COVID-19 and a Tale of Two Gyms

Last week, a report from the Chicago Department of Public Health described an outbreak that happened at a Chicago gym. When I first started arguing on behalf of prevalence measures to inform policies, I used the example, admittedly from May, of gym goers in Oslo, Norway who weren’t getting COVID-19 from the gym, for the obvious, if often ignored, reason that, when very few people are infected, you’re unlikely to be infected anywhere (the Yogi Berra school of epidemiology). Of course, the converse also is true: when COVID-19 is common, you’re (far) more likely to contract it–again, that’s obvious, but you wouldn’t know it based on the decisions most U.S. policy makers have made through the pandemic.

The discussion of the Chicago gym outbreak seems to have missed something very important from the article:

Twenty-two (40%) attendees with COVID-19 attended an exercise class on or after the date of symptom onset, including three (5%) who attended on the same day or after they received the positive test result.

While it’s possible that all nineteen* untested people attended class before they developed symptoms, I think that’s highly unlikely, especially considering up to three people might have attended after they tested positive for COVID-19.

You might want to re-read that last sentence again. Multiple people with symptoms, as well as three people who, at best, thought they might be infected–and, at worst, knew they were infected with a potentially lethal virus–decided to go to a gym class.

This should not happen–and it wasn’t just one or two idiots. Something went really, really wrong with our public health outreach. But don’t worry it gets worse! Let’s mull this section for a bit:

During August 24–September 1, 2020, an exercise facility offered four to eight high-intensity indoor classes daily. All classes were held at ≤25% capacity (i.e., 10–15 persons). Mask use, temperature checks, and symptom screenings were required on entry; however, patrons were allowed to remove masks during exercise.

How do we reconcile the boldface part with the likely reality that multiple people attended the class while having symptoms. It’s possible that all 22 people had symptoms that the gym didn’t screen, or that everyone’s symptoms onset after attending, not before.. It seems much more likely that either some of the patrons or the gym lied (or, of course, both).

This is very disturbing when we consider things like quarantine and isolation**. If people are willing to mistate their health status over a stupid gym class (or businesses are going to be exceptionally lax), then we’re really screwed. While I’m as much a structuralist lefty-type as anyone, even I will admit that infection control is nearly impossible if people with symptoms–or who FUCKING TESTED POSITIVE–decide to go out and about. That’s the bare minimum. And, again, this wasn’t someone choosing between rent or food and quarantining. It was a stupid gym class.

This seems very relevant to why we have failed to control COVID-19 and what we need to do for the next few months to get to the other side of this horror.

*I suppose this should really be eighteen out of nineteen.

**One thing that hasn’t really been discussed is how ineffective these essential procedures have been in the U.S.

Posted in COVID-19, Fucking Morons | Leave a comment

Links 3/2/21

Links for you. Science:

Headlines reporting an “89.4% reduction in transmission” from the Pfizer vaccine are wrong because the Israeli pre-print overstated its main results.
Octopuses Have a Secret Sense to Keep Their 8 Arms Out of Trouble
An Ode to Basic Research
And Then the Gorillas Started Coughing
AstraZeneca vaccine more effective the longer you wait for second shot, study shows (maybe)


The Window for D.C. Statehood Won’t Be Open Forever: But Democrats are taking their time weighing their next move.
It took a year, but Gwyneth Paltrow figured out how to exploit the pandemic
Fears of AstraZeneca Could Have Dangerous Consequences
Cuomo’s Nursing Home Scandal Vindicates His Critics in the Press
The Austerity Politics of White Supremacy
With Hunger Growing, Brooklyn Food Pantries Look to Expand Before Passover
On TV, abortion is the road less traveled. Life’s not like that.
Smiling on the outside: Super Happy Fun America always claimed to be kidding. But the group’s history suggests otherwise.
Pundits are wrong. We don’t need a functional GOP.
Now that science fiction is reality, it’s time for new laws of robotics’s journalistic experiment began with a staff walkout. It might actually be working.
Facecrook: Dealing with a Global Menace
He drove a truck in World War II, but he wasn’t allowed to drive a streetcar in D.C.
One Seat Ward 7
The Problem With Influencers
Almost 19,000 Pennsylvania voters have left the Republican Party since the Capitol attack
Cold Truth: The Texas Freeze is a Catastrophe of the Free Market
Restaurants don’t need indoor dining. They need a bailout.
Nine Lessons I Learned About Political Reporting While Covering Trump
Christian Cooper, The Central Park Birder Accosted By A White Woman, Has A New Cause: D.C. Statehood
Bowser will make case for D.C. statehood at congressional hearing next month

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Green Lanternism and Changing the Game

Osita Nwanevu makes a critical point about Democrats and progressive policy (boldface mine):

Between now and the midterm elections next year, we will hear from Democratic leaders that the solution is electing more Democrats and giving the party the resources it needs to do so: more donations, more canvassing, and more voting. We’ll also hear from progressives who will insist that the solution is defeating the Democratic establishment with progressive candidates all over the country: more donations, more canvassing, and more voting. But it’s all nonsense: every part of it, top to bottom, start to finish.

