Links 5/14/21

Links for you. Science:

China Sinovac Shot Seen Highly Effective in Real World Study
After the Pandemic, Will More People Wear Masks for Colds and Flu? (hard to separate masking from social distancing)
Ghost fish: after 420 million years in the deeps, modern gillnets from shark fin trade drag coelacanths into the light
World’s Most Vaccinated Nation Is Spooked by Covid Spike: Seychelles has seen a surge in coronavirus cases even though much of its population was inoculated with China’s Sinopharm vaccine. (read to the end. Full courses matter)
Why does COVID make people so sick, so quickly? Israeli geneticist has an answer

Other:

Who Sold That Gun? Nobody’s Telling.
Arizona ‘Democrat’ Kyrsten Sinema burns her voters back home, while D.C. Republicans cheer
Lunatics Are Still Stalking the Hallways of the Capitol
Palm Beach officials reportedly planning for Trump indictment. Word ‘extradition’ was mentioned
Don’t Sleep on Mitch McConnell as a Shame Pioneer
Marjorie Taylor Greene’s envy of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s social media clout is getting ugly
Roughly Two-Thirds Of D.C.’s Health Care Workers And First Responders Are Vaccinated
White House reportedly wants a tweak to strengthen D.C. statehood bill
Palestinian Refugees Deserve to Return Home. Jews Should Understand.
Leaked Video: Dark Money Group Brags About Writing GOP Voter Suppression Bills Across the Country
Residents revolted over a ‘tent city’ in their neighborhood—until they saw how well it worked
“The Call Center Is a Disaster:” Department of Employment Services Director Offers Explanations To Ongoing D.C. Unemployment Problems
As D.C. Prepares to Reopen, What Will We Incorporate Into Our New Normal?
Battlestar Galactica Lessons from Ransomware to the Pandemic
Lyon’s legacy IV: White families’ homes
Scout’s Honor
Former Staffer Sues US Congressman Alleging ‘Reckless’ Approach to COVID-19
The Resurrection Of Reagan’s “Welfare Queen”
Coronavirus variants could lead to a ‘treble size’ third wave, warns SAGE, if Britain’s roadmap out of lockdown loosens all restrictions too early
Congressional Democrats have a 100% vaccination rate (Senate Republicans are vaccinated; less than half of House Republicans will say they are)
Raising Capital Gains Taxes Is the Fair Move

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Vaccine Hesitancy Among the Politically Unaffiliated

Or perhaps it should be called ‘hesitancy.’ This, by Harry Enten, is going to sound depressingly familiar to anyone who has tried to get people to vote (boldface mine):

A look at the data reveals that the vaccine hesitant group, however, are not big Trump lovers. They’re actually likely not to be Republican. Instead, many of them are people who are detached from the political process and didn’t vote for either major candidate in 2020.

The most recent Kaiser poll helps illustrate that the vaccine hesitant group doesn’t really lean Republican. Just 20% of the group called themselves Republican with an additional 19% being independents who leaned Republican. The clear majority (61%) were not Republicans (41% said they were Democrats or Democratic leaning independents and 20% were either pure independents or undesignated).

This is very much unlike the vaccine resistant group, of whom 55% are Republican or Republican leaning independents…

The overwhelming plurality (48%) were people who either didn’t vote, voted third party or weren’t willing to disclose who they cast a ballot for. The rest were split 31% for Trump and 20% for President Joe Biden.
The poll gets at the fact that the efforts to vaccinate the population isn’t a political campaign to reel in voters. If we use traditional election tactics to reach the vaccine hesitant group, we’re likely to lose…

People who are not registered to vote are among the most likely to say they’re in the wait-and-see camp. In a Monmouth University poll last month, 34% of adults who were not registered to vote said they wanted to “see how it goes” (i.e. wait-and-see) before getting a vaccine. That was significantly higher than the 10% of registered voters who said the same…

The people who are vaccine hesitant are not old. The clear majority (about 60% to 70%, depending on the poll) are younger than 50. These are largely not going to be people who watch cable news.

I was going to suggest how we get at this problem, but found that James Joyner made it better, so I’ll outsource it to him (boldface mine):

Younger people tend to care less about politics because they have less [obviously] at stake.* As people get older, they pay more in taxes, buy homes, have children, and otherwise have more reason to care about what the government does. And the elderly get Social Security and Medicare, so they interact with the federal government routinely.

