Yes, Virginia, There Is Still A Pandemic Going On

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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124 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    I’m more interested in the timeliness of the announcement. They seemed to have delayed the announcement. Couldn’t have anything to do with not wanting to piss off a Biden Admin could it?Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    Something I’m struggling to make sense of is where and how are people getting sick?

    To be clear: I know they are getting sick. I trust the numbers.

    But everywhere I look (live in NJ, work in NYC), the overwhelming majority of folks are complying with the risk mitigation measures. Everyone is wearing masks indoors consistently. To the extent possible, everyone is social distancing. Maybe I’m just not in enough places to see where folks are engaging in risky behavior.

    I believe NJ peaked around 4-5K cases a day and that was before many of these practices were in place. How are we now at 3K cases WITH those practices? Maybe the 4-5K daily cases was really 8-10K or 12-15K but we didn’t know it because of limited testing? So things are still much better even if trending poorly? But even still. How are so many people still getting sick despite so much effort?

    Are masks less effective than we realize? Are more people engaging in risky behavior than I’m aware of? I know some restrictions have been relaxed — and are now being tightened — because things did improve. But mask mandates never were (outside of 25% capacity indoor dining).

    I imagine alot of folks will want to point to schools. But as a teacher from a family of teachers (both my mom and girlfriend work in schools) and a parent, I can say that school-based spread has been minimal. There have been cases within the schools but very little cases documented to be coming from the schools. Maybe we’re failing to connect the dots so school is part of the problem, but early data doesn’t show that.

    So where is it happening? Colleges? A few dumbdumbs in bars serving as superspreaders? Non-compliant people outside my orbit? Do masks only work so much? I type this from a subway car that is no where near capacity but which doesn’t allow for distancing (ridership has steadily ticked up over the last 3 months) yet everyone is masked. Is this the problem?

    It just confounds me that the situation is getting worse despite us seeming to be better about slowing it. But maybe that is all a mirage?Report

    • Damon in reply to Kazzy says:

      Gee, if the “lockdowns” are not being effective, ie, folks still getting sick…maybe the structure of that should be re-evaluated? I’ve been going to the gym for months, doing full contact sports, and no one has been sick. So one has to wonder about how the virus is actually being spread.Report

    • Michael Siegel in reply to Kazzy says:

      Masks are not a panacea. They are a preventative. And there is a danger in comparing infection rates to earlier. NJ’s first surge was when we had less testing. So the initial wave, based on the number of deaths, was more like 60,000 cases a day.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        I wonder if schools are an indirect contributor. With more kids at school more of the time, are adults going back to work or out into the world? And with masks only a moderate protection, the increased contact points just pile up?

        Which doesn’t mean schools should close again but that adults need to better/smarter.Report

        • Slade the Leveller in reply to Kazzy says:

          Perhaps it has something to do with people returning indoors with the return of cooler weather. The whole country is shaded whatever color the map maker uses to indicate widespread transmission.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Kazzy says:

      in the county where I live, masking is poor (and masks don’t really protect the wearer THAT much – they are more to prevent YOU spreading the disease if you are asympotomatic/presymptomatic). And people are still mass gathering, restaurants are at 100% capacity….and we have one of the highest per capita caseloads in the state. Apparently some cases are showing up now from Halloween parties.

      I’ve given up. I just assume I can’t go out and do things until I’m vaccinated, so now all my hopes focus on that coming sooner than we could have hoped.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Masks are too prevent you from spreading but if everyone wore masks, there would be less spreading. There is also some evidence that suggests people who do wear masks get less severe cases of COVID.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Kazzy says:

      Great comment.

      My county went from virtually no cases to 88 cases in the span of a couple weeks. We aren’t sick. No one we know is sick. No one anyone we know, knows, is sick. Everyone was wearing masks all the time. This is in a county of 10,000 people and my husband works for the county, so it’s a bit weird to have this supposed outbreak and no one knows who any of these folks are, even people who work closely with the county commissioners.

      Please note, I’m not saying these numbers are inflated, but simply asking where are they coming from? Were they always here and increased testing has simply revealed it, and if so what does that mean? If the numbers were always high and we just didn’t know it, could we not then open up more than we have been?

      Or, is it that people are coming in from outside the area who are sick and bringing it with them? This was the case for our early cases – all from outside the area, coming to stay at their vacation homes. (Since then, they’ve shut down the info stream where we can learn where the cases are and where they originated, so no one knows who these people supposedly are)

      And if that’s true it seems to me you could do a lot more to prevent spread in rural areas by telling people from outside the area to stay TF where they were vs. making all the businesses shut down.

      IDK, just seems to be tailor made to lay an uptick in cases at the feet of “Red America” when that may not be what is actually happening.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        The situation where I am is a little different. The greater NYC Metro area was one of the initial epicenters. For a variety of reasons, we got our numbers down. NJ was down to 200-300 cases a day. We never got to zero. But now we are at 10x that. And I can’t figure out how it’s happening. And, again, that doesn’t mean it ISN’T happening. It CLEARLY is. I just don’t know how. Maybe my little slice of life is non-representative of the state and region. I mean, it sort of has to be. My kids are involved in youth sports, which do not have strict mask requirements since they are outdoors. The parents can be lax about mask wearing; I keep mine on if I’m near people but not everyone does. But we’ve also been told outdoor transmission is nearly impossible. Maybe that isn’t true? But then why didn’t we see numbers rise as summer outdoor activities were increasingly allowed?

