Vaccine Mandates Still Work

Given our inability to improve building ventilation, have enough masking in enough places, or adopt affordable, widespread rapid testing, we’re going to need them. We’ve seen over the last few weeks how successful mandates have been in getting people vaccinated, including state police in Massachusetts, teachers in New York, and nursing homes in New York, along with a whole slew of businesses.

One thing that typically goes unremarked is the passion by many who are vaccinated to not want to be around co-workers who are unvaccinated, as described in this story about United Airlines decision to be ‘early adopters’ of vaccine mandates (boldface mine):

United executives said they were surprised that positive feedback from politicians, customers and the public far outweighed the criticism it received.

Customers thanked the airline, and job applicants said they were excited to join a company that took employee safety seriously. United has received 20,000 applications for about 2,000 flight attendant positions, a much higher ratio than before the pandemic…

I did not appreciate the intensity of support for a vaccine mandate that existed, because you hear that loud anti-vax voice a lot more than you hear the people that want it,” Mr. Kirby said. “But there are more of them. And they’re just as intense.”

Regardless of what one thinks about third doses and so on, there is no path to the end of this godawful shitty mess that doesn’t involve widespread vaccination. There are a lot of people–vaccinated people–who want vaccine mandates. Unfortunately, most of them (us, akshually) don’t wave Gadsen flags or threaten public officials, so they’re not taken as seriously. I’m not advocating pro-mandate supporters do that (though, as a thought experiment, it is interesting to consider the response), but we do need to make clear to elected officials that we need far more vaccine requirements.

At the federal level, it’s time for an air travel mandate. The Biden administration needs to grow a fucking pair of balls on this. In addition, there is no reason why any institution that receives HHS funding (or, for that matter, any other grants, such as those from the NSF) should not be required to provide a safe workplace in line with OSHA requirements: that is, all academic institutions that receive such funding should be required to have vaccine mandates. I’m on the fence about K-12 Department of Education funding, since I think Republican states will decide to screw over students instead. And the OSHA requirements need to be applied to workplaces much smaller than 100 workers. The point is, there are a whole bunch levers the Biden administration could be pulling and they need to start pulling them.

At the local and state levels–and here I’m going to focus on D.C. (not Wor-Shing-Tun, but D.C.), here are some things that should be mandated:

  1. All non-essential ‘point of entry’ activities must require proof of vaccination. While some places might be easier to enforce than others (gyms would be pretty easy, clubs perhaps not so much), this will ‘encourage’ people, especially in the under 40 cohorts, who just aren’t getting vaccinated. D.C. needs to implement this now.
  2. Since I mentioned the social compact, every D.C. worker who was or would have been eligible for early access to a life-saving vaccine now must be vaccinated. We were willing to protect you from us, now it’s your turn to do the same.
  3. All students twelve and older should be vaccinated, otherwise they will have remote learning.
  4. All parents and guardians of students must be vaccinated, otherwise they will have remote learning. This one is so obvious (and yet somehow Mayor Bowser is doing it completely wrong…). Kids will give it to each other, bring it home, and infect their parents.

The last two probably won’t happen in D.C. because Mayor Bowser has decided everyone is going back to school, regardless of the circumstances (the CDC guidelines have really helped assholes like Bowser), but they should.

Mandates do work, but the problem is, as usual, Democrats (Republicans are the lost and the damned on this) refuse to use the power we gave them and govern. So we’re in for a slow burn instead. This is why most state and local politicians do not deserve to be reelected.

Posted in COVID-19 | 3 Comments

Links 10/11/21

Links for you. Science:

Tylenol could be risky for pregnant women – a new review of 25 years of research finds acetaminophen may contribute to ADHD and other developmental disorders in children
Serendipity and foresight prepared the world to fight the coronavirus: Barney Graham laid the groundwork for the world to battle this pandemic, and the scientists he mentored will equip us for the next one
What Even Counts as Science Writing Anymore? The pandemic made it clear that science touches everything, and everything touches science. (But “science is culture.” Ed seems to have forgotten this?)
The Cactus That Came Back from the Dead
Iron Battery Breakthrough Could Eat Lithium’s Lunch
A woodpecker is officially declared extinct. Why should we care?


