The Definition of Insanity

… is, as Albert Einstein didn’t actually say*, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

*Pick a famous “quote,” chances are it’s been misattributed. Einstein is a popular choice.

Not sure why that came to mind after viewing this week’s gubernatorial Covid presser, but there you go.

It was a remarkably dissociative experience. Gov. Phil Scott and his officials laid out an array of bad news, but he insisted that there’s no need for a change in policy.

Although in fact, he did make at least one substantial shift from previous guidance. He just didn’t care to admit it.

“Wear a mask indoors in public places,” Scott said. Previously, as you may recall, his advice was that vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks unless they felt more comfortable doing so.

That’s a pretty big change, right?

And if you look back at what the administration was saying in August and September, you’ll see that just about all of it is now inoperative.

Remember that August projection that the Delta variant would wane after 4-6 weeks? Remember how that projection was later extended to 7-9 weeks, then 10-12 weeks, and finally 12-13 weeks?

There were no such projections on offer today. In fact, DFR Commissioner and Chief Covid Oracle Michael Pieciak acknowledged that current modeling indicates that for the next four weeks, cases will remain this high or go even higher. This is a big change from the last several weeks, when the modeling was all over the place — up, down, or stable.

The current levels, need I remind, are all-time highs for the entire pandemic.

How high? Well, there was a 42% increase in cases over the last seven days compared to the previous week. And it’s not because of more testing; Pieciak said testing was only up by 9%.

Other bad news: Covid hospitalizations are beginning to take their toll on the health care system, which could become overburdened in coming weeks. Scott said his administration has prepared contingency plans to handle excess ICU demand, but he refused to provide any details. When asked if the situation called for a mask mandate, Scott said “It’s not necessary and I don’t think we’ll get to that point.”

He offered no evidence to back his “think.”

Oh, and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine rolled out a scary concept called “health debt.” The pandemic has resulted, he said, in behavior changes that will affect our long-term health. Great.

In another sign of a system under stress, Scott and Human Services Secretary Mike Smith issued a public call for volunteers for the Medical Reserve Corps, which has played a crucial role in staffing vaccination clinics. They’ve never felt the need to make such a call before.

Scott continued to indulge his hobby of punching straw men — and denying that he has any authority at all. His response to the idea of a mask mandate produced the same stale argument. “You can put all of the restrictions into place, and if they’re not adhered to, then it’s all for naught,” he said. “We can’t be in a perpetual state of emergency. It would be an abuse of power.”

Just stop. Nobody’s asking for a draconian crackdown. A lot of people, including many experts and (remember that infamous letter?) dozens and dozens of Health Department staffers, believe that a mask mandate would be effective. To think that nobody would obey a mandate accompanied by a strong public message is ludicrous. If the governor feels that powerless, maybe he should stop trying. Go back to Thunder Road, and let us have a leader willing to lead.

You know what’d be nice? You know what’d be a sign of true leadership? If the governor could step up and admit, loudly and publicly, that he has been wrong from the get-go about the Delta variant.

He still doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s still depending entirely on the voluntary cooperation that’s only gotten us so far and has failed to stop the Delta variant. We’re heading into the winter months and the holiday season. We’ll have more and more indoor gatherings and the virus will have plenty of opportunities to spread.

Vermont’s high vaccination rate isn’t saving us. Nothing the Scott administration has done has slowed the spread. Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths remain at high levels. Our test positivity rate is at its highest level since early July. In my experience, public masking is becoming less and less common.

Definition of insanity.


3 thoughts on “The Definition of Insanity

  1. H. Jay Eshelman

    Re: “Vermont’s high vaccination rate isn’t saving us. Nothing the Scott administration has done has slowed the spread. Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths remain at high levels. Our test positivity rate is at its highest level since early July. In my experience, public masking is becoming less and less common.”

    Not only that:

    This recent breakthrough case report by the Vermont Department of Health is an excellent example of misleading statistical bias.

    Specifically, with regard to the ‘Unvaccinated’ Death rate (per 100k), what 100k cohort does the report use? … is it ‘per 100k’ of the total population? No.

    A little reverse-engineering of the arithmetic clearly shows that the published Unvaccinated cohort doesn’t include approximately 100,000 Unvaccinated Vermonters.

    If the report data is correct (a big if) the proportional math using the published total deaths for the month of October (21 Vaccinated and 16 Unvaccinated) shows us that this report estimates there are approximately 391,000+- Vaccinated Vermonters and approximately 142,602+- Unvaccinated. This adds up to about 534,000 total Vermonters included in the report’s combined cohorts – apparently only those Vermonters who are ‘eligible’ for vaccines.

    But that’s 100,000 people short of including Vermont’s total population of 634,000 people. In other words – it is most of the children under 18 years of age who aren’t ‘eligible’ for the vaccines who aren’t included, because they are not vaccinated. At least not yet.

    If you add all of the Unvaccinated Vermonters, including the ineligible children, together as the basis for determining the odds of death in the Unvaccinated cohort, the odds of death, as reported, 2.3 times and 2.4 times higher (respectively), for the Unvaccinated, is more accurately half of that listed in the report. The odds should be stated (respectively) as 1.38 times and 1.11 times higher.

    The infection rate and hospitalization rates are likely then similarly skewed.

    No wonder the State is so anxious to have the children vaccinated. Because when they are, and because the children are so much less likely to be infected, or hospitalized, or die from the virus, than those 18 years of age and older, adding the children to the ‘Vaccinated’ cohort will increase the reported odds that the Unvaccinated will suffer more.

    At least that is what these vaccine inclined folks hope.

    Think about it. In October, while 16 Covid deaths were Unvaccinated people, there were 21 deaths of the Vaccinated cohort. We can clearly see that vaccinated people can be infected and reinfected. Vaccinated people are just as likely to be infected and pass the virus to others. And as the Dept. of Health recently pointed out – VT now has less natural immunity protection due to high vax rate… than it might otherwise have.

    In other words, vaccinating the children, who have a high occurrence of natural immunity as it is, may very well increase their risk. But if they’re all vaccinated, we’ll never know – because there won’t be a ‘control’ group with which to compare.

    Please, do the math yourselves. Don’t just take my word for it. Caveat emptor.


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