Passing Time In A Coronavirus Pandemic – Minecraft Is Back

Seriously, Id have graduated a year sooner if I hadn’t been building this Minecraft city.  That was back in 2012 and several others helped in creating the avenues, channels, subways, skyscrapers, government buildings, hospitals, houses, forts and more.

Finding Coronavirus Boring?

If you are bored from the Coronavirus news and staying home has you searching for an avenue to get out and maybe meet others then this might be for you. 

We’ve brought this classic Minecraft server map back and are hosting it free with anyone welcome to check out and play on. 

Minecraft Map Features

The map includes a to scale Titanic in the harbor, the Sears Tower soars over the Great Pyramid of Giza along side a giant Statue of Liberty size statue of a Minecraft citizen.  The Empire State Building can be climbed to the top and the skyline reviewed from the many tall buildings you may recognize from the Chicago skyline or another city.

Walk freely among the villagers and add too or found a village of your own in the distant lands. 

Transportation used to include a network of many train lines and subways that now lie dormant but serve as landmarks for finding your way back to town if needed.

Minecraft not included but with the game anyone can connect at and avoid the Coronavirus boredom.

Social distance but virtually a whole world awaits your exploration.

Infectious Disease Experts Don’t Know How Bad The Coronavirus Is Going To Get, Either

One of the most pernicious parts of the COVID-19 crisis is how uncertain everything is. Researchers and officials cite statistical models that estimate infection rates, death counts and when things will go back to normal, but those estimates are changing rapidly. And as the forecasts bounce around, so do the rest of us living through the crisis. How can one feel settled when the future feels so volatile?

Still, there’s a way to at least get a sense for what the experts are thinking. For the past five weeks, infectious disease researchers from institutions around the United States have been taking a survey that gathers their thoughts on the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus. The researchers come from academia, government and industry and are experts in modeling the spread of viruses like this one. The survey asks about things like how many people will eventually get COVID-19 and how many Americans will die.

The top-line numbers are sobering. The most recent survey, taken on March 16 and 17, found that, as a group, the experts think that as of March 15, only 12 percent of infections in the U.S. had been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They think there’s a 73 percent chance of a second wave of hospitalizations this fall. And they expect approximately 200,000 deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year.

But averages can only tell you so much. When forecasting the future, it also matters what a person (or model) thinks the range of possibilities could be — how uncertain the forecast is, in other words. In this survey, the experts gave three answers to most questions, representing the most likely future scenario and the best-case and worst-case scenarios.

Collecting responses in this form captures both the best-guess estimate from each respondent and the uncertainty surrounding it. It also lets the people in charge of the survey — Thomas McAndrew and Nicholas Reich, both biostatisticians at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst — convert the responses to a probabilistic consensus forecast,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/infectious-disease-experts-dont-know-how-bad-the-coronavirus-is-going-to-get-either/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="

For the stats-savvy among us: Each response triplet is converted to a triangular distribution, and the consensus forecast is an equally weighted average of these triangular distributions.

“>1 something that can answer questions like, “According to these researchers, what is the probability that we will have 50,000 reported cases by March 29?”

Expert consensus forecasts give you what a model does — a forecast that gives a measure of its uncertainty — without being overly reliant on just one way of thinking about a problem. In this instance, each expert has their own assumptions about how likely the virus is to spread or to be fatal, as well as assumptions about the ways humans might try to mitigate its damage.

Here’s what the researchers collectively had to say in the March 16-17 survey.

How many total COVID-19 cases in the U.S. will the CDC report on March 29?

At the time the survey was in the field, about 3,500 cases had been reported. But the experts estimated that by Sunday, March 29 — a little under two weeks after they took the survey — the country would have seen anywhere from 10,000 to 75,000 cases. (The current count is 15,219.) The experts’ confidence in those estimates, however, varied greatly:

Andrew Lover, an epidemiologist from the University of Massachusetts who took the survey, said his estimates were “semi-quantitative” and based on the virus’s progression in other countries. “The doubling times have been 5-8 days most places, so it’s a matter of applying that with some sliding-scale adjustments (testing rates, population density, etc.) based on the ‘feel’ of the epidemic curves.”

The consensus forecast generated by the individual responses indicates that we should expect roughly 19,000 reported cases by March 29, with an 80 percent chance of seeing between 10,500 and 81,500 cases.

What percentage of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. had been reported as of March 15?

Experts estimated that, on March 15, when the CDC had publicly identified about 3,500 cases, only between 5 percent and 40 percent of actual COVID-19 cases had been reported. But experts’ confidence in those numbers was shaky.

The consensus model indicates that only 12 percent of cases had been reported at that time. In other words, the researchers think there were actually about 29,000 infections in the U.S. as of March 15, more than eight times the known tally.

How likely is it that there will be a second wave of hospitalizations later this year?

Just as flu season can have two peaks, the surveyed experts think there’s a good chance there will be a second wave of coronavirus-related hospitalizations sometime between August and December. Individual estimates for the likelihood of that second round of cases ranged from 40 percent to 96 percent, with an expert consensus of a 73 percent chance.

