America Sits on Its Hands as Covid-19 Cases Rise

How was America able to send a man to the moon, yet now only able to dork around in the face of a disease that most other developed economies and even quite a few emerging ones have done reasonable jobs of containing? While its bungled Covid-19 response confirms the thesis that the US is a failed state, the cause isn’t simply enfeebled government bureaucracies and MBA-style magical thinking by too many people in charge. It’s the way citizens are setting out to propagate infection via refusing to change their habits. It’s as if the American religion has become “Don’t tell me what to do.” And that’s even more peculiar given how conformist Americans are.

In case you managed to miss the lead story in network news yesterday, US Covid-19 cases continue to rise, and at alarming rates in Texas, Florida, and California.

And yes, sports fans, these increases are taking place in areas with some economic heft. A chart from Deutsche Bank via Econobrowser:

And let us not forget that plenty of people aren’t being tested, so Lord only know what is really going on. Lambert yesterday featured a Kafkaesque tweetstorm from an Arizona resident who went to extreme lengths to find someplace, anyplace that would test him, no avail.

The anti-mask types are getting reinforcement when even the Sainted Fauci himself wears no face covering during testimony, as if it’s fine to be maskless when speaking, when much of the general public knows speaking is droplet-generating activity. Can’t he at least put on a plastic shield for public performances? And what about newscasters?

Some reopenings led directly to new infections:

Having said that, the spikes are focusing some minds:

By contrast:

And to remind you of the obvious, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world, and the Thai economy is heavily dependent on tourists. Thailand shut down tourism, including still its largest source, China, and imposed a curfew that shut down its night-life, and even its malls. Only now is Thailand beginning to re-open. The country is not wealthy not does it have a surveillance state tech apparatus. Oh, and everyone from the prime minister to TV presenters wears masks in public.

Now so far, this is all pretty familiar stuff. Covid-19 nfections were rising in the South and California, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to think the growth rate would accelerate as the “reopenings” progressed.

An important element, which hasn’t gotten the attention it warrants, is confirmation of our thesis that the collapse in economic activity was due primarily to disease avoidance measures, as opposed to the lockdowns per se. We’ve pointed out that office workers in Manhattan are not coming back in anywhere close to the level allowed. An important study last week lead authored by Harvard’s Raj Chetty concluded the big spending drop came from the well off, because they could. From a write-up at NPR:

First up, consumer spending. Typically, Chetty said, recessions are driven by a drop in spending on durable goods, like refrigerators, automobiles and computers. This recession is different. It’s driven primarily by a decline in spending at restaurants, hotels, bars and other service establishments that require in-person contact. We kinda already knew that. But what the team’s data show is that this decline in spending is mostly in rich ZIP codes, whose businesses saw a 70% drop-off in their revenue. That compares with a 30% drop in revenue for businesses in poorer ZIP codes.

Second, jobs. This 70% fall in revenue at businesses in rich ZIP codes led those businesses to lay off nearly 70% of their employees. These employees are mostly low-wage workers. Businesses in poorer ZIP codes laid off about 30% of their employees. The bottom line, Chetty said in his presentation, is that “reductions in spending by the rich have led to loss in jobs mostly for low-income individuals working in affluent areas.”

So the affluent won’t go back to their personal old normal until they feel safer. They might loosen up a bit as restrictions ease, but they have and will continue to engage in adaptations, like having their hair coiffed at home rather than in a salon.

Yet we’re seeing bizarre responses. The usual reason for seemingly bad official decisions in America, like breaking nations in the Middle East or having Biden as the Democratic Party nominee, is that it serves certain interest groups (arms makers, corporate donors) even if it damages much bigger and broader elements.

Instead, we now see the disturbing spectacle of state and local public health officials coming under threat. From the Wall Street Journal:

Opponents of social-distancing rules are using Facebook Inc. FB 1.26% to organize and broadcast protests at the homes of health officials, sometimes using violent rhetoric, in campaigns that health authorities say amount to harassment…..

“An increasing number of public-health officials, across the country—myself included—are threatened with violence on a regular basis,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County’s public-health department. “In my case, the death threats started last month, during a Covid-19 Facebook Live public briefing when someone very casually suggested that I should be shot.”….

Seven of California’s 61 public-health officers have stepped down since the beginning of the crisis, she said, one directly because of protests targeting her personally. Another is now under around-the-clock protection from the county sheriff due to credible threats.

“There’s definitely a place for public comment, but this has crossed into intimidation,” Ms.[Kat] DeBurgh [head of the California Public Health Officers Association] said about the protests at her members’ family residences.

Needless to say, the groups that are hate-mongering against public health officials are spreading false information about Covid-19 measures, like saying social distancing does not work and masks are dangerous.

But my issue is not how to stop or counter this disinformation (the worst is it would not be hard if the officialdom had its Mighty Wurlitzer playing the same tune loudly all the time). The big cause for concern is what has happened to the US that we can’t protect public officials from threats at their homes? Officials should be thick-skinned enough to take harsh words at work and in public forums; that’s part of what they signed up for. However, the police should come down like a ton of bricks on those who threaten them at home (or threaten family members at home or at school). This failure (particularly in a state like California) comes off as a sign of much more serious societal breakdown. Or as Lambert put it, a breakdown in power relations.

It may be that members of the business community, particularly “local notables” whose stature has fallen over time as private equity and tech barons achieve egregious levels of wealth, see an effective Covid-19 response as encroaching unduly on their authority, and their social capital matters to them more than their profits. Michal Kalecki made a similar argument in his classic essay on the obstacles to achieving full employment. He noted that executives opposed full employment policies even though their businesses would earn higher profits with them:

We have considered the political reasons for the opposition to the policy of creating employment by government spending. But even if this opposition were overcome — as it may well be under the pressure of the masses — the maintenance of full employment would cause social and political changes which would give a new impetus to the opposition of the business leaders. Indeed, under a regime of permanent full employment, the ‘sack’ would cease to play its role as a ‘disciplinary measure. The social position of the boss would be undermined, and the self-assurance and class-consciousness of the working class would grow. Strikes for wage increases and improvements in conditions of work would create political tension. It is true that profits would be higher under a regime of full employment than they are on the average under laissez-faire, and even the rise in wage rates resulting from the stronger bargaining power of the workers is less likely to reduce profits than to increase prices, and thus adversely affects only the rentier interests. But ‘discipline in the factories’ and ‘political stability’ are more appreciated than profits by business leaders. Their class instinct tells them that lasting full employment is unsound from their point of view, and that unemployment is an integral part of the ‘normal’ capitalist system.

The contemporary version is that effective Covid-19 policies are too dirigiste for free market ideologues. But even that reaction is rational compared to those who object to being required to wear a face covering in public. No doubt some, perhaps many, of the individuals targeting public health officials come out of the anti-vax movement and thus have plenty of misguided pre-existing animosity. But again, I’m at a loss to explain what the Journal depicts as frequent failures to protect their safety.

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  1. skippy

    Best private health care in the world … if your a billionaire … citizenship is not a prerequisite …

    So “uplifting” too be an American.