        NJ is a funky state with a major metro area at either end, though the city itself isn’t actually part of the state (NYC up north and Philly down south). The whole of the state is pretty urban or suburban, but given our proximity to urban super centers, we tend to think of it as suburban and rural. For a while, the talk was that our increasing numbers were driving by the shore communities and the southern parts of the state (which are more suburban/”rural”) but that is no longer the case.

        Who knows. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what I understand. The spread here is increasing. Maybe we’re not close to the early spike’s true numbers but we are definitely higher than we were a few months ago and it isn’t all about testing. More people are getting sick and we need to figure out how so we can slow the spread.

        I do appreciate that the powers-that-be are looking at more of a scalpel approach than a machete. NY and NJ announced that they’re pulling back on indoor dining, interstate sports, and a few other areas. They aren’t going right back to a hard lockdown (and hopefully won’t).Report

        • Kristin Devine in reply to Kazzy says:

          There are a lot of unanswered questions and probably always will be. I SO appreciate you breaking down your experience for me, I find it very helpful and illuminating. Stay well!Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Kristin Devine says:

            I sometimes worry that the more rural parts of the country have not taken this as seriously because their way of life was less disrupted by it. Living in cities went from having the world at your fingertips to being trapped inside tiny apartments with nothing available to you, seemingly overnight. It was a radical, radical change. In the suburbs, it was less so. And I imagine (though might be wrong) that in the rural areas, life didn’t change THAT much. So what’s the big deal?

            However, I also imagine those rural areas are much less well equipped to handle a spike. How many hospitals are there? How many doctors? How close is the SECOND nearest hospital if the first is overwhelmed?

            My area got punched in the face by an opponent we didn’t even know was here. It was a sucker punch but at least it (largely) tuned us into the fight. It seems like elsewhere it is death by a thousand paper cuts while many (not all) folks insist everything is fine.Report

            • InMD in reply to Kazzy says:

              We may taste the logistical challenges even more bitterly this time. Big cities have more and better infrastructure and we saw how that got overwhelmed.

              Think about all the county hospitals out there that only have 3 or 4 ICU beds, if that. A lot of these places are struggling as it is and they’re set up for emergency treatment of flesh wounds and broken bones, not people who need weeks on a ventilator to have a fighting chance.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to InMD says:

                Fingers crossed for you all.

                Having gone through the worst and thankfully seeming to hav learned from it, I think we are well-positioned as a region to absorb another spike. It’d still be tragic in terms of lives lost and whatnot, but we avoided overwhelming hospitals or totally exhausting supplies. Plus the economy pretty quickly adapted to support as much business as possible.Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        Just a piece of anecdata: my cousin is currently on a ventilator in Des Moines with COVID. He lives in a small town a little bit east of there, and has been observing all the prescribed stuff to combat the spread: wearing a mask, and staying home. However, he is surrounded by a sea of people who see that kind of stuff as an infringement of their rights. His sister told me the only place they can figure he got it would be the grocery store.

        The idiocy surrounding this is, IMHO, just absolutely mind boggling. BTW, my blue state is exploding with cases, just as every other state is.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

      I think everybody was always sick. They just didn’t know it, because the viral loads were too low to make them symptomatic. When they were spending time outside in warm weather, the viruses couldn’t build up enough; when the weather cooled down and they started staying inside, they started re-breathing exhaled viruses and sitting in cooler environments, and that promoted increases in viral load that their immune systems couldn’t suppress.

      (this is how people get “re-infected”. They never stopped being infected, their viral loads just fell below symptomatic levels, and then for whatever reason they built back up again.)

      So these aren’t new cases, they’re just newly symptomatic.

      And it is also why it’s going to be utterly vital for people to stay locked down through next summer, even if everyone in America gets a vaccine, because the vaccine just gets your body working overtime on the viruses you’ve already got; a big whack of them can still make you go symptomatic.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I think everybody was always sick. They just didn’t know it, because the viral loads were too low to make them symptomatic. When they were spending time outside in warm weather, the viruses couldn’t build up enough; when the weather cooled down and they started staying inside, they started re-breathing exhaled viruses and sitting in cooler environments, and that promoted increases in viral load that their immune systems couldn’t suppress.

        I don’t think it works that way. Some types of virus like the herpesvirus family can insert their DNA into your cells’ DNA and cause persistent latent infections that flare up when the immune system is suppressed, but coronaviruses don’t have that capability. I could be wrong, but I don’t know of any mechanism by which a coronavirus infection could persist in an otherwise healthy person for months on end.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          No, not a DNA-entwinement thing, I mean that people have had low-level COVID-19 infections confined to the nasal sinuses for months without thinking it anything more than “sneezing a little bit more often than normal” or “allergies are bad this year”. Once conditions changed from “warm air, no recirculation” to “cool air with recirculation” the virus replication rate increased and it pushed past the body’s immune system response.Report

      • Matty in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I don’t have the medical knowledge to rule out the possibility.