What Democrats have in the place of a constructive politics is a set of interlocking pyramid schemes operated by people who know full well that no matter how many doors are knocked on, how many calls are made, how many alarmingly titled fundraising emails are opened, and how many people show up to the polls, whether or not anything significant happens in Congress depends mostly upon a relatively small set of people in a few very specific places: the most conservative Democrats in the country and the moderate-to-conservative states that have elected them. They are the ones who will decide whether the filibuster goes or whether legislation the party tries to jimmy through reconciliation will pass. No matter how much work is put into gaining Democratic majorities, they will have the power to invalidate them, denying Democrats any reasonable hope of utilizing a chamber structurally skewed in the Republican Party’s favor. Progressives can talk themselves blue about primaries, but activating a progressive electorate in, say, West Virginia is going to take more than one election cycle, or two, or five, and Manchin isn’t up for reelection until the end of Biden’s first term anyway….

If the Democratic Party cannot utilize congressional majorities, there’s not much reason to invest heavily in gaining or retaining them beyond the hope that the party might hold enough seats to prevent Republicans from regaining control and passing a destructive agenda under a Republican president.

No, Biden doesn’t have magical Green Lantern powers, wherein if he wills it, it will happen. But Democrats do need to realize that if they can’t pass what the majority of their party–and the majority of the country–want, then they will be tagged with this failure. Manchin (and possibly Sinema–she’s in a far more precarious position*) might not care, but Democrats should. That they do not change the rules to pass a broadly popular, moderate agenda would suggest they don’t support that agenda enough to make it happen. When the rules are more important–and, mind you, Republicans change the rules when they need to, from partially abolishing the filibuster to firing the parliamentarian–it is a Green Lantern problem. Enough Democrats don’t want this, so it won’t happen, and so the “pyramid scheme” rolls on.

Before anyone says, ‘give them time’, many of us have been giving them time for over two decades now. To say trust isn’t high would be an understatement. Mind you, it’s not like they’ve actually passed anything yet to give them credibility in following through on things.

Without delivering on a minimum wage, I don’t think Warnock wins in 2022.

Nothing good will come from this.

*Has anyone reached out to the tribes? Because Sinema doesn’t win without them.

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Links 3/1/21

Links for you. Science:

Texans Caught in the Blackout Are Rescuing Thousands of Sea Turtles From the Cold
DNA Points to Single Coyote in Series of Attacks in California (need drone strikes)
Study finds cognitive bias in how medical examiners evaluate child deaths
Genomic epidemiology identifies emergence and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 in the United States


Why Do Democrats Pretend Andrew Cuomo Did a Good Job With COVID?
A Marketplace and a Temple
Why We Can’t Make Vaccine Doses Any Faster: President Biden has promised enough doses for all American adults by this summer. There’s not much even the Defense Production Act can do to deliver doses before then. (another legacy Trump fuckup)
Henry Hill, Moline Public Hospital Interdenominational Chapel (1959) Moline, IL
Oren Cass Wants Child Benefits for Everyone But the Poor
Bruce Goff, Freeman House (1959) Joplin, MO
Harvard Prof Says: No Design Flaw in Texas Grid
Keck & Keck, Herbert Bruning House (1936) Wilmette, IL
The latest GOP nonsense on Texas shows us the future Republicans want
Pointless infighting among progressives is becoming exhausting and harmful
Museums remain closed in California while retail shops are open. What that means for institutions large and small
An Ex-KGB Agent Says Trump Was a Russian Asset Since 1987. Does it Matter?
Germany, Once a Model, Is Swamped Like Everyone Else by Pandemic’s Second Wave
I Tracked Down The Girls Who Bullied Me As A Kid. Here’s What They Had To Say.
Working for Syria’s chemical weapons program and spilling its secrets to the CIA
How The Pandemic Has Altered School Discipline — Perhaps Forever
What 500,000 covid-19 deaths means
The ‘dirty secret’ of being a homeless child
His pastors tried to steer him away from social media rage. He stormed the Capitol anyway.
Why wasn’t a housebound nation tuning in to watch sports on TV last year?
Feds OK’d Export of Millions of N95 Masks as U.S. Workers Cried for More
Rush Limbaugh wasn’t funny or entertaining. He was racist.
“Mark Changed The Rules”: How Facebook Went Easy On Alex Jones And Other Right-Wing Figures

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The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: We Have Stalled Out

