Links 10/29/20

Links for you. Science:

Science Tells Us a Dust Bowl 2.0 Is Yet Another New Reality of Climate Change Neglect
The Missing Piece — SARS-CoV-2 Testing and School Reopening
What those studies on mouthwash and coronaviruses actually mean
J. Michael Lane, epidemiologist who helped conquer smallpox, dies at 84
Listeria outbreak in several states sickens Massachusetts residents, according to CDC


We may not be facing apocalypse, but the near future doesn’t look good
From Vacant to Vibrant to Vexed: The Inefficiencies of Selling Affordable Dwelling Units
How the Pandemic Changed the Urban Soundscape
Covid Spikes in Europe, US Before Winter Is Here
Here’s why you don’t want to live in a Republican-run state
A Maryland family battled covid-19 at the same time as Trump. It devastated them.
With Election Approaching, Officials Say Voters Should Use Drop Boxes Instead Of Mail To Return Ballots
Ossoff’s hard-hitting Georgia Senate debate performance goes viral, for good reason
The Trump Administration Shut a Vaccine Safety Office Last Year. What’s the Plan Now?
US Ice officers ‘used torture to make Africans sign own deportation orders’
I warned of right-wing violence in 2009. Republicans objected. I was right.
Utah’s hospitals prepare to ration care as a record number of coronavirus patients flood their ICUs
Booking homeless Portlanders into jail is endless, expensive cycle that arrests don’t curb, but housing does
‘You’re Out of Your Mind if You Think I’m Ever Going Back to School’: When learning is virtual, Black parents can watch for unfair treatment.
‘Toxic’: CDC staffers say morale inside the public health agency has plummeted during the pandemic
Antisemitism rising in anti-vaxxer movement, UK study finds
Queen of the Culture Warlords
Activists Tear Down Signs At Black Lives Matter Plaza After Confirmation Of Amy Coney Barrett
Trump’s COVID Task Force Is Livid Over the Trump White House’s ‘We Ended COVID’ Report
Corners are out and crossings are in as Metro considers station name changes
Enablement: The tortured self-justification of one very powerful Trump-loathing anonymous Republican. (what a horrible person)
VMI cadets attack Black students, women on anonymous chat app as furor over racism grows

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On Republican COVID-19 Nihilism

By now, you might have stumbled across any number of reports describing the Trump administration’s de facto embrace of a ‘herd immunity’ strategy: letting the virus run rampant to build up immunity, while attempting (and failing) to protect at-risk populations, so we can protect TEH STONKS! return to normal. Underlying this Republican nihilism–and until multiple Republicans challenge him on this, it’s a Republican policy*–is the belief that we can’t do anything to prevent infection, as expressed by White House Chief of Staff and COVID-19 Surrender Monkey Mark Meadows.

If you think about this for any amount of time, it becomes obvious just how stupid that Republican nihilism is. After eight months of a pandemic involving an airborne virus, with a patchwork and largely incompetent national response, well under twenty percent of Americans have contracted the virus. So it’s pretty fucking obvious that it is possible to prevent most people from contracting it, even in the U.S., over extended periods of time.

Of course, that assumes they really want to stop it at all–which, as it has been clear for months, they don’t.

*If the left, construed broadly, has to own the idiocy of various dipshit college sophomores, then the Right owns the COVID-19 (non-)strategy until they make it clear that it’s failing.

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Links 10/28/20

Links for you. Science:

If One Part of Life on This Planet Is Sick, Soon Enough It All Will Be. Another parable on the interconnectedness of it all is brought to us by cheatgrass.
Face Masks, Public Policies and Slowing the Spread of COVID-19: Evidence from Canada
How an Algorithm Blocked Kidney Transplants to Black Patients
The true dangers of AI are closer than we think
Ventilation and air filtration play a key role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 indoors