And, as far as COVID-19 goes, younger people are, all things equal, less likely to suffer severe symptoms if they contract the disease….

I still think the key is to make being vaccinated more obviously beneficial through vaccine passports or other methods to allow those who do their civic duty to more easily participate in public activities than those who refuse.

I still think, at this time, we should be emphasizing the carrot. But in a couple of months, we really need to start thinking more about the stick: some people will need some incentive to go get vaccinated, and, unfortunately, it will have to be, in part, what one loses by not being vaccinated.

Posted in COVID-19, Vaccination, Voting | 1 Comment

Links 5/13/21

Links for you. Science:

Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE): Pfizer-BioNTechCOVID-19 Vaccine
How COVID broke the evidence pipeline
Does ocean acidification alter fish behavior? Fraud allegations create a sea of doubt
The world’s strongest athletes aren’t shredded and for good reason
A Black Scientist Was An Early Cicada Researcher. His Work Has Been Mostly Overlooked

Other:

My Pandemic Year Behind the Checkout Counter
Anti-Maskers Ready to Start Masking—to Protect Themselves From the Vaccinated (my hunch is this is something they’ll ‘believe’ but not enough to act on)
4 Women Say Matt Gaetz’s Wingman Pressured Them to Have Sex
Rethinking Work
Tucker Carlson Gets Worse
Warner
The Real Reason Behind the Misinformation Epidemic in Online Moms’ Groups: It started long before COVID.
‘A toxic cocktail:’ Panel delivers harsh verdict on the world’s failure to prepare for pandemic
D.C.’s Plan to Vaccinate Children 12 and Older
What exactly are we trying to preserve Eckington’s industrial land for anyway?
Homeless Reflect on Life in a New York City Hotel Room, One Year Later
Got the vaccine? Experts say you can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really. I asked health experts about their post-vaccination lives. Most no longer worry about their own risk of Covid-19.
Power Outages Are Increasing. Can Medical Equipment Users Adapt?
Manchin plants himself firmly in McConnell’s back pocket, rejects saving democracy
Michigan GOP lawmaker floats bill to register, fine ‘fact checkers’ (cancel culture tho)
New book portrays a Secret Service riven by scandal and growing pains
Olympia Dukakis, theater veteran and Oscar-winning ‘Moonstruck’ actress, dies at 89
Congress Eager to Increase Staff Pay But Fear Voter Backlash
‘Rich, White, Reactionary’: A J.D. Vance Candidacy is a Con for Appalachia
Andrew Yang Promised to Create 100,000 Jobs. He Ended Up With 150.
Rep. Greene aggressively confronts Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, causing New York congresswoman to raise security concerns

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If Political Reporters Viewed Their Jobs with the Same Seriousness COVID-19 Reporters Did

In a really good article about the mental health of journalists on the COVID-19 beat (really, go read it), this section struck a chord (boldface mine):

One healthcare reporter who currently works at a national outlet and has repeatedly broken exclusive stories this year told me she began taking an antidepressant over the past year for the first time in her life, in large part due to the stress of covering the pandemic.

“We’re being traumatized by the pandemic and then retraumatized by reporting on it and talking to healthcare workers,” she said. “I remember someone telling me that the reason they were talking to me was because they were afraid people would die if they didn’t. That just really hit me in a way that it hadn’t before: People could literally die if we did our jobs wrong.”

That weight has been profoundly felt by reporters at some of the most widely read outlets in the country.

It’s pretty clear most political reporters, especially those who focus on ‘who won the day’, do not treat their jobs with the same level of seriousness, even though the policy issues they cover, not to mention little things like… insurrections, can and do kill people (or injure and immiserate them).

Time for a blogger ethics panel!

