2395: Covid Precaution Level

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Covid Precaution Level
It's frustrating to calibrate your precautions when there's only one kind of really definitive feedback you can get, you can only get it once, and when you do it's too late.
Title text: It's frustrating to calibrate your precautions when there's only one kind of really definitive feedback you can get, you can only get it once, and when you do it's too late.


This comic is another in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comic seems to represent the problem that precautions that are insufficient feel excessive to many people and vice versa, thus there is such a large overlap between the 2 sections. Even a moderately sensible individual will likely consider some blanket precautions restrictive because they don't allow a nuance of behavior they think they should be able to embrace safely; meanwhile they'll find some of the actual official exceptions, that probably do not apply to them, to be taken reckless advantage of by others. Additionally, neither range mentions whether the precautions are actually effective, which also can have a level of subjectivity.

Randall points out that part of the challenge with finding the 'right setting' is that you can only know for sure that your precautions were insufficient if and when you catch COVID and either get tested or develop symptoms, by which point it is too late to change your precautions (although your case could at least inform others). However, some people do not take precautions seriously even though they believe in COVID because they view it as a mild disease, like the common cold or influenza, that won't kill them, and there have been people who contracted COVID-19 multiple times, so perhaps Randall was referring to dying from COVID-19 instead.


COVID Precaution Level
[Shown is a control knob for adjusting the stringency of precautions taken against COVID-19 (the knob has a black line indicating exactly where it is pointing), with fewer precautions to the left, more to the right. Most of the lower two thirds of the range is labelled "precautions that feel insufficient"; most of the upper two thirds is labelled "precautions that feel excessive". There is an overlap between the two, covering about 1/4 of the range. The control is set to somewhat above the top of the "insufficient" subrange.]

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The problem is precautions that ARE insufficient feel excessive to many people and precautions that are excessive FEEL insufficient to many others - and science seems to be unable to provide definitive answers to replace "feelings" with logic 23:59, 7 December 2020 (UTC)

To paraphrase Rumsfeld: "You fight a pandemic with the knowledge you have, not the knowledge you want". You place far too high a burden on science. Science, logic and expertise are by far the most useful things we have, but the answers they give are going to be phrased as "probably", "perhaps", "more likely than not", and "we don't know". And the answers are going to change as we learn things. Expecting immediate, definitive answers has killed many people. 19:58, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

To save the person(s) effort who will ultimately write this into the explanation/transcript in a legible manner: There are 13 subdivisions in Insufficient, 14 subdivisions in Excessive, roughly (close enough to look deliberate, but sloppily so) 6 divisions shared, across a scale of 21 effective divisions. Enjoy! 00:08, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

The title text reminds me of why I hate shotgun shooting vs. rifle or pistol -- with a rifle or pistol, you can see your misses and correct your aim and/or technique. With a shotgun, it's hit-or-miss with no other feedback.

(The above edit at this point was inserted improperly with a duplicated ip/timestamp rather than the four tildes, for whatever reason. Just wanted to point this out. I'm fairly sure other comment additions were similarly sloppy, but this one was obvious.) 19:13, 9 December 2020 (UTC)

I wonder what is meant by the title text exactly, is the one kind of feedback you can get getting the disease? The way it is phrases it feels like "dying from covid" is the final feedback (you can only get it once and then it's too late). But just getting infected is already some feedback isn't it?

Flekkie (talk) 03:51, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

The title text says definitive feedback, which I took to mean deaths. Numbers of those infected isn't inherently definitive as the precautions might affect how or if they recover. -- 05:01, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
I interpreted the title text as referring to contracting COVID. The point of the precautions is to keep from contracting it: if you do contract it, that's definitive feedback that your precautions were insufficient; and once you're already infected, it's too late to do anything to prevent that infection. If COVID is like most other diseases (and I'm not sure if anyone knows for sure whether it is or not), then once you've had it once, you won't be able to contract it again, thanks your immune system having built up a resistance to it. --Someone Else 37 (talk) 05:22, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
It is not. It is definitely possible to get COVID-19 again, although it is probably much less likely. There are documented cases of someone recovering and then being reinfected, including at least one in which they DNA tested the virus to confirm that it really was a separate infection and not a recurrence of something that had been in remission. 05:57, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
The statistics show a clear picture, it is highly improbable to catch Covid again, the remaining cases are of course bad for the individual, but completely insignificant on the large scale of a global epidemic. -- 22:32, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
FWIW I also didn't figure out what feedback he meant. There's all sorts of usable feedback to use, but any change in precautions takes at least a few weeks to show up in the feedback. Still, as frustrating as that is, it's not something you can "only get once but then it's too late". --NeatNit (talk) 07:33, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
I think "can only get once" is supposed to be in contrast to, say, a thermostat, where you keep getting feedback until you change the settings. With COVID, once the restrictions have had an impact, you can "only get [the magnitude of impact] once but then it's too late [to measure again]". Kinda saying humans don't work well with delayed gratification. 17:15, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
C’mon people. Plainly the feedback he was referring to was infection. The only certain way to determine that you’ve been irresponsible is to be infected. Lightcaller (talk) 16:59, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

In many jurisdictions, the rules themselves actually are not a single linear 'diallable' level of restriction, often with schools (or even sub-ranges of schooling ages, separately) being fully opened or closed not in complete synchrony with the treatment of sporting events, retail premises, food/drink (in-house/take-away), entertainment venues, public mass-transport, etc, although this is more like the fine-tuning of a graphic-equaliser on an audio system. But for the sake of simplicity the given government/whatever then still twiddles just the master volume knob (or at least the 5.1 balancing ones for regional adjustment) as a first resort when they get feedback about their chosen mix's effectiveness. - This depicted bare-bones 'master control dial' simplification of measures echoes the apparent nature of (some bits of) the Universe Control Console, though, and (contradictory labelling aside) is probably how those in control of the ramp-up/down of measures wish it could be done. 09:32, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