Sources: Gina Raimondo Being Considered as Biden’s Treasury Secretary (lordy, no)
Still Dyin’
Tom Cotton’s Bottomless Ambition Is Forcing the Rest of Us to Contemplate the Year 2024
There’s no more doubt: Democrats have to expand the Supreme Court
Don’t Let the Court Choose Its Cases
Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Philosophy Doesn’t Hold Up to Scrutiny
Do Not Put Your Ballot in the Mail. Do Prepare to March. Members of the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court have announced their intent to throw out ballots any way they can. Deliver yours in person or vote early. And get ready to protest.
‘Rent erosion’ hits DC’s apartment market
Big Tech Comes for Podcasts: Silicon Valley could wreck audio journalism—unless Washington acts first.
Prince George’s Family Stuck With Box of Misdelivered Coronavirus Test Specimens
D.C. says 190,000 have activated new coronavirus contact-tracing tool
D.C. Residents in Federal Prisons Can Vote This Year, But Hurdles to Casting Ballots Remain
Trump is right: He can’t contain the virus. But a better president could.
Suburban women have had their lives upended by Covid-19. They blame Trump.
One Last Funny Feeling About 2020
This how the 1% look at minorities. I was a classmate of Kushner: let me tell you what I did to get into Harvard compared to what he did.
Journalistic Sanity Asserted Itself Just in Time at the Wall Street Journal
Mass exodus at health department could make COVID-19 winter even worse
Trump’s Executive Order on Federal Employees Would Be a Win for the Swamp
Republicans Do Not Expect Trump To Lose. That’s a Problem.

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What a Good Prevalence Would Be

Most days when I post my daily roundup I refer to “the good place”, which is a daily new case rate of 1 case per 100,000 people, which in D.C. would be seven cases per day, or fifty cases per week. Seems I’m not the only one who wants to get to that point and thinks we can (boldface mine):

If you look at Taiwan or New Zealand, or even Italy, eight, 10, 12 weeks of really serious pain — limiting social activities, limiting groups — you get the number of new cases a day down to one per 100,000. In the United States, that means 3,000 new cases [or] 2,000 new cases a day, down from what we’re doing at 60,000. Then we can be a lot more free and open. The chance of spreading is low. Schools can open. Lots of things happen when you’re about 3,000 cases [a day], as opposed to 60,000 or 40,000 cases a day.

Where I disagree with Ezekiel Emmanuel is this notion of pain. If we had the necessary economic policies, it wouldn’t be that painful. And, for most parts of the country, at this point, we don’t need three months of shutdown. Many places could get there in four to six weeks, two months tops*.

As I keep saying, we are four to six weeks away from returning to normal-ish (though if cases keep climbing, it will be more like six to eight weeks), but we remain four to six weeks away because we refuse to do what needs to be done.

Anger is still the appropriate emotion.

*If we can lower Rt to 0.7 and we assume an incubation period of five days, six weeks could lower the prevalence 17-fold, and two months could lower prevalence more than 70-fold.

Posted in COVID-19 | 3 Comments

The COVID-19 Response Is Par for the Republican Course

While I’m willing to call Trump et alia COVID-19 surrender monkeys as much as the next guy, I don’t think surprise, such as this, is warranted (boldface mine):

For weeks, the White House has been advancing a “herd immunity” approach of essentially letting the coronavirus infect the majority of the population. President Trump insists that the United States is “rounding the corner” despite record-breaking infection rates and rising hospitalizations. Trump continues to compare coronavirus with the flu and complains that the media spends too much time spent covering it. During the final presidential debate, Trump accused former vice president Joe Biden of wanting to “lock Americans in their basements for months on end.”

None of this made sense. Public health experts have been forced to debunk each inaccurate and misleading statement. All the while, the Trump administration insisted that it has a plan.

How could this be? Well, now we have our answer. In a CNN interview on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated bluntly: “We’re not going to control the pandemic.” When pressed on why not, Meadows said the novel coronavirus “is a contagious virus just like the flu,” and that “what we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this.”

There it is. That’s Trump’s plan — to accept our fate and surrender to the virus. Cross our fingers and place all of our hopes on vaccines and therapies. In the meantime, live our lives as we did before, ignore the rising death count, and let the virus rip through our communities.