    1. Glen

      Can we even really say it’s the best if you’re a billionaire? A country that cannot make the chemicals required for the tests? Who knows what else we can no longer do because those very same billionaires keep shipping the jobs and the technology out of the country, trash our education system, and don’t pay a cent in taxes for the common good.

      No, it’s no longer good health care. And that is certainly no reflection on the people actually doing the work. You have to really want to be a doctor or RN now. You end up with brutal debt in a profession where the executive managers are running the system into the ground to maximize profit for the top, and to pacify Wall St.

    2. Mike

      The US has four key problems that have led to all of the others.

      1. Our politicians are now for sale; no one can get elected anymore unless they get sponsored (at least initially) by some wealthy persons or are famous. As Simon Johnson pointed out in “The Quiet Coup,” the fact that unlimited money for politicians from the ultra-rich is “speech” and essentially encouraged, means that our politicians, judges (often elected or appointed by politicians who need to please their sponsors), and others, work primarily for the ultra-rich, not the public.
      2. The “Federal” Reserve transfers US taxpayers’ wealth from most Americans (and even foreigners) to the ultra-rich (including its owners who can be foreign entities or individuals who own its member banks) by its market manipulations, provision of ultra-low interest rates for its cronies, dividends, interest payments, effective guarantee of financier gambling, etc., and is so powerful that most Americans do not know or cannot do anything about its gigantic abuses. That is enabled by #3 below.
      3. The control of the media by a few ultra-rich, who own most media and who own new media, which is what I would call current social media websites. That means that only the speech of the ultra-rich is really protected. Other speech is often censored or overwhelmed. Real, peaceful change has become impossible thereby. As a result, the pressure is building, which will ultimately lead to a violent revolution if it is not allowed to be released with reforms, because the ultra-rich are too short-sighted to see that standing in front of an overheating boiler about to explode is not wise.
      4. Our healthcare system is designed to suck out whatever little wealth the middle and lower classes in American can accumulate unless they manage to avoid severe illness until they qualify for government programs or have no wealth and qualify for government programs. We have the worst, most expensive health care system in the world. This epidemic, which resulted in one person who recovered receiving a $1.1 million bill, for example, has thrown back the carefully cultivated screen with which the ultra-rich have concealed the ultimate purpose of their insurance companies: to scam the suckers who believed that their health insurers actually intended to provide them with real protections by creating co-pays, deductibles, and pretended inflated bills from health care providers. Thus, the co-pays of the insureds are huge compared to the share that the insurers actually pay, because the fake, inflated medical bills generated inflates the insureds’ required co-pays. (Of course, since they do business with them every day, the health insurers usually have side agreements giving them undisclosed discounts to pay off the health care providers bills by paying only part of the huge bills.)

    1. carl

      We were planning to move to Spain next year. Now we’re stuck in the worst country in the world. I’m sure we’ll get there someday, but damn, it’s scary here right now.

        1. neo-realist

          And Trump makes dumb Americans comfortable with the ignorance and intolerance they’ve been trained into for the past 40 plus years.

      1. Oh

        It’s the other way around isn’t? Dumb Americans are the reason we have Trump (and soon, perhaps Biden, his equivalent). What a country!

      1. Mark Dempsey

        Excellent point. To follow up, a little “link whoring”…or as I prefer to call it “link working” in my reaction to George Will’s column today.

        An excerpt:

        George Will’s column today laments the degradation of America. For example, the political class has an “infantile refusal to will the means (revenues) for the ends (government benefits) they demand.”

        Yet the (federal) government literally creates the money. It does not require revenue for new programs. It can’t. Where would people get the dollars to pay taxes if government didn’t spend them first, without waiting for revenue? It’s not “tax & spend”…that’s the fiscal policy for a currency user like a household, not a currency creator. Sovereign fiat currency creators spend first, then retrieve dollars in taxes.

        What do we call the dollars not retrieved, still out in the economy? Answer #1: the dollar financial assets of the population. Answer #2: the national ‘debt.’ Both answers refer to exactly the same thing. It took a Republican (Dick Cheney) to say it, but “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

        Will goes on to say “disorganized families” are “entirely absent from current discussions about poverty, race and related matters.” The point of this particular whine is to throw all responsibilities onto individuals and families, and ignore public policy that has been sabotaging them for generations now, as there’s been a bipartisan effort to defund social safety nets. Will helpfully points out Black families are worse off than the good…er, I mean white ones.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    It does seem to me to be a particular disease of modern politics that the response to a dangerous virus should become so politicised. I’d say it was an Anglophone disease, but we’ve seen similar idiocy in Brazil other random spots around the world.

    It seems clear that the notion that Covid is a disease that would hit like a tsunami, leaving those who escaped first time free to get on with their lives is sorely mistaken. It’s not like a flu. Its more like polio – a disease which until conquered would regularly flare up and required constant vigilance to keep under control. Its becoming clear that the best response (both in health and economic terms) was a rapid and aggressive tamping down in order to stop the virus getting hold in the population, giving time to put in place longer term changes that would allow the inevitable outbreaks to be controlled. In other words, Nicholas Nassim Taleb (among others) was correct from the very beginning, and he was coming from a modelling and risk perspective, not a public health one.

    My best guess now is that the US will be hit by repeated and dangerous regional outbreaks close to, if not at NY levels, for the next 8 to 12 months at least. This will be economically devastating, as a constant stop-go pressure on the economy will be far more destructive than a once off discrete shut-down. I fear that pressure from business will ensure the same mistakes (albeit at a lesser level) will be made in Europe and even parts of Asia that have so far escaped the worst.

    1. Ignacio

      Investments delayed indefinitely, clients not buying like in the good old days, fixed costs staying there, I don’t really know what goes through the minds of business administrators but they still seem to be miscalculating the effects of this epidemic or are deeply seated in denialism. I guess that as time goes by more and more will think twice about what they really want.

    2. Carolinian

      My best guess

      Aren’t we all–still–just guessing? I’m not sure we should condemn the politicians so strongly when the medical authorities themselves often haven’t been able to agree on what’s going on. Those ventilators, for example, were once all anyone talked about and now are viewed, in many cases and particularly in their initial, widespread use in NYC, as a mistake.

      Here in my state, which is about as business oriented as it gets, the politicians are quite concerned about the rise in cases. And while another lockdown seems unlikely they are passing mask ordinances and trying to jaw jaw the public into using them.

      So far that’s meeting with mixed results and particularly among young people. At the end of the day one of the things we may be guessing about is that we can control the disease despite snapshot examples from countries in Asia. It may simply have to run its course as past epidemics did in a pre digital age without Zoom, working from home, etc.

      1. GS

        The problem with “running its course” is that we don’t know if it’s a sprint or a marathon.

      2. juno mas

        I would say that public health officials are not guessing, but using past epidemic experience with a new virus that is more stealthy than previously seen. Health officials are learning more about this virus everyday. Many are having to make decisions constrained by political decisions made above them that have let the virus get “out of control”. (The US was wholly unprepared for this virus. The President being in denial was disastrous.)