Is D.C. Really An Education Reform Success Story?
COVID-19 must be eliminated, not become endemic, if America is to survive (very good discussion about what endemic does and doesn’t mean)
Wanted: A better Build Back Better campaign
Inside United Airlines’ Decision to Mandate Coronavirus Vaccines
Marcia Freedman, First American Woman in Knesset, Dies at 83. As a radical gay feminist in historically patriarchal Israel, Ms. Freedman was under constant criticism and was often dismissed by her colleagues.
Welcome to ‘Death Panels: Build Back Better Edition’
These Jewish NYC schoolteachers want a religious exemption from the city’s vaccine mandate (a shanda)
Maybe the Only Solution Is to Log Off: The Facebook outage on Monday was a neat corollary to weeks of revelations, facilitated by whistleblower Frances Haugen, that we are using these products to poison ourselves.
Supreme Court gets ready to cement itself as a fully partisan Republican institution
Downtown D.C. Restaurants Are Still Hurting While Neighborhood Eateries Bounce Back
Chuck Grassley favors term limits. Just not for himself.
So How Far Will House Progressives Retreat to Get a Version of Biden’s “Build Back Better” Program
The Ugly Truth Behind the Kyrsten Sinema Bathroom Protest
USPS Begins Postal Banking Pilot Program: The test allows customers to cash business or payroll checks at the post office and place them onto a gift card.
Can a post office be a bank? New services test a progressive priority
Mexicans included
D.C. Council member mum on vaccination status (Trayon White claims he is vaccinated though, but his comments on measles vaccination are awful, and he’s said stupid things before about vaccination)
What’s Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema?
Religious Exemptions for Vaccine Mandates Shouldn’t Exist
Apocalypse Now: On vaccination, Revelation, and the mark of the beast
This Is the Most Active Labor Agitation in Decades, and Workers Finally Have a Chance
Bread for the City expands health-care options in Southeast with new medical clinic

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Very Cautiously Very Optimistic About a Third Vaccination

While it’s early days–and we don’t have a time machine to see what the future will hold–there’s some very promising data from Israel about the efficacy of a third mRNA vaccination dose (aka The Booster) in preventing confirmed infection. Not just severe cases or death, but infection, which would be critical in stemming transmission. From the preprint (boldface mine):

The rate of confirmed infection was lower in the booster group than in the nonbooster group by a similar factor across the age groups: 12.4 (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.9 to 12.9) for people 60+ years of age, 12.2 (95% CI, 11.4 to 13.1) for people aged 50-59, 9.7 (95% CI, 9.2 to 10.4) for people aged 40-49, 8.8 (95% CI, 8.2 to 9.5) for people aged 30-39, and 17.6 (95% CI, 15.6 to 19.9) for people aged 16-29. Interestingly we find a higher increase in protection at the youngest age group (16-29). The absolute between-group difference in the rate of confirmed infection was 61.8 infections per 100,000 person-days for people 60+ years of age, 75.2 for people aged 50-59, 89.4 for people aged 40-49, 97.7 for people aged 30-39, and 80.2 for people aged 16-29. In the secondary analysis, we saw a similar pattern, namely, the rate of confirmed infection after at least 12 days from receipt of the vaccine was substantially lower than the rate 3 to 7 days after booster receipt: 7.4 (95% CI, 7.0 to 7.8) for people 60+ years of age, 7.3 (95% CI, 6.7 to 7.9) for people aged 50-59, 5.4 (95% CI, 5.0 to 5.8) for people aged 40-49, 4.8 (95% CI, 4.4 to 5.2) for people aged 30-39, and 11.2 (95% CI, 9.9 to 12.8) for people aged 16-29.

Here it is in figure form:

Screen Shot 2021-10-09 at 9.59.42 AM

Note this fold increase in protection against confirmed infection represents the first boldface part; earlier work by the same group in people aged 60 and older showed there’s a roughly two-fold effect of behavioral differences between the two groups.

I’ll get to the caveats in a moment, but this reduction in confirmed infections likely would be large enough in all groups to get R less than one–that is, transmission would be low enough to stop wide-scale spread (when enough people are vaccinated). Encouragingly, the protective effect is strongest in the youngest cohort. That matters because kids and grandkids murder their parents and grandparents: to protect middle-aged and older people, we need to prevent infection in younger people (of course, younger people avoiding long COVID is a benefit too).

All that said, there are caveats. First, we don’t know how long this effect will persist or how much it could decline, though in most cohorts, even a substantial fold-drop likely would still be effective enough. Second, the effect of a third dose obviously doesn’t matter when too many people don’t have their first and second doses. Third, it’s possible, though I think highly unlikely, that a third dose merely reduces symptoms but not spread (i.e., most of us would be asymptomatic spreaders).

But assuming these caveats don’t turn out to be correct and there is long-term protection against infection that confers lower transmission with a third dose, what might that mean for policy?

