Saints, Sinners, and the Limits of Public Policy

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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132 Responses

  1. InMD
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    Good piece, though a quibble and something between a comment and a disagreement.

    The quibble is that mask wearing did become partisan. My perception is that’s dying down as a flash point but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with blaming Trump conservatives for that one. Of course in fairness you then have to get into the discussion of how much masks really help beyond the margins. Maybe in the greater context of our unique disadvantages that one thing doesn’t matter much.

    But this is what gets me to the thing that’s not exactly a disagreement but maybe something I think is missing from the post. I fully concede we were never going to experience this like some Asian countries and island nations. But what is really stunning is the lack of leadership combined with how quickly covid worked its way into the ongoing crisis of legitimacy our democratic institutions are facing. We responded on a state by state basis because that’s what the administration said to do. Then the fededal government promptly played states off of each other for political reasons which of course prompted various tits for tats and posturing and counter-posturing between governors. We have choke points that would have made a unified response harder but, much like the school situation, I don’t believe we really tried. Instead we had a bunch of sclerotic institutions behaving based on their sclerotic interests (I will be shocked if education systems don’t take a huge long term hit but I digress) and perceived political advantages.

    One thing that we also forget in the age of Trump is that a lot of European governments are suffering from their own crisis of legitimacy. Ours is just loudest because of course it is. The Schengen zone has freedom of movement just like we do. Distrust and defection are pretty rampant even if it doesn’t make it to our front pages or get more than 90 seconds on cable news. They have sounder welfare states and stronger administration but as we’ve seen that only goes so far.

    And again, again, again, maybe none of it mattered. There are certain things we have no choice but to weather. But I still can’t shake the feeling that we did not go down swinging. Instead we turned on each other and the only thing that’s going to keep it from getting worse is big pharma, of all things. I’d like to think we’re going to use some of the things we’ve learned from this to improve our systems and the way we live but my gut says it will turn out to be a wasted opportunity.Report

    • Philip H in reply to InMD
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      But I still can’t shake the feeling that we did not go down swinging. Instead we turned on each other and the only thing that’s going to keep it from getting worse is big pharma, of all things. I’d like to think we’re going to use some of the things we’ve learned from this to improve our systems and the way we live but my gut says it will turn out to be a wasted opportunity.

      totally agree.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to InMD
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      I agree on both of these things.

      Of all the mitigation measures, masks seems the most straightforward and the fact that we couldn’t even get on board with *that* is really disheartening.

      It’s all speculative, but I do think the poor performance of the Trump administration did matter. Just not as much as a lot of people think. Five digits instead of six. We will never really know how many lives actual effort would have saved, which is itself just maddening.

      It could well be that the #1 thing Trump could have done was simply convey seriousness. Which isn’t a matter of policy. But I think policy itself would have mattered on *some* level, even if others disagree.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to InMD
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      Of course it’s Big Pharma to the rescue. This is what they do. Who were you expecting to solve this?Report

      • InMD in reply to Brandon Berg
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        Big pharma does lots of things. Some good, some not so good. But contra your implication, and without getting into open long term questions about the vaccines, having something at all much less this fast and apparently this effective was far from guaranteed.

        In your rush to defend the honor of big business you missed the point. Our political leadership appears to be on the verge of being bailed out before things can escalate much more. That is lucky for us for now. The apparent lack of lessons learned does not bode well.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to InMD
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          A subject for another time, perhaps, but it’s remarkable the degree to which nobody is going to learn anything from this.

          Republicans aren’t going to learn anything because they paid no price for this mess.

          Democrats aren’t going to learn anything because they genuinely believe anything that went wrong in their domain was downwind from something Trump did and therefore not their fault.

          Public health is not going to learn anything because they never learn anything.

          Contrarians aren’t going to learn anything because they can point to all of the cases of the above having been wrong.Report

          • InMD in reply to Will Truman
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            It’s really disappointing. We should be rethinking how work, education, benefits, even infrastructure are set up. We should have been doing all of those things before of course but it will be a long time before we get another picture painted so clearly of just how off we are. And with a ~1% fatality rate plus going in during a (probably unsustainable) economic boom it threaded the needle between exposing the weaknesses without going as catastrophically as they could have. Next time it might not be just a scraped knee.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to InMD
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              The only difference between this virus and one that destroys civilization as we know it is prevalence and severity among the elderly vs prevalence and severity among children.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                Change the problem and I’ll change my actions.

                This virus is NOT threatening civilization, it’s mostly threatening old sick people who will mostly be dead in 5-10 years anyway.

                Change the virus so my kids are in danger and I’ll quarantine them and be serious about it. Even Trump would wear a mask if the alternative is killing his kid.Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Dark Matter
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                This virus is NOT threatening civilization, it’s mostly threatening old sick people who will mostly be dead in 5-10 years anyway.

                I know you’re quoting an attitude and not necessarily expressing your own view. But I’m writing to say that I have had, and in some ways continue to have, that attitude at the back of my mind. That’s kind of what I was trying to get at in my Playing the Coronavirus Odds post a while back. (I probably wasn’t successful.)

                And then, a relative just passed away last week from covid (i.e., from complications of covid). He was 90. For some reason, it feels worse because it was from covid and not from another cause. Or, maybe it doesn’t truly *feel* worse, but I choose to think of it as worse for that reason.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to gabriel conroy
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                says:

                I know you’re quoting an attitude and not necessarily expressing your own view.

                Stats are from the CDC with the link at the bottom.

                Median age is 78 and has three serious health conditions.
                0.1% are <18
                3% of deaths are ages 18-44.
                5% of deaths are ages 45-54.
                80% of deaths are ages 65+.
                92% of deaths are ages 55+.

                We've had 311k deaths in the US so that means 300 children and 8,700 ages 18-44.

                In table two (where they break it out by condition), they had to group everyone younger than 65 together or the numbers get too small. They break medical conditions into "yes, no, and unknown" with the "no" category often being tiny and the "yes" category being huge.

                If I'm reading it right then even in the <65 group, 60% have 2+ serious medical conditions and 40% have 3+.

                The WSJ reports…
                99.95% of people under 70 survive infection but that’s only 95% for 70 and older.

                In the age group 25-44, the CDC reports an 26% increase in excess all-cause mortality… though less than 5% of the 2020 deaths have been due to Covid-19.

