Days after a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was identified in southern Africa, countries around the world are confirming that they have found cases of it too. The new strain of the virus, B.1.1.529, was first detected in genetic samples from Botswana and South Africa. (Nearly 150 cases have been confirmed in southern Africa since, although the true number is thought to be higher.) On November 24th South Africa’s health authorities told the World Health Organisation, which quickly labelled it a “variant of concern” and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. Just how long—and where—it has been circulating is not yet clear.
Well, as far as I can tell, the only advantage of box plots is that they show quartile ranges. The obvious next question, of course, is how often it’s necessary to show quartile ranges in order to say what you need to say about the data. In my experience, it’s not nearly as often as a lot of chart creators seem to think. Most of the time, you’re pointing out that distributions are higher or lower than one another, more concentrated or more dispersed than one another, have outliers, etc. None of these types of insights require showing quartile ranges and all can be communicated using simpler chart types. Some types of insights might require showing medians, but those can be easily added to simpler chart types:
Newport Beach City officials are advocating for policies aimed at increasing long-term sustainability in the state public employee pension fund, CalPERS, as Newport Beach continues to make significant progress in paying down its debt obligations to the system.
On November 16, the CalPERS Board of Administration decided to maintain the fund’s discount rate, or the expected rate of return of the pension fund investments, at the current 6.8 percent. The discount rate had been lowered from 7.0 percent to 6.8 percent in July through CalPERS’ Funding Risk Mitigation Policy, which automatically lowers the discount rate in years when investment returns are above the assumed rate of return. Prior to the recent discount rate change, Newport Beach had asked CalPERS to lower its discount rate to 6.5 percent or below, a more conservative number that could help further reduce future risk.
Newport Beach expects to eliminate its unfunded liability by 2030, thanks to an aggressive payment schedule. Beginning in 2018, the City Council decided to increase annual payments to $35 million a year, $9 million more than required. This fiscal year, for the second year in a row, the City will contribute $5 million more as an additional, discretionary payment, bringing the total contribution to $40 million.
As noted earlier, the Hispanic excess mortality was about a level as the other non-White groups, but then spiked with Wave 2 and stayed very high.
The Asian group saw its excess mortality peak with Wave 3 — remember, that’s the large wave with the most COVID deaths. But they have been at about 30 – 35% excess mortality for the other waves.
The Black group looks like it’s slightly rising in excess mortality, but staying within a fairly narrow range of about 33% to 37% excess mortality.
The White group is definitely showing an increasing trend of excess mortality. Interesting.
Due to the White group’s increasing excess mortality, the overall population is showing an increasing trend — look, Whites have been the majority of deaths for a long time, as they’re the majority of old folks. That’s how that works.
Stock traders today appeared to assume that the omicron variant will hit life insurers harder than health insurers.
The stock prices of Anthem, Centene, Humana and UnitedHealth all dropped from 1.7% to 2.28% — less than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The stock prices of Ameriprise, Brighthouse Financial, CNO Financial, Equitable, Globe Life, Lincoln Financial, MetLife, Primerica Principal Financial Group, Prudential Financial and Unum Group all fell 3.5% to 5%.
The stock price of Reinsurance Group of America — a company that insures life insurers against spikes in mortality and longevity risk — fell 9.58%.
So what the chart in the tweet linked above is really showing is that, within the 10-59 age band, the average unvaccinated person is much younger than the average vaccinated person, and therefore has a lower death rate. Any benefit from the vaccines is swamped by the increase in all-cause mortality rates with age.
I have mocked up some illustrative numbers in the table below to hopefully show Simpson’s Paradox in action here. I’ve split the 10-59 age band into 10-29 and 30-59. Within each group the death rate for unvaccinated people is twice as high as for vaccinated people. However, within the combined group this reverses – the vaccinated group have higher death rates on average!
I and others have written to ONS, altering them to the concerns that this data is causing. It appears from a new blog they have released that they are aware of the issue and will use narrower age bands in the next release.
Author(s): Stuart Macdonald
Publication Date: 22 Nov 2021
Publication Site: COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group
Two top officials at Pennsylvania’s largest pension fund are retiring amid a federal investigation and calls by some board members for their ouster.
The board of Pennsylvania’s $64 billion Public School Employees’ Retirement System voted Thursday to approve resolutions accepting the retirement of Glen Grell, the executive director, and Jim Grossman, the chief investment officer. Board members approved plans for both men to stay on in temporary advisory positions and authorized the board chair to begin a search for their replacements.
The fund has been racked by turmoil since board members learned in March that a report of investment returns was too high. The accurate figure was low enough to trigger an increase in payments from employees that the plan serves. Investigations conducted by the fund haven’t found wrongdoing on the part of investment staff.
The board said in April that it had hired law firms to investigate the miscalculation and to respond to a federal grand jury subpoena requesting documents. The pension declined to comment on what information the grand jury is seeking.
For context: a recent study by Pfizer, the pharma company backing the drug, found Paxlovid decreased hospitalizations and deaths from COVID by a factor of ten, with no detectable side effects. It was so good that Pfizer, “in consultation with” the FDA, stopped the trial early because it would be unethical to continue denying Paxlovid to the control group. And on November 16, Pfizer officially submitted an approval request to the FDA, which the FDA is still considering.
As many people including Zvi, Alex, and Kelsey have noted, it’s pretty weird that the FDA agrees Paxlovid is so great that it’s unethical to study it further because it would be unconscionable to design a study with a no-Paxlovid control group – but also, the FDA has not approved Paxlovid, it remains illegal, and nobody is allowed to use it.
One would hope this is because the FDA plans to approve Paxlovid immediately. But the prediction market expects it to take six weeks – during which time we expect about 50,000 more Americans to die of COVID.
Perhaps there’s not enough evidence for the FDA to be sure Paxlovid works yet? But then why did they agree to stop the trial that was gathering the evidence? Or perhaps there’s enough evidence, but it takes a long time to process it? But then how come the prediction markets are already 90% sure what decision they’ll make?
President Biden said he would nominate Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to a second term leading the central bank, opting for continuity in U.S. economic policy despite pushback from some Democrats who wanted someone tougher on bank regulations and climate change.
Mr. Biden said he would also nominate Fed governor Lael Brainard as vice chairwoman of the central bank’s board of governors. Prominent liberals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) had warned the president against picking Mr. Powell, and progressive groups mounted a last-ditch campaign to pressure the president to tap Ms. Brainard for the top job.
California transferred an extra $2.31 billion to its teachers’ and public workers’ pension funds after stock gains and the economic recovery bolstered income tax collections, according to budget documents. Connecticut Treasurer Shawn Wooden is transferring an additional $1.62 billion to that state’s teachers’ and workers’ pension funds in accordance with a mandate that excess revenue be used to pay down debt.
This year New Jersey is making the full pension payment recommended by its actuaries for the first time since 1996, plus an extra half-billion dollars, funneling a total of $6.9 billion to the state’s deeply underfunded retirement plan, the New Jersey treasurer’s office said.
Asked how the money would be used, a spokeswoman for the state’s division of investment said it “will continue to move forward toward the previously established allocation targets.” The $101 billion fund’s private equity, private credit, real estate and real assets portfolios each contained between $1 billion and $3 billion less than the goal amount as of Aug. 31, records show.