Posted in COVID-19, News Media | Leave a comment

Links 5/12/21

Links for you. Science:

SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617 emergence and sensitivity to vaccine-elicited antibodies
Where are the SARS-CoV-2 genomes from East Africa?
F.D.A. Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Children 12 to 15
Science Was Alive and Well in the Dark Ages
Vaccination Against COVID ‘Does Not Mean Immunity’ For People With Organ Transplants

Other:

Stop saying Republicans are ‘cowards’ who fear Trump. The truth is far worse.
Democrats are fiddling while Republicans prepare to burn down Rome
McConnell dark money group thanks Sinema for her filibuster help, which is a big problem
Why corporate America should join the fight for government health care (Waldman is correct on the dollars and cents, but not on the power–too many business owners are willing to sacrifice some profits to maintain the whip hand)
The Debate Over Service Work and Unemployment Benefits Shows Why Marxism Is Right (lots of other analyses would make the same point though)
Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal: We must fix the gaping holes in Medicare
The biggest threat to America is the Republican break with reality
Kyrsten Sinema doesn’t feel the need to explain herself (Manic Pixie Dream Senator!)
Why Republicans are Ousting Liz Cheney
How The Politics Of White Liberals And White Conservatives Are Shaped By Whiteness
‘We May Not Have a Full Two Years’: Democrats’ Plans Hinge on Good Health
Ex-GA deputy bragged to extremist group about beating Black man in custody, FBI says
Michael Lewis Is Asking the Right Question. Why did America’s pandemic response fail so miserably? (will have to read this because I think Lewis, based on the interview, is very wrong about some things)
Hackers Say Negotiations With D.C. Over Stolen Police Data At ‘Dead End,’ Threaten Public Release
Teshuvah: A Jewish Case for Palestinian Refugee Return
‘It Taps Into A Lot Of Trauma’: Indigenous People In The D.C. Region Say Vaccines Came Too Late
100 Days of Big, Bold, Partisan Change
The Anti-Trans Lobby’s Real Agenda
‘Chernobyl moment’: The Covid-19 pandemic may have been prevented had the world acted a month earlier: Global health system ‘unfit’ for purpose and major reform needed, concludes independent review
1,000 feral cats released onto Chicago streets to tackle rat explosion (but would they work against 30-50 feral hogs)
House Republicans Purge Liz Cheney and Join Trump’s War on Democracy

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Effects of Schools on COVID-19, Pre- and Post-B.1.1.7

There’s an interesting non-peer reviewed study that made the rounds earlier this week about the effect of school reopening on the spread of COVID-19. Here’s the abstract:

This paper examines the effect of fall 2020 school reopenings in Texas on county-level COVID-19 cases and fatalities. Previous evidence suggests that schools can be reopened safely if community spread is low and public health guidelines are followed. However, in Texas, reopenings often occurred alongside high community spread and at near capacity, making it difficult to meet social distancing recommendations. Using event-study models and hand-collected instruction modality and start dates for all school districts, we find robust evidence that reopening Texas schools gradually but substantially accelerated the community spread of COVID-19. Results from our preferred specification imply that school reopenings led to at least 43,000 additional COVID-19 cases and 800 additional fatalities within the first two months. We then use SafeGraph mobility data to provide evidence that spillovers to adults’ behaviors contributed to these large effects. Median time spent outside the home on a typical weekday increased substantially in neighborhoods with large numbers of school-age children, suggesting a return to in-person work or increased outside-of-home leisure activities among parents.

The authors used a ‘natural experiment’ that occurred in Texas*. Since different school districts opened at different times, they could assess the effects of opening. One key finding, based on mobility data, is that a considerable amount of the increase in COVID-19 was due to parents leaving the house because they didn’t have to stay home (they also might have believed things ‘were better’), and then contracting COVID-19 while they were out and about. To their credit, they actually reported the lower bound estimates (which are still not good).

Needless to say, people on both sides of the school opening debate used this to justify their previously held beliefs.

But one thing to keep in mind is that the data they used predate the arrival of B.1.1.7 to the U.S. (this isn’t BAD SCIENCETISMZ!!, since, by the time B.1.1.7 arrived in the U.S., all schools had been open). Had B.1.1.7 arrived, I think they would have seen a (relatively) larger effect of classroom and household transmission due to its increased ability to spread, including among children (when first discovered, B.1.1.7 was feared as a potential ‘child killer’ because it spread so rapidly within families; fortunately, this observation largely had to do with improved transmission, not disease severity).

Anyway, as usual, context matters here. In a pre-vaccine, post-B.1.1.7 world, opening schools, especially when prevalence is high and other precautions aren’t being taken, is probably not a good idea.

So get your fucking COVID-19 vaccination already.