        I would point out though that the re-symptomatic hypothesis was considered early on for potential examples of reinfection. The cases that are confirmed as re-infected are something different. They don’t just show positive test – negative test – positive. They show infection with one strain identified by RNA sequence followed by infection with a different strain identified the same way. That pretty much rules out it being the same infection making a comeback in those cases.

        Reinfection can happen and in a matter of months but we don’t yet have anything like enough data points to say much more about it. Questions like how common it is, was the time in those cases average, less than average or more than. All remain unanswered at this time and probably for a long time since no one has the resources to do a full sequencing on every test sample.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Kazzy says:

      It looks to me like the US areas seeing the increase are rural and more northern, which means they’re (a) areas that hadn’t gotten hit before, and (b) areas where people are probably starting to spend more time indoors by the heater, just like in the summer when the virus started hitting the South when people would have been spending more time indoors for the A/C.Report

  3. fillyjonk says:

    Where I live, people are terrible about complying with the public health asks. We have good mask compliance on campus because we could throw people out of class for refusing to wear one. But at the grocery store? 20% are masked at best. My next door neighbor has been having parties with lots of different people and as far as I can tell, none of them have masks – oh, I suppose they coulld have one in their pocket that they put on once they go in the house, but I also kind of doubt that.

    I don’t think The Ugly will shut up the herd immunity folks or the people who still think it’s fake, or overblown. My own mother is having a VERY hard time convincing my brother and his family not to drive to her place for Thanksgiving – he has been being less careful and she’s also noted that states may even close their borders, nothing works. I’m really hoping they don’t get sick and bring the virus to her, my mom is 84 and one of very few relatives I have left

    We’re in for a really bad 2 months at least.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to fillyjonk says:

      Are masks required indoors where you are? They are here, though the enforcement mechanisms remain vague. I accidentally entered the grocery store without my mask on and no one said anything though I caught myself after a couple minutes.

      On trains, I’ve seen employees call people out, even getting transit police involved for a non-compliant individual. I’ve seen store employees tell customers to don a mask.

      But the vast vast vast vast vast majority of folks seem to comply absent actual force. But we also got wrecked in the early going so we’ve seen the ugly.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

        Are masks required indoors where you are? They are here, though the enforcement mechanisms remain vague.

        Indoor compliance in the college town (pop 175,000) where I live now is good, at least in the places I go. One of the local groceries that had some problems with aggressive non-compliers has an armed security guard in the entry lobby. I’ve only had one brief excursion out into the rural areas in the last several weeks. The specialty business I was visiting seemed to be taking masks very seriously.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

          It’s amazing how different the responses are. And I can’t help but think that social stigma is perhaps the biggest factor.

          This is a liberal area. But we have our share of conservatives and Republicans and Trump signs. Google says we went 23K/17K Hillary/Trump in 2016. I even met one guy who casually floated the word “hoax”. But even he masks up when I see him in mask-mandated situations. It’s just a given here: you wear the damn mask. If anything, the mask shaming goes too far: lots of social media chatter about non-compliance in parks and other outdoor spaces, even though the mandate doesn’t quite extend that far.

          I’m sure there are folks who are anti-maskers but no one wants to be the only one.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Kazzy says:

        no. We have no general mask mandates. Our campus uni president declared one, and many thanks to him for that, and I think that’s partly why we’ve seen very few cases on campus, and the ones we’ve seen were people acquiring them at outside workplaces or from family.

        My state’s governor is basically “trusting people to do the right thing” (they aren’t) and while my town has a State of Emergency, whatever that is, they won’t put in a mask mandate.

        I wouldn’t use public transport now for even a very large sum of money. I grocery shop once a week and had been doing monthly “mental health” trips to places like a fabric store, but I’ve cut even those trips out for now, just because of the increased risk. Groceries, maybe the occasional quick Walgreen’s run (at least they have nice chocolate and a few magazines in addition to antihistamines and aspirin).

        We are entering our worst phase, we missed the bad early on and I think people got complacent or started believing it was fake. They’re learning now, sadly.Report

  4. Michael Cain says:

    ProPublica has a pretty good article up talking about the difficulties that rural areas in particular will have with the Pfizer vaccine. Not so much the initial requirement for storage at -80 °C, which dry ice can provide, but that it only comes in large lots (1,000 or 5,000 doses) and there may be problems using it all during the few days it’s still good after it comes up to usable temperature.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    I’m hopeful about the vaccine but still imagine life is probably not returning to normal until 2022. So we will lose two years to this pandemic. Maybe that is a normal run for a serious global pandemic. The last throws of the 1918 pandemic were in 1920. Though I don’t know much about the public health measures except that history rhymes. Classes were taught outdoors or with open windows, there were fights against masks back then, some public amusements were banned for a while, there were second and third waves.