While we should be horrified, we shouldn’t be surprised. Not because Trump and his minions are horrible people–though they are–but because, as some asshole with a blog noted months ago, this is what Republicans do (boldface added):

…the Trump administration, along with many of its Republican collaborators, has a plan. It’s just that the plan is so horrifying that many people don’t want to believe the administration would do something like that. The plan is simple. Restart businesses, and let the American Carnage ensue. It will disproportionately affect minorities and lower-income people–and if those people were better people, they would have been wealthier and whiter, so fuck ’em anyway. I think they also believe–likely incorrectly–that the carnage will be confined mostly to urban, Democratic areas. Meanwhile, TEH STONKS! will be doing well, so all is good.

That’s the plan.

Before you make a counterargument, consider this: the Republican Party has spent the last forty years undermining worker protections and environmental protection. Why would they suddenly change their ways? This is what they do because they believe it’s the right thing to do, as horrifying as that is. Sure, this isn’t some toxic sludge, it’s a virus. But they have never cared about workers or public health, so why would they start now?

The absence of a plan to reopen safely as reasonably possible is the plan because they don’t care about your safety or health.

To claim that the scope of the crisis will encourage them to rise above their typical behavior is to make the same mistake many people made in the run up to the Iraq War. Yes, Little Lord Pontchartrain might have lied a lot about budgets and other things, but war–the Most Serious Action a President Can Take™–was too important. Surely, he and his administration wouldn’t lie about war? (narrator: they did). Meanwhile, Trump has an even more strained relationship with reality than Bush did.

They–not just Trump, but Republicans–believe this is the right thing to do. Never forgot that. Never forgive it either.

Anger, if not rage, is the appropriate emotion.

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Links 10/27/20

Links for you. Science:

Escaped cloned female mutant crayfish take over Belgian cemetery (2020!)
Viral dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the predictive value of repeat testing
Black voices in physics: Clifford Johnson
Before you get a flu shot, get good sleep to increase its effectiveness, experts say
Scientific Detective Work: Tracking Shark Fins Around The Globe
Home tests could help in the fight against the coronavirus. So where are they?


Save Dives, Save Lives: Paying Bars To Close Could Slow The Spread Of COVID-19
There’s nothing more originalist than packing the court
Here Is One Health Care Pledge Biden Shouldn’t Make
Ovens, dishwashers and washing machines are breaking down like never before. But there’s nobody to fix them.
Private Firm Mobilizing Armed Vets For Election Day Stands Down After Minnesota Warning
Trump’s historic assault on the civil service was four years in the making
New York Times nailed for publishing Republican propaganda — yet again. Two supposedly “average” voters in a Times story turn out to be hardcore Republicans. And it’s happened before (yes, it has)
Swept up by police
They Lost Their Jobs In The Pandemic. Now Defeating Trump Is Full-Time Work.
Drug company insiders are profiting handsomely from the world’s desperate hope for a COVID-19 vaccine
Mary Trump: Psychiatrists know what’s wrong with my uncle. Let them tell voters.
Figure skaters say Mass. rink closures are unfair to them
Enlarging the Supreme Court is the only answer to the right’s judicial radicalism
When We Talk About Fox News, We Need to Talk About the Murdoch Family Too
Rochester AFL-CIO Calls for General Strike if Trump Steals Election
Trump, TV pundits don’t have a fracking clue about Pennsylvania and fossil fuels
A D.C. charter school had a plan to reopen. Then it all fell apart.
Will masks become the ‘new normal’ even after the pandemic has passed? Some Americans say so
How The Epoch Times Created a Giant Influence Machine. Since 2016, the Falun Gong-backed newspaper has used aggressive Facebook tactics and right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media empire.
Republican party spends nearly $1 million to make Fox News’ Sean Hannity a bestseller
How San Francisco became a COVID-19 success story as other cities stumbled

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If Yogi Berra Had Been an Epidemiologist…

…he would have said something like “the best way to avoid getting an infectious disease is to avoid people who are infected.” Outsourced to Aaron Carroll (boldface mine):

Screening people without symptoms finds those who are infectious and gets them into quarantine and isolation earlier. But this doesn’t serve any purpose unless you’re also pairing this screening with careful behavior. Even if the infections of the president and others were discovered during regular screening, they still had a huge number of contacts; it’s still a disaster. If you’re going to lead a life where you could theoretically infect hundreds of people or more a day, slightly earlier knowledge doesn’t matter that much.