        The lack of preparation (insufficient supply of masks, delay of testing capability,etc.) is what precipitated the ” mixed messages” (initially exhorting the public not to wear mask, so that hospitals would have access to them). Now the empirical evidence is clear: masks are very important to limit transmission, especially when indoors; socially distancing is effective; super-spreaders (asymptomatic transmission) requires buy-in by younger people to protect older people to slow societal contamination.

        The lack of collective discipline in the US is likely the virus’ best friend.

        1. periol

          “The lack of preparation (insufficient supply of masks, delay of testing capability,etc.) is what precipitated the ” mixed messages” (initially exhorting the public not to wear mask, so that hospitals would have access to them).”

          Certainly this is the official reason given for the lies. I’m not so sure. It is also possible the truth lies elsewhere, that they knew all along how bad this would be (could still get worse, everywhere), and have been using every means at their disposal to do a slow-reveal of reality. Gives them more time to save the people “worth” saving.

          I mean, I am only speculating here, and the official line could be accurate. The problem with lies is once you lie, people assume you are a liar, and start to doubt everything you’ve ever said or will say. And that particularly goes for the excuses for the lies.

      3. periol

        “I’m not sure we should condemn the politicians so strongly when the medical authorities themselves often haven’t been able to agree on what’s going on.”

        As Rev Kev said, it’s risk management, and both the political and medical authorities have absolutely failed and deserve to be harshly condemned. The mysterious and still unknown qualities of COVID-19 do not give them a pass at all. Quite the opposite. There are right and wrong ways to deal with a mystery, and they chose the wrong way every time a choice had to be made.

  3. anon62

    But again, I’m at a loss to explain what the Journal depicts as frequent failures to protect their safety. Yves

    I used to wonder how people could be so stupid as to mar their skin with tattoos and piercings. Now I suspect it’s a form of social protest against the powers that be.

    And if the PTB happen to be particularly susceptible and if one’s own life is not so grand then why bother with a mask? Why care about those who’ve demonstrated their own lack of caring? After all, there’s no God they’ve been taught, haven’t they?

    1. CarlH

      Please explain the correlation you are making between wearing a mask and having tattoos or piercings.

    2. periol

      “I used to wonder how people could be so stupid as to mar their skin with tattoos and piercings.”

      I didn’t realize Kunstler was a commentator at NC

  4. jacckiebass

    Don’t tell me is another version of personal responsibility. I’m old enough to realize to error the side of caution is the best tactic. I’m going to continue to be cautious until a viable vaccine is developed. This virus is so contagious that one mistake could kill you. It is new and we really know little about it.

    1. Krystyn Podgajski

      Good for you jacckiebass!

      You see, you are a healthy person. But America is a country of children of adult alcoholics and are mostly suicidal. Not in the cool way like jumping off a bridge, but in the slow and secret way, like eating fast food, drinking chemical sodas and not wearing a mask.

      “YOLO and make it as short as possible please!” is our universal motto.

      1. carl

        That’s a great observation. Something like it floated through my head last week–the US is acting like it has a death wish. Or maybe profits over people is the shorter version.

        1. cocomaan

          In late March, I drove through PA on a work errand. It was early in the pandemic so there was little traffic on the roads. I was freaked out, at age 35, about the disease.

          What I noticed was two different groups out on the roads: blue collar workers (mostly men), and old folks. The old folks were the exact demographic hit hardest by this. The over 60 crowd. They were EVERYWHERE.

          I concluded the same thing. I really do think many have a death wish.

      2. Edward

        I think Americans are trying to figure out how to blow the minds of high school students 50 years from now, when they study the fall of the United States.

        “Should we say nothing about wearing masks?”

        “No, that won’t blow their minds enough. Lets make it a political issue, and have one party oppose mask wearing.”

        1. CarlH

          I’ve marked it down to the sense of humor of the entity/entities who developed and maintain the simulation.

  5. Sound of the Suburbs

    I typed “covid 19 uk stats” into Google and it gave a chart of how different countries are doing.
    UK new cases haven’t risen since lock down, but there is no discernible downward trend either.
    In France, Spain, Italy and Germany you can really see the number of cases fall off as they got the virus under control during their lockdowns and they were ready to ease restrictions.

    Cases in the UK have gone down since we eased lockdown, and we are beginning to look like other European countries.
    Our media wonders why our economy has not recovered to the same extent as other European countries, ignoring our delayed success in getting the coronavirus under control.

    Then I looked at the US.
    Oh dear.

    1. vlade

      IIRC, the UK is now the only country in the Europe which still has >1k daily cases (and the trend is pretty flat last couple of weeks I believe).

      Which makes me doubt that a lot of the European countries will welcome the UK tourists as the UK govt seems to believe (well, I know that some will, because they are desparate for any tourism money, but we’ll see how long it lasts).

      1. Bugs Bunny

        A nasty cluster in Benidorm would be devastating and could spread a second wave across Europe. I can already imagine the endless pitiful covers on the tabloids.

        Are the tourism euros worth it, Spain?

      2. Sound of the Suburbs

        We are still higher than other European countries, but we did get that downward trend other European countries got during lockdown.
        I think we are at about 4x higher, about 1,200 cases per day rather than about 300 elsewhere, where they seem to have levelled out at this level.

        I would be wary of UK tourists, as New Zealand discovered.
        They had got down to zero, before two UK tourists came in with it.

        1. Clive

          The problem with looking askance at a raw daily positive test count is, as Donald Trump (no less) explained, that the more you test, the more cases you will likely find.

          Why France has tested so few compared to, say, the U.K. (which has about the same population) and Russia (both countries which had similarly severe outbreaks as France did and consequently all of which needed to get on top of infection rates, which is achieved by testing) is a bit of a mystery to me, as is Italy’s low overall number of tests.

          Continual 250k per day testing seems a minimum number to be aiming for in countries with 60-70 million-ish populations to me. As does not being too worried about a target for positive cases, because the more you can find, the more you can isolate people who need to be isolated. A declining number of cases isn’t too clever in a context of a declining number of daily tests.

          1. Ignacio

            I wouldn’t consider the number of tests as a fixture against the population, random testing is not applied but testing numbers probably depend more on the number of persons reporting symptoms and their contacts. I don’t know the precise situation in France but, guided by daily casualties one can infer that about three weeks ago the number of contagions in France were less than a 5th of the putative number of contagions in the UK and this could explain why testing is less extensive in France. Know nothing about the geographical distribution of these and if it is possible to conclude that France or the UK can be considered in “clusters” or “community transmission”. What they have to worry about is the detection of any new cluster as soon as possible to prevent an escalation.

            Whether France is doing it correctly or not is above my pay grade but I just simply wanted to point out that test numbers will be proportional to detected cases/clusters rather than population. If they are missing community spread, we will know sooner rather than later.

            1. Clive

              This is where it is difficult to square calls for the precautionary principle (such as systematic, routine, regular testing of healthcare workers, care home staff, at-risk groups and so on) to be applied vs. a “we’ll wait until it happens and then sort it out retrospectively after-the-fact” type of approach.