    The SF Bay Area has shut down indoor dining again and lowered capacity at other indoor venues such as gyms. The weather is getting colder and the rainy season starts soon which is going to hurt outdoor dining possibly.* I wonder how much of a spike we will see from Thanksgiving and Christmas travel to see families.** The best public policy would be shutting down bars and restaurants combined with a massive relief bill. But this is highly polarized negative partisanship America and I do not expect that to happen unless Democrats win in GA in January.Report

    • I think a 2022 time frame for “normal” is reasonable but we’re not going to just flip a switch. It will come in phases. Gradual releasing of restrictions. More contract tracing. Extensive monitoring for new versions of COVID and continued work on the vaccine. There will be setbacks. But vaccinating healthcare workers, food service people, etc. is going to help a lot.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        I think 2022 is going to be the societal-political limit of dealing with COVID-19, especially without relief. If things aren’t reasonably back to normal by sometime in 2022, you are going to get lot of people that are just going to say damn it all and demand a return to normalcy. Billions of humans aren’t going to put their life on hold indefinitely without a war.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    My boss is telling me that cloth masks do nothing. Which makes sense, I guess, because I have a bunch of fun, funky, and fashionable masks (Diop headstrap facemasks, for the record) that I don’t mind wearing because they are *COMFORTABLE*. They wrap around my face, when I set them up just right they only steam up my glasses a little bit (or in the first seconds of walking into a cold outside from a warm inside), and they don’t feel like they’re preventing me from breathing as much as forcing me to breathe stuff filtered by the mask first.

    (Well, it’s not that they do *NOTHING*, but they’re like a piece of Swiss Cheese. Stuff can still get in even if the slice of cheese is 90% there.)

    His recommendation is the N95 mask underneath (sanitized, daily, by placing it in direct sunlight, six minutes a side) and a cloth mask over it to keep the N95 mask in place and to provide another, minor, amount of protection that can then be washed in the washing machine.

    (This is like two (non-adjacent) slices of swiss cheese on top of each other. Much fewer holes and the ones that remain are a lot smaller!)

    We’ve got numbers exploding here according to the El Paso County Covid Dashboard. We’re “officially” at “Safer At Home” but if you look at the numbers, you can’t help but notice that we’re past the threshholds for “STAY AT HOME”.

    The governor is pretty much saying “if you want to save Christmas, you have to cancel Thanksgiving”.

    Ugh. I look back at the stuff I’ve done since February and I think that I’ve gone to the grocery store about twice a month, had two outside gatherings with friends (neither were spreader incidents), and gone into the office about 60% of the time. We’ve gotten take-out about once a month and, as such, I’ve re-learned to cook. My Saturday Night gaming group has been decimated.

    And then I read about people who go out to eat. I read about people who still regularly meet up with friends. There are people who saw Tenet in the theater!

    And I feel resentment.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      This thing is cruel. And indiscriminate. And random. For various reasons, I’ve been more out in the world than most. I worked at a summer camp with unmasked kids (I was masked throughout). We had zero cases. I work at a school with unmasked kids (I am masked throughout). So far, zero cases. My kids are at school (masked) and before school (masked) and after school (masked) and the Y for remote learning (masked) and playing football (unmasked) and soccer (unmasked). My stepdaughter goes to school (masked with two different cohorts because she has special needs) and my girlfriend teaches at a school (everyone masked and distanced). I grocery shop weekly, sometimes at multiple stores. I ride multiple transit systems daily. I shop in stores as needed (e.g., Target runs). I’ve done outdoor gatherings. I’ve attended small, local, outdoor family gatherings.

      I never got it. I’ve been tested out the wazoo. Nothing. And not the boys or my girlfriend or her daughter. But the boys’ mom got it in EARLY March (pre-shut down) from a doctor’s office, no less! But we never got it. Not from her or anywhere else.

      Like, what the fuck?

      I’m not saying it ain’t real cuz I didn’t get it. I’m saying its just chaos.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        No, I’m not trying to say “YOU NEED TO BE PUBLICLY SHAMED!” or anything like that.

        I’m just noting something that Fillyjonk noted on the twitters the other day.

        We, as a society, were given the marshmallow test. This had an additional caveat: you could eat someone else’s marshmallow.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          I didn’t take it as shaming. Just noting how screwed up the whole thing is. I’ve been riskier than many and remained safe. Slade’s cousin was safer than most (and certainly safer than I) and is on a ventilator.

          Comparing this to the marshmallow test is interesting but I’m not sure how much the analogy holds. There isn’t one marshmallow. There are a dozen of them.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      “The governor is pretty much saying “if you want to save Christmas, you have to cancel Thanksgiving”.”


      back in March they told us “if you want to save summer, you have to cancel Easter and Spring”. And then in June they told us “if you want to save the school year, you have to cancel the Fourth of July”. And then in September they told us “if you want to save Thanksgiving, you have to cancel school.” And now we’re hearing “if you want to save Christmas, you have to cancel Thanksgiving”. And I’m sitting here thinking that I will be exactly zero percent surprised if, come mid-December, we’ve gotta cancel Christmas, too.

      They just don’t have any ideas. And they don’t have any ideas because there aren’t any ideas, the only thing you can do about the ‘rona is Not Get It, and the only way to do that is to not be around anyone who’s got it, and since you don’t know who’s got it (and maybe everybody’s got it) that means you don’t be around anyone.

      I’m kind of thinking differently on Sweden. Back when the whole thing got started Sweden looked at social distancing and canceling things and said “yeah we’re not doing that” and everyone talked about how they’d go to hell. And they did! But then everyone else went to hell, just a couple months later, after just long enough without it to make everyone think that maybe it would work out after all.