*I think the statistical methods they used are fine, but I need to think about them some more, given the ‘clusteriness’ of COVID-19.

Posted in COVID-19, Education | Leave a comment

Links 5/11/21

Links for you. Science:

Initial real world evidence for lower viral load of individuals who have been vaccinated by BNT162b2
‘The vaccine changed my life’: Yale study to examine effects on COVID long-haulers
Researchers fear people of color may be disproportionately affected by long Covid
Scientists Have Studied the Mysterious Behavior of Cats Sitting on Squares
Bunny, the dog that can “talk,” starts asking existential questions

Other:

Over
How America Became the Money Laundering Capital of the World. The U.S. is the venue of choice for cartels and kleptocrats. Now lawmakers want to use an agency called FinCEN to do something about it.
Covid Destroyed the Illusion of the Restaurant Industry
Musicians Say Streaming Doesn’t Pay. Can the Industry Change? Services like Spotify and Apple Music pulled the business back from the brink. But artists say they can’t make a living. And their complaints are getting louder.
Why Joe Biden Punched Big Pharma in the Nose Over Covid Vaccines
The U.S. Is Playing Catch-Up at Vaccine Diplomacy (thanks, Donnie!)
Three States and a Funeral (for the Republican Party). If you want to see the next version of the GOP, look at the states where it dominates the legislatures.
A Pennsylvania Lawmaker and the Resurgence of Christian Nationalism
Arizona Locals Are Revolting Against the Clown-Show ‘Audit’ of Its 2020 Election
The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries
Free beer offer results in more vaccinations than all Erie County first-dose clinics last week
Lafayette Square Reopens To The Public After 11 Months Of Being Totally Fenced Off
Doomsday for bad bosses
Bowser Announces Full Reopening on June 11, Capacity Increases for Restaurants and Bars on May 21
Trump Isn’t the Biggest Republican Threat
Jeff Bezos’s New Yacht Comes With Its Own Yacht?
GOP Governors End COVID Unemployment Benefits to Make People Go Back to Work
Kevin McCarthy hits the bottom of the barrel
The far right’s conspiracy theory blaming Fauci for COVID-19 worms its way into mainstream
Biden has a Federalist Society problem on his Supreme Court planning commission
COVID-19 patients total 170 at local hospitals, not a single one vaccinated

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The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Good, but Not Everywhere

Things are improving in most wards. The entire city and Wards 1-6, are below 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 0.032% 2.1% 0.063% 1.4%
2 0.024% 0.9% 0.049% 0.5%
3 0.014% 0.5% 0.060% 0.3%
4 0.025% 1.3% 0.092% 1.7%
5 0.038% 1.6% 0.138% 1.6%
6 0.026% 1.5% 0.076% 1.4%
7 0.111% 4.9% 0.235% 3.8%
8 0.076% 3.9% 0.230% 3.3%
D.C. total 0.041% 1.7% 0.114% 1.3%

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 several wards are getting close. That said, Ward 7 isn’t a good place at all, and Ward 8 isn’t doing much better. Hopefully, vaccination will increase in those wards, driving down the infection rate. That said, most wards saw dramatic declines, or were very low the previous week. Other than Wards 7 and 8, the percent positive rates are good, though it’s worth noting that there is a serious data discrepancy in between the sum of the ward level total numbers of tests and the ‘top line’ result D.C. reports, so the estimates of percent positive rates should be viewed as very provisional.

On the topic of percent positive rates, as cases continue to decline, we might see rates go up as people cease to be tested as often–we’ll have to see how that plays out in the coming weeks (though it’s a good problem to have). R(t) was well below 1.0 this week, as would be expected with these dramatic declines. We also had only had four deaths this week.

The real problem is that Wards 7 and 8 are lagging behind. According to D.C.’s vaccination data, Ward 8 is about 40% behind the city average, and Ward 7 is about 30% behind. This is reflected in the number of daily new positives, which, as noted above, are still too high. And D.C.’s vaccination data only capture about 75% of the vaccinations the CDC reports (these are from out-of-state or from federal sources that D.C. doesn’t control). My hunch is that this ‘missing 25%’ is not finding its way to Wards 7 and 8. Some wards might be in really good shape in a few weeks, but east-of-the-river is not doing well, and D.C. needs to figure out how to get people vaccinated.