                Sum up all that and yeah, this virus is mostly a threat to the old and sick. Most of the exceptions to that will be people who are “old but not sick” or “sick but not old”. There’s even an argument that the 25-44 crowd is a lot more damaged by the lockdown than by the virus but that’s speculative.

                I’m treating it seriously because…
                1) It’s easy to wear a mask in public, work from home, and cut social contacts
                2) I don’t run stupid risks that are easy to avoid.
                3) Getting sick can be time consuming and expensive.

                https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6928e1.htm#T1_downReport

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Dark Matter
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                I don’t dispute the numbers. When I said I knew “you weren’t quoting an attitude” I meant that you weren’t being dismissive about the deaths of older people, which is how the comment that I quoted might have sounded, at least taken by itself. I was afraid that someone would take my comment as accusing you of saying, “hey, it’s only old people, it’s not like civilization is being destroyed or anything.”

                I still don’t think you were being dismissive of those deaths.Report

            • greginak in reply to InMD
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              We’ve become unable to make large changes to much of anything. We have a constricted range of policy choices and even then we don’t really do much. Sclerosis is becoming our national brand.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak
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                The ability to make large changes instantly is also the ability to make large mistakes instantly.

                Ergo the inability to do this is normally a good thing.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                The same sclerosis that makes large public health policy difficult to implement makes large housing policy, such as increasing density, also difficult to implement.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
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                Also makes correcting mistakes very difficult.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                True. On the other hand the reason we have unreasonable prices is because of misuse of the government (via local and state zoning laws).

                Ergo expecting the gov would fix the housing crisis if it just had more power is probably wishful thinking.

                It already has the ability to fix everything, it doesn’t want to, it just wants to posture and look efficient while not standing up to the forces which are creating this.Report

            • ThirteenthLetter in reply to InMD
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              >We should be rethinking how work, education, benefits, even infrastructure are set up.

              No we shouldn’t. The middle of a once-in-a-lifetime crisis is the worst possible time to do such things; it gives the sort of people who have schemes for straightening the crooked timber of humanity an opening, and the results are usually catastrophic.

              I suggest we do it five years from now, when everyone’s moved on to being mad about something else.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman
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            says:

            I also think we as people just aren’t going to learn. I had conversations with family early on where †hey lamented the lack of PPE. “WHY ISN’T IT STOCKPILED?!” Well, because we — as a society — decided we didn’t want it stockpiled. Stockpiling PPE would have cost money and resources and space; we wanted that money and resources and space to go to other things. And maybe we were right about that. Keeping hospital stock rooms full with 100X as much supplies as they need for 99 years because in the 100th year a pandemic would hit might actually do more harm than good during those 99 years. I don’t know. But right or wrong, we chose that. And odds are, in 3 or 5 or 10 years — when the memories of Covid are just that — I think we’ll slowly return to making those same decisions that lead to not having a massive stockpile. Which could indicate a failure to learn. Or that we were right all along to only stockpile so much. But what we certainly won’t learn is that we are indeed making that choice. Because whenever the next pandemic hits, we’ll once again wonder how we were so ill-prepared, forgetting that we chose our level of preparation.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD
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      I also think a lot of the enforcement over-reactions hurt efforts to get people on board. Every politician who decided to use police to enforce public health guidelines should be publicly flogged for invoking bad dystopian novels and movies. As should every pundit who defended such things.Report

      • JS in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        So I can crap in the water supply then?

        I mean, I’m from Texas — we never HAD enforcement. We had a state governor that overrode local controls on mask mandates and lockdowns (and then took a month before deciding maybe mask mandates were a good thing, even as Houston suffered) — because “local control” apparently means “states tell everyone what to do”.

        Enforcement? None. Not only was nobody allowed to have stricter mandates than Abbot allowed, there was NO enforcement. No fines for not wearing masks. Someone defied lockdown orders within the first 24 hours — Abbot’s OWN order in this case — and he celebrated them and praised them for it!

        Enforcement? I’ve never SEEN any. I’ve seen a couple clubs closed over health regs and just opened up at a different spot the next day.

        I’m sure some states did, but “over reactions” damn well doesn’t explain Texas, because we had such little enforcement that when Houston was running out of ICU space, the Governor undid even the minimal mandates the city had set.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to JS
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          Sure, but CA was being awful assholish about things, and those events made the national media. Hence local stupidity flavored national attitudes.

          Thing is, it might have been one thing to go after the guy in a crowded store who refused to wear a mask, but that wasn’t the headline. It was the guy out surfing, by himself, FAAAAR away from anyone else, who had to be hauled in by two deputies.Report

          • gabriel conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            My state certainly isn’t like JS’s, but it probably could have used some more enforcement. I understand why it didn’t. It probably would have looked bad and by itself it probably wouldn’t have worked, either.

            I will say that the optics of arresting the surfer are maybe bad for some people. But frankly, I don’t see the problem. If surfing is banned, then it’s no surprise that someone would be arrested for it. And the ban seems to pass the reasonableness test, for me at least.

            The thing that might change my mind about the surfing example:

            1. If the surfer were roughed up. Maybe they were.
            2. If the surfer got more than just a misdemeanor fine or more than a very small amount of jail time (like, more than 72 hours).
            3. If the person/entity enacting the ban had no legitimate authority (e.g., no grant of power) to do so.

            Those examples probably mostly reflect my ignorance about what went down. I heard something about it at the time, but don’t know the details.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy
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              What is the point of stay at home orders and masking orders? To prevent dense gatherings and avoid spreading the virus.

              A guy, out surfing, by himself, is not in danger of spreading the virus to anyone EXCEPT the two cops who decide to take him into custody. A mom out for a mental health drive by herself is not in danger of spreading the virus to anyone EXCEPT the cop who pulls her over for not staying home.

              Cops are a segment of our population that encounter a lot of people in close proximity every day. They are in danger of spreading the virus to anyone they come into contact with.

              So what is the greater danger, a person violating a stay at home order but taking care to be very alone, or police coming into close contact with those people and increasing the risk of passing or catching the virus?

              Some guidance from policy setters that police should focus on violations that are serious, rather than merely technical was needed.

              Although at this point I don’t know why I expect police to exercise rational judgement when they can mess with people instead.Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                The ban is to prevent the beaches from becoming crowded. If that guy can get away with it, it’s not fair to the others who are honoring the ban.

                I realize that doesn’t answer your main objections. As you point out, the surfer’s violation puts no one in danger, and there are more serious things to enforce and perhaps cops and those who set the policies cops are tasked with enforcing should focus on those.