      And to me, that last is as much of a crime as shutting things in the first place, maybe more. A retro-style arcade near where I used to live just got kicked out of their storefront, in favor of a local bar owner who wants to expand. (Bars can be open but arcades can’t because reasons.) And yeah, on the one hand that’s some shitty shit, but on the other hand…if you’d told the arcade owners back in March that it would be November and not only would things have not got better but they were ramping up to get worse, would they have bothered hanging on? It would have cost a lot less to move the games to a storage garage than it cost to keep paying rent for a closed-by-public-order storefront.

      People hear about how Hope was at the bottom of Pandora’s Box and think that means it wasn’t all bad stuff in there, and that’s not the takeaway from that story.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Yeah, that’s true too. I felt *GUILTY* for going to a socially-distanced gathering with friends that I hadn’t seen for six months. I wore a mask! I wore gloves! I didn’t hug anybody including the friends that showed up that I hadn’t seen in 2 years!

        And I feel guilty about going to the grocery store and drinking in the colors of the bell peppers as I walk the long way through the store to get to the pharmacy!

        And I look at the Spanish Flu wikipedia page, again, and notice that the interesting waves were the 2nd and 3rd (but *ESPECIALLY* the 2nd).

        And I look at the map again.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I think it is unclear how many of those things we actually cancelled.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

      I am right there with you. Deep, deep, deep resentment of my fellow citizens who mocked masking, who mocked staying at home. My own misery is extended because of them.

      as I said on Twitter: this is like fifth grade when Billy D. wouldn’t shut up in class and all the rest of us who were behaving ALSO lost recess privileges for a week. Only lots worse because there’s no end date for when we can go out safely again.

      I’ve been wearing the cloth masks for lecture because I can be 6′ from the students, but next semester when I teach intro lab I’m just gonna have to wear the n95s and deal with how much they trash my skinReport

      • Kazzy in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Agreed. And at times I’ve been tempted to say, “Fuck it. If everyone else is going to have fun, why don’t we have fun, too?” I know there is a term for these sorts of things but I forget. Something about defecting. Fortunately, we don’t have a TON of defections going on here. And, hell, folks may look at ME as defecting… though I’m not doing anything that isn’t currently allowed and I’m avoiding doing lots of things that are allowed.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

      Camus lived through a World War, but when he wanted to depict absurdity, he wrote The Plague.Report

  7. Pinky says:

    “And our government is too distracted by Trump’s election nonsense to do anything about it.”

    Not really. There’s no State Office of Immunology and Election Results.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Oh, and one other thing that pisses me off is the vague pivot from “SERIOUSLY STAY AT HOME!” to “well, it’s okay to go outside if you’re protesting racism” back to “SERIOUSLY STAY AT HOME!”

    If I wanted to undercut a “safer at home” message, I’d wrap it up in a “what, aren’t you opposed to racism?” package following a few weeks of vocal opposition to people socially distancing outside in direct sunlight.Report

    • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

      Hell even more recently its included conspicuous lack of disapproval of huge celebrations of the election results.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


      I will also say that among the celebrity set, I noticed a very quick and unannounced shift from, “HEY PEOPLE STAY AT HOME!” to “So when I landed in NY…”

      Quasi-relatedly, I had an exchange with an OT alum on Facebook. He kept insisting that if we had just paid everyone to stay at home at the start of this whole thing, we’d have beat it.

      Problem is… we paid TONS of people to stay at home. Many, many middle and upper and upper upper class people got paid to stay home. And those were among the first people to stop staying at home. I saw it first hand with the exodus of rich NYers to the Hamptons or Miami or just back out into the world because they were bored with quarantine. Not suffering… bored.

      Make of that what you will.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

      Who are you more pissed off about, the “stay at home unless you’re protesting” types or the “covid is a hoax so don’t wear masks or social distance” types?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        The former.

        Say what you will about the tenets of the latter but at least it’s an ethos.Report

      • For me it’s the one who made “It’s not a big deal, it’ll go away on its own” gospel.

        Not a big fan of “libertarians” who insist that public health mandates are communism either.Report

      • Ozzzy! in reply to Stillwater says:

        How do the “I guess I’d take my honest chances, statistically I’ll be ok” types factor into this weird dichotomy of a Sophie’s choice you are offering?Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Ozzzy! says:

          Ozzy, are you more pissed off at the “stay at home unless you’re protesting” types, the “covid is a hoax so don’t wear masks or social distance” types, or the “I don’t give a rat’s ass about covid because the chances I die from it are so low” types?Report

          • I’m pissed off with anyone who choses to turn their body into a virus factory.Report

          • Ozzzy! in reply to Stillwater says:

            Not pissed off at any of those types. They are dumb generalizations that don’t deserve anything more than the joking response I have.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Ozzzy! says:

              I’d describe myself as more “disappointed” than anything.

              America, collectively, as a nation was faced with a threat, and the American people collectively failed.

              Yes, some people and institutions performed splendidly, some mediocre, and some did an abysmal job, and some actively made it worse.

              And not just a few; Not one or two isolated officials, or a few oddball cranks, but Americans numbering in the millions refused to take any of it seriously, even now.