              The U.K. adopted the latter in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and paid the price. Now, the government is practically begging people to get tested (and you get proactively tested if you present in Primary Care). But it sounds like that isn’t correct and we should rather wait for clusters to emerge and tackle these as they arise?

              1. vlade

                I think the proactive testing in hospitals is good, because it stops clusters amongst the most vulnerable. Similarly, IMO care homes should be tested once a week or so.

                But for the rest, it’s probably wait-and-see case, unless we can really test en-masse.

              2. Ignacio

                Well, proactive testing is only part of the job. Particularly usefull in high risk places but this is not suggested to all the population even to a significant part. Also, the higher the incidence of Covid-19, the more needed it is. Today I was reading on this topic about proactive testing of all English tourists coming to Spain which is being considered but my guess is this won’t be done. The excuse is that it takes “days” to get the results. The real reason is most probably to avoid such spending, forgetting the precautionary principle again and again.

                1. Ignacio

                  IMO, it would possibly be enough to do fever/symptom testing to UK citizens as well as any other citizen from Schengen but test everybody in planes from Sweden and the US?. The incidence in the UK has been reduced dramatically in latest weeks so when the probability of finding a single positive in a plane is low it posibly doesn’t make sense to do the testing. Avoiding new entries was essential in the very beginning of the epidemic but now it is not that important.

                  1. vlade

                    Given how the UK planes tended to be loaded (i.e. often a few large groups + a bunch of families filled up with a few solo travellers), IMO the likelyhood of positive on the plane is sort of binary – either no passengers or just very few, or conversely a large group.

                    The composition of the UK plane tourist is based on the last 10 years worth of doing between weekly to twice-a-month flights to a popular tourist destination.

                2. Alex Cox

                  But it doesn’t take days to get a result, does it? In the US the film & TV industries are planning to reopen on the basis that cast and crew can be tested and an accurate result obtained within 5 minutes. The tests cost $150 apiece.
                  Not saying this is a good idea, but it’s the plan.

                  1. Ignacio

                    If you have the results, let’s say overnight, it would be OK as long as the visitor is staying that night on the arrival city. The delays are more organizational and bureocratic than due to the test itself. Take sample, freeze it, send it to the analytical lab in batches, process in batches, ensure correct tracing is not lost and provide the information properly. This takes time. Quite possibly the organizational stuff is badly done in Spanish ariports.

                  2. Massinissa

                    I can see this working for TV maybe, but for films that take weeks or months to shoot? Those tests will create huge overhead.

                    Also, I daresay production companies are going to try and film with as few crewmen as they possibly can. Maybe also pay cuts for the ones that remain due to lower margins…

                    1. Aumua

                      Yeah but movies make a lot of money, and their budgets are quite large in many cases. Average major studio budget : $65 million (source:

                      Cost of 100 tests per day for 100 day shoot: $1.5 million. So it is doable.

      3. Biologist

        >Which makes me doubt that a lot of the European countries will welcome the UK tourists as the UK govt seems to believe (well, I know that some will, because they are desparate for any tourism money, but we’ll see how long it lasts).

        Other countries should build a wall around this island–after all that’s what the English voted for.

        [ok that was a bit of sarcasm but really appalled during this Covid crisis at how the UK resembles USA in all the bad ways–and my expectations were low!]

    2. vidimi

      I’m in France and I get the feeling that things have returned to normal much too quickly. And I don’t really mean the reopening of restaurants and terraces, which will probably have a minimal effect on virus transmission, but of returning to work and the crowding of public transport.

      My office has resumed some form of working on-site since the start of June. Since then, I’ve been taking the TGV once a week to come in and again to leave and the train has been getting more packed every week. Moreover, while masks are legally required on board and at the stations, this isn’t really enforced, with a lot of people taking them off to eat, talk, or just not wearing them properly. On one bus I was on last week, there was a young couple who got on without masks, the bus driver not doing anything about it, and the young man let out a big sneeze.

      The situation has the distinct feeling that things are about to take a bad turn. Already, we have cities like Beijing and Lisbon reimposing lock-down. A second quarantine will take all the wind out of the economy’s sails and send many hospitality businesses closing for good.

  6. vlade

    A lot of human behaviour is what I’d call “locally rational”. I.e. humans are not trying to achieve global maximum (globally best result for them), but only locally. The problem is, often even they don’t have a clue what that local one is, never mind anyone outside.

    And worse yet, it takes very little to persuade most of us (often those who pride themselves on not being “persuadable” are actually the easiest to manipulate) what we’d think our local maximum is.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the technical capabilities of manking massively outrun it “adulthood”. The forces that helped us to survive and thrive for thousands of years may be the same that will kill us unless we grow up pronto. Which TBH, I don’t see as the likely outcome. But still will try to fight it, as while human stupidity is infinite, it really wins only if one stops fighting it.

    1. CuriosityConcern

      I think the more people you get cooperating, the higher or lower you can deform the outcome local maxima and minima. I’ve only been here a year, but that’s my takeaway from the hosts and amfortas.

  7. Amfortas the hippie

    our Eldest(18) has been doing minor handyman/construction work for wife’s cousin and her husband all summer.
    mostly on their house. little contact with anyone, and we’ve drilled into him the mask protocol when he goes to the hardware store, or wherever.
    now comes cousin with news that her friend in austin has the covid…last contact was 17 days ago…but these are relatively well off republicans, who don’t take any of this all that seriously, except when in direct contact with my wife and her cancer(which notably also added a caveat to their hostility towards medicaid, etc…which is interesting all by itself)
    so today is his last day working…he’ll be alone, so we said OK.
    Youngest(14) has been doing football drills…more or less social distanced….coaches do take all this seriously, which surprised me.
    I’ve declared that we’re on lockdown again, wherein nobody leaves but me…or with me(I’ll take eldest with me to lumber yard, for instance, where i can monitor mask usage, etc)
    and Mom…where the money is…was surprisingly accomodating when i told her about this, and predicted that Texas would soon be right back in the soup we were in in March/April….and that we should make a supply run(“Crash first, avoid the rush”), get a seed order in(even if it’s this years seeds), and obtain a few things that I’ve been begging for for years(sausage making equipment, a tiller, pipe for water to both pastures, etc) …all very pragmatic and based on rational Cassandra-ism. Mom, true to form, still added a bunch of frau frau nonsense to this emerging Master List of needs(curtains, really?)
    so…well and good, mostly…although my spidey sense has been tingling like crazy this last week.
    did a facetime visit with our doctor in fredericksburg…he says “it’s here!”…and that he’s had a flood of youngish patients testing positive(not reflected in the county official numbers so far,which is worrisome)
    also related that there’s been lots of tourists from the big cities..ragging on the waiters, etc for wearing masks. He looks and sounds worried, said I’m doing the right thing by locking down(this helps with Eldest), and indicated that it’s gonna get much worse, and (a republican) even said that Texas opened too quickly, and isn’t doing enough testing by far….implied that the testing is hinky, takes a long while, etc.
    all of this sets my spidey sense a tingling again,lol.
    But at least it’s on the “local” tv news(austin)…
    Brother texts me last night, in a re-run of late february/early march…says “i want to come up there this friday”(sigh).
    I sent him a link:
    and he texts back that he’ll hold off.
    if it was just him, we could manage it…but his wife and daughters are headstrong and selfish, and would be impossible to keep contained in the Library/Trailerhouse(no working bathroom, atm…so it’s latrine,lol…not gonna fly with them)
    They’d expect exceptions to the no hugs, masks, etc protocols, and I’d be pulling my hair out.
    so I’m making lists this AM…and girding myself to run out and get it all done, so I can close the gate behind me, and watch from afar the idiotstan that is Texas descend once again into stupidity and disease and an even more egregious toddlerdom.
    Good luck out there.