                I have no informed opinion on the other examples you mention. My uninformed opinion is that they seem bad, shouldn’t have happened, and support your thesis much better than the surfer incident.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy
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                says:

                None of this is fair to anyone. It’s not about fair at this point. It’s about not making authorities look heavy handed and damaging the thin credibility they already have.

                Remember, the guy was on the water (he was paddle boarding, not surfing), not the beach. Nothing I’ve seen has talked about where he went into the water, but everything I’ve read said he stayed out on the water. How would this be any different from, say, a person out in a small boat/kayak/canoe?

                Contrast this with Newsome and the unmasked restaurant incident.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                Back when I had to get my 90,000 tuneup/oil change/whathaveyou, it was a nice day and there was a restaurant and a Sonic across the street.

                After I gave the okay for the various mechanics to work their various magicks, the guy told me that the restaurant across the street would give me a 10% discount if I told them that I was waiting on my car.

                I, instead, walked over to Sonic. They had their picnic tables flipped over on top of each other and shrinkwrapped.

                These picnic tables were sitting in the sun. Outside.

                But I couldn’t sit outside and eat. There’s a pandemic.

                But, if I wanted, I could be seated at the indoor restaurant next door.

                There are no shortage of pictures of playgrounds being chained closed. Swings ziptied to keep them from being used.

                Our local Safeway has shrinkwrapped the picnic table that the workers used to sit at while they were enjoying a smoke on their break. So now they lean against the bike rack as they enjoy a smoke on their break.

                There might be rules that would help in a pandemic.

                They’re right next to stupid, stupid rules that do no help at all.Report

  2. Chip Daniels
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    Its important to state that policy matters much less than compliance and behavior. Having a lockdown policy or whatever doesn’t work if no one complies, or complies halfheartedly.

    An example is that Los Angeles allowed outdoor dining for a time and a lot of restaurants made patios out of the sidewalks. Which seemed safe and sane, but a lot of others went beyond, adding canopies, and then full tents with sides, effectively creating pockets of trapped air where people gather and talked face to face without masks.

    The one metric that can cleanly separate success from failure to contain the virus is responsible collective behavior. and adherence to sound medical policy.

    And we just didn’t have that.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Chip Daniels
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      A lot of people have tried to rules-lawyer the virus and it hasn’t gone well.

      Early on I think much of this was a political and leadership failure (almost entirely on Trump and the party that decided to follow his lead) though as time has worn on I think this was to some degree inevitable. A lot of things that appeared here first (resistance to masks, anti-lockdown protests, etc) eventually made their way to Europe (and I don’t think because they were following our example as such… I think reserves became depleted over time).Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Chip Daniels
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      Related to this, and a criticism of the state-by-state approach used in the OP, states aren’t internally consistent. Colorado’s urban/suburban areas are now largely compliant about masks — I can’t remember clearly the last time I saw an adult in a shop that wasn’t wearing their mask. Even the little kids are mostly compliant. To the east of us is some tens of thousands of square miles of rural Colorado. Total population across that eastern plains region runs to 200,000 or so, and a much lower percentage of them conform to various state-ordered precautions. Those plains counties are currently having much higher new case numbers (per 10,000 of population) than the urban/suburban counties along the Front Range. The problem of travel between the Front Range and the eastern plains is worse than travel between states. There’s a continuous flow of workers, shoppers, and medical patients back and forth.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels
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      I saw some tents in SF but not many. Mainly there were lots of heat lamps. I feel sorry for a lot of restaurants and bars because it is clear to me that they are not going to get the relief to shutdown and survive. Most of them cannot cut it on takeout alone unless that was the core business model before the pandemic.

      But I otherwise agree. Some people on LGM and a few personal examples aside, I know very few people who did a hardcore hermitage during the pandemic except early on.Report

      • gabriel conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Even I feel bad for the restaurants and bars, despite my strong dislike for the cult of The Small Business Owner.

        In Big City, there seem to be “a lot” of tented restaurant spaces. I don’t know what “a lot” means, though. It could just be the streets I happen to walk when I go to work. The tents are usually open if there are diners in them, which seems to me what we’d want the tents to do. Some of the more affluent areas also mark off street spaces for open air dining.

        Those are all impressions, based on anecdote. I don’t have any systematic facts to back them up.Report

  3. Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Formatting comment, your footnotes are a bit wonky.Report

  4. greginak
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    I don’t disagree much with all this. There is plenty of blame to go around, sort of like the virus. I can’t help but think though that the original sin of how poor our response has been is the “F it, herd immunity” plan of the admin from the beginning. It isn’t just the recent story about how that was their plan, they have said it before. They just didn’t want any response at all. Just let the virus run wild was the plan from the top. That has infected ( see what i did there) the response all around the country at every level.Report

  5. Saul Degraw
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    I have a lot of observations that are largely disjointed.

    1. The populations of Norway and Finland are a lot smaller than the the population of Sweden. Sweden has twice as many people as either of the other countries at 10 million and the density might be a leading factor in the spread.

    2. Asian countries have a much longer history of just wearing masks during cold and flu season. This has been a thing for about a century in East Asia. When I lived in Japan in 2002-2003, it was a very common sight and these were just people with colds not wanting to spread germs. So mask compliance came easily there. There were also much better track and trace policies along with checking temperature early. All in all, Taiwan is probably the gold standard country for COVID response.

    3. I largely concur that the United States political culture does not have the willpower to do a European style lockdown even in blue states where the pandemic is taken seriously. Another problem in the United States is that even the states have a decentralized political culture. A lot of Southern California sheriffs have basically given Gavin Newsome a fuck you for the new restrictions. In the Bay Area, a lot of the local courts have gone full remote. In more conservative parts of California like Kern County, they remain open with in court sessions.

    4. Like Greginak, I blame a lot of the bad results in the U.S. on how this became another part of the culture war. Jared Kushner’s actually came up with a decent strategy but then they realized that a lot of the early victims were black and brown people in the blue states and decided to not implement their plan. Never mind all the other shit they tried to do with the virus.

    5. Lest people think I am being too hard on conservatives, I think lots of people, even people who took COVID-19 seriously, lacked the psychological ability and willpower to do a real lockdown and avoid social gatherings. Meeting friends outside is probably not that bad but it is still not best practice and there were plenty of friends gatherings I observed in Golden Gate Park which were more “social distanced” than social distanced. Plus masks did not generally stay on. A lot of blue state politicians committed unenforced errors where they did the very things they lectured people not to do.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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      A lot of blue state politicians committed unenforced errors where they did the very things they lectured people not to do.

