March 20, 2021
In the 1990s, I played in a rotisserie/fantasy baseball league. “Roto” combines sports, statistics, money, competition and trash talk to create a form of male nirvana. Unbelievably, my league still exists. After a very long absence, my “Fierce Johnsons” return to competition this season.
Good roto players assemble their teams to optimize statistical performance in ten hitting and pitching categories. They understand that individual players can help in some categories but hurt in others. Home run hitters rarely steal bases.
Even though “roto” is just a game, its analytic approach mirrors that required for forecasting the pandemic’s duration. Applying “systems” thinking, forecasters must navigate through dynamic environments with multiple interactive variables.
Uncertainty, luck and interplay between variables make performance predictions complex and non-linear. With COVID-19, the following interactive variables are shaping the pandemic’s time horizon:
- Natural immunity
- Vaccine effectiveness
- Vaccine administration
- New COVID-19 strains
- Anti-vaxxer resistance
- Public health mandates
- Individual behaviors
As a roto season unfolds, information emerges that narrows the range of potential outcomes. This is also true for COVID-19.
Vaccine manufacturing, distribution and administration are humming along. While still prevalent, anti-vaxxer sentiment is receding. Mutant virus strains constitute a significant risk. Some states may have relaxed public health restrictions prematurely. The risk of another disease spike is significant.
Fortunately, complex problems lend themselves to simulation. Herd immunity seems likely within two-eight months. During this period, Americans’ individual and collective behaviors will influence outcome trajectories.
In roto, there’s only one winning team. With COVID-19, all Americans can be champions.
Read all dispatches from Dave Johnson here.