    1. dougie

      He who dies with the most lumber wins! We have two huge pines(house crushers) that are coming down next week. I contracted a company to come in with a portable onsite bandsaw to turn it into structural lumber, and stack it for drying under a pole barn. I have no idea what I will use it for, but I won’t waste a tree.

      Touch free quarantine lumber! This pleases me waaaay more than I think it should.

        1. dougie

          Oh, yes…..very healthy. Cutting them down because they are too close to the house, and would cause severe damage if they came down in a storm. Also, they are pine trees, the “deplorables”
          of the tree kingdom. Good for paper products, and lumber. I don’t romanticize them, like I would a hardwood tree.

    2. Keith Newman

      As a Canadian I find it jarring how much US-ians refer to people by their voting preferences as in the comment by Amfortas a couple above mine. This is quite common, certainly not unique to this comment. It would never occur to me to label people according to their electoral choice even though I am a highy politicised person.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        I had stitches removed in montreal when i was 13…and the canadian healthcare system has stuck with me ever since…also, teenagers drinking wine and playing guitar and kissing, such as would never be allowed where i come from,lol…
        but, yeah…we’re polerised as hell down here.
        it’s been a part of one’s Identity…like Black or Gay or whatever…for decades…all my life, for sure(I’m 50)
        if you’re a D, you try not to hang out with R’s…and moreso visa versa.
        it’s a proxy for Class…likely as intended.
        This is why it’s been so enlightening to do these symposia in the feedstore.
        They’re people, it turns out!

  8. fresno dan

    So Fresno HICAP has an annual luncheon to honor the volunteers. It was gonna be June 25 this year – I decided discretion was the better part of valor. So they ended up postponing the luncheon due to covid concerns, to late July.
    So on the 22nd cases went up by 240 and on the 23rd by 187. Eventually a plateau will be reached, but with shelter in place restrictions being relaxed, I kinda doubt there will be a diminishment in cases by late July.

  9. Henry Moon Pie

    Kalecki is making an important point. The “job” is about social control, not production, not even profit. That is why there’s a powerful group unwilling to adjust in any significant way to the virus. To do so, they believe, would bring an already fragile system of social control to its knees by severing, even temporarily, the system’s control over wage earners.

  10. Nullius in verba

    As an American living in Bangkok I can vouch for your first paragraph. No new local cases in 30 days. The only new cases are in Thais returning from overseas….and ALL returnees go into 14 day quarantine. No international incoming flights are allowed yet. Everyone wears a mask…it would be a real faux pas here if I were to enter an elevator or a store without a mask.

    To be honest, I’d expected chaos here as it is the #1 Chinese tourist destination. Luckily China stopped outbound tourism early. Certainly there are economic casualties as some restaurants, hotels and shops couldn’t make it without tourism or during the lockdown. Overall though I grudgingly admire the way the (military) government has handled Covid.

    Thailand also has an absolutely first class, and affordable, healthcare system that certainly factors into their success. Thailand has a lot of issues (pollution, lack of democracy,woeful education system)…as do many places….but the government did step up and make the tough decisions early when it came to Covid. They can legitimately be proud of their success.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I have been following Thailand, and the only moment I went “Ulp!” was when the government imposed a curfew on Bangkok, and thousands of people immediately crowded the bus stations to go back to their villages. I anticipated disaster, but no. I discovered that there is a big system of village nurses, so in fact what the government did was cause a migration from where people could not be tracked (Bangkok) to where they could (villages). I don’t know whether this was on purpose or not, but it did seem to work.

    2. DJ Forestree

      Uruguay, Costa Rica, Cuba, all doing fairly well when it comes to controlling Covid-19. Very different countries and societies, when you compared them. One thing in common: in general, people in those nations are fairly well educated, trust the government institutions and the health public officers, and also trust science. In the USA, that trust is gone, thanks to a very effective ideological campaign that isn’t exclusively American but that has left deeper and more noticeable effects in this nation. The unfolding pandemic disaster in the USA is a consequence of this ideology and of the policies it has brought with it.

  11. mle detroit

    “the police should come down like a ton of bricks” – really? After the last month? It’d be awfully nice if you’d re-read your posts between the last period and pushing Send.

    1. Savedbyirony

      In Ohio BLM protestors leave red paint hand prints on the state house and the Gov sends in the National Guard to protect the building from these dangerous protestors. While this spring Dr. Amy Acton (who resigned earlier in June), the then Director of Public Health and the BEST thing going for this State during this Covid crisis, had state legislators and some of their spouses lobbing anti-Semitic slurs at her while gunned up “stay at home” protestors camped outside of her house, but she had neighbors stepping up to stand outside and protect her home and family. So, yes, the PTB should be instructing the police to protect these PEOPLE; all be it more like “a pile of bricks” creating a wall.

    2. CoryP

      LOL I noticed that too. But chalked it up to differing opinion from mine and also just exasperation or acceptance that we have the system we have.

      Not to put words in Yves’ mouth. I can see myself saying something like that in a particular moment even tho I’m very “f the police” normally. But I am inconsistent in that attitude and say and do things that come across hypocritical (but are more likely the product of not having fully thought out my opinion and it’s consequences.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Really appreciate this comment…I too see both FTP and the need for law enforcement in my own head.

        It’s as if lots of people have lost the ability to see nuance.

    3. Fiery Hunt

      Totally agree with Yves.
      Yes, ton of bricks for threatening a HEALTH OFFICIAL during PANDEMIC.

      Jeez. Are we supposed to give a free pass to violence against innocent people?

      1. False Solace

        The ruling class revealed their utter indifference to COVID the moment it became clear most of the NYC deaths were among the poor and elderly. The victims are irrelevant so their focus has shifted to protecting profits. Their time horizon is always short term.

        That must be why there’s so much more controversy about threatening 100 year-old statues than there is about targeted harassment and stalking of public health employees trying to control a deadly infectious disease. The media and politicians are all aghast about the first group. It reveals what our owners consider to be truly important. Symbols of historical hierarchy and status get police and militia protection. Actual functioning government gets ignored or kicked in the teeth. They just don’t care.

        What’s the point of a ruling class that doesn’t actually govern?