Even gotten a little worse. The entire city and all wards, including the ‘low prevalence bastions’ of Ward 2 and 3, are still well above the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week–which also is the threshold the CDC suggests schools for all grades can reopen (0.05% in the second column below):

Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.132% 2.5% 0.199% 2.3%
2 0.123% 3.1% 0.192% 2.7%
3 0.074% 2.0% 0.140% 2.2%
4 0.087% 2.4% 0.205% 3.1%
5 0.146% 3.3% 0.291% 3.8%
6 0.162% 3.4% 0.260% 3.2%
7 0.126% 4.3% 0.271% 5.1%
8 0.195% 5.4% 0.318% 4.7%
D.C. total 0.132% 2.9% 0.234% 2.9%

The ‘good place’, which is one new case per 100,000 people per day, would be 0.007% in column two and 0.014% in column four–and, as usual, we’re still nowhere near that. Wards 1, 3, 6, and 8 had large increases in prevalence, while Ward 4 had a significant drop. The percent positive rate is too high in most wards and is unchanged only because of Ward 4’s surprisingly low number of cases.

COVID-19 related deaths also increased last week, to 22 (from 16). At some point, vaccination will begin to lessen the American Carnage, but probably not for a few weeks (remember that people who die usually were infected three to five weeks before). R(t) also seems to be rising and has been greater than one for the last few days.

The increase appears to be driven largely by 20-40 year olds, and especially by the 20-30 age group. What’s disturbing is that, typically we see increases in older cohorts three to five days after the 20-40 age group spikes. Again, vaccination will help, but I don’t think we vaccinated enough older people or people with comorbidities soon enough to stem the tide (obviously, I hope I’m wrong about this and hopefully, the over 65 group will be partially protected).

Again, loosening restrictions the moment things improve slightly–which is what Mayor Bowser has done throughout the pandemic (and the D.C. Council has done nothing to stop her)–not surprisingly, failed. Hoping for crappy weather so people stay home really isn’t plan. Now, we have to race the virus, though, as I’ll discuss tomorrow, there are some real puzzles regarding the vaccination data–we might be screwing that up here in D.C.

As usual, I’ll remind you that the good news is we still could be only around six weeks away from returning to normal-ish, even though we intentionally remain six weeks away from safely returning to normal-ish because we’re unwilling to do what it takes to make that happen.

Anger isn’t the appropriate emotion, rage is.

Posted in COVID-19, DC | Leave a comment

Links 2/28/21

Links for you. Science:

Why Do We Even Have Dogs?
Uruk and the Emergence of Civilization
NASA Is Up to Its Usual Next-Level Sh*t: Throwing a dart 128 million miles and hitting the bullseye is really worth celebrating.
Loss of Taste and Smell as Distinguishing Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019
Seagrass Is A Vital Weapon Against Climate Change, But We’re Killing It


The Life and Death of a Woman-Hater: Rush Limbaugh made the G.O.P. the party of misogyny. (excellent)
What Joe Biden Gets Totally Wrong About Student Debt: The president’s resistance to canceling $50,000 in student debt is not about law or policy but about craven, misguided politics.
What Popular Culture Misunderstands About Addiction
Tracking QAnon: how Trump turned conspiracy-theory research upside down
Altercation: Limbaugh, and Associated Outrages
Calls to Disqualify Trump Using the 14th Amendment Grow Louder
D.C.’s 911 center saw a spike in suspicious-activity calls after Capitol riot: In Adams Morgan, residents debated whether a man in a parked truck was planning an attack or was being profiled by them. (when wingnuts get profiled)
A U.S. Vaccine Surge Is Coming, With Millions of Doses Promised
The Trumpers Among Us
Pete Ricketts Would Be Fired If He Were A CEO
Gov. Polis won’t allow Denver mayor to vaccinate homeless residents ahead of schedule (Polis is a Democrat–this is what I mean about eighty percent of elected officials should not be re-elected)
Rush Limbaugh, Who Should Have Stayed Jeff Christie
The Politics of a Second Gilded Age (interesting, don’t agree with some of it)
How the Rich Can Escape America’s Unreliable Power Grid
Student Debt and Young America
Georgia Republicans Are Doubling Down on Racist Voter Suppression
It’s time to kill the Iowa caucuses, if Democrats want to win at the state level again
Yeah, the Diet Cokes and Junk Food. But This Look at Trump’s Hotel Is All About Influence-Peddling.
Erik Prince, Trump Ally, Violated Libya Arms Embargo, U.N. Report Says
Why Did Mark Cuban Fold? The controversy over the anthem shows, yet again, that there is nothing “united” about these United States.
Republicans Offer Preview of Brutal Climate Policies in Texas

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From 2015, observed on Logan Circle, NW, D.C.:


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Links 2/27/21

Links for you. Science:

‘What other variants might be out there?’ An expert on viral evolution on what’s happening with coronavirus mutations
How You Make an Adenovirus Vaccine
Evidence for SARS-CoV-2 related coronaviruses circulating in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia
Machines Are Inventing New Math We’ve Never Seen
Conch shell in French museum found to be 17,000-year-old wind instrument


51 Reasons to Support D.C. Statehood (you should read these to understand how the mainland colony actually works)
The School Opening “Debate”
More than a quarter of white evangelicals believe core QAnon conspiracy theory
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Nominees to the Utilities Regulation Commission Frustrate Energy and Climate Activists — Again. (Bowser should paint “Believe in Science” on a street)
Department of Employment Services Makes Changes to Its System
Newly elected Orleans Parish district attorney is cleaning house. Predecessor’s filth is nauseating
As Republicans increasingly embrace far-right radicalization, a crisis of democracy looms large
Covid relief is controversial in Washington. But not in the rest of America.
This man mistakenly left his wallet in Antarctica. Some 53 years later, he got it back.
Minimum wage hike in COVID-19 relief bill clears first, key hurdle in House
Embattled QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene ‘openly cheated’ on her husband of 25 years with a polyamorous tantric sex guru and then moved on to another affair with the manager at her gym
Trump Was Sicker Than Acknowledged With Covid-19 (no shit)
How the Black Power movement shaped DC as we know it
Richard Shelby, Mo Brooks and the death of Alabama pork politics
Life on the Line: D.C. Cooks Confront COVID-19 Risks, Lack of Job Security
Vaccines and the Deserted Amusement Park of the American Soul
Naomi Wolf’s Brain Worms Have Reached Critical Levels
There’s Nothing Fun or Funny About Marjorie Taylor Greene (it’s the Turner Diaries with a few of the edges planed off)
How the Media Cracks Down on Critics of Israel
Twitter is so painful to read right now. People want the merits of the impeachment case to matter so badly. They want the anguish & eloquence of those whose lives were threatened to matter. They want TRUTH to matter & decency to finally win a round. But it’s not going to happen.
Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa admits they hid nursing home data so feds wouldn’t find out

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In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

When Elected Officials Are Above and Apart

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Will D.C. Engage in Magical Thinking and Backslide (Again)

500,000 Dead: Rage Is the Appropriate Emotion

We Still Have Multiple Housing Crises

The Value of Work: The Mitt Romney Edition

Posted in Weekly Roundup | Leave a comment

Links 2/26/21

Links for you. Science:

In lab experiment, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine less potent against coronavirus variant
C.D.C. Announces $200 Million ‘Down Payment’ to Track Virus Variants
Vaccine hesitancy/skepticism is a problem, but I don’t agree with the pearl-clutching about “messaging,” as if vaccine hesitancy is something new caused by dour, pessimist scientists being honest about uncertainty.
COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in a representative working-age population in France: a survey experiment based on vaccine characteristics
Aquariums hatch unusual plan to save endangered zebra shark


Can the NAACP Succeed Where Everyone Else Has Failed? The organization is suing Trump on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson, a survivor of the Capitol insurrection, under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.
‘Unaccountable and need to be constrained’: Legislators tell Biden admin firings at ICE are overdue
Rush Limbaugh Taught Republicans to Love an Angry, Racist Bully
Ted Cruz’s One Night in Paradise Is Not the Only Texas Republican Failure in Need of Discussion
What Was Rush Limbaugh So Afraid Of?
Rush Limbaugh Escapes The Hell-World He Created
For Black Aides on Capitol Hill, Jan. 6 Brought Particular Trauma
8 first-term House members explain how they plan to prioritize racial justice
How to Buy a Real N95 Mask Online: Fakes and little-known brands still abound, even as health officials have advised us to up our mask game. Here’s what to do.
Capitol Police Investigates 35 Officers, Suspends 6 For Actions During Jan. 6 Riots
Amazon, Facebook And Google Sue Maryland Over New Tax On Online Ads
The Rise and Fall of the L. Brent Bozells. How four generations of one American family are a synecdoche of the decline of the conservative movement.
Trump Hotel Employees Reveal What It Was Really Like Catering to the Right Wing Elite
Go Go Go
Texas, the go-it-alone state, is rattled by the failure to keep the lights on
D.C. revises rules, will open vaccines to young people with health problems March 1
The Strange Case of New York’s Covid-19 Death Count
He just wasn’t a true Scotsman
Sen. Joe Manchin Tells Struggling Workers He’s Still Not For $15 Minimum Wage (he’s every bit the ideologue Sanders is)
Texas freeze allows Jerry Jones’ natural gas company to “hit jackpot”
Eero Saarinen, Irwin Union Bank & Trust (1954) Columbus, IN
Faced with real consequences for participating in insurrection, MAGA followers turn on Trump

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