COVID-19 at the Peak

Based on data through April 8, it would appear that we are at a peak (“inflection point” — see original post) of new COVID-19 cases, as reported by the states and compiled by the New York Times. The data are available at

This is about what I predicted for the nation back on March 30. I had also predicted New York to peak around April 3 or 4, but New York persists on more-or-less a plateau.

(Actually, the peak number of new cases nationwide, as well as in NY and US ex-NY, all happened on April 4, last Saturday. I’m relying on the 7-day moving average, as opposed to daily data, to call the inflection point as it takes any day-of-the-week influence out of the data.)

The highest day for deaths across the board was April 7, two days ago. That is good news, although the moving average for deaths persists above the inflection point. If this curve trends down, that will be very good news. On the current trend, the inflection point is still a few days away (about April 15 — See below.)

Mortality Apr 8

Growth Rate plot of 7-day moving average trends. The projection crosses 1.0 on or about 4/15.

Overall, the number of cases is tracking below my estimates. I’ll stand by my estimate of 800K to 1 million diagnosed infections, although I’ll revise the range of deaths slightly downward to 45- to 55K. If the trends continue improving, those numbers will be revised downward. (The last IHME numbers I saw were updated April 4, and had been revised down to 60,400 deaths, with a range from 32K to 137K. So we’re converging.)

LogLogNew CasesTotal US

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COVID-19: Updated Curves & Forecast (April 6)


New Cases continue to track below my estimate. I discount the significance of the recent dip in the curves; I think the 7-day moving average curves applied in the Growth Rate curves are more significant.


2020-04-06_14-03-402020-04-06_14-04-522020-04-06_14-04-26Curves are generally tracking below my original estimates but may peak April 8 or 9. Click to enlarge.

A look at Italy has caused me to adjust my projection of both ultimate cases and deaths. According to Italy curves ( – see below), the peak in deaths lagged the peak in “new cases” by about six days. The current ratio of reported deaths to cumulative cases of six days ago is roughly 5.9%.

If the “new cases” curve is symmetrical, half the total cases would occur after the peak. The curve for Italy is skewed to the right, however, suggesting that the majority of cases occur after the peak.

Using the above logic, and my estimate that Total U.S. Cases will peak at 400K cumulative, by estimate of ultimate cases is in the range 800K to 1 million.

Applying the 5.9% to remaining cases suggest ultimate mortality of 48K to 60K.

The IHME estimate of deaths has been updated as of April 4. Estimated deaths 81.8K with a range of confidence from 50K to 137K.

State data courtesy New York Times at


Italy “New Cases” (above) and Italy “Deaths from It appears that New Cases peaked on March 21, while Deaths peaked March 27. Note that neither curve appears particularly symmetrical about the peak.


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COVID-19: Updated Plots (April 4)

All data is courtesy New York Times via (Link is free, but requires registration.)

Original post here.


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COVID-19 and the Numbers (UPDATED)

[On April 2, I posted my assessment of the U.S. Total Cases and Mortality data associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, I estimated 855,000 positive tests as reported by the states, and total related deaths of 24,000. The projection of cases was based on data through March 30.

As of today, April 3 (data through 4/2), the forecasts of “new cases” are looking good. New York is trending significantly under my forecast, while “U.S. excluding New York” is tracking pretty well on trend. 

I fear that I underestimated mortality as a percent of Total Cases. The next few days will tell.

For now I am sticking with my previous estimates, acknowledging that Cases may run on the low side (~760K) and deaths perhaps 10% above my prior estimate. I still think Total New Cases will peak midweek (around April 8). 

The graphs below show data updated through April 2, along with my original forecasts. Thank you for reading. SM]

If you’re like me, the press conferences and the resulting press coverage leave a lot of confusion about what to expect as the pandemic plays out. Stories and headlines like this one seem to miss the point completely:

White House projects 100K to 240K coronavirus deaths as Trump tells US to prepare for ‘very painful two weeks’

I saw that press conference too, and that wasn’t my conclusion. The “100 K to 240 K” model seemed like more of a cartoon that has not changed for weeks. Dr. Deborah Birx used a graph from this model that leads to a different projection: 84,000 deaths, with a confidence interval from 38,000 to 155,000 deaths. [Note: The study’s projections have been revised upward about 10% since yesterday.]

