In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist links:

Blossom Explosion

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: The Vaccine Can’t Come Fast Enough, but Will It?

COVID-19 and the Immaculate Infection

Infrastructure Discourse Follies

Schools and Spread

A Quick Take on ‘Economic Anxiety’

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Links 4/9/21

Links for you. Science:

CDC Director on reports of clusters of cases associated with daycares and youth sports
Escaping Catch-22 — Overcoming Covid Vaccine Hesitancy
NIH is Documenting COVID-19 as Well as Responding to It
Antibody evasion by the P.1 strain of SARS-CoV-2
Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus (give her a Nobel Prize)


The toxic elitism of declaring voters to be unworthy of the task
Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, emails show (never forget, never forgive them)
D.C. to begin offering vaccine appointments to all adults on April 12, ‘earlier than planned’
Goodbye to Gate 35X, cursed portal to the rest of America
The guy driving the Suez Canal excavator says he got by on 3 hours of sleep a night and hasn’t been paid his overtime yet
Why the Right Doesn’t Have to Make Sense
What Exactly Is Donald Trump Upset About Here?
Republicans are trying to distract us from their goal of disenfranchisement
The Peace Born of the Good Friday Agreement Is Tottering on a Cliff
Joe Manchin Says the Filibuster (Which Is Currently in Place) Fosters Bipartisanship (Which Is Not). The burden of proof is on the West Virginia senator to explain how trying the same thing over and over again isn’t insanity. (never forget that Manchin is an ideologue)
Justice Stephen Breyer should retire from the Supreme Court
We need to start thinking bigger on our gun problem
After Pandemic, Shrinking Need for Office Space Could Crush Landlords
Have White Evangelicals Finally Lost Control of the Narrative?
Bowser Cancels Weekly Conference Call with D.C. Council
“How’s working from home going? Been up to much?”
A To-Do List for Robert Contee as He Prepares to Take the Helm of MPD

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A Quick Take on ‘Economic Anxiety’

While it’s clear Democrats will never stop arguing about the 2016 election, a recent op-ed stumbled across what has been obvious for some time now: most Trump supporters are not motivated by ‘economic anxiety’ nor were the January 6 insurrectionists, leading to a loud chorus of ‘DUH!’ While it does remain an open question if economic anxiety cost Clinton victories in extremely close states (it’s a very strong and unsupportable statement to argue that economic anxiety couldn’t have cost her enough votes in really close states; e.g., 0.1% of the total), what motivates the ‘mean’ Trump voter is pretty clear, and it’s not economic anxiety.

Unfortunately, what’s lost in the denigration of the influence of economic anxiety on voting is that it did seem to affect one group: low-attachment Democrats, especially low-attachment minority voters. What did kill Clinton wasn’t the Trump switchers, though they obviously didn’t help, but the Democrats who stayed home. Many of them chose not to vote because they didn’t think Democrats would help them.

There are economically anxious voters, it’s just they’re usually Democrats trying to decide if voting is worth their time.

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Links 4/8/21

Links for you. Science:

We Can’t End the Pandemic Without Vaccinating Kids
Satellite Imagery Shows Northern California Kelp Forests Have Collapsed
Outdoor transmission accounts for 0.1% of State’s Covid-19 cases (though note ““The risk of infection is low outdoors because unless you are up close to someone infected…”)
Finding From Particle Research Could Rewrite Known Laws of Physics (Higgs boson will try to filibuster it tho)
Can Blood from Young People Slow Aging? Silicon Valley Has Bet Billions It Will (dunno)