      Is this sentence at odds with the one where you explain that it is the Blue States are taking the pandemic seriously?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
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        The Blue states at least set up guidelines and restrictions to mitigate against the virus rather than encourage harmful activities in the name of culture war. California also liberalized it’s unemployment law in order to make staying at home more bearable.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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          I will say that coming out and saying “STAY HOME! THIS IS A DANGEROUS DISEASE! WEAR A MASK!” is better than not doing that.

          But the message is severely undercut by going to the French Laundry as if nothing was happening.

          It actively helps people who are arguing that the so-called COVID isn’t a big deal… why, just look at what the people in charge do when they think nobody’s looking. (That’s because they know it’s not a big deal. This is just a faux disease hyped up by the media. Newsome is in on it. That’s why he’s eating as if nothing is going on.)Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird
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            Well, there’s at least two relevent dimensions here.

            First, if it’s important to do X, then you yourself should do X. It’s really important. People are absolutely going to take cues from their leaders.

            Second, if X just isn’t reasonable for you, then consider that it isn’t reasonable for others and you need to find another way.

            There’s little motivation to make rules or just advice reasonable if you and yours are exempt from them.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman
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              But my circumstances are extraordinary!Report

            • Swami in reply to Will Truman
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              Great post, William.

              There are a lot more than two dimensions though. Scarce throughout this discussion is the emphasis on the tradeoffs of draconian shutdown measures. Lost income, bankruptcy, lost education, lost memories and experiences for people shut into their caves, weight gain, alcoholism, freedom, precedent etc etc.

              I am more sick of the politicization red/blue of the issue than most fans of this site (who are often absurdly partisan on one side or the other), but there are still huge costs and important trade offs that reasonable and honest people will disagree on that are not reflected in fatality rates.

              What we may be more likely to agree on is some narrowing consensus on smart actions with a good bang for the buck. I might suggest masks, social distancing, quarantining senior care facilities, eliminating stupid crowding at jobs and public events, and so on.

              But anyways, my main point is GREAT POST!Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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        “Is this sentence at odds with the one where you explain that it is the Blue States are taking the pandemic seriously?”

        It depends on whether “Blue States” refers to the politicians, the people, both, or something else.

        I’m a pretty blue-y person in a pretty blue-y state (NJ) and I am increasingly frustrated by the Red/Blue crap attaching itself to this thing. Why are we hearing about “Cuomo crushes” when his policies directly led to many thousands of deaths that very likely could have been avoided? Why did we hear about everything Florida and Texas was doing wrong and the resultant summer spikes while remaining silent on California having a spike at the exact same time?

        Politicians — Blue, Red, or rainbow polka-dotted — deserve condemnation for encouraging/requiring behavior that they themselves refused to exhibit.

        And while I would say that “blue” attitudes on our response to the virus (and not just on mitigating the spread, but other factors like economic relief) strike me as a better bucket than the “red” attitudes, I think all of that is shot to hell when Team Blue starts morally preening.

        It really struck a nerve when many of the liberal celebrities I attend to (e.g., podcast hosts) quietly shifted from “EVERYONE STAY AT HOME!” to “So I’m coming to you live from my Brooklyn apartment today instead of my LA house.” And not because saying “STAY AT HOME” in March is necessarily at odds with saying, “There are safe ways to travel,” in June. But because they yelled and shamed everyone for a long ass time and then suddenly fell silent on recommendations when it became convenient for them to do so. Is travel safe? Why not talk about how people can travel safely? Oh, because YOU want to travel? Coolbeans.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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          Yeah, when the map went from Green states, Yellow states, and Red states (yay, Vermont!) to “Okay, we had to create a new color and 49 of the 50 states are now Purple states” (yay, Hawaii), that should have been the signal for “okay, we are all Purple states now” rather than “well, let’s face it, the suburbs are handling this much more responsibly than the urban (AND I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN) centers”.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw
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      #4 is an ugly accusation, and also ungrounded. I’d love to have an honest discussion about the response to the virus in black communities. I raised this topic earlier when someone was discussing anti-vax rhetoric. Thomas Sowell once wrote a piece called Black Rednecks and White Liberals, in which he argued that a lot of black urban culture had its roots in rural white Southern culture. I think if you looked into it, you’d see the “Trumpist” reactions are more common in, say, downtown Baltimore than downtown Bismark.Report

      • greginak in reply to Pinky
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        It seems hard to argue simply precautions like masks haven’t been subsumed by culture warriors to all our detriment. How much of that is race based or due to people not caring about POC? POC in general have been hit harder then whites. The “we want everybody to get it” strategy seems to not give a crap about who gets hurt which tends to be older, poorer people with worse access to health care. As minority communities were being slammed the admin was still making masks a CW issue, downplaying the severity of the virus and dicking around with additional aid for people. Was it malice at POC? Well not much was done to help them but then again not much was done for people in general, so i’m not sure that is much of a defense.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Pinky
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        Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of “Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.”

        https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/07/how-jared-kushners-secret-testing-plan-went-poof-into-thin-airReport

    • ThirteenthLetter in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      “Jared Kushner’s actually came up with a decent strategy but then they realized that a lot of the early victims were black and brown people in the blue states and decided to not implement their plan.”

      You are literally making an accusation of racist genocide based on zero evidence. Maybe sit back and think about this a bit.Report

  6. Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Comment in mod.Report

  7. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    The whiplash when it comes to how important it is to use the swiss cheese model is frustrating as heck.

    When I go jogging, I don’t wear a mask. I figure that there are multiple mitigations. For one, I am outside where the ventilation is pretty good. For two, I am rarely closer to someone else than 10 feet. I’m not running on the sidewalk, I’m running in the bike lane. If someone is riding a bike, they usually spend less than a second making a secant (I had to look that word up!) that passes through my circle.

    In the days running up to Memorial Day, there was much hullabaloo made about the people going to the beach. How they were bad. How there were risks. How there was a pandemic.

    I, of course, stayed inside other than going into work and the occasional trip to the pharmacy.

    Then the George Floyd thing happened and, wouldn’t you know it, mass gatherings outside became okay. Like, without social distancing or anything! For, like, *HOURS*! And it wasn’t just a one-off on a weekend, it was EVERY FREAKING DAY. (“What’s your problem? They were wearing masks!” “The Swiss Cheese thing is about more than wearing masks.”)