              And there aren’t any excuses that make any of that better.
              Missteps by WHO or the mistakes by the CDC, or the political jockeying over what was acceptable to do or not, are all just lame excuse-making by people who knew better but refused to do better.

              No Governor forced anyone to walk around without a mask, no Senator compelled people to gather together for whatever reason.

              And the fact that some people did this or that doesn’t change what we all know about how the virus is transmitted, and the fact that some people got away with gathering without social censure doesn’t change it either.

              We will probably never know for certain how many lives could have been saved had we collectively acted like adults, but it almost certainly will number in the tens or hundreds of thousands by the time this is over.Report

  9. Jaybird says:

    I was pointed to a pdf that talks about the vaccine when a tweet flitted across my timeline that mocked it. I retweeted it without reading the paper and Kolohe called me out on it.

    So I read the paper.

    It’s pretty good! It even acknowledges that there were some… shall we say… inequalities with early allocation of scarce resources that brought a lot of other things into question. (Remember when you couldn’t get tested anywhere and then everybody in the NBA got tested overnight? Man, that was *NOT* a good look. Even the NBA noticed that it wasn’t a good look.)

    Anyway, there is a section that talks about bundling… here:

    Local and state public health agencies should explore collaboration with interagency and nongovernment partners to bundle vaccination with other safety net services. For example, the WIC nutrition program serves as a key mechanism for connecting low-income pregnant women with nutrition supports and clinical services, and immunization screenings and vaccine promotion are built into the WIC program. Bundling services (eg, food security, rent assistance, free clinic services) that are already being provided to particularly vulnerable populations in the context of COVID (eg, older adults, low-income adults, Black and minority communities) could be a way to build trust and streamline vaccine provision. Early, rapid-response, community-based research (Recommendation #4) can help broaden planners’ understanding of how the intended beneficiaries of vaccines think about where these products fit into their lives overall, based on their own definitions of health and well-being.

    That freaked the person out who interpreted “bundling” as “tying”. (You know… if you want WIC, you’d better get the shot!)

    Anyway, since I read the paper and thought “huh… someone honest with themselves wrote this…” and since I mocked it before I read it, I’ll do my penance and pass it along to you all and some of you should pass it along to y’all’s skeptical friends. (It’s even got ties to Texas State!)Report

  10. George Turner says:

    COVID relief grants available for Oregon sex workers.

    Strippers, pole dancers, and others can apply until Nov 15th. For everybody else, all jokes are due by the end of business Friday.Report

  11. Chip Daniels says:

    I’ve seen an awful lot of these sorts of complaints/ objections over Covid restrictions.

    Generally taking the form of :
    “It’s unfair that THEY are allowed freedom to do X while I am not!” Or some variant of this, where the irregularities of what is allowed or proscribed are described as unfair or unjust, or evidence of hypocrisy or even worse.

    Where I am left thinking, OK, so what?
    Is it unfair that someone gets to go maskless to a motorcycle rally/ political protest without public censure, while I get nasty looks if I walk down the street without a mask?

    But in the end, so what?
    As if the virus cares.
    As if I get brownie points or a gold star for being a good boy.
    As if the following of medical protocol is an exercise in moral righteousness that must be rewarded.
    As if there is some cosmic scale of justice that would be righted if I got to go out maskless.

    We’re facing a force of nature that is entirely, utterly indifferent to what is fair or unfair, and kills who it kills without regard to what we decide is just or not.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Coordination problems, man. It sucks when you’re trying to get everybody to coordinate and then say “well, *I* don’t have to coordinate because my circumstances are extraordinary” and then you’re stuck wondering why no one else is coordinating.

      Why won’t they coordinate? We can ask.

      Don’t they understand that the covid could kill people?Report

      • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

        Didn’t most of these profoundly deep ethical, moral, social, and religious arguments get hashed out during the Black Death, or do we have to re-invent the wheel every time?

        Article in The Conversation

        In 1348, to prevent the illness from spreading through the Tuscan region of Pistoia, strict fines were enforced against the movement of peoples. Guards were placed at the city’s gates to prevent travelers entering or leaving.

        These civic ordinances stipulated against importing linen or woolen cloths that might carry the disease. Demonstrating similar sanitation concerns, bodies of the dead were to remain in place until properly enclosed in a wooden box “to avoid the foul stench which comes from dead bodies”; moreover, graves were dug “two and a half arms-lengths deep.”

        Butchers and retailers nevertheless remained open. And yet a number of regulations were imposed so that “the living are not made ill by rotten and corrupt food,” with further bans to minimize the “stink and corruption” considered harmful to Pistoia’s citizens.

        So they were faced with the Black Death, aka THE Plague, and yet figured out a mix of appropriate responses. Keep the retail stores open? Ban travel? It’s like they wrote a manual for us.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

        As if we all get a brownie point for coordinating.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          See also: Global Warming.

          “Why won’t anyone listen to me? I flew all the way to Paris to give this speech!”

          If you’ve got a coordination problem and you’re not willing to coordinate, you, at least, have a hint as to why you’re still going to have a coordination problem tomorrow.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

            Isn’t the “you” in this sentence, literally the entire human race?

