JPMorgan Makes An Unexpected Discovery: Delta Variant Only "Half As Infectious As Assumed" Now that the Delta variant in the US has peaked in terms of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, media fearmongering surrounding the latest round of the covid pandemic has understandably been quietly pulled from the front pages at least until such time ...
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Now that the Delta variant in the US has peaked in terms of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, media fearmongering surrounding the latest round of the covid pandemic has understandably been quietly pulled from the front pages at least until such time the mu variant, or some other virulent strain du jour, makes a triumphant appearance and Fauci is again trotted across the mainstream media to distill a fresh round of fear and set the scene for a new round of restrictions and lockdowns, a cycle that will repeat at least until the mid-term elections which predictably will have to be conducted largely by mail.
But while we wait, we wanted to bring attention to a remarkable new analysis from JPMorgan which found that contrary to developed nations, many of which imposed draconian lockdowns, most notably Australia...
... developing nations saw a Delta wave that was "much milder" than anticipated. JPM's discussion and conclusions as to why this may have happened are striking.
Taking a step back, over two months ago in early July, JPMorgan wrote a note about EM vulnerabilities to the COVID-19 Delta variant in which it drew attention to seven countries – the Philippines, Peru, Columbia, South Africa, Ecuador, Thailand and Mexico – which at the time looked particularly vulnerable due to a combination of low prevalence of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.
Given the widely accepted assumption that the Delta variant is much more infectious than prior strains of SARS-CoV-2, and given the prevailing trends in vaccination rates, JPMorgan then estimated that the spread of the Delta variant would push up the effective reproduction numbers (Re) significantly in these countries.
JPMorgan's concern was that these seven countries would see significant gains in COVID-19 infections which would prompt further restrictive measures on mobility and mixing in some countries (EM Asia) or lead to worsening in public health and confidence in others (Latin America): "we thought that Re in the Philippines would rise from 0.92 to 1.97 as the Delta variant became fully prevalent. At an Re of 0.92 new infections are falling, while at an Re of 1.97 new infections are doubling every six to seven days."
What happened next was unexpected: JPMorgan policy research analyst David Mackie found that "the Delta wave was much milder than expected: none of these countries saw the gains in Re that we anticipated."
This brings us to the latest note from JPM titled "What happened to the COVID-19 Delta wave in vulnerable EM countries?" in which the bank tries to explain just why it was so wrong with its modeling and assumptions.
The bank starts off by showing the evolution of the reproductive numbers (Re) over the past couple of months for these seven countries. While Re did initially rise over the summer as the Delta variant spread, which led to an increase in infections, it was not by as much as expected.
While on average, Re was expected to rise by 0.58 from the end of June to the time when the Delta variant was fully prevalent (from 1.07 to 1.65), the average rise was only by 0.24 (from 1.07 to 1.31); in other words, around half of the expected gain in Re did not occur.
"How can we explain this shortfall?" JPMorgan's Mackie asks, and answers: There are five areas which could contribute to an explanation: mobility; vaccinations; acquired immunity from infection and recovery, seasonality and the infectiousness of the Delta variant.
Starting at the top, JPMorgan points out the obvious: mobility cannot explain the lower than expected Re. Mobility did decline sharply in July in the Philippines, South Africa and Thailand, but these declines were mostly reversed during August. "The short-lived nature of the decline in mobility in these countries implies only a temporary depressing effect on Re" JPM observes and adds that on average across the seven countries, higher mobility contributed 0.16 to the change in Re from the time of our original note to the moment that the Delta variant reached full prevalence.
Another possible explanation for the far more moderate-than-expected rise in Re - the preferred explanation of Anthony Fauci - is that actual infections have been much higher than reported infections, which would have introduced more immunity into the populations. This is notable because as JPMorgan then notes, in its analysis the bank takes reported infections and assume that acquired immunity from infection and recovery is the same as from full vaccination. This assumption would make the Biden admin, which sternly refuses to discuss the impact of natural immunity and is desperately trying to force jabs on everyone, quite displeased. Yet this too is hardly the full story: according to JPMorgan, with these assumptions acquired immunity from infection and recovery has pushed down Re by just 0.02, and means that aAlthough actual infections are likely above reported infections, the under-reporting would have to be very large to make the contribution to the change in Re significant in size. That is unlikely.
The most likely, and most politically problematic explanation, proposed by JPMorgan is that "the Delta variant may be less infectious than initially assumed."
As JPM explains, the impact of infectiousness comes through changes in the basic reproduction number (R0). In the bank's framework, on a forward looking basis it makes assumptions about the level of R0, but on a backward looking basis R0 is the residual given the path of Re is already known. In the bank's original, July note, it had assumed an R0 of 3.0 for the original wild strain of SARS-CoV-2, 3.9 for the Alpha variant (an increase in infectiousness of 30%) and 5.2 for the Delta variant (a further increase in infectiousness of 33%), in line with what the accepted "science" claimed was reasonable. As JPM further notes, assuming that the Alpha variant was the previously dominant strain, the spread of the Delta variant should have added 1.3 to Re as it moved from zero to full prevalence. But in the event, the implied increase in R0 over the past couple of months has been much less than expected.
Table 3 compares JPM's original expectation of the contribution of R0 to the change in Re with its latest estimate of the contribution. On average, the bank finds that "the estimate of the contribution to the change in Re of increased infectiousness of the Delta variant has been 0.56, around half of our initial estimate."
What does this mean? Simple: as Mackie explains, "it is very possible that the Delta variant is around half as infectious as initially assumed." While this - JPM exclaims optimistically - would be very positive going forward, and would limit any increase in infections in the coming months, it would be devastating for such institutions as the NIH, not to mention Biden's chief covid advisor, Fauci, whose entire argument since the start is that the delta variant was far more infectious than any of the previous covid variants; it would also once again make a mockery of "the science" which had fully supported the theory that Delta had a far greater infectiousness.
Of course by even getting this far, the JPMorgan analyst may have broken most of the most cardinal of taboos of delta variant discussion in "polite society", so we are not surprised that he did not even dare breathe the word "ivermectin" and its use in Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Ecuador, Thailand and Mexico.