examiner: Pence Deflects Kaine Attacks, Gives Republicans a Boost

Even allowing for spin, Republican and Democratic insiders gathered here at Longwood University drew vastly different takeaways from the vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine.

Republicans said: Can you believe what a jerk Kaine was? He wouldn’t let Pence say three words before interrupting him. Surely the audience hated that.

Democrats said: Who cares whether anyone likes Tim Kaine? His job was to plant Donald Trump’s greatest hits in the public brain: Miss Universe. Tax returns. Mexican rapists. PTSD. And that’s what he did.

A few hundred miles away in Ohio, members of a focus group convened by the GOP strategist Frank Luntz did not like what they saw of Kaine. “Mike Pence is winning because Tim Kaine cannot debate like an adult without interruptions,” Luntz tweeted early in the debate. By the end, the 26-member group voted 22-to-4 that Pence won.

That looks decisive in favour of Pence, but this was a minor strategic skirmish in the presidential war of attrition.

US presidential poll swing

  1. It is still a month and a half until the US presidential elections.
  2. Hillary Clinton has had a bad week with a lot of focus on her health issues.
  3. Polls and predictions are closing up.

With more polls, effect of Clinton’s bad news cycles this weekend becoming easier to spot.


– FiveThirtyEight Who will win the presidency?

Latest election polls at real Clear Politics shows how much things have changed in Trump’s favour – for now.

Super Tuesday in the US

It’s still yesterday in the US, and one of the most important days in the presidential primaries.

In the United States, Super Tuesday, in general, refers informally to one or more Tuesdays early in a United States presidential primary season when the greatest number of states hold primary elections.  In 2016, Super Tuesday is on March 1.

More delegates to United States presidential nominating conventions can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar. Candidates seeking the presidency traditionally must do well on this day to secure their party’s nomination.

Since Super Tuesday primaries are typically held in a large number of states from geographically and socially diverse regions of the country, Super Tuesday typically represents a presidential candidate’s first test of national electability. Convincing wins in Super Tuesday primaries have usually propelled candidates to their party’s nomination.

New Zealand Time the results will come in this afternoon and this evening.

According to FiveThirtyEight predictions Clinton is likely to strengthen her position substantially over Bernie Sanders.

Super Guide to Super Tuesday – Democrats

Polling average:

  • Clinton 69.5%
  • Sanders 24.5%

Donald Trump is leading in 10 of eleven states so could also get a strong grip on the Republican primary.

Super Guide to Super Tuesday – Republicans

Polling Average:

  • Trump 39.4%
  • Rubio 19.6%
  • Cruz 15.1%
  • Carson 9.9%
  • Kasich 5.5%

The real crunch will be when it’s down to Trump versus the survivor of the rest.

Cruz looks too fundie right to appeal to a lot of people.

Rubio has resorted to cringe campaigning to try and out-trump Trump, which could  backfire on him.

Both Cruz and Rubio are reported to have raised over $300 million for their campaigns. That’s nuts. Just imagine how many flags you could change with that sort of money.