    And the entire argument is about how, seriously, my circumstances are extraordinary but you are being selfish.

    I get to defect. You don’t get to defect.

    And then wondering “why is everybody not treating collaboration seriously?!?”Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I was thinking about this today, in re: an incident with a student trying (unsuccessfully; they had no grounds) to grieve a grade by looping in an administrator who really wasn’t in the chain of command but of whom they were a favorite: Some people are so damn used to seeing the rules bent or broken for them when the rules are “silly” things, that when it’s a matter of literal life and death, they still expect that bending.

      meanwhile, chumps like me realize that we are neither downtrodden enough to get a pass on the grounds of “they’re too privileged” nor am I “special” enough (powerful or connected) to get a pass.

      So I abide by the “rules,” and rage at things like people eating fancy dinners in fancy restaurants when I know it will be 2023 at least (if she’s still alive even then) before my mom and I can go out to a restaurant.

      And I’m just….I’m tired. I’m sick of it all. I am continuing to mask/distance/stay home because I know it’s how I keep *me* safe (because I am the only one who gives enough of a fish about me to do that) and because my brother and sister in law had a near-miss with some of their “bubble buddies” (said buddies got exposed and tested positive, and one got sick, but mercifully the exposure was AFTER my brother and sister in law saw them last).

      But I also know that what I’m doing, all the sacrifices, do not matter in the grand scheme, they don’t “flatten the curve” at all. I’m just one person. My sacrifices are to keep me safe, they won’t do any more than that. And maybe? Maybe just FISH the other people then, the ones with their parties and their fancy dinners. I’ll eat my mac and cheese at home forever.

      But I’m tired. And I’m lonesome. And I’m bored. And I find myself ruminating a lot more on Terrible Things because I am alone so much and thoughts (like a friend with a new cancer diagnosis) bounce around in my head like an old-skool screen saver because I don’t have enough to distract myself and no one to remind me that there’s more to life than the bad things happening.

      I want this to be over so badly. And then I go to the grocery store and see people wearing masks as chinstraps, and I hear some of the conspiracy theories being spread, and I feel like: It ain’t ever gonna be over, kid, get used to your new live as a crazy hermit because this is what you got, through no fault of your own.

      I hope reincarnation is a thing, and in my next life I get to make up for all the missed opportunities in this one.Report

  8. Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t think the US is doing so badly. If you compare states in the US and countries in Europe, you’ll find a similar range of values, at least at the top. New Jersey, New York, and Belgium lead the list. The total US death rate is a bit below the UK and Spain, somewhat above France and Switzerland.

    Otherwise, this was a really solid analysis.Report

  9. Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    Remember when?
    Remember when our Dear doctor Fauci said we didn’t need to wear masks because he wanted to keep them for health care works–cause there would have been a run on them. And remember when the US was exporting medical equipment and masks to China?

    Those were good times. I love it when I’m lied to about something that I could die over….Good times.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      It still makes sense to prioritize health care workers. And we’ve learned more about this particular virus since March. We’ve probably wasted millions of gallons of hand sanitizer, but that was also the smart call at the time. It just happened to turn out that covid-19 hangs out in the nose.Report

      • InMD in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        Never, ever criticize a measure that kept the distilleries running.Report

      • Damon in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not saying that the result of his actions were not beneficial. I’ll even presume that he believed that lying was justified to not cause a panic and a run on supplied. What I have a problem with is HE LIED. I don’t tolerate well gov’t officials lying to me. What he did was wrong, and there should be consequences for his bad acts, regardless of whether or not he had good intentions.Report

    • gabriel conroy in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      For whatever reasons (probably bad ones), I’m willing to cut Mr. Fauci some slack on that, though I agree it did a lot of harm.

      One thing that bothers me more is that late February/early March, the health department in Big City (and maybe the CDC, too? I don’t remember.) kept issuing statements like, “there are X cases of coronavirus in Big City. We believe that the possibility of any one person getting the virus is very low.” And then, in the space of a few days, they changed the message to “it’s community spread and everyone needs to take the following precautions….”

      I can understand why it happened that way. I can even believe they were acting in good faith. But it upsets me nonetheless.Report

  10. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Because *EVERYBODY* loves a good conspiracy theory, check out this updated story from El Paso.

    The argument is that one of the vaccines shown on television appeared to already have the plunger depressed when it went into the guy’s arm.

    You can watch the video at the link and decide for yourself whether the plunger appears to already be depressed.

    And then ask some variant of “what the hell?” or explain “well, you have to understand…”Report

  11. LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    The most surprising thing is how many people dug down ideologically rather than change their response in the name of something that really doesn’t care about ideology. A lot of libertarians and conservatives, not all of them, seem to think that the cure of doing anything about COVID, which requires the government, is worse than the disease of letting it just run wild.Report

  12. Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    What’s sobering to me is that if this is how America responds to a threat so straightforward as a virus, how will we respond to an actual, more existential threat like a war?

    Because all the excuses we hear- “politicians didn’t obey their own orders; enforcement was petty and unevenly applied; the rules were vague and poorly communicated; etc. etc.- These all happened in past national threats but yielded different outcomes.

    In WWII for instance, there were plenty of scofflaws who ignored rationing, who didn’t obey blackout restrictions; The rules of rationing were themselves often absurd or poorly communicated;

    Yet the public, for the most part, complied not just with the letter, but the spirit of the rules. Institutions like universities and churches and business groups signed on to the effort.

    And even more- those excuses are things which will always be with us, no matter the threat. To use them as reasons to handwave away our national failure is to pretend that this somehow this was a special case, but given another challenge, by golly we will rise to the challenge, even if we make no changes.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      I think LeeEsq brought up a good point. The thing about war is that it is an open and communal effort. There are still people old enough to remember victory Gardens from WWII, collecting scrap metal, making sure paper was not wasted. Plus you were still aloud to go out and meet people even during the darkest days the Blitz. Plus America has not had a war that required this kind of effort since WWII.

      On the other hand, fighting a pandemic is a silent fight borne alone. You are supposed to sit at home and just do what you can to pass the time. And let’s face it, zoom socializing sucks except for the deepest introverts or biggest extroverts.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        What surprised me in recent years is the discovery of how dis-united the war effort was.
        Like, how strong the anti-war faction was, prior to Pearl Harbor, where leading voices like Lindbergh argued against joining Europe’s war.
        Or how on the eve of war, 10,000 American Not-Sees gathered in Madison Square Garden.