How many people will die in the U.S. due to COVID-19 this year?

Experts’ estimates of the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in 2020 ranged from 4,000 all the way to 1 million, a huge range that highlights how much we still don’t know about this disease.

The expert consensus is to expect about 200,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 this year, but the uncertainty around that number is also huge: There’s an 80 percent chance the final number will be between 19,000 and 1.2 million, according to these estimates.

The researchers plan to continue conducting these weekly surveys. As some elements of the pandemic become clearer — such as the virus’s incubation period and fatality rate, and how far the U.S. is willing to go to slow the spread of the virus — these ranges will presumably narrow.

But for now, there’s a lot the experts still aren’t certain of. Just like the rest of us.

Politics Podcast: How COVID-19 Affected Tuesday’s Vote

Three states held primary elections Tuesday night amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while Ohio postponed its contest. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Nathaniel Rakich and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux discuss how concern about the virus affected the vote in Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Primary Polling Places Are Full Of Older People … And The Coronavirus

On Friday, an exhausted-looking election official in Arizona was speaking at a press conference about the state’s upcoming primary when he gave up, mid-speech. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this,” said Maricopa County election day director Scott Jarrett, before he left the platform, and the room. It had been a difficult week. Arizona election officials were organizing a vote while also figuring out how to protect voters from the novel coronavirus. State officials fought in court over the legality of mail-in ballots, and 78 polling places — many of them schools and nursing homes — pulled out of participating in Tuesday’s primary.

So how ‘bout this election in the middle of a pandemic? The novel coronavirus is capable of spreading through human contact and objects we’ve touched. It hits older people harder. Public health experts are advising that everyone cancel large gatherings to prevent its spread. Which leaves something like a primary election, where an overwhelmingly older electorate files through lines, touches shared pens, and coughs on each other, in an awkward spot.

Yet 26 states still need to vote. Arizona isn’t the only state struggling to figure out what to do. Wyoming will no longer have an in-person caucus — it’s now vote by mail only. Louisiana and Georgia have postponed their primaries.

And there’s good reason for those states to change plans. Primary elections really are a setting at which coronavirus could spread, said Sam Scarpino, a professor of environmental sciences at Northeastern University. He studies infectious diseases, models their spread and does outbreak surveillance. If a state isn’t postponing the primary, it should be taking the risks seriously and making plans to reduce transmission — regularly cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment like voting machines throughout the day, and creating more physical distance between voters.

The CDC made similar recommendations — adding that the first line of defense should be encouraging ways to vote while being socially distant, such as vote-by-mail, early voting, voting during off-peak hours and drive-up voting. “The best solution to protect voters – especially older voters – is in fact mail-in voting,” Maimuna Majumder, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School’s Computational Health Informatics Program, wrote to me in an email. Just don’t lick the envelope, she added.

But it’s not going to be easy to reduce crowding and increase cleaning when the number of polling places is shrinking and disinfecting supplies are scarce. About 130 polling places in Ohio have dropped out because they were also the homes of vulnerable populations, according to Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. As of Friday, replacements were being arranged and voters contacted about the changes, but it’s likely a lot of Ohioans will show up Tuesday to find a notice telling them they need to go to a different location. In Arizona, Maricopa County is dealing with the problem by establishing 111 new Vote Anywhere centers beyond the 40 it originally had, where county residents can vote regardless of the location of their house.

The other big problem: poll workers. There’s already a routine shortage of volunteers at polling places, according to data from the federal Election Assistance Commission. During the 2016 elections, for instance, nearly 65 percent of jurisdictions reported difficulty arranging for a sufficient number of poll workers.

What’s more, the poll workers themselves are overwhelmingly part of the population most at risk for coronavirus complications. That same EAC survey collected age data on 53 percent of the poll workers who volunteered in 2016. Of that number, 32 percent were from 61 to 70 years old and another 24 percent were 71 or older. Numbers from China suggest that the risk of dying from coronavirus looks like a hockey stick — small for people under the age of 60, but shooting up fast after that. The death rate was 3.6 percent for people 60 to 69 years old, 8 percent for those in their 70s and 14.8 percent for people 80 and older. Death rates in Italy have followed a similar pattern.

So, what to do? Volunteers should be given gloves, Scarpino told me. They should stay home if they have any symptoms of sickness at all. And with all the contact they’re likely to have with hundreds of people — some of whom have to be assumed to be sick — he thought poll workers fell into a category in which it would be a good idea for them to wear a mask. (In the U.S., public health officials have recommended that only sick people, or healthy people caring for the sick, wear masks — largely to ensure there are enough masks available for healthcare workers.)

But one big thing individuals can do to make primaries safer right now is change the age demographics of who works them. “If you’re in your 20s or 30s, maybe you go volunteer at polling locations and let the retirees stay home,” Scarpino said.

Confidence Interval: The First Female President Will Be A Republican

Confidence Interval is a series where we make a persuasive argument for a political take, and then reveal just how confident we really are. In this episode, copy editor Maya Sweedler makes the case that the first female president will be a Republican, and not a Democrat.

To hear from women who have run for office in all 50 states, explore When Women Run.