In America, 2021, Year of Our Gritty, the reality (still) is we’re unlikely to adopt non-vaccine interventions widely enough because we have been unable and unwilling to do so to date. For example, improving ventilation in buildings (including schools) would be great and should be done, but we can’t even deliver rent assistance which just consists of mailing checks, so how are we going to repair so many buildings? Widespread testing? The U.S.’s regulatory apparatus is too hidebound, and the cost of at-home testing is still too high, especially for those who need to test the most. Let’s not even start with the multiple failures surrounding masks and mask wearing. As we were reminded during the Democratic primaries, the U.S. isn’t Denmark–and that is obvious at this point.

What magical thing will happen that suddenly lifts the scales from people’s eyes and leads to a widespread adoption of all of these other public health measures–which are expensive and require ongoing effort? After eighteen months, it’s clear we lack both the structures of governance and civic virtue to respond in a widespread, sustained manner. We must accept America as it is, not as it ought to be or could be.

All we have left in the public policy arsenal is getting enough people vaccinated–which is to say, we mandate vaccination much more than we have to date–and hoping that vaccination is effective. The other approaches have failed in the U.S. They could work, but we simply won’t use them enough because America is too dysfunctional. So we’re left with vaccination, which is a dreadful hope, but it’s all we have. Otherwise, it’s just a kinder, gentler Great Barrington Declaration all the way down.

Right now, we have to wait and see.

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Links 10/10/21

Links for you. Science:

Merck says experimental Covid pill cuts risk of death, hospitalization by 50 percent (also, also, press release)
Biden officials finalize a rule making it harder to kill birds, reversing Trump. The move restores protections under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which imposes penalties for unintentionally causing bird deaths through drilling, construction and other activities
When professional becomes personal: A wave of sexual harassment complaints against a famed plant geneticist brings up thorny issues of permissiveness and power in Mexican labs
Symptoms and Health Outcomes Among Survivors of COVID-19 Infection 1 Year After Discharge From Hospitals in Wuhan, China
SARS-CoV-2 infections elicit higher levels of original antigenic sin antibodies compared to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccinations
‘Extreme Numbers’ Of Large Invasive Spiders In Georgia May Be A Good Thing


Let me rewrite that for you! (excellent)
We Asked Vets Of The Soviet-Afghan War To Judge The U.S. Exit. Here’s What They Said
Housing Boss Earns $1 Million to Run Shelters Despite a Troubled Past (Democrats face a crisis of executive branch governance at the state and local levels, though Republicans are even worse)
Modernist Post Offices of Michigan
Is homework helpful or harmful? Research suggests homework doesn’t make young kids smarter. But it may widen the achievement gap.
Billions hidden beyond reach
How Rep. Josh Gottheimer Got Outmatched by the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Top House Budget Dem: DC Can Spend All It Wants Because It’s ‘Like the Banker in Monopoly’
A Profession That Selects For Sociopaths
Email: the worst form of communication yet devised by humankind? (except for all the other forms of electronic communication)
Once the ‘Abbey Road’ of D.C.’s punk scene, it’s being bulldozed for a government-sanctioned arts district
D.C. Students Would Have To Get COVID Vaccine Under New Legislation
The emergence of ‘woke’ as a pejorative masks a deeper insecurity
Unfinished Business East of the River
As students with long-haul covid return to school, many districts don’t fully know how to help
Dr. Vinay Prasad goes full Godwin over COVID-19 public health measures
Border Patrol is the wrong solution for the problems at the border
Rapid Tests Are the Answer to Living With Covid-19
Secret money, swanky real estate and a Monte Carlo mystery
Online Ordering Is Ruining Lunch for the Rest of Us
“An Absurd Racket”: Looming Restart of Student Loan Repayment Infuriates Borrowers
Their interracial romance ended painfully after college. They reunited 42 years later — and now live together.

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Rage Is the Appropriate Emotion

Each flag represents one COVID-19 death in the U.S., most of which did not need to happen. This was an utter breakdown of governance and individual civic duty (observed on the Mall, D.C.):






Posted in COVID-19, DC | 3 Comments

Links 10/9/21

Links for you. Science:

The impact of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination on Alpha and Delta variant transmission
Nationally Representative Social Contact Patterns in the United States, August 2020-April 2021
These Sea Slugs Break a Cardinal Rule of Animal Life
SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA levels are not ‘viral load’
Multicomponent Strategies to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission — Nine Overnight Youth Summer Camps, United States, June–August 2021 (I went to this camp many, many, many moons ago…)