        What helped silence those voices was powerful propaganda from the federal government; It wasn’t a spontaneous uprising of patriotic fervor.

        If tomorrow open war broke out between China and Taiwan , we can expect much the same; There will be powerful voices opposing any war effort, other voices urging the Chinese point of view. There will be voices complaining that some people are profiting from the war, others complaining about scofflaws and so on.

        Everything we saw this year, will be happening then. The way we behave now, is how we will behave then. Unless we change.Report

      • gabriel conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m going to try, as respectfully as I can, why this type of statement, a version of which I see occasionally, bothers me:

        And let’s face it, zoom socializing sucks except for the deepest introverts or biggest extroverts.

        Earlier iterations of that statement I’ve seen have left extroverts out altogether. I’m not sure why their included now because I’m not sure I understand how a “big extrovert” wouldn’t find Zoom sucky. Don’t extroverts get their energy from being around others?

        That type of statement seems more as a dig at introverts (and, potentially, extroverts, though it’s seems they’re an add-on). I do admit that some people are, by temperament, better able to weather the covid-era isolation. And they (we, because perhaps I’m one of them) should understand that others are less able.

        Even so, things are tough all over. As for “the deepest introverts,” I’m not sure I’ve ever met an introvert so “deep” (extreme?) that they wanted to abjure all human and in-person interaction.

        Introverts aren’t bad people. Neither are extroverts. People probably don’t have much control over whether they’re introverted or extroverted, or how “deeply” or “bigly” they are such. While it would be descriptively wrong to say that the pain of isolation is shared equally by all personality types (controlling for other things), there’s a very real sense in which suffering is suffering. The “except for extreme introverts” (which is the version of the attitude I’m criticizing that I most often encounter) seems to be almost blaming them, or blaming anyone who has been fortunate enough to be able to cope better than others.

        What I just wrote above probably sounds like a criticism of you. But I’m trying very hard to make it a criticism of a statement and what (I sense to be) an attitude it seems to me to convey and represent. I do realize your suffering is real, too. It’s presumptuous of someone with my privileges to critique others’ suffering.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      a threat so straightforward as a virus

      Straightforward? Am I personally in danger? Are my kids? My wife?

      There’s an on-line Covid danger calculator and I could put on a hundred pounds and still not be at serious risk. I wear masks and work from home so I won’t get infected. If I do get infected I’ll make the news if I die because it would be like winning the lottery.

      My parents are at risk. They know this. They’re hiding in their house and will stay there until they get vaccinated.

      Society needs me to socially isolate so old, very sick people (i.e. other people) won’t die. I’m cool with that because I’m a serious introvert, don’t believe in running stupid risks, and all this increases my cash flow since I’m spending less.

      As the amount of personal sacrifice goes up and the people being saved are even more removed from our personal experience, our willingness to sacrifice goes down.

      The media doesn’t help efforts to fight the virus by pouncing on racial and economic disparities. Most of the country isn’t motivated to sacrifice themselves when someone yells “racism”, so when that call goes out what people hear is “not my problem”.

      This is a collectivist problem for a society that isn’t a collective.Report

      • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
        Ignored
        says:

        This is a collectivist problem for a society that isn’t a collective.

        Not entirely true. You, for instance, are engaged in collectivist behavior. My lifestyle at the moment mirrors yours. Millions of people are making collective sacrifices for both their personal and the greater good.

        What’s missing is national leadership calling for and heralding that greater good. What’s missing is national mourning for those whose lives are lost. 3,500 Americans died of COVID yesterday and the President couldn’t be arsed to even tweet condolences, much less remark on them and their lives. Had he bothered to do so, and do so regularly, we’d see a lot more collectivism. He’d also have probably won reelection.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
          Ignored
          says:

          “The greater good”, much like “do the right thing”, translates into “you should do what I want you to”.

          The President didn’t morally posture for this and tell his followers to wear masks. That’s a problem… but how much of a problem? Were serious Blue states spared the virus? Was inner city Chicago’s problem that it had too many Trump supporters in the African American community?

          From a 10k foot perspective, it looks like Trump’s reality show entertainment had between little and no measurable effect. That implies it didn’t matter what he did. That he handled the issue poorly doesn’t change that.

          Scaling that down to me, I cut down my social contacts a lot but I’m still willing to meet with my daughters and let one move back in with us (since college is virtual it doesn’t matter how far away it is). I did as much as my lifestyle and social structure let me (adjusted for risk) but only that. No level of “national leadership” was going to change that.

          Expand that reasoning to other people, and Chicago’s problems came from large numbers of people who didn’t have the ability to easily isolate. Everyone heard about the virus, everyone did what they could… but that might be “nothing” if they’re strongly motivated to find some reason why they shouldn’t be wearing a mask.Report

          • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            The President could have had a huge impact both in policy and in outcomes. He could have made a declaration of national emergency and moved money to fund a ton of actions – just like his wall. But he didn’t. He could have worn a mask everyday since we learned it was effective. Bu the didn’t. He could have deployed the Air National Guard to move PPE like its now moving vaccines. But he didn’t. He could have ordered the government to buy PPE and then give it out to states in need. But he didn’t. He could have told Republicans in Congress to back long term stimulus and unemployment support so that more people could stay safe and stay home. But he didn’t. He could have back relief bills that prioritized getting landlords paid over handing money to large businesses. But he didn’t. All of those things would have had significant impacts.

            Most of all, he could mourn with those Americans who have lost loved ones. He could lament the economic hit that 300,000 lives lost creates in communities big and small. He could put Americans on a “war footing” and keep us there – which would get a good many “you can’t make me wear a mask” people actually wear a mask.

            But he didn’t. Because he saw nothing in it for him. Because he lacks basic human empathy. Because he wasn’t told that doing it might keep him in office.

            And so another 3,500 Americans died needlessly yesterday. That enrages me. It ought to enrage you. Sadly your “me, me, me” focus in these responses makes it hard to tell if it does.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H
              Ignored
              says:

              I have to agree with Philip here. We have placed a disturbing amount of power and influence into the office of the executive, one should not discount the effects and actions Trump could have had/taken. Sure, perhaps anything he did might not have had an impact on you, but the MAGA rallies should tell you that there are a lot of people who do watch Trump carefully and take cues from his actions and Tweets.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                We have placed a disturbing amount of power and influence into the office of the executive

                A President HRC would have used the virus as a reason to greatly expand the power of the Presidency and the gov.