  12. Thuto

    If this pandemic doesn’t trigger a rethinking of American-style democracy and its elevation of individual rights above else, i’m not sure what will. The sanctity of collective good has been sacrificed at the altar of giving the sainted individual his/her rights, which some defend at the expense of others in the community, placing them in harm’s way in their narcissistic, pseudomoralistic defense of their “constitutional rights”. As a result, progress towards beating this pandemic will be a stop-start affair, held back by a band of covid denialists and their allied “individual rights trump collective good” activists. Novak Djokovic, the world’s top tennis player, himself a prominent covid skeptic aligned with the anti-vaccine crowd, just tested positive for covid 19 after a headstrong, arrogant attempt at organizing a tournament during a global pandemic, where health protocols were ignored (no social distancing and masks amongst spectators) and the players went clubbing at a crowded night spot in Belgrade (cue the obligatory lukewarm apology on social media). Goodness knows how many spectators and innocent children lining up for photo ops with famous tennis players have been endangered by this irresponsible stunt by a famous athlete misusing his influence capital. Three players tested positive, and two crossed borders to go back to their homes in Monaco, raising the question whether the serbian government just rolled over and allowed this to happen because “rights” or some misguided attempt at positive PR? Governments need to crack down on these egotistical displays of petulance and indifference to the consequences of individual (ir)responsibility in the face of the worst pandemic in a century.

  13. lyman alpha blob

    So the rich can afford to quarantine and the poor cannot – not really a surprise there.

    While there is really no excuse for anyone including the poor for not wearing a mask, there is also no excuse for the abysmal political response to the economic problems caused by the pandemic.

    You want people to stay home, then make sure they have enough money to do so – just like the rich people who had trillions shoveled their way again whether they needed it or not.

    I got my stimulus money in April. I then turned around and paid it all back and then some in federal taxes. This is the first time that we’ve ever had to pay so much in taxes – normally we get a modest refund – and our income has not gone up significantly year over year.

    Thanks for nothing Congress – literally.

  14. john bougearel

    However, habits are changing throughout the world, due to Covid, that decrease air pollution. And lessening air pollution, believe it or not, can usher in a silver lining, that of a less toxic world that results in better health outcomes for everyone.

    Corona virus and toxic chemicals both have an affinity for tagging and binding to air pollution, specifically a carbon particulate called PM 2.5. China has the most toxic airspace in the world. PM2.5 binds many things in the air like cyanide and other chemical trojan horses that can enter the body through the Ace2 receptors in the lungs.

    From Dr Zach Bush: “As PM2.5 dropped in China during their lockdown – suddenly everyone stopped dying of coronavirus….as soon as PM2.5 went below 40 parts per cubic meter. And so it was very profound that it was not social distancing or masks – it was the drop in air pollution that best matches this. A Harvard study that mapped air pollution in areas of high mortality found that for every 1 particle increase of PM2.5 per cubic meter, there was a 10-15x (or % ?) risk of death. If you across Europe, the heaviest PM2.5 is Northern Italy, highest in the US, NYC, Loiusiana. All the pockets of highest mortality in Western civilization occurred in these areas….”

    And further, we need to consider not just the airborne chemical toxins, but also how the pharmaceuticalization upregulates Ace 2 receptors in the lungs, says Dr Zach Bush.

    ” The virus again is an adaptation signal to the world saying there is toxicity and need for change to happen. Here is the genetic update. Then it gets tagged to PM2.5 and can now travel the whole world attached to carbon particulate matter in abnormal clumps. And so we were set up with this chemical toxicity circulating around the planet to poison pockets that were predisposed. And those people that died were cardiovascular, end stage kidney patients and diabetics.

    Those three conditions have one unifying factor is that they get put on the same two drugs. They get put on a statin drug [blocks CoQ10 synthesis] and an ACE inhibitor BP medication. Those 2 drugs upregulate the ACE 2 receptors in the lung for this virus. And so through the pharmaceuticalization of our elderly, we create this incredible receptor device for abnormal toxic clumps of coronavirus, and then we villify the virus for these people dying not from infection but from histo-toxic hypoxia. 5700 patients in NYC had no fever, temps were normal, their WBC and lymphocyte counts were normal. No signs of infection, and yet they were showing up blue, hypoxic. They died of histo-toxic hypoxia that never got treated. And so there is a tragedy that the patients were not presenting sick, they were presenting poisoned.”

    Behaviors that lessen air pollution are to the good. Behaviors that lessen our dependency on pharmaceuticals would also be to the good.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > a carbon particulate called PM 2.5.

      PM means “particulate matter” and 2.5 refers to the size of the particles, not their composition. EPA:

      PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution): the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

      Particle pollution includes:

      PM10 : inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
      PM2.5 : fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.
      How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.

      Sources of PM

      These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.

      I have to say, a mistake in something so basic calls the rest of your comment into question for me.

  15. LAS

    Pretty much all aspects of national security in America have become corroded. This just happens to be the one where we can see the results so irrefutably, narrative be dammed.

  16. ProNewerDeal

    “How was America able to send a man to the moon, yet now only able to dork around in the face of a disease that most other developed economies and even quite a few emerging ones have done reasonable jobs of containing?”

    Pandemic expert Prof Osterholm in a recent podcast noted N95 masks are still in shortage in the US for healthcare workers.

    After 3 months why is there still a shortage of N95 masks? Is there a key component shortage globally? I feel enough N95 masks should be produced until the USPO can drop off 5 N95 masks at every address say once a month, whether they are made at US factories or sourced internationally. Perhaps it is overhyped folklore, but in the pre-computer FD Roosevelt era, FD Roosevelt invoked the Defense Production Act, Henry Ford converted auto factories to make military hardware, & in an era where woman were not in many occupations like factory-related occupations, “Rosie The Riveter” impressively quickly scaled the occupation-specific learning curve & made the hardware.

    How can this not be done for N95 masks? Since the FedGov is not acting, could a group of State Governors band together implement such a N95 mask plan? Honestly the health & economic ROI of such a plan is beyond obvious.

  17. The Rev Kev

    It has been a trigger-taunt by conservatives for a long time now that ‘some cultures are better than others’, usually in reference to Islamic countries. Well surprise, you can tell your conservative friends that they were right – some cultures are better than others. Just not in the way that they expected. How countries have dealt with their particular corner of the world-wide pandemic has become a sort of litmus test of those countries with good governance, irrespective of language, religion or culture. So after six months the results are in and what do we find? Taiwan has a better culture that America. The Czech Republic has a better culture that the UK. New Zealand has a better culture than Australia. Norway has a better country than Sweden. Who would have thought?

    1. JEHR

      Canada just plugs along, unnoticed, trying to do the right thing and slowly, slowly doing so.

      1. Keith Newman

        Re JEHR and Canada unnoticed: as a Canadian I’m very happy with that. If only our government would stop being a pathetic and embarrassing US poodle in foreign policy…

      2. CarlH

        Your oil industry doesn’t smack me of doing the right thing and your leader seems to be as neoliberal as they come. I’ve always loved Canada and Canadians, but you have your own problems too.

