Cuomo’s Incoherent “Come Back En Masse” Strategy Ignores Delta Dangers

What do officials not understand about Delta generating viral loads 1000x as high in the infected as wild type Covid? Apparently everything.

Below we see the nonsensical plan, if you can call it that, by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is oddly still standing despite sex scandals, hiding Covid nursing home deaths, and giving friends and family preferential access to Covid tests.

Somehow, the US can’t do mask mandates. Even now, the CDC is still engaging in confusing messaging, telling the vaccinated only in high Covid areas to mask up. As Lambert pointed out, by then it’s too late.

Cuomo is as gung-ho as any Republican to have citizens whooping it up in bars and in pressing big businesses to get everyone back in the office by Labor Day. He thinks the answer is mandatory vaccines and even having businesses require that customers be vaccinated.

This is the New York State, by the way, that didn’t even pretend to check that people who were entering New York on airplanes had gotten a Covid test in the last 72 hours as required back in the spring and summer of 2020. I know because I came through Laguardia multiple times via hubs in the South (elevated Covid risk!) and never once had the National Guard wandering around the airport do anything more than exhort that I turn in a written or electronic form (which BTW could not include proof of testing, let alone results). And the quarantine was even more of a joke. If New York State can’t manage a small and concentrated check point like Laguardia, how can it possible manage, let alone enforce, a broader set of restrictions?

So for Mr. Incompetent at Covid Controls to be hectoring others to implement vaccine mandates is pretty rich.

Even though New York will soon require vaccination or weekly testing of its employees, this requirement may be leaky too. Some Orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals still oppose vaccination and can probably get a religious exemption.

But the bigger failure is the assumption that the vaccines all that effective against Delta. It represents 92% of all new Covid cases. Data from Israel, which administered its vaccines mainly in January and February, using supposed best of breed Pfizer, has found that efficacy against infection is now only 39%.1 And it’s probably lower against Delta, since some of those cases may be other, less prolific variants.

That is a long-winded way of saying that I have yet to see any of these vaccine requirement/vaccine proof ideas acknowledge the decay in vaccine protection over time. In other words, the vaccine passport/vaccine proof scheme looks like it will just double down on the error that the CDC made with its “Mission Accomplished” approach. You can’t treat the vaccinated as safe. They are just less unsafe than the unvaccinated.

So Big Tech companies are doing the opposite of what Cuomo wants. Yes, they are imposing vaccine mandates. But they are also reversing plans to bring more staff back to the office. For instance, from the Daily Mail:

Twitter on Wednesday announced that it was closing its New York City and San Francisco offices and pausing all other office reopenings, in response to the latest CDC warnings about COVID-19….

‘After careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions, Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately,’ the company said.

‘We continue to monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps.’

Google has also halted bringing employees back to its campuses. From KTLA:

Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

Note the article below, apparently swallowing happy talk from New York officials, misreads Google’s plan to slow bringing staff back.

Some of the New York City banks and law firms that have been gung ho about bringing staff back in are likely to dial down their plans, particularly since their clients are unlikely to want to show up in person, making the case for having all hands on deck a lot weaker.

Remember also that New York City getting back to normal hinges, at least in the minds of some, of having Broadway and other live entertainment open after Labor Day. That seemed to be the big reason for NYC mayor Bill De Blasio rejecting a new mask mandate the week before last; it would spook the customers. But those forms of entertainment appeal to a largely older base. Are they going to be comfortable seated next to each other? And if the venues leave lots of seats empty as a safety measure, will their economics work?

Needless to say, I’d bet against seeing much live theater in September.

Nevertheless. as you’ll see below, Cuomo, like all Good Dems, sees the vaccines as magic bullets and therefore is perfectly willing to risk the health of voters, and potentially again push hospitals to the breaking point, because the state coffers are hurting for the want of tourist, business travel, and entertainment dollars.

By Greg David. Originally published at THE CITY on July 28, 2021

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks about the need to increase vaccination rates during a news conference at Yankee Stadium on Monday, July 26, 2021.Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plea to private sector companies to order all their employees back to workplaces and require vaccinations — even for shoppers and diners — met with a simple “not possible” Wednesday from most city business leaders.

Large employers don’t believe they can act without a government requirement. Small firms are having difficulty luring staff back as it is. And retailers and restaurateurs have little appetite for another rule to enforce.

“We require our staff to get vaccinated,” said St. John Frizell, co-owner of Gage & Tollner, the 19th-century Brooklyn restaurant that recently returned after a 17-year hiatus. “Currently, we’re not interested in requiring proof of vaccination from our customers.”

As part of a wide-ranging speech to the Association of Better New York unveiling his plans to deal with the rise of COVID-19 cases, the governor noted that thecity’s economic recovery is lagging the rest of the state. He focused on three issues: rising shootings, homelessness and high taxes.

In a move sure to raise eyebrows, Cuomo acted as if Eric Adams were already mayor, praising the Democratic candidate as a person “who gets it about what must be done.” Not once did he mention his nemesis, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had made a similar plea to private companies Friday on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

Cuomo, who said state employees must be vaccinated by Labor Day or be tested weekly, also suggested schools may have to take more aggressive actions in September if cases continue to increase as the Delta variant spreads, though he sidestepped any specifics.