                Everything from nationalizing drug/ppe companies to giving the gov special “emergency” powers.

                Note this brings us back to “the dominate reasons why we have so many people dying are structural”.

                But with thunderous applause we would have approved this. And it’s not clear how much of that power would have been given back after the emergency was over.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
              Ignored
              says:

              The President could have had a huge impact both in policy and in outcomes.

              I see zero support for this in the data. A lot of the dealing with this got pushed down to the States. We thus had natural experiments on what works and what doesn’t. The things you claim he could have done were tried and not tried. There was no clear advantage to doing them.

              That doesn’t mean “there’s no advantage to wearing a mask”, clearly there is. But everyone knows there is an advantage and the people who are willing to mask up do so and the ones who aren’t won’t be convinced by moral posturing. Ditto for social distancing, I’ve cut out the people I can cut out.

              If the data disagrees with our feelings on what should happen, then the data is right and our feelings are not. Also a lot of the things you suggested either happened anyway or are irrelevant. The PPE stocks were exhausted and the federal gov stepping in to “buy” them wouldn’t have magically created more.

              I’m not claiming Trump handled this well. I’m pointing out that, despite our intuition, the parts he got wrong don’t seem to have mattered. The big thing he got right was this “Warp Speed” thing to speed up the creation and roll out of the vaccine, however I expect a President HRC would have done that too.

              And so another 3,500 Americans died needlessly yesterday.

              This is magic thinking. If HRC had won the election 4 years ago those people would still have died, we’d just be saying that it’s in spite of the gov’s best efforts.

              That enrages me. It ought to enrage you. Sadly your “me, me, me” focus in these responses makes it hard to tell if it does.

              The virus doesn’t care about how I feel, nor how you feel. It’s not useful to let emotions cloud my behavior nor my expectations. So no, I’m not “enraged”.

              Our society has serious problems dealing with this compared to others because of structural reasons. That includes everything from “we’re not a small island” to “poor urban people can’t socially distance”. It’s counter intuitive to think that Trump not wearing a mask had no effect, but that seems to be the case.

              Or if you prefer, it’s probably less “no effect” than “such a small impact compared to our structural issues that the later dominates the former”.

              This is less the 80/20 rule than the 99/1.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                “That doesn’t mean “there’s no advantage to wearing a mask”, clearly there is. But everyone knows there is an advantage and the people who are willing to mask up do so and the ones who aren’t won’t be convinced by moral posturing.”

                I agree with much of what you say here but would push back against this. Masks becoming politicized was a very, very bad thing. And Trump was a big (but not the sole) cause of that. If Trump had worn a mask and encouraged others to do so, I think we’d have seen much higher and earlier mask compliance. Many, many people — from elected officials down to folks on the streets — take their cues from Trump. Perhaps him more than any President in recent memory. He is HUGELY influential among his supporters. To say that influence would have not extended to masks stretches credulity.

                It reminds me of Obama’s stance on gay marriage. Almost overnight after he officially and publicly came out in favor of it, the support among Black Americans jumped dramatically. Not to 100% but dramatically. I think Trump fully supporting masks early would have been similar: not 100% buy-in from his people but a big change.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                The problem is that we need the Swiss Cheese Approach.

                Masks are a slice in the swiss cheese.

                This slice of swiss cheese has holes. Does that mean that masks “don’t work”? No, of course not.

                Does this mean that you can wear the same disposable mask every day? No, of course not.

                Does this mean that if you wear a mask, then you’re good? No, of course not.

                Trump really, really should have used his bully pulpit to argue for a couple of slices of swiss cheese. Even if one slice isn’t enough for complete coverage, when you mix three or four slices together, you get pretty close.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Agree 100%. But the Swiss cheese analogy is a complex, nuanced one.

                “JUST TELL US IF IT WORKS!”
                “Well…”
                “DOES IT OR DOESN’T IT?!?!”

                I wish Trump had said, “Yes, masks work. Bigly. And distancing works. Bigly. And they work super bigly together.”Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                The cues thing is right. Trump not telling people to wear masks matters for the same reason Newsom going to the fancy restaurant matters. In a cacophony of information, people are taking cues.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                not 100% buy-in from his people but a big change.

                Serious Trump supporters are a sub-set of a sub-set of a sub-set of the population. People who are willing to take their cue from Trump on whether to wear a mask are going to be a sub-set of that.

                From that we need to measure the impact, i.e. subtract from this the impact of other methods of transmission. I.e. if someone in my house gets infected I will because I don’t wear a mask around them.

                Would it be a good thing if 1% more people wear a mask? Sure. Does that matter enough to move the needle? No.

                It probably isn’t even enough to measure. We know this because of natural experiments.

                We can compare Solid Blue Areas where the number of Trump supporters round to zero to MAGA land, there’s no difference.Report

  13. Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    I recently commented elsewhere that it increasingly seems like it doesn’t really matter what we do from a policy perspective. There are just too many moving parts that no matter what the rules are in one particular area of the country, Covid is either going to hit it or it isn’t. I realize this is a very pessimistic view though I don’t necessarily intend it to be. Rather, it is a bit of a concession that we can only control so much — especially when the two things we are trying to control are so actively resistant to control: humans and a virus.

    This piece makes me think of the process-versus-outcome. When playing Blackjack, should you hit on 19? No. Never. It is a horrible process to employ. Your odds of improving your hand are less than 15%. And the value of that improvement is even less since there is a good chance you were already winning the hand anyway. But every now and then some bozo will hit on 19 and pull a 2 for 21 and the dealer will get 20 and the guy will think himself a genius. No. He’s not a genius. He’s a dumbdumb that got lucky. And maybe that dumbdumb will walk out of the casino with more money than the guy who played perfect strategy because sometimes that is how the cards fall. But you still want to be the guy playing perfect strategy. Much more than you want to be the dumbdumb. Because if you keep coming back to the casino, you’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to win if you hit on 19.