All D.C. Residents Over 16 Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine Starting April 12
Behind the dark-money web that put Barrett (and Kavanaugh and Gorsuch) on the Supreme Court. Neil and Ann Corkery have a mission: Load up the judicial branch with right-wing Catholics. It’s definitely working
Did Boomers Ruin America? A Millennial defense of Baby Boomers (well, kind of)–very good
DC statehood is about equity and racial justice
America’s “crumbling” roads and bridges are fine
D.C. Council Bill Pushes For Affordable And Reliable High-Speed Internet Across The City
Surely We Can Do Better Than Elon Musk
Kyrsten Sinema is misleading her constituents. And she almost surely knows it.
Independent Pharmacies Told To Vaccinate Residents Through D.C. Government Portal, Abandon Their Own Scheduling Systems
The Trump media era ends not with a wow but a whisper
Three months after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, are public spaces making a comeback?
We Need a 9/11 Commission for COVID
It’s leaders of every faith vs. Sinema and Manchin over the filibuster—but especially Sinema
White Evangelical Resistance Is Obstacle in Vaccination Effort
Why The Republican Party Isn’t Rebranding After 2020
As voting issue gets white-hot, political reporters try to duck the moral implications
Republicans Are Now Running the ‘Stick-to-Sports’ Routine on Fortune 500 CEOs
Marjorie Taylor Greene Is a Nut and a Charlatan No Matter How Much Money She Raises
WeWork Or, Give People Money
Top Official Warned That Covid Vaccine Plant Had to Be ‘Monitored Closely’
Georgetown Is Installing Deck Panels to Widen Its Sidewalks
Table for None: Several D.C. restaurants survived the pandemic without letting customers cross the threshold. Was only offering takeout the right decision?

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Schools and Spread

We travel (virtually) to the Great State of Michigan (boldface mine):

According to state data, since February 19, average daily new COVID-19 cases among children under 10 jumped 230%, more than any other age group. The second-highest increase in infections is in the 10 to 19 age group, which saw cases rise 227%. The trends in these groups exceed that of the state as a whole.

The rise in cases among kids has been evident elsewhere across the country. In Minnesota, people under age 20 made up nearly a quarter of reported cases in March, up from less than 15% at the end of February. Similar trends have been seen in other states as well, including Illinois and Massachusetts. According to the most recent data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 64,000 new cases in children were reported nationwide between March 18 and March 25, the highest weekly total in a month.

According to physicians and infectious disease experts in Michigan, much of the rise in pediatric cases can be linked to the reopening of schools and youth sports. State data shows more than 40% of new outbreaks (defined as two or more cases linked by place and time) have come from either K-12 schools or youth programs. But Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, senior public health physician at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says social gatherings after youth sporting events are also contributing to the spread.

“If everyone is removing their mask and going out to dinner to celebrate a big win then all of those precautions go out the door,” she said. “So really, this seems to have driven this surge.”

This article gets at something very important: too often, when we assess the risk of an activity, we only assess the risk of the actual activity, not the events that stem from that activity–in this case, post-game celebrations.*

It also supports what it seen when detailed contact tracing is done: there is spread, not just among students, but out into the larger community. This shouldn’t be surprising: with most respiratory viruses, the grandkids kill their grandparents. It would be very unusual for kids to not be ‘good spreaders’ (not impossible, just not likely).

Worse, as the B.1.1.7 variant continues to spread (and the outbreak linked to above involved the B.1.1.7 variant)–it, along with the B.1.526/E484K variant, account for more than half of sequenced viral genomes in New York City, so it’s coming–it also affects spread within and ‘through’ children (boldface mine):

Osterholm previously supported sending children back to school. He said the virus was not a major threat to children. Now, the situation has changed.

“Please understand, this B.1.1.7 variant is a brand new ball game,” Osterholm said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It infects kids very readily. Unlike previous strains of the virus, we didn’t see children under 8th grade get infected often or they were not frequently very ill, they didn’t transmit to the rest of the community.”

…In Minnesota, Osterholm said more than 740 schools reported cases of the variant. In Michigan more young people are ending up in hospitals fighting more serious symptoms than previously seen in children with COVID-19…

Seeing that happen in his own backyard, Osterholm is now questioning his own previous advice.

Anywhere you look where you see this emerging, you see that kids are playing a huge role in the transmission of this,” Osterholm said. “All the things that we had planned for about kids in schools with this virus are really no longer applicable. We’ve got to take a whole new look at this issue.

Vaccinations are expected to help fight off the B.1.1.7 variant. However, Osterholm said there’s simply not enough time to just rely on vaccinations.

“We’re not going to have nearly enough (vaccine doses) in the next 6 to 8 weeks to get through this surge, and we’re going to have to look at other avenues to do that just as every other country in the world who’s had a B.1.1.7 surge has had to do.”

I’m not convinced that the characteristics of B.1.1.7 alone are driving this, since we have really opened up schools full throttle over the last couple of months in many places, even though CDC guidelines would indicate keeping them closed.

That said, vaccination will work, but new data suggests two shots are needed and there is limited effectiveness of partial vaccination against B.1.1.7, which will add a couple of weeks to the timeline for herd immunity (or at least, herd ‘slow the spread down significantly’).