            I mean, in your sentence, there is this implied logic of “Boy, that Al Gore, he sure has a big problem on his hands now that Miami is sinking into the ocean! I’d sure hate to be Al Gore Now. Al Gore must feel really awful!”Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              If Al Gore didn’t use fossil fuels while telling everyone about how fossil fuels cause global warming we’d have already solved the problem.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              Well, gee, Chip. We’re coming up on Thanksgiving.

              Do you think that family Thanksgiving dinners need to be really examined and, perhaps, cancelled?

              Would you say that family Thanksgiving dinners are:
              A: Less important than Biden win celebrations
              B: As important as Biden win celebrationsReport

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                I think that the more people gather together, the greater the risk of spreading the virus.

                What do you think?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I have cancelled seeing my mom on Thanksgiving. We are in talks for whether we’re going to drive over and yell through the open front door that we love her before turning around and driving back home.

                I know many other people who have cancelled Thanksgiving.

                Granted, none of them participated in the large mass gatherings this summer nor the ones after the election.Report

              • Ozzzy! in reply to Jaybird says:

                C: turkeys can get covid too. Unless they are deep fried.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I’ve never heard a complaint like that from anyone, ever. I’ve seen examples of disparate rules as indication that the experts don’t know what they’re doing, or of the elites not understanding or caring what burdens they put on the ordinary person.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      See also fairness with hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, etc.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    I have a dumb science history question. How long was it between the polio vaccine and polio being eradicated?

    I went to the Polio Vaccine page and saw this:

    Soon after Salk’s vaccine was licensed in 1955, children’s vaccination campaigns were launched. In the U.S, following a mass immunization campaign promoted by the March of Dimes, the annual number of polio cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,600 by 1957. By 1961 only 161 cases were recorded in the United States.

    That’s a huge victory but I’m looking at 1955 to 1961. And realizing that we’re in 1954.Report

    • Michael Siegel in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t think the timescales are comparable. It also took decades to even get a vaccine.Report

      • North in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        Yeah if the Pfizer vaccine pans out it’ll be a historic first. A medical miracle. Kind of unprecedented.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

          Not just a miracle, a whole new approach to vaccines, which would pave the way for Star Trek level time lines for vaccines (OK, not that fast, but seriously, wicked fast).Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to North says:

          As people have pointed out, the work on the earlier SARS-CoV that spread in 2002-2004 was instrumental in developing the current SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

          So, still an amazing achievement, but they have been working on it for nearly twenty years. They didn’t just walk into an empty room and go “okay, first subject: Viruses. What are they, anyway?”Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t remember if I ever got the injected vaccine, but I do remember standing in line at the grade school in Storm Lake, Iowa with my parents to get the oral vaccine. It was widely regarded as a fishing miracle. I can’t imagine that we’re going to get the kind of massive voluntary compliance that happened then for a Covid vaccine now.Report

      • Was there any organized anti-vaccination group back then? I know there were anti-fluoridationists.

        Trump has spread anti-vax BS in the past, and he’s going to hate this one because it came too late to help his campaign.Report

        • I don’t know, I was just a kid. I suspect not, only because there were so many fewer things being vaccinated for, and those were nasty. Eg, smallpox and polio. The measles vaccine was a decade away, mumps two decades. I was in the generation whose moms had measles sleep-overs in order to get their kids exposed at as young an age as possible, when it was usually milder.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          It didn’t really get rolling until the late Nineties, because that was when the government redefined Autism and suddenly a whole lot more kids were being diagnosed with it, and parents were desperate to find an explanation for their child’s suddenly-broken brain.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I had older aunts who raised their kids during the polio years and they talk about what a miracle they regarded the vaccine as. My family has always been (mostly) pro-vaccine, I think in part due to those stories.

        I remember in the 1970s, being given a little cup of vaccine to drink (the polio vaccine was oral in those days) and thinking “why aren’t ALL vaccines like this?” because I disliked needles. (Still do. But I will be sticking my arm out as soon as it’s possible for me to get this vaccine)

        My mom also regarded the measles vaccine as a minor miracle because she lost most of one of her childhood summers to having measles and being shut up in a dark room because people believed that light could damage your eyes while you were sick.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

          That’s at least two of us for the sticking the arm out this time. My interpretation of the numbers so far is that while this coronavirus doesn’t kill at the same rate as polio, it does appears to be one of those with long-term health consequences. Maybe not partial paralysis, but impaired lung/kidney/liver/circulatory functions that will eventually get you.Report

  13. Matty says:

    Disjointed thoughts

    The whole situation broke me in a way. I went from seeing myself as an independent self reliant type to pathetic needy child who just wants a hug.

    Living alone I went through three months when it was a criminal offence for me to meet a single other human being, except in the very limited circumstances they were selling me groceries. At one point there were even threats I shouldn’t be allowed in the open air completely on my own.

    Things have improved somewhat here and meeting outdoors is now allowed but I genuinely feel that any amount physical pain would be better than returning to that long term and the thing that keeps me following guidelines is concern for others not myself.

    When I read people who are clearly sat with their loved ones proclaiming that it is wrong for me to have one percent as much human contact as them I get scared and angry.