    Covid policy feels similar. There definitely seem to be policies that are more effective than others. Some of those took several months to identify. And Covid didn’t wait for us to figure it out. But even having the better policies wasn’t a guarantee of success. And bad policies wasn’t a guarantee of failure. It’s just too complicated a situation. We should still aim to employ the best policies we can (coupled with the best way of message and enforcing those policies and all that jazz) but we should avoid moralizing the outcome of any area since it might be a place that actually did things fairly well and just caught a bad run of cards. I realize that may seem callous when talking about literal life-and-death matters, but unfortunately that is how life works.Report

    • gabriel conroy in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s a very good analysis, Kazzy.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to gabriel conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s to be expected that the human response has been what it has been. We don’t like randomness and chaos. We want order. I forget what it is called, but there is some weird thing our brain does where it searches for patterns — even creating ones that aren’t there — amidst randomness. It is why we often see human faces in clouds or water stains or whatever… our brain WANTS to see something that makes sense… not just a random splotch.

        So of course when we’re threatened by something random and chaotic and scary that we want to try to apply logic and reason to it. “IF YOU DO THIS, YOU’LL BE OKAY!” “IF YOU DID THAT, YOU MESSED UP AND ARE BAD!”

        We want this thing to make sense and one way to do that is to identify patterns and cause-and-effect relationships. But this thing doesn’t make sense. And the more we try to make it make sense where it doesn’t make sense, the worse off we’ll be.Report

        • Philip H in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          But this thing doesn’t make sense. And the more we try to make it make sense where it doesn’t make sense, the worse off we’ll be.

          It makes sense to students and practitioners of science and history. Hence why so many of us draw parallels to the 1918 Flu pandemic. even the lack of national leadership makes sense to students of political history.

          Sadly we don’t teach these subjects nearly well enough in America anymore.Report

          • gabriel conroy in reply to Philip H
            Ignored
            says:

            I’ve studied a bit of history, though not the 1918 pandemic per se. I’m wary of what history “teaches” us, what we can take from it. Yes, some things seem more understandable from history. But some don’t. The “lessons of history” are elusive, in my opinion and experience, and are usually negative, reminding me of what I don’t know.

            I’ll leave the science up to you, since you’re trained as a scientist, if I understand correctly. I suspect, though, there is a lot that is still unknown and won’t be known for some time, if ever.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Philip H
            Ignored
            says:

            Will all due respect, I’m going to call some BS on this. This feels like exactly the moral preening that Will discussed above. “IF ONLY we did the obvious thing of studying the history of pandemics, we’d have nipped this thing in the bud from jump!”

            We — as a species, as a country, as a region (Metro NY) — undoubtedly did some things wrong. Some of which might have been avoidable. But even if we all had perfectly knowledge of 1918, we’d have seen the virus spread and seen people die and see other negative consequences because the damn thing just doesn’t care.

            Do you want to attack Cuomo for his policy on senior care centers? Do you want to attack Murphy for NJ having some of the worst numbers? Was their knowledge of history poor?

            If students of political history could have saved us, why the hell didn’t they? If they could have saved us and didn’t, they might be the most morally bankrupt in this whole thing.Report

            • Philip H in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              Students of history have been trying to save us this whole time, and are roundly and soundly being ignored. Students of science are trying to save us and being roundly and soundly ignored. Students of economics are trying to save us and are roundly and soundly being ignored. Our failings are not for a lack of their trying.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                When did students of history recommend masks? What has their stance been on lockdowns? Actually, do lockdowns work? What does history tell us about that? Asking for 350M friends.

                What were students if history’s recommended policies and when did they recommend them?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                To clarify my objection to your initial comment a bit, I am not saying that there wasn’t potential learning from a study of past pandemics or that we properly applied this learning.

                But the idea that the pandemic “made sense” to students of history is smug and arrogant, to put it simply. The virus doesn’t care or feel or think or follow rules. It simply is. It does not make sense. You can do everything right and get sick and die. And you can do everything wrong and suffer no consequence for it. Sure, maybe students of history can say, “Well, that happened before.” But that isn’t make sense out of nonsense. It is simply acknowledging the prior nonsense.

                If you think, “Well, if only we did X, than Y never would have happened,” with something like the virus, your either deluded or lying to yourself.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Experts got a lot wrong. Sometimes by applying lessons from past epidemics to this one and it turned out that it didn’t line up.

                “Shutting down travel doesn’t work” had an empirical basis, drawn from past experience. Same with quarantines not working and masks and also that you should wash your hands 50 times a day and thing after thing after thing.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          People don’t appreciate what a magnificent pattern-matching engine we each carry around in our heads. Computer vision researchers do, since they’re in the business of building basically the same kind of thing. When I started my on-again off-again computer vision project, I downloaded what was a well-regarded free neural network pre-trained to recognize several different kinds of animal. My application only requires recognizing cats, so I ran the downloaded program against several cat pictures. Whenever I’m starting my effort back up, I always pull out this result as a reminder:

          http://www.mcain6925.com/ordinary/cat02.jpgReport

  14. gabriel conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    I think the best way to look at Covid in the US is primarily as a regional matter.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for that approach. Illinois is surrounded by less restrictive states. Two–Wisconsin and Indiana–feed into the Chicago metropolitan area. Missouri/St. Louis feeds into the East St. Louis area. And Iowa feeds into the Illinois side of the Quad cities area. The closeness of less restrictive states to the more restrictive Illinois probably played some role in Illinois’s rising (until recently) numbers.

    Or maybe. As the OP points out, it’s hard to know what worked and what didn’t. I suspect Chicago would have had its poor numbers regardless of what Indiana or Wisconsin did. I haven’t kept abreast of what’s been happening in the Quad cities. But I understand that East St. Louis’s numbers started increasing sooner this past late-summer/early autumn than other areas of the state. Even then, I don’t know enough to know whether to pin that on Missouri’s policies or something else.Report

  15. DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    What we ought to have done was treat COVID-19 the way we treated AIDS.

    Because for a very long time, the only thing you could really do about AIDS was Not Get It. And the way to do that was to not engage in spreading-risk behaviors with people who Had It. And unless and until there’s a decent test, that means you don’t engage in spreading-risk behaviors with anyone at all.

    Like this guy says, the thing that the government ought to have been doing was spending all those millions of dollars on getting the tests we had made, and on figuring out better and faster tests. Instead, they…sent email to test manufacturers saying they’d be put in jail if they sold test kits without FDA approval.Report

  16. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve been thinking about the Covid and Global Climate Change.

    I think that we’d be better off dumping money onto the engineers than in crafting messages for people to do stuff.Report

  17. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    AND ANOTHER ONE!

    I’d almost be tempted to say that this stuff is overblown, given the revealed preferences of the experts.

    Report

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