I don't know what China did, but from those countries that I know anything of, none have had "excessive" precautions, all of them were in the "insufficient" range. So whose viewpoint did Randall draw here? His own? The average public? An arbitrary sample group? … Fabian42 (talk) 09:50, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

Maybe not whole countries, but I know of at least one city where the precaution looks extremely excessive, but also extremely sufficient; Point Roberts, WA, which has zero cases but is prevented by border guards from visiting Canada and a two hour boat ride with medical quarantine from the United States. Also, I would place the State of Oregon, who just crossed it's 1000th COVID-19 death, just slightly to the left of the rightmost portion of insufficient- but the repeated total lockdowns are having a great cost on the economy and human behavior- murders, suicides, and bankruptcies are up greatly, but other causes of death are down.Seebert (talk) 13:38, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
Please note that this comic only mentions precautions that FEEL either excessive or insufficient. It makes no statement regarding whether any precautions actually are excessive or insufficient.

Hi - I signed up for an account here just to say - I sense an assumption on this page that this comic is about comparing different people’s feelings about covid precautions. That is certainly a possible explanation. But I think it’s quite possible that the comic could be comparing conflicting feelings within one individual. In my reading, lot of the covid comics address this kind of uncertainty (I can reference some if that would be helpful). I’m not sure if y’all will agree with this point, nor whether it merits an edit of the explanation, but I wanted to bring it into the discussion. Thanks for the good work you all put into this site!--Coy casket (talk) 22:08, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

You could remove the word COVID & I would still find this universally applicable to many types of precaution. ProphetZarquon (talk) 23:08, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

The overlap in case of covid is bigger than in many others. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:32, 9 December 2020 (UTC)

I interpreted the feedback to be catching COVID, showing that you weren't cautious enough, but I am afraid that he is being optimistic about only being able to get it once. It's likely that you are resistant for a while after an infection, but some people have had it twice. Both the average duration of resistance and the effects of repeated infections are unknown to me, and I don't know how they could be known by anyone at this point. Hopefully we luck out, and/or get good vaccines soon. BlakeFelix (talk) 03:58, 9 December 2020 (UTC) BlakeFelix (talk) 03:58, 9 December 2020 (UTC)

To whoever is doing the transcripts: check the earlier comics' transcriptions like 1796: Focus Knob. This is too…conversational or whatever. bubblegum-talk|contribs 18:40, 9 December 2020 (UTC)

I saw the current 'Transcript' when it was originally a middle bit of the Explanation (hence why more conversational?) and I'm sure checking the Edit History will reveal that it was just moved wholesale for whatever reason. I note that very few other additions were made to the main text (while the comments have multiplied manyfold since I added the second one down) so maybe I/someone should just tidy it up, correct the Transcript as you suggest and remove the Incomplete bit. I'll give it a thought, if nobody takes up that mantle... 23:56, 9 December 2020 (UTC)

It may be germane to quote Mike Leavitt, the second President Bush's HHS Secretary: "Anything said in advance of a pandemic seems alarmist. After a pandemic begins, anything one has said or done is inadequate.". 23:41, 10 December 2020 (UTC)

That's how it feels to do security. You either get hacked or you don't. 16:11, 11 December 2020 (UTC)

It's perhaps worth noting that at the time of this comic (Early pandemic) it was very uncertain quite how deadly COVID-19 was and many people were genuinely scared of dying. My interpretation here is that Randall was one of those in the way the title text is written (remember for some time 1%+ fatality rate was being thrown around). (talk) 23:19, 27 January 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It might not even be personal, direct risk, but (if you ever think about these things at all) the fact that your developing the disease means that: a) Someone else has been thoughtless/careless/ignorant about their potential to infect, b) Prior to your own realisation that "you're it", you probably also passed it onwards. So that's an unknown multiple of other people (not all of whom are as resilient as you hope you are, and a number of them who you probably care about) who will also now have caught it and may be separately passing it on. And, with all kinds of new precautions being taken that hobble the medical professions (by trying to keep them being effective medical persons, whether first-responders or ward staff of those treating people for things that are happening independently of Covid) the probability becomes that anyone who needs care (for anything) is going to be less promptly given what care they might otherwise expect.
Since vaccines became available(/PPE shortages aren't so much a thing/variants settled on being milder/you can assume you'd already shrugged off the worse effects after being involved a prior wave/actual sane treatments are now well known, tested and in use) the same feeling of facing the unknowable is a lot less intense. (Although that's what then allows exactly what should be feared to gradually build up into a new wave, unfettered by the possibly overcautious but certainly effective knee-jerk practices of the early lockdowns that we have mostly since abandoned.)
When it seems safe, that's when it can be more dangerous. When it seems dangerous, that's when it can be safest. (If only a few people get infected, but due to biological naïvity and having entered more fragile people it's a >1% percentage fatality, it looks bad. If everyone gets infected, yet it's <1% due to all the precautions and prophilactive treatments we now have in place then that looks better. Unless the <1% of everyone turns out to be numerically more than the >1% of the initially unlucky few.
I think I'm not more scared than I was, but only in a few aspects am I less concerned, leaving me fairly heightened. And when I wear my face mask in the supermarket (for the precautionary benefit of others, really) I am often the only one/occasionally find just one other person doing, out of dozens, and practically never the staff servicing the store in various ways who are in the line of fire (and then would start firing themselves) should someone with a novel variant happen to come in for a couple of litres of milk, all innocently but a danger to everyone there (and beyond) all the same... 02:51, 28 January 2023 (UTC)