De Blasio has mandated continued wearing of masks in city schools, and recently ordered all municipal employees — including educators — to get vaccinated or tested weekly.

But the most significant part of Cuomo’s presentation focused on the need for office workers to be back in Manhattan’s 500 million square feet of office space.

Only 24% of that office space was occupied the week of July 14 — less than any major city in the country, except for San Jose and San Francisco, according to data reported in the City Comptroller’s weekly economic newsletter. Meanwhile, Austin, Dallas and Houston are all approaching 50%.

“Say to your workforce, ‘By Labor Day, everyone is back to the office,’ Cuomo pleaded. “We need that volume to support the restaurants, the shops, the services.”

‘A Devastating Impact’

The governor pointed out that even a relatively small decline in economic activity due to remote work would have major consequences for small businesses that depend on those workers, as well as for the city and state tax revenues.

Contrary to popular belief, spending is not simply transferred to the city’s residential neighborhoods when people work from home: Pre-pandemic, almost 1 million people commuted from the suburbs each weekday, according to City Planning Department figures.

“If you were to see a 15% decline of people coming back to New York City, that would have a devastating impact,” he added.

A few companies are already following Cuomo’s advice. The Durst Organization announced Wednesday that any worker at its real estate organization not vaccinated by Labor Day will be fired. The owner of the massive Hudson Yards project, Related Cos., says in online employment ads that vaccinations are required.

Google, the city’s largest tech employer with some 10,000 workers here, said Wednesday it would mandate vaccinations for its workers, while pushing back its return to the office to mid-October from mid-December.

Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have required disclosure of vaccination status.

Who Knows Who’s Vaccinated?

But most businesses say the government has to lead on the vaccination requirement — not defer to private companies. While the federal government has made it clear that it is legal to mandate vaccinations, a view reiterated this week by the Justice Department, that doesn’t cover everyone in town, some business leaders pointed out.

“Is everyone on the subway vaccinated?” said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the big business group The Partnership for New York City. “And state borders are porous, so it is not enough to get New Yorkers vaccinated.”

The situation is particularly difficult for small businesses trying to get employees back to the workplace, said Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

“They don’t have the financial means to offer incentives to encourage vaccination and really don’t want to be in a position to require vaccinations,” he said.

However, he added, many business owners would welcome a government mandate that included vaccinations as part of the federal Centers for Disease Control’s guidance on safe working environments.

Restaurateurs feel the same way: Government should go first by allowing only vaccinated people in its buildings, said Robert Bookman, a lawyer for the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

The frustration of business leaders became evident after Cuomo’s speech when Bill Rudin, co-chair of Rudin Management Cos. and a long-time civic leader, told the governor that despite strenuous efforts, including talks with union leaders, only 50% of building workers were vaccinated.

Cuomo simply reiterated that as an employer Rudin could impose a vaccine requirement.

Call for ‘Workforce Investments’

Most business people agree with Cuomo’s objective, even if many want a government mandate.

“If we want to bring New York’s economy back to full throttle, we must ensure that our central business districts are fully populated with the office workers who fuel that economic engine,” said James Whalen, president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

“We cannot forget that small businesses throughout those corridors are relying on commuter foot traffic to continue thriving, covering expenses and employing their own workers, which ultimately generates critical tax revenue and economic activity,” he added.

Some economists don’t believe the return of office workers should be the priority. James Parrott of the New School says the major cause of the lagging recovery is the decline in tourism and business travel.

“The mayor and governor should be focused on the workforce investments to connect less-educated workers of color with better job opportunities and policies to raise compensation for child care and home care workers,” he said.


1 Pfizer is now trying hard to spin that the 39% figure out of Israel is wrong, that more people were vaccinated and hence efficacy is higher. I’d believe Israel, which strikes me as running a pretty decent health care bureaucracy, over self-interested Pfizer any day, particularly in light of data points like this:

Even though it’s only one week of data, the infection levels are proportional. That’s not what you should see if the vaccines still had any juice against Delta.

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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  1. Code Name D

    Are we still required to say Joe Biden is better than Trump in regards to Covid responce?

    1. d w

      at least Biden is trying to control the virus. Trump never did that, just made some half hearted words that he didnt believe in. that then turned around and trashed latter.
      he really liked the vaccine creation (even if he didnt believe in the virus). because he could help feather the drugs companies profits. plus get their support for re-election

      maybe its just me, but it seems like every time you hear folks complain about: masks or vaccines that they never have their own suggestions that can control, other than magic. so far magic hasnt worked, but convincing many to ignore all of that has lead to the virus revival.

      and based on what i read last year on viruses, they are set up to do one and one thing only, to replicate . that means that those mutations that succeed will become dominant, until the next iteration of this has a better success rate. which just means that all of the complaints about our defenses against that are just that, useless, the virus doesnt care what we humans think or say. it will drive remorselessly on to replicate as much as it can, which requires more and more infections, and deaths

      1. d w

        most of the complaints about what we tried to do (with some success….as only some have actually done much of what was recommended) which sounds lie to me, that if the passengers on the Titanic complained about having to get in a life boat, because its not what they wanted to do. would be a really bad choice

      2. urdsama

        Perhaps. But even if we give Biden that, he has lost any such positives by claiming to “follow the science” and then…not follow the science.