Why Are the Democrats Handing the Judicial Branch Over to the GOP? (because Democrats don’t govern)
D.C. misused nearly $82 million meant to provide housing to the city’s poorest residents, IG says (Bowser is bad)
Behind the state’s school masking policy: a collision of science and politic: Baker administration listening closely to mask skeptics (this is why you don’t elect Republicans, even supposedly ‘moderate’ ones)
As coronavirus cases mount and vaccine mandates spread, holdouts plague police and fire departments
‘A public health crisis’: More families than ever lack access to diapers
School board meetings used to be boring. Why have they become war zones? Conservatives can’t turn back the clock. But they can disrupt local meetings. (good history, but ignores the current political organizing by the Right to cause this)
Indignity Vol. 1, No. 24: Was Jared Kushner worth $23.40?
‘These are our ancestors’: Descendants of enslaved people are shifting plantation tourism
Being “Pro NBA Player” Means Being Pro-Vaccine
During the ‘Great Resignation,’ workers refuse to accept the unacceptable: People who are used to tolerating bad work situations are increasingly leaving their jobs and demanding better working conditions.
Lead contamination found in blood of half of young kids in U.S.
Science says school masks work. Public opinion is another issue in Michigan
Joe Biden’s plan will transform America the way the Great Society did. Here’s 3 ways journalists fail to tell the story
Left, Right and Keynes: Today’s centrists are a hot mess.
Neo-Nazi ‘active clubs’ spring up around country as handiwork of notorious fascist living abroad
Jan. 6 Was Worse Than We Knew
NC school board passes strict rules for teaching about race after threat to cut funding
Bullshit, Branding and CRT: The Nine Incredible Tricks to Get Your Moral Panic Trending!
Doctors say the Texas abortion ban is complicating other types of medical decisions
Shaw Metz & Associates, Berrien County Courthouse (1966) St. Joseph, MI
This is what happens when you bring an rc car to the dog park
Basketball Star Bradley Beal’s Misleading Comments About COVID-19
A Case Study in NIMBY Entitlement: The former mayor of Beverly Hills is SO MAD about duplexes!
Everybody is from somewhere else. Being born and raised in Boston isn’t a qualification for mayor (this D.C. native hates it when D.C. politicians do the same bullshit)

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In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

Just Bribe Manchin Already

The Policy on Third Doses Is Confused Because the Agencies Disagree: Thoughts on ‘Following the Science’

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: Another Good Decline

When COVID-19 Becomes ‘Endemic’

It’s Still About the Prevalence: The Schools Edition

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Links 10/8/21

Links for you. Science:

A prenylated dsRNA sensor protects against severe COVID-19
Pfizer testing oral pill for prevention of COVID
Could The Escaped Zebras Survive Roaming Around Prince George’s County Forever?
Beware survivorship bias in advice on science careers
NIH institutes try new approach to supporting Black scientists
Vaccinating adolescents against SARS-CoV-2 in England: a risk-benefit analysis


Wonking Out: Biden Should Ignore the Debt Limit and Mint a $1 Trillion Coin
After Years Of Community And Controversy, D.C. Makes Final Push To Close Down NoMa Encampments
Anchorage’s mayor apologizes a day after defending mask opponents who wore yellow Stars of David.
Objective Journalism
Will the pandemic fade into an ordinary disease like the flu? The world is watching Denmark for clues
‘You Should Get the Vaccine Despite the Media Telling You You Should’
Trump gets a pass for historic murder surge in 2020
Germany’s election casts U.S. democracy in harsh light
The price of living near the shore is already high. It’s about to go through the roof.
Joe Manchin whines about $3.5 trillion — but he spent $9.1 trillion on defense
Covid-19 is sticking around. Time to stop pretending it’s not your problem.
Katie Porter’s epic takedown of Kyrsten Sinema reveals an important truth
The Progressive Caucus Wields Power: In a rare moment in Congress, progressive Democrats held the line, for now.
The Whiteness of South Texas
Manchin’s Plan to Shrink Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Bill May Hurt Families in Need. The West Virginia senator has floated means testing as a way of cutting costs, but his plan could have inadvertent negative effects.
Did Pfizer Peak Too Soon? A decision to go with a lower dose might have helped speed things up last year. Now we may be seeing the consequences.
Inside the Left’s Revenge Plot Against Kyrsten Sinema
This is one of the best videos in history of internet.
Thousands of D.C. health care workers remain unvaccinated amid flurry of religious exemption requests
A Declassified State Department Report Says Microwaves Didn’t Cause “Havana Syndrome”
Joe Manchin, America’s Climate Decider in Chief, Is a Coal Baron
Ruby Corado, founder of Casa Ruby, resigns as executive director
“Feel-Good” News Story or Poverty Propaganda?
Murkowski bemoans surge of covid cases in Alaska, decries Nazi references about mask mandate