    When I read claims that even with a vaccine we still need lockdowns or that we should test a vaccine for ten years before ending them it fills me with a horror I cannot describe.

    I am absolutely prepared to do things for others. Wear a mask, download a tracking app – done, avoid bars and restaurants – done, take a new vaccine – I’m already in the Novovax trial. The one price I don’t think I can pay without a total breakdown is the one that is most heavily promoted everywhere I look.
    “Never hug anyone again as long as you live, never visit friends or family at home and never ever hope for human contact”Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Matty says:

      I’m right there with you.

      There’s a whole “relative risk” thing that seems to get thrown out the window. I’m sure you’ve seen the “relative risk” charts.

      Going out and getting the mail and opening it is a 1. Getting takeout or filling up your gas tank is a 2. Getting groceries is a 3.

      Going to someone else’s house for a backyard barbeque is a 5. Hugging a friend is a 7. Going to a bar is a 9.

      And there’s a lot of eliding risks and smooshing and scraping the rough edges off. Oh, you still go to the beach? I guess you don’t have any grounds to criticize my getting a haircut! Oh, you got a haircut? I guess you don’t have any grounds to criticize my going to a concert! (It was outdoors!) Oh, you went to a concert? I guess you don’t have any grounds to criticize my going on a cruise!

      And that turns into “you shouldn’t criticize my going on a cruise because you’re still getting your own groceries every couple of weeks.”

      In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.Report

      • Ozzzy! in reply to Jaybird says:

        Even the relative risk thing is tough. How do you project it onto your daily options of:do I need food? Do I need to talk with someone? Do I need food again? Do I need to talk with someone again? What about exercise? It’s a nightmare for a top down system of control.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Ozzzy! says:

          “Do I need food?” versus “Do I need garlic bread for this meal?”

          If I go to the Safeway to pick up my prescription, is it okay if I grab some hot dogs and buns for a treat or is that me being selfish? I mean, I have food at home. Is a 3 worth the risk?Report

      • Matty in reply to Jaybird says:

        If anything I’ve seen more people moving the other way on that spectrum, with a healthy dose of privilege. A lot of “I haven’t left my 200 acre estate in months so why are people antsy about being stuck in one room” and “If I can manage with my loving spouse our three perfect children, four grandparents and the live in staff why are you upset about being alone”.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Matty says:

          I was just saying the other day, “Isn’t it time for the celebrities to sing “Imagine” again from their 8000 square foot homes to remind us peons that “we’re all in this together (but some pigs are more together than others)?”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

            Yep, and there’s stuff like this:

            I just keep finding myself getting more and more and more irritated. I am doing a lot. Everything? No. I did a couple of 5s earlier this year and do a 3 from time to time.

            And then I hear about my betters going out and having parties. I cancelled a vacation to Florida in February to visit my uncles and one of them has since died. And my betters are having parties. PARTIES WITH THEMES.

            We’ve already cancelled Thanksgiving. We’re mentally preparing to cancel Christmas.

            Just one more lockdown. Three weeks to flatten the curve! Slow the spread!

            But street parties are okay, if, you know, they’re *IMPORTANT*.Report

          • KenB in reply to fillyjonk says:

            I liked the Babylon Bee’s take on this phenomenon:

            Inspiring: Celebrities Spell Out 'We're All In This Together' With Their Yachts— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) April 27, 2020


    • Pinky in reply to Matty says:

      There’s a thing that happens with Myers-Briggs testing, where people can’t tell if they’re introverts or extroverts. Someone may say “I’m sociable, I have had three friends and a cat”. Someone else may say, “people drain me – like once after a 3-day after a 6-week speaking tour I remember wanting to spend a few minutes alone”. We’re all a little different than we think we are, but also, no one’s completely independent or completely dependent, and this has been a tough stretch. No one’s getting through this unchanged.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Matty says:

      Matty, I hear you. I live alone. The last day I was out openly in public was February 29. Since then – well, I spent the second half of my spring semester teaching into the unblinking eye of a webcam, have done limited in-person teaching this fall (but from 6′ away from the students, masked, can’t see anyone’s expression)

      I feel completely broken. I know I am probably depressed, but it seems not good to try to fix that now, when we might face a new stay at home order. Maybe if this is ever over I try to get fixed if I am still fixable and worth fixing.

      I am supposedly a Christian, which means I’m supposed to “love my neighbor,” and I don’t and can’t any more, not when I see people putting a mask in to be let into a store and then immediately taking it off, or people having parties with large numbers of other people. They don’t CARE. They don’t care how this is killing those of us who are alone – or maybe killing people like my 84 year old mom, who only goes out once a week to get groceries and almost never sees another person because she’s concerned about getting exposed. Already she seems to be “losing words” when I talk to her and I’m terrified this will contribute to cognitive decline.

      Or maybe I’m totally wrong and the actions of other people aren’t affecting spread, I don’t even know any more. All I know is I am staying home to protect myself, and I hate itReport

  14. Jaybird says:

    Good news!


  15. In “Aren’t they supposed to be the grownups?” news:

    Scott Atlas thinks that Utah being out of ICE beds isn’t a big deal.

    The White House pooh-poohs the idea that the incoming administrations should be able to meet with the COVID task force.Report