So what should we expect? When is this thing going to peak? When will things start to get back to normal?

I decided to look at the numbers myself, and I feel marginally better. See Page 2… Continue reading

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Sean Hannity is Dead Wrong About Hunter Biden

Sean Hannity is off base in his criticism of Burisma and its appointment of Hunter Biden to its board.

Hannity hammers away at the younger Biden’s lack of oil and gas experience. Fact is, that’s kind of the point of outside directors. Industry insiders can be subject to groupthink. Outside directors can bring perspective and expertise in general business. I would guess that most, if not all, American oil and gas corporations, both large and small, have lawyers, investment bankers, and general business professionals with no oil and gas experience on their boards.


Hunter Biden was a cokehead. That’s what makes his seat on Burisma’s board so objectionable. Hunter brought nothing to the picnic other than his name and his connection to his (then) powerful dad. Most legitimate companies would avoid anyone with Hunter’s checkered c.v.

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The Strange-But-True Story of Dr. Hubbert and Peak Oil (video)

I was invited to address the New Orleans Chapter of the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists (SIPES) on January 21, 2020.

The title of my talk was “The Man Who Would Be King: The Strange-But-True Story of Dr. Hubbert and Peak Oil.” I’d given this talk a few years ago at an industry luncheon in Lafayette, but with newly-updated data and a few new graphs, the story has come into sharper focus.

The audience on this occasion was mostly earth science professionals. In spite of moderate technical content, it should appeal to a broader audience as a tale of a forgotten slice of American history, radical politics, and the philosophy of growth and resource development.

A video of the presentation available at this link.

Sorry, I’m unable to embed the video. If you go to the website, scroll down until you find me.

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What Mitt Romney Tells Us About Impeachment and the Democrats

You’d think that if there were ever a Republican the Dems could work with it would be Mitt. Mitt is not a man of conviction.

But, if you recall, Mitt was destroyed by the Democrats in 2012. Because he rode around with a dog on his car 20 years ago. Because he had “binders full of women”.

This is not about Romney. Just as the impeachment is not so much about Trump.

Sure, Trump can be a lout, but any Republican candidate who denied Hillary Clinton her rightful victory in 2016 would have received this same treatment: spying, dirt-digging, vilification, and ultimately impeachment.

Presidents have a four-year term for one reason: Even the worst President can only do a limited amount of damage in four years, especially a Washington outsider.

This impeachment is nakedly political and unserious. It is a stunt to weaken certain GOP senators, weaken Trump as a candidate, and set the stage for another round if Trump should win again in 2020.

Which is really crazy to be talking about.

In a sane world, a party as big as the Democrats should have no trouble fielding a centrist candidate who could beat Trump 60-40.

As we have seen, that candidate doesn’t exist.

So the only strategy they have left is to sh*t in the well.

Mitt, it doesn’t matter that you voted against the President. All that matters is the R behind your name, even if lower case. You’re never going to be invited to lunch with the cool kids.

This impeachment process has done violence to American politics. I pray it is not permanent.

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A Modest Proposal to Raise $1 Trillion

  1. Pass a law to require 320,000,000 Americans to purchase a banana and duct tape it to a wall.
    The market value of each has been established: $120,000. Some will be more, some less; $120K is a representative average of the duct-taped bananas that have cleared the market recently.
  2. Pass Elizabeth Warren’s tax on assets.
    3% would seem to be a fair rate. You just created something worth $120K from a banana and duct tape. What are you, greedy?
  3. Do the math. 
    OK, compliance won’t be 100%; we’ll assume 300 million duct-taped bananas. For some reason, not everyone wants a $120K banana duct taped to their wall. 300 millon x $3,600 each = $1.08 Trillion! Even if collecting the tax costs $80 billion, we still have a cool $1 Trillion  for the U.S. Treasury.
  4. And that’s not even counting the economic impact of the sale of 300 million bananas.

You’re welcome.


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Don’t offer ‘thoughts and prayers’, for God’s sake!