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It’s Still About the Prevalence: The Schools Edition

In a really good article about how the U.S. screwed up school re-opening, Melody Schreiber makes a very important point (boldface mine):

No one’s advocating another year of remote learning. But there are a number of things we could be doing to make schools safer and respond to local outbreaks. One of the biggest lessons from last year—one that continues to be overlooked—is that schools are only as safe as the communities they’re in. Stopping the spread of the virus within communities is one of the most effective ways to ensure safety in school. Yet, Tomori said, “we started back in the middle of a giant surge.”

In other countries with more effective pandemic responses, policies are pegged to community spread. In times of high transmission, schools go virtual, states and counties impose mask mandates, public gatherings are limited. “That makes it easier to get a handle on what’s going on in a school, because you have fewer people who would potentially be bringing the virus in,” Tomori said.

From the beginning of this godawful shitty mess, the U.S. never appreciated the importance of prevalence– that is, how much COVID-19 is in the community. Because as some asshole with a blog kept writing, the best way to not get infected is to not be in contact with infected people. There is no immaculate infection. This applies to schools too.

This, unfortunately, is why we need vaccine mandates and, if protection against infection persists, third doses: America is too dysfunctional and fucking stupid to adopt flexible and intelligent policies. Instead, we have to hope we can get enough people vaccinated and that vaccination is effective enough against transmission.

As people liked to point out in the Democratic primaries, we are not Denmark. And we certainly are not.

Posted in COVID-19, Education | Leave a comment

Links 10/7/21

Links for you. Science:

Massachusetts Start-Up Hopes to Move a Step Closer to Commercial Fusion
In Gratitude for mRNA Vaccines
The Ancient People Who Burned Their Culture to the Ground
Prophage-encoded phage defence proteins with cognate self-immunity
Was R < 1 before the English lockdowns? On modelling mechanistic detail, causality and inference about Covid-19
A 3,000-year-old, basal S. enterica lineage from Bronze Age Xinjiang suggests spread along the Proto-Silk Road


Top Biz Lobbyists Sing Song of WTFs and Woe Over BIF In the Balance! (this is an important dynamic)
Multimillionaire U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson paid a mere $2,105 in state income taxes in 2017, despite making big bucks
‘Government Bans Words’ Seems Like a Free Speech Issue
Ignore the Parliamentarian. Include Immigration Reform If You Want To. (but enough Democrats don’t want to)
A child on a bike was struck in a D.C. crosswalk — again (passive tense in the headline; “She describes seeing the driver of the SUV come over. The driver looked shaken, she says, and explained that she was from out of town, it was her first time driving in the city…” I walk through this intersection all the time. You can’t miss a person)
The Trump Hotel Lobby Is Very, Very Quiet
In a letter to the editor, a man said his relative ‘is past’ covid and ‘completely immune.’ Then came the twist.
‘Most Americans Today Believe the Stock Market Is Rigged, and They’re Right’
Vaccine holdouts are caving. Lesson for liberals? Respond to authoritarianism with force
Covid Is Killing Rural Americans at Twice the Rate of Urbanites
A Trump lawyer wrote an instruction manual for a coup. Why haven’t you seen it on the news?
Leader of Prestigious Yale Program Resigns, Citing Donor Pressure. The historian Beverly Gage, who has run the Grand Strategy course since 2017, says the university failed to stand up for academic freedom amid inappropriate efforts to influence the curriculum. (cancel culture tho)
Rikers Island: “Humanitarian Crisis” with Dead Cockroaches, Urine and Feces, Plastic Bags in Lieu of Toilets, Lack of Food and Water; Guards Call in Sick to Escape Appalling Conditions, Covid Risk
Hack Of Oath Keepers Militia Group Includes Names Of Active NYPD Officers, De Blasio Launches Investigation
The sucking political void of Democratic centrists. How do you negotiate with people who have no position?
Shakira says wild boars in Barcelona attacked her and stole her purse (at least it wasn’t 30-50 feral hogs tho)
Joe Manchin Preaching Fiscal Responsibility From His Yacht Feels a Bit on the Nose
How Biden Could End the Debt-Ceiling Crisis by ‘Minting the Coin’
Maybe Stop Pretending To Believe Them About Everything
The debt ceiling is an absurd problem. Only an absurd solution can save us.
America faces supply-chain disruption and shortages. Here’s why
DC Council emergency bill calls for expanded virtual learning

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