The most testing, the most advanced technology, and the best health care are simply not sufficient when it comes to this disease. What’s necessary are simple public health measures, like distancing, masking, washing hands and spending as little time as possible close together indoors in the same room. The key to slowing down the spread of coronavirus infections is to have few, if any, close contacts. There’s just no getting around it…

It’s unsafe to hold crowded events. It’s unsafe to speak or shout without a mask, in indoor environments, for long periods of time. It’s unsafe to mingle, to hang out close together, and to gather in person when you could do so remotely. And this will still be the case for some time, even if we manage to scale up our testing regime significantly.

To limit the spread of this coronavirus, most of us don’t have to be brave or heroic. Some of us do, especially those in medicine. But most of us just have to be smart (or not stupid) and disciplined, as well as occasionally give a damn about someone else. It’s not fun to say the least, but it really does beat the alternatives, and all we have to do is physically distance and wear a mask.

Posted in COVID-19 | 1 Comment

Links 10/26/20

Links for you. Science:

How Many Plants Have We Wiped Out? Here Are 5 Extinction Stories
A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science
Universal mask use could save 130,000 U.S. lives by the end of February, new study estimates
Recently, I’ve come to think we are quite LUCKY, in fact, with COVID-19 – because, although it’s quite transmissible, it could indeed have been much deadlier. There’s no reason it couldn’t have been more… Medieval. Imagine if COVID-19 had been deadlier.
Behold the giant pecan scale


Dianne Feinstein Demonstrates Why Democratic Challenges to Democratic Incumbents Are Necessary (related thoughts here)
A Thorough Debunking of COVID-19 Contrarianism
Democrats Cannot Cave to the Republican Death Cult on the Stimulus Bill. Liability protection might not sound like an issue worth fighting for, but lives literally depend on whether Democrats hold the line during stimulus negotiations.
The beginning of the end of machine politics in Rhode Island
It’s ‘Court Reform,’ Not Court Packing
Artists are irked by Twitter’s change to retweets
Military Flyovers at NFL Games Are Ridiculous. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck would be right to call them out for what they are: outrageously wasteful publicity stunts.
How Straight Talk Helped One State Control COVID
How an Aversion to Masks Stems From ‘Toxic Masculinity’
Amazon workers threaten to shut down warehouses if employees don’t get a day off to vote.
We Shouldn’t Have to Work So Damn Much
The Service Industry and its Discontents
As the White House’s white nationalist ties are exposed further, its defenders go on the attack
Inside the campaign to ‘pizzagate’ Hunter Biden
Trump Official Brought Hate Connections to the White House
Jennifer Lawrence Stopped Being a Republican Because of Trump (“I could see the fiscal benefits of some of the Republican policies, and I could also see that the social issues weren’t in line with my views.” This is why Dems need to strike fast and hard–she’ll return to being a Republican when there’s a candidate who doesn’t say the quiet parts out loud)
How email became work
Study finds no crime increase in cities that adopted ‘sanctuary’ policies, despite Trump claims
Progressive lawmakers call on congressional leaders to prepare for next pandemic
She Used to Clean City Hall. Now, She Runs It.
Why geothermal energy should be Biden’s easy answer to the fracking question

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The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Confused

The prevalence of COVID-19 is essentially unchanged in D.C. Wards 2, 3, and 6 had increases, while Wards 1, 5, and 7 decreased. The entire city, along with Wards 1, 4, 5, and 6, are above the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week (0.05% in the second column below):

Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
1 0.061% 1.6% 0.128% 1.6%
2 0.038% 0.7% 0.064% 0.6%
3 0.032% 0.9% 0.058% 0.8%
4 0.074% 2.4% 0.151% 2.5%
5 0.066% 2.1% 0.141% 2.1%
6 0.059% 1.4% 0.102% 1.1%
7 0.048% 2.3% 0.105% 2.3%
8 0.046% 1.9% 0.089% 1.8%
D.C. total 0.055% 1.4% 0.109% 1.3%