When the retrospectives are done, we’re going to look back on school openings and have some regrets.

*When it comes to dining, we often neglect how people get to the restaurant. I see too many cases of people who clearly don’t live together spilling out of a single car in D.C.

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Links 4/7/21

Links for you. Science:

They Had Mild Covid. Then Their Serious Symptoms Kicked In.
The Next Trick: Pulling Coronavirus Out of Thin Air
6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236,379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records
West Virginia Is Trying To Block Needle Exchanges Amid The Worst HIV Outbreak In The US


U.S. Bet Big on Covid Vaccine Manufacturer Even as Problems Mounted
The Crimson Klan
Republican delusion — not disinformation — is the bigger danger to American democracy
I’m Quitting Political Cartooning
Coming of Age in a Struggling Berkeley Bookstore
Sanders pushes Medicare expansion in Dems’ next big bill
Walmart’s Company Town of Bentonville, Arkansas
King and the Modern Left
So now trying to keep people from voting against you is “racist” if those voters happen not to be white
Joe Manchin Is Pissing Me Off
They’re Bad People, Brent
Only Zero Covid Worked And Everyone Knows It
A New Study Draws a Line from January 6 to Charlottesville
Matt Gaetz’s staffers were sending videos of his outrageous behavior to other Republican officials
Capitol riot detainee alleges beating by D.C. jail guards
2020 Was a Tough Year for Comics Shops
Growing Chorus Implores Biden to Fire Trump Holdovers Who Support ‘Dismantling and Cutting’ Social Security
No Hurry

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Infrastructure Discourse Follies

I like to think of myself as a reasonably good ‘conservative moment anticipator’, in that I usually have a pretty good understanding of what they’ll do next and why. But I’ll admit I didn’t even imagine the Republican attack strategy of ‘water pipes aren’t infrastructure.’ I really didn’t see that one coming (thankfully, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg did*).

What’s worse is the national political press corps is taking this line of attack, as ludicrous as it is, seriously. George Stephanopoulos, dutiful stenographer that he is, regurgitated this talking point at Buttigieg, who handled it well. But why take this seriously?

There’s a cynical element to this: much of the political press corps needs controversy, so Republican talking points are taken seriously in order to create conflict. There’s also a deeper structural problem at work.

The Republican Party has descended into Ayn Randian batshitloonitarianism, which is often neglected given the prominence of the Republican Party’s white Christian nationalism. There are criticisms, valid ones, of the infrastructure bill, but those are to be found on the left because the batshitloonitarians simply don’t believe in most government programs (except Freedom Bombs). So we’re left with the neo-liberal plaints about TEH DEFICITZ!!, which even ideologue Sen. Joe Manchin isn’t too worried about, or left-ish policy critiques. Not only are most political reporters too ignorant of policy, but they also can’t stand much of the left at a personal level: I’m not sure that enjoying David Gergen’s company more than some lefty Democrat’s is exactly a human credential, but I don’t want to kinkshame. They just don’t like the left, construed broadly. Not Very Serious People.

Anyway, just don’t watch that crap.

*Buttigieg and Sanders, each in his own way, are the only two Democratic politicians who are capable of appearing on Fox News and eating the lunch of their in-house propagandists. It’s a remarkable skill.

Posted in Conservatives, Democrats, News Media, Transportation | 4 Comments

Links 4/6/21

Links for you. Science:

Decreased thermal tolerance as a trade-off of antibiotic resistance
As endangered birds lose their songs, they can’t find mates
Community Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Associated with a Local Bar Opening Event — Illinois, February 2021
Researchers Are Hatching a Low-Cost Coronavirus Vaccine
What Covid Means for the Athlete’s Heart


