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The route of virus deaths

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The death toll from Covid-19 in the United States has fallen in recent days, but there is reason to believe the drop is a statistical mirage – and that deaths are set to rise again.

Why? The relationship between new confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths has remained fairly stable this fall. If you keep track of the number of new cases, you can predict the number of deaths fairly accurately three weeks later. Every 100 new cases in the United States resulted in an average of about 1.7 deaths, with that three-week lag.

It’s not a precise equation, of course. The time from diagnosis to death in fatal cases is sometimes shorter than three weeks and sometimes longer. And the death rate is not exactly 1.7%. But this simple formula has done a striking job in depicting the path of Covid deaths in recent weeks.

The graph below shows the relationship – daily deaths versus an index equal to 1.7 percent of newly diagnosed cases three weeks earlier. The two lines have grown almost in tandem over the past three months:

The most likely explanation for the check mark at the end of the two lines is the statistical mirage I mentioned: there was a slowdown in testing over the Thanksgiving weekend, which may have artificially reduced the number of reported coronavirus cases and deaths. “Thanksgiving really muddied the waters,” Mitch Smith, a Times reporter who tracks viral statistics, told me.

In the coming weeks, deaths seem almost certain to increase, perhaps sharply. The surge in cases in November suggests that daily deaths could approach 3,000 in December. The previous one-day high was 2,752 in April and the previous seven-day average high was 2,232, also in April.

Already, the death toll in the United States in recent weeks has exceeded one casualty every minute of every day – 1,462 deaths per day in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Barring a major surprise, this record is about to worsen. And January also looks worrying.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert, said yesterday the Thanksgiving gatherings may have created clusters of new infections. “We could see a surge superimposed on this wave we’re already in,” Fauci said.

An explainer: Andrew Joseph of Stat explains how infection turns into serious illness.

So many toads: It was an exceptional year for the mushroom harvest in Ukraine. Mushrooms are a staple in the country, and some families have started selling them to stay afloat during the pandemic. “Mushrooms have saved so many people this year,” said one mushroom hunter.

The media equation: Ben Smith writes of Christopher Ruddy, the “revenue-conscious cynic” whose cable, Newsmax, saw his audiences skyrocket after he started peddling Trump’s conspiracies.

From the review: Columnists Gail Collins and Bret Stephens hold their final conversation of 2020.

Lives lived: Dave Prowse provided the imposing physical presence of Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. But the filmmakers replaced his voice with that of James Earl Jones – perhaps because of Prowse’s thick Bristol accent, which earned him the nickname “Dark Farmer.” Prowse died at the age of 85.


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“Hillbilly Elegy,” JD Vance’s bestseller about his childhood in Ohio with family roots in the Appalachians, was a signature book of the Trump era. The version of the film – released last week on Netflix, starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams – was less successful.

Many critics have called him simplistic, painting American rural life too broadly. He “understands rural poverty primarily through iconography – dilapidated houses and children in swimming holes, etc.,” Emily VanDerWerff writes in Vox. In The Times, AO Scott says the movie claims to tie the characters to “something bigger without giving a coherent idea of ​​what that something might be.”

In conservative publication The Bulwark, Sonny Bunch writes that many liberal critics are too hard on the film, but agrees that it suffers from a “lack of focus and muddled messages.”

After Netflix announced its involvement in the project last year, Meredith McCarroll, a professor at Bowdoin College who has written on Appalachia, wrote that the film’s release may have a silver lining: sparking a discourse on wealth. of life in the region, rather than accepting a single portrait of it.

“I have some hope,” McCarroll wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review, “that more attention to the Appalachians could give way to debate, and that the debate could shed light on the wild array of life that is emerging. currently unfolding in these mountains: angry protests and dismal music, joyful poetry and determined activism, all derived and leading to love of the place. “

Make this autumnal galette, stuffed with caramelized onions, gruyere and lots of crushed black pepper.

“In the Mood for Love”, a romantic drama that is an excellent entry point into the work of director Wong Kar-wai.

Watch how guitars are made by visiting a factory.

These are Christmas cookies for the modern age. Create, mix and match these reimagined classics (or let the videos mesmerize you).

Friday’s spelling pangram was envelope. Today’s puzzle is above – or you can play it online if you have a Games membership.

Here are today’s mini crossword puzzles and a hint: ball game first played in Ancient Rome (five letters).


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David

PS The word “cheerlebrities” – cheerleaders with a strong following on social media – first appeared in The Times yesterday, as the Twitter bot noted @NYT_first_said.

You can see the first printed page of the day here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” talks about what we know about the distribution of a vaccine against the virus. In the latest Book Review podcast, Book Review editors discuss the top 10 books of 2020.