    2. SteveW

      If so many of us cannot tolerate trivial inconveniences such as masking to deal with an imminent threat, how can we ever deal with global environment deterioration? We buy insurance for events of much lower odds . But we cannot come up with collective schemes to address global warming, initiatives that have net net economic and social outcomes over even the medium term. Even if global warming were a hoax, the initiatives by themselves would still be beneficial. I believe we are doomed.

      1. Massinissa

        It wouldn’t be so bad if people who saw all this coming could just leave, but in a interconnected globalized system there is no place save maybe North Korea that Capitalism doesn’t touch (Not that I think North Korea will be any better off…), and no place including North Korea to avoid climate change. There’s nowhere to go to at anything but an individual level, and leaving the planet is still largely science fiction. At least when the fictional Atlantis fictionally sank, the remaining Atlantians had other continents to go to.

        I feel as if we’re living on Atlantis before it fell but there are no other bodies of land, and no arks.

  18. Polar Donkey

    Memphis update- Last week business crept up. Still not near 50% of what we did a year ago though. The big hotel near the restaurant I work at was at 50% capacity. Best it has done in 4 months. Big baseball tournaments being held. People seemed a little more optimistic. But then this weekend happened. A realization of a covid19 spike happening took hold. Various businesses and restaurants closing without notice. People scrambling for testing. Our volume dropped so far this week compared to last. Moving to stage 3 in Memphis delayed indefinitely. One county commissioner asked to return to stage 1. Looks like we are back to where we were 2 or 3 weeks ago.

    1. Arizona Slim

      The bar and restaurant dominoes are starting to fall here in Tucson. So far, long-time stalwarts like Rincon Market, Chicago Bar, and Athens on 4th Avenue are the victims. I expect to see many more.

      Methinks that this website will be very busy, but not in the way the owners had hoped:

        1. Arizona Slim

          As far as I know, Frank’s is still open. Haven’t been over that way in a while, but you know what? My CIA (Cycling Intelligence Agency) can embark on a mission to find out.

          Stay tuned …

        2. Aumua

          Frankies seems to be holding on with take out. Been there a number of times to pick up my 9″ cheesestake w/american of course extra cheese and sweet peppers added. There has always been at least a couple people waiting for their food there.

  19. Glen

    It’s past time to just put the “official policy” stamp on the US government’s actions. This is the new norm. Our government exists for the benefit of Wall St (note that the bailout was a Wall St bailout, the rest was tacked on to increase the urgency of the bailout to Wall St), and the rest of us are on our own.

    Those of us lucky enough to work from home, or wealthy enough to ride it out still foolishly believe that your government works for you. Be warned – you are next in line to have your wealth bleed out of you for Wall St, the billionaires, and “the good of the country”.

    And this is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s quite simply that the billionaires have bought the government, and it no longer works for it’s citizens. Biden will not really do anything different, he’ll just put a more human face on it, and the MSM will signal that everything is now “normal”. This should not be a surprise, we are living in the country that Biden has worked his whole career to create.

    1. Glen

      “How was America able to send a man to the moon, yet now only able to dork around in the face of a disease that most other developed economies and even quite a few emerging ones have done reasonable jobs of containing? ”

      And the simple answer is best – we can no longer send a man to the moon. We are not that country anymore. But we are the best at propping up failed mega banks, stripping mining our industrial base, and setting up a starve or go to work and get sick scenario for 90% of our citizens.

  20. Oh

    Trump swing state allies break with White House on Covid-19

    I can tell they mean it – they’re wearing masks now. /s

  21. flora

    A lot of states that have rising numbers also have a large number of meat packing and meat processing plants. Those plants seem to be a big vector in the rising numbers. Several govs tried to get the plants closed during the shutdown but were defied by the plant owners. This is certainly one possibility for rising numbers: large numbers of poorly paid workers working shoulder to shoulder with little to no protective equipment.

    1. Anthony G Stegman

      The meatpacking industry is largely unregulated. That is by design so as to be able to provide cheap meat to the masses. The people who work in the plants are thoroughly marginalized, and matter little to both the power structure and everyday consumers of cheap meat.

  22. Tom Stone

    Two long term trends in the USA that have not been mentioned are Corruption, which has spread throughout government structures ( Judge Crowley of the Foreign Intelligence surveillance court described the FBI as having “An institutionalized lack of candor”!) and the sad fact that we have been transitioning from a “High Trust” Society to a “Low Trust” Society for decades.
    It is going to get very ugly here.

    1. neo-realist

      The FBI and the intelligence agencies have had the problem of “institutionalized lack of candor” for as long as I can remember: e.g., every time there is an inquiry into one of those “assassinations”, the intelligence agencies usually tell you they can’t release documents pertaining to it due to national security.

  23. DHG

    Per Biblical prophesy the “empire” 7th world power (Anglo-American) is being exposed as a fraud and that there is no safe haven in it like there is no safe haven anywhere on this planet under the current system of things that is about to end and the Kingdom of God installed here on Earth to time indefinite after it destroyes all worldly governments and their adherents.

  24. Ignacio

    If one takes a look on the number of reported cases in many coutries around the world, the US wouldn’t be the only to see reported cases rising again after a fall. It is true that even considering the scale of the country the number of daily positive cases is quite high, though probably not directly comparable with the numbers reported early in the first spike because testing is almost certainly much more extensive compared with the real number of cases.

    If we set aside other countries like Brasil, Mexico or Chile where Covid-19 has been spiralling out of control recently the situation in the US resembles the most with Sweden were it seems to be considered acceptable to find 1000 positives/day for a 10 million population. This would be the same as if in the US the number of positives was about 38.000 daily if we suppose the detection efficiency is the same. The real number is about 30.000 so the situation “looks” just a little bit better in the whole US. But because the distribution of these cases is not geographically homogeneous and seems to concentrate in a few states the situation is quite different (though the same exercise could be done in Sweden). For instance Arizona is seeing nearly 2,750 cases/day for a population of about 7.400.000 (0.037% of the population reported positive in a daily basis against 0.011% in Sweden) so the incidence here is nearly four times higher than in Sweden while in California the daily incidence is now about 0.011% pretty much like in Sweden.

    But, well, the big difference with Sweden is that there, the number of daily reported cases seems to have stabilized at such 0.011% incidence while in Arizona and California it is growing fast and could easily spiral out of control again if we can consider they are still under some control. For instance, the number of cases in Arizona have more that doubled in a single week and if there has not been a reaction by the population by now this means that the “real” contagion numbers today could be around, or even well above, 10.000 in a daily basis (given 1.5 weeks median time between contagion and test confirmation) which in my opinion means that Arizona could well already be out of control. It is essential that Arizona HC authorities issue serious alarm warnings to it’s population and at least increase the risk awareness. This by itself would help a lot to flatten the spike.

  25. oliverks

    I had to rent a car on Monday. So I walked over to my local Avis. When I got there, the guy was listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and not wearing a mask (which is required where I live). The office is so small, you can’t stay 6 feet away.

    Is that America or what?

  26. Susan the other

    Imperialist America is a murderous beast; domestic America is suddenly dumb as clod.