This should not happen more than once
America’s Next Insurgency
In Terms of Culture-War Holy-Shit Moments, This Is Right Up There
McDonald’s, Other CEOs Tell Investors $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Hurt Business
The Simple Fact Is That the Republican Party Has Been the Party of Voter Suppression Since the 1960s
The Rules That Made U.S. Roads So Deadly
Mitch McConnell Is Barking Scared Now That Corporate Power Is Against Him
My Mom Believes In QAnon. I’ve Been Trying To Get Her Out.
Republicans Love Infrastructure, Unless It’s Paid For, or Not Paid For
Republicans draw a blank on basic governance
Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, killed in car crash on Easter Sunday (cars suck)
My New Band Is: Loser, Baby. On Sportsmanship, Fairness, Justice, and Park Slope (“Here’s something else he doesn’t see, perhaps willfully: people who did not start with extra points on the board look him in the eye on a daily basis and politely say “good game,” even when he does not deserve it and did not win fairly. They often recognize his humanity, even if he refuses to recognize theirs, or can only imagine it in the context of his own potential suffering. They are expected to be good losers.”)
America Has a Ruling Class: Why do members of the political elite insist that they’re not? (attempting to subvert heuristics)
Wikipedia’s Deep Ties to Big Tech
If It’s Not Jim Crow, What Is It? Georgia’s new voting law has to be understood in its own peculiar historical context. (“…the thing about Jim Crow is that it wasn’t “Jim Crow” until, one day, it was.”)
You Can Be a Different Person After the Pandemic
Did the Boomers Ruin America? A Debate. The conservative writer Helen Andrews and the liberal journalist Jill Filipovic discuss why millennials are so mad at their parents’ generation. (ignore Andrews and just read Filipovic)

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COVID-19 and the Immaculate Infection

Horrible band name by the way.

Throughout the pandemic, we too often have heard various local and state officials say things like this (boldface mine):

Governor Charlie Baker has been criticized for allowing restaurants and public venues to open up, and indeed dozens of clusters during March were linked to retail stores, restaurants and food courts, and athletic events. But the vast majority of clusters — nearly 7,000 outbreaks involving 18,000 people — occurred within households, according to state data.

We are over a year into this, and both our political leaders and major news organizations still do not comprehend a basic level how spread works. Some asshole with a blog has covered this before, but it’s worth going through this again.

If we miss the superspreading events, then we miss how these infections are reaching households. Consider this known superspreading event:


Much of the spread–as determined by the number of links–does occur in households. But there’s no such thing as an immaculate infection: one or more members of these households were exposed somewhere outside of the household, and then brought it home. If we cut those external links, then household spread doesn’t happen.

One doesn’t have to be cynical to conclude that state and local governments are trying to shift blame away from failed policies. If the blame can largely be cast on inchoate factors and personal behavior, then political leaders don’t have to make difficult choices like shutting down places where transmission occurs.

This is why I say eighty percent of elected officials should not be returned to office based on their pandemic behavior, even if they weren’t actively malevolent like Trump, DeSantis, or Cuomo.

Posted in COVID-19 | Leave a comment

Links 4/5/21

Links for you. Science:

Why It Pays to Think Outside the Box on Coronavirus Tests
Viral load and contact heterogeneity predict SARS-CoV-2 transmission and super-spreading events
Estimation of secondary household attack rates for emergent spike L452R SARS-CoV-2 variants detected by genomic surveillance at a community-based testing site in San Francisco
What the world can learn from New Zealand’s Covid-19 bin mystery
Separating elephant species shows they are closer to extinction than scientists thought


Only Biden Can Usher In Full Communism
My New Band Is: Teenage Mistake
DC Health Launches 24/7 Hotline for Preventive Treatment of HIV
Biden Is About to Undo Trump’s Judiciary Project
Does SoHo, Haven for Art and Wealth, Have Room for Affordable Housing?
Traffic stops make poverty a crime, retired Birmingham police captain says
LAPD violence in Echo Park enforced class divisions, not public safety
The costs of a secretive ‘wealth defense industry’ of shell companies, offshore tax havens, and empty luxury condos
This grand Moscow store was a land of plenty since the czars. Its 120-year run is near an end.
Historic Board Says Transformer Sculptures Can’t Remain In Georgetown (boo! hiss!)
House Committee Chairs
The Surprising Success of Sputnik V
Covid vaccinations are free — but they’re taking a toll on local pharmacies’ bottom lines
China Is Missing from the Great Inflation Debate
Capital crossings: Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
Why Joe Biden’s Economic Plan Includes Home Health Care, Not Just Roads And Bridges
How Wisconsin turned around its lagging vaccination program — and buoyed a Biden health pick
It’s anything but the economy, stupid
Feeling Desperate and Impatient, D.C. Residents Are Traveling to Get Vaccinated Elsewhere
Covid Has Made Where You Live Matter Even More
The pandemic crime surge is a policing problem

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