All that said, in a month or so, I think we’ll be in a very good place. I can’t forgive the city’s leadership for refusing to stop the surge in early November (or even in October), which likely led to hundreds of needless deaths. But at least we’re getting towards the end of this nightmare, though I’ll still be angry about the greatest domestic policy failure in my lifetime. Not willing to forgive that.

*Due to data issues, this roundup is from Monday to Monday, not Sunday to Sunday as usual.

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Links 5/10/21

Links for you. Science:

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine is Highly Effective Against Variants, Studies Find
There Are New Safety Concerns About Russia’s COVID Vaccine, Which Is Already Being Distributed Worldwide
CDC Finds Anxiety Was Cause of Many Adverse Responses to J&J Vaccine
Rapid Emergence and Epidemiologic Characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.526 Variant — New York City, New York, January 1–April 5, 2021
SCHOOL REOPENINGS, MOBILITY, AND COVID-19 SPREAD:EVIDENCE FROM TEXAS

Other:

There’s Never Been A Good Argument Against D.C. Statehood. Republicans (and some Democrats) say D.C. shouldn’t become the 51st state. Here’s why each reason they cite is bad.
We Found the Textbooks of Senators Who Oppose The 1619 Project and Suddenly Everything Makes Sense (amazing)
If the Training Recommends Murder, the Training Is Clearly Wrong
Ted Cruz said his election objections weren’t about blocking Biden. Then someone asked about it.
Washingtonian staff goes on publishing strike after CEO’s op-ed about remote work. Cathy Merrill’s essay in The Washington Post shocked her employees, who viewed it as a threat to their job status
The GOP’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Obsession. How conservative politicians and pundits became fixated on an academic approach
Senior CDC official who met Trump’s wrath for raising alarm about coronavirus to resign
Norwegian Cruise Lines will pull ships out of Florida if required to take unvaccinated passengers
Tucker Carlson May Be America’s Biggest Public Health Problem
Humanity Does Not Need Bill Gates
The making of a myth: Russell J. Ramsland Jr. sold everything from Tex-Mex food to light-therapy technology. Then he sold the story that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
It’s not their job to buy you cake: Working remotely for the last year has revealed just how much of office culture is accidental, arbitrary, and sexist.
Barcelona installs Spain’s first solar energy pavement
The people who want to keep masking: ‘It’s like an invisibility cloak’
As his restaurants’ customers return, a Miami chef is missing a critical ingredient: Workers

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Cataloging the Apocalypse Versus Providing Useful Information: D.C. Is Not Releasing the COVID-19 Data We Need

Regular readers will know that, Mondays, I usually provide a weekly update on the state of COVID-19 in D.C. I can’t do that today because the city didn’t release any ward-level data about total testing numbers yesterday; in fact, until late afternoon, there was nothing other than a press release/email announcing sixteen new cases and no deaths. This is part of a larger pattern where data reliability and timeliness have taken a nose dive the last few weeks.

While this is annoying for data nerds like me, we actually do need this information. Sixteen new cases out of 160 total tests, a ten percent positive rate, would mean we really don’t know what is happening–other than we probably have far more daily new positives than sixteen. Sixteen out of 1,600, a one percent positive rate, is pretty good askhually!, and likely represents a reasonable estimate of the daily new cases.

Consider the seven cases were found in Ward 7. If only 70 people were tested, that’s not good news for Ward 7. But if there were 300 tests, that’s not so bad. Without these data, we can’t really tell.

Back when the citywide daily new positives were twenty per hundred thousand–well past the supposed* phase 2 shutdown–it doesn’t really matter as much. Whether the daily new positives are twenty or more like forty once the percent positive rate is factored in isn’t so important, since, from a policy perspective, COVID-19, like the rent, is too damn high: time to rollback. Essentially, good data just allow us to more accurately catalog the apocalypse.

On the other hand, right now, as we really do need to reassess what our policies should be, we need good, reliable data, and those aren’t being provided. If nothing else, D.C. must release citywide positive test data and total test data, so we can assess what is happening, though, as described above, D.C. should–and was–providing ward-level data too.

Hopefully, this is fixed by the time you’ve read this.

*I write supposed because the city did nothing significant in response for six weeks after that, and so many people died needlessly as a result.

Posted in COVID-19, DC | Leave a comment