I’m on the mailing list of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the nation’s premier peer-reviewed scientific journals, on account of a letter to the editor I wrote five years ago. (That’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Today’s inbox contained a link to this recently published paper (emphasis mine):

The value of thoughts and prayers


A standard response of both policy makers and private citizens to hardships—from natural disasters to mass shootings—is to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Critics argue that such gestures are meaningless and may obstruct structural reforms intended to mitigate catastrophes. In this study, we elicit the value of receiving thoughts and prayers from strangers following adversity. We find that Christians value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers and priests, while atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse”—willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers. Furthermore, while indifferent to receiving thoughts from other secular people, they negatively value thoughts from Christians.

“Willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers”, eh? If so, how much?

Fig. 1 suggests that, on average, Christians value prayers from a priest at $7.17 (SE = 1.09) and prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36 (SE = 1.01). These values are significantly different from zero (z = 6.56, P < 0.001 for prayers from a priest, and z = 4.30, P < 0.001 for prayers from a stranger). In contrast, the nonreligious are “prayer averse”: on average, they are willing to pay $3.54 (SE = 0.81) for a Christian stranger not to pray for them (z = −4.34, P < 0.001). Likewise, they are willing to pay a priest $1.66 (SE = 0.75) not to pray for them (z = −2.22, P = 0.027).

I must say, that’s quite a statistically robust analysis!

Keep watching this site for a PayPal link. Not only am I willing not to pray for just about any atheist you can name, I would be willing to offer group discounts not to pray for large groups of atheists.

Not-to-Pray Price list

  • Individual atheist: $3.00.
  • Family of atheists (up to 6): $10.00.
  • D-list celebrity: $25.00.
  • A-list celebrity: $100.00.
  • Small liberal arts college: $1,000.
  • National university (Div I): $10,000.
  • Hollywood: $100,000.
  • Other fees upon request.

My goal is to become the Jeff Bezos of not praying for people.

Of course, as a Christian, it is my obligation to love my neighbor as myself. One could say that it is a Christian imperative to pray for all sinners, both religious and nonreligious, anyway.

But if I’m found out, what are they going to do, sue me? As the old saying goes, No harm, no foul!”

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“You will do as you are told/Until the rights to you are sold.”

Frank Zappa said it about TV in “I’m the Slime” (1973), but he’d extend it to social media, I’m sure.

First, a disclaimer: I am neither a lawyer nor a computer programmer.

But you know that 27-page Terms of Use Agreement that you signed when you signed up for Tweetstorm and Face-a-Gram? Like most people, you signed “I Agree” without reading it.

That agreement was written by a team of 100 corporate lawyers who were carefully selected for their lack of souls. I took the time away from my busy schedule to read the 6-point agate of the agreement, which I summarize below in laymen’s terms:


What that means is that any content you post on their service belongs to them, and they can do with it as they please.

It also means that the platform can censor what you write. It can filter what you see. It can exercise its own political beliefs in choosing candidates and policy narratives to promote.

It owes you nothing. Period.

That’s the price of posting your vacation selfies in front of The Bean, and seeing your friends’ cat videos.

But there’s good news: You can assert your rights by revising that agreement, asserting Title 27 of U.S. Code Subchapter 3B, and cutting and pasting this language into your timeline.

Not only that, by cutting and pasting this language into your timeline you can reprogram Face-a-Gram’s algorithm to show you posts from dozens of your followers, instead of the mere half-dozen or so that you’re used to seeing.

Got that?


Seriously, that Terms of Use Agreement is written in dense legalese for a reason. You agreed to whatever you agreed to with the platform for whatever reasons you whose to do so. Of course such an agreement cannot be unilaterally altered by one of the parties, especially when the other party to the agreement has all the hand.

Not only that, the notion that you can somehow alter the software that runs the platform by cutting and pasting boilerplate text into a text box is just absurd. If there’s one job description that outnumbers lawyers at these companies it’s programmers.

They employ legions of programmers and data scientists. Really good ones. No, the text box on a web page is not a “back door” where a typical user can take over the whole data engine that makes the website run.

Bottom line, an individual user on a social media site is a grain of sand. The site is the beach. It doesn’t give a crap about your rights, your individuality, or your liberty. The site will connect your electrons with images of your friends’ electrons as long as you contribute to their numbers. They will drop you like a bad habit when it suits them.

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