Despite being months into the pandemic, we still don’t understand how spread is happening in D.C. We can repeat certain generalizations and bromides about particular activities, but what we need are cases that have been examined in detail, followed by communication of those cases to the public. Unless we believe–with absolutely no evidence to do so–that the transmission of SARS-CoV2 is fundamentally different in D.C., we are missing superspreading events. It’s tempting to joke about the White House Covidpalooza, but, were it not for leaks to the press, it’s doubtful our current system would have identified those cases either, other than (possibly) as another unknown rise in cases.

What the city must do is refocus some of its contact tracers and rapid testing capability to dive in deep into a case. Find out where this person shops for groceries and other supplies–and test everyone there. Do they take the bus? Find everyone who was on the bus with them. Are there other stores, restaurants, and other indoor activities where this patient has spent time? Trace and test people there. Are people supposedly in quarantine actually in quarantine? Run one of these cases down until there are no more threads. Some will be busts, but it’s likely you’ll eventually stumble across a superspreading event.

Without details of the natural history of transmission, we simply do not know which restrictions can be loosened and which should be tightened. Without understanding the current patterns of transmission, it is unconscionable that Mayor Bowser would push for sending more kids back to school.

Since White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows admitted on Sunday that there is no federal plan to control the spread of the virus (and Democrats seem unwilling to demagogue on this issue–not argue the point, but fire off some serious invective), we’re on our own, at least until early February, if the election goes well. There’s no cavalry coming, so D.C. will have to figure this out on its own–and our own elected officials are behaving as they have throughout this, and are failing in oversight.

Anger, if not rage, is the appropriate emotion.

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Links 10/25/20

Links for you. Science:

Multi-organ impairment in low-risk individuals with long COVID
CDC expands definition of who is a ‘close contact’ of an individual with covid-19
CDC expands definition of ‘close contacts,’ after study suggests Covid-19 can be passed in brief interactions
Adoption of Strategies to Mitigate Transmission of COVID-19 During a Statewide Primary Election — Delaware, September 2020


‘It’s a Very Determined Power Play to Pack Our Court’
We’re Going to Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to Recover From Trump (this is a weakling’s compromise position; we need criminal prosecutions, otherwise powerful people will learn they can continue to break the law with no consequences)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered—Then Discarded. Signature matching—which one expert described as “witchcraft”—could lead to thousands of legitimate ballots being thrown out. (this is why I had concerns about mail-in voting in many places)
How To Vote Without A Home Address? D.C. Groups Worked To Register People Experiencing Homelessness
The Georgia Senate Race Is a Horrifying Look at the Republican Party’s Present and Future
Trump’s Twitter acct. was taken over, and it’s even stupider than you think
D.C.’s New Language Museum Has Animated Books And Very Nerdy Karaoke
Dupont Circle’s Legendary High Heel Race Is Canceled This Year
The Case Against Donald Trump (“…if we judge these men on two questions alone—Who is a more trustworthy steward of America’s nuclear arsenal? Which man poses less of a threat to our collective existence?—the answer is spectacularly obvious.”)
You’re Not Supposed to Understand the Rumors About Biden
To Stop an Electoral Coup, Study What Went Wrong in the 2000 Florida Recount
Last Night, Joe Biden Went to Bat for the $15 Minimum Wage. He Hit a Home Run.
A Regulatory Rush by Federal Agencies to Secure Trump’s Legacy
In this Pennsylvania town, racism ‘was quiet.’ Then Trump stoked fears of violence
Credit scores are supposed to be race-neutral. That’s impossible.
Tell the truth about Rush Limbaugh
My Life as an Anti-Fascist Catfisher
The path to ‘herd immunity’ would be lined with half a million dead Americans
The Supreme Court is locked and loaded to give the GOP a boost in the election
Noah’s arc of history
Opportunity Knocks: Canvassing in the Time of Covid (if I read polls correctly, this is correlated with when Biden started to pull away, though obviously confounded with many other things)

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