    1. Massinissa

      I mean, when they’re not ‘seeing red’ and charging at you, Bulls aren’t very smart. When they’re angry, they’re very smart at going very quickly in your general direction horns first, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at anything else.

  27. Jeremy Grimm

    Have credible threats of violence against public officials become commonplace across the country? — Or just threats against public health officials? I would imagine many public officials are less than popular — even less popular than public health officials — but I have seen no reports of officials in other areas of government stepping down in response to threats.

    Have I missed something? Are there no credible threats of violence against other non-health public officials? Are there threats but the officials involved feel or indeed are better protected? If there are threats are non-health public officials less ‘sensitive’? Who is making the threats against public health officials? Who is not properly protecting them and why?

    “This failure (particularly in a state like California) comes off as a sign of much more serious societal breakdown. Or as Lambert put it, a breakdown in power relations.” Is this breakdown a sign of a more serious societal breakdown? Why should that breakdown occur — apparently and as far as I can tell solely — in response to public health officials? Does that seem odd to anyone else? What’s going on?

    1. Massinissa

      I dunno, to me it just sounds like right wing loonies being right wing loonies to me. If anything I’m surprised (and grateful!) they don’t threaten IRS officials or anyone else that tells them what they can or can’t do more often.

      1. Aumua

        Yeah well the right wing loonies are moving closer and closer to prime time these days, in case you haven’t noticed.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I guess I cannot put much trust in the trusted Michael Osterholm after already putting in a lot of time reading many other trusted sources of information on Corona. If you go back to the early CDC statements about surgical masks and N-95 masks — not just cloth masks — you will see an echo of regarding a “lack of science that says cloth masks work”. From what I could determine there weren’t any studies to confirm or deny that masks worked as protection against spread of Corona — cloth or otherwise. Strange that surgeons have long used masks, unless there were something remarkably different about Corona. Countries in the Orient began wearing facemasks in tightly packed social setting like their subways since the SARS flu and as a way to stop the spread of regular flus and common colds. This custom has received some credit for the much greater effectiveness of Corona control measures in many countries in the Orient. To me, whether wearing a facemask is effective or not against the spread of Corona I value its ability to complicate and I believe stifle AI face recognition programs.

      I did not and will not listen to Michael Osterholm’s podcast. I have many other fish to fry. If he claims the only proven protection is social distancing and if by social distancing he means staying at home completely apart from other people — I already practice that. Although I do wear a mask and also avoid people in the relatively few times I go out. If he means six-feet … I doubt you will have too much trouble finding papers that describe what are called fomid particles which can find their way much further than six-feet, especially in a closed space. Although I don’t believe there are any papers yet that ‘prove’ fomids [a tiny dried spittle droplet] are able to cause Corona infections. There are however many contradictory studies about the lifetime of Corona particles in various forms upon door knobs, upon our mail, and riding on our food and beverage purchases.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > Although I don’t believe there are any papers yet that ‘prove’ fomids [a tiny dried spittle droplet] are able to cause Corona infections.

        1) fomites are not “tiny dried spittle droplets.” “A fomite (/ˈfoʊmaɪt/) or fomes (pronounced /ˈfoʊmiːz/) is any inanimate object that, when contaminated with or exposed to infectious agents (such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses or fungi), can transfer disease to a new host.” A doorknob, for example, could be a fomite.

        2) fomite are a surface transmission mechanism. While I, myself, am an airborne guy, it would be foolish to deny that surface transmission can also occur.

    2. juno mas

      Olsterholm also doesn’t bother washing his hands after touching door-knobs, grocery store objects, and the like. Says the primary route of transmission is speaking, coughing, singing (yelling). Seems masking would be a logical preventive measure; even if only partially effective (pulling down one’s mask to speak decreases effectiveness).

      The effectiveness of masks ,community wide, is also diminished by the fact that many infected are asymptomatic younger folks. Whom aren’t wearing them.

      1. Ignacio

        The problem with the science of virus transmission is that you cannot do direct experiments to demonstrate how transmission really works. It can’t be easily demonstrated how masks reduce the probability of infection by X%, but similarly you cannot assert that masks do not reduce the risk of infection, so Osterholm is not adding anything worthy about masks, though he is right to say that social distancing works. But, aren’t masks another way of social distancing? I couldn’t access the podcast so I cannot have an informed opinion

  28. marym

    Page not found for your link. Recent quotes:
    Osterholm says that face masks and physical distancing remain the best practices in terms of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
    I don’t go out much at all. When I do go out, I wear my mask. I limit my time in the public setting.

  29. Waking Up

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, stated the following on March 8th on “60 Minutes”:

    “The mask is important for someone who is infected to prevent them from infecting someone else. Now, when you see people and look at the films in China or South Korea or wherever and everyone is wearing a mask, right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks. Right now there is no reason for people to be walking around with masks. When you are in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little better and might even block a droplet. But, it doesn’t provide the perfect protection that people think that it is and often there are unintended consequences. People keep fiddling with the mask and keep touching their face. When you think masks, you should think of healthcare providers needing them and the people who are ill. The people who are in foreign countries and you see 85% of them wear masks…that’s fine. I’m not against it. But, it could lead to a shortage of masks who really need it.”

    I happened to catch an article in late January about a deadly virus in China and decided to watch the situation closely. By March, I cancelled all future travel and wore a mask/gloves and thoroughly washed my hands or used hand sanitizers and immediately took a shower after returning home if I had been in an enclosed space. Then I saw the “top U.S. infectious disease official” was providing information on the Covid-19 situation on March 8th on “60 Minutes” and was very surprised, to put it mildly, by what he said. For the top infectious disease official to say that “wearing a mask might make people feel better and MIGHT even block a droplet” but doesn’t provide perfect protection on a television show with a demographic of people 60+ was astounding to me. How many elderly people heard that and didn’t wear a mask when they SHOULD HAVE. Dr. Fauci should have lost his job or been relegated to some side position for what he said. Even if and especially if he said it to appease Donald Trump, he did a HUGE disservice to the credibility of other doctors and scientists. Is it any surprise now that people are still arguing over whether to wear masks?

    1. nycTerrierist

      With his willfully misleading advice, didn’t Dr. Fauci violate the hippocratic oath?

      ‘first do no harm’

      Even with the shortage of medical grade masks, I am gobsmacked he didn’t advise
      people to improvise with a scarf/bandanna and/or make their own face covering – its not rocket science.
      Instead, Fauci chose to lie about this grave threat to public health.

      I agree he should step down or be relegated to some side position.

      1. periol

        “I agree he should step down or be relegated to some side position.”

        He should go to prison, along with Cuomo and Trump and a number of other officials! , The reason that it won’t happen is because this lie was a systemic lie. He was just the mouthpiece, but if they had chosen a different mouthpiece he would have had to give the same lie. It’s not about Fauci. This is WHO, the CDC, the US/UK (and others) government, and the medical establishment deliberately lying, and then asking us to believe their explanation for the lie.

        I don’t condone Fauci. I’m just saying, it’s not like the buck stops with him. I doubt the lie was even his decision to make, though he obviously had no problem giving voice to the lie. Clearly a practiced liar.

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