        And he owns the CDC debacle.

        At best, it’s a wash.

        1. Laputan

          Be reasonable. The vaccine rollout has been one of the few examples of the government actually doing something for the people since…I don’t know…the Clean Air Act, FMLA, or do we want to go as far back as the Great Society? We have nothing in the way of evidence that Trump would have been anywhere near as successful since he didn’t lift a finger in response to the pandemic.

          Biden is a doddering imbecile but at least his administration employs a few people who know what they’re doing.

            1. Code Name D

              And since then, vaccinations have slowed. There are no plans for boosters. And the promise of new vaccine technology is that new vaccines can be rapidly developed as variants emerged. And yet Biden has beardly even acknowledged the delta or lambda variants. Where is the “warp speed” program for the variant vaccines. Or how Biden choose to leave poor nations out in the cold when it came to vaccine access – which contributed to the rise of the variants in the first place.

    2. chris

      It’s the same as with many other issues I’m afraid.

      The Biden administration has the same goals as Trump’s, with the added baggage of trying hard to not be like Trump even though the vaccines are only available because of Trump. No one wants to shut down the economy again. No one wants to admit the cure for this situation, such as it is, is to either go through it, or shut down the country for a hard style break for the better part of a month or two. The actions needed to get us through a shutdown are impossible to implement with the people we have running things. So, here we are.

      IMO, Biden is much worse than Trump because Biden assumed he could coast to victory based on the prior administration’s work and that no hard decisions would be required. They had no back up plan. Biden is currently proving that Operation Warp speed could have only ever happened in a Trump administration. Where’s the Biden equivalent for COVID prophylaxis right now? Or are we to accept that it takes a republican who hates “the science” to roll out the full effect of the government to get tools to fight a pandemic because a democrat will rely on whatever the private sector decides to do in a crisis situation?

      Biden is unwilling to do even the simple thing of paying everyone who is currently unvaccinated something like $100 to get a shot. If we did even that little, I bet we’d get to 70% vax rates really quick.

      1. d w

        not sure that Biden is doing that. but then known of us can even guess at that now can we?
        and other than Trump (and still does seemingly) not believe in the virus (even though he had it ) one could wonder why he even bothered to fund creating the vaccines.

        some might have the vaccine for $100. others wont

  2. Tom Stone

    Is it time to appoint a “Covid Czar”?
    VP Harris would be a good choice.
    She can’t afford to refuse…

    1. Synoia

      We need the Covid Czar to be ready to make unpopular decisions, and beholden only to the Public’s health.

  3. SteveD

    We need that volume to support the restaurants, the shops, the services.

    This is an interesting formulation. It is saying, effectively, “Business Sector A must operate in a particular manner in order to support Business Sector B.” Were I a leader of a Business in Sector A, I think I’d say “wake me up when you gain that authority”.

  4. Pat

    Cuomo is a desperate man. He is fighting a multi-front war. And his weapons are increasingly limited. He cannot rule by fiat. He doesn’t control the narrative.
    He needs NY and especially NYC back, the longer they aren’t the more obvious it becomes that the state has massive problems. That it isn’t robust, but running on fumes.
    Everything is filtered through what he needs, reality be damned.

    The Cuomo Adams dance is diverting. Which scorpion will take out the other? Personally I think Cuomo has underestimated how willing Adams is to fight dirty and how much power Adams wants. Adams is lucky that Cuomo is wounded.

    Unfortunately, even the few NY officials who get that vaccines were both oversold and are beginning to be even less useful in controlling the spread are pretty much stimied by NY’s half assed response from the beginning, we just don’t have what we need to contain an outbreak even if the Governor was interested in doing so. In a way nothing has changed. It has been about political power from the beginning, any concern for public health was tangential.

    1. John Zac

      Actually I am beginning to think NY, L.A. Chicago, need Covid as an excuse and scapegoat for all their profligate spending.

      1. d w

        probably not. the majorities of those cities are quite happy some one is actually trying to control the virus

        unlike some who through inaction, etc, seem to be pushing for the natural immunity, which means that millions will die

        1. Pat

          You may be right. Like you, many of my neighbors believe the bull that Cuomo is trying to control the virus. In truth, most of it is hygiene theater and just as dependent on herd immunity. They may have the help of the vaccines, but they are unwilling to demand the additional measures necessary – mask mandates, testing, mandatory quarantine of the exposed/those testing positive/people coming into the region, limited indoor capacity, etc until we have NO positives. And then continuing the mandatory quarantine of those coming into the region.

          Instead it was all you’re vaccinated, lose the mask, go to a concert, party like it is 1999 from Cuomo AND Biden, blame the unvaccinated despite evidence to the contrary… that these were not sterilizing vaccines and people could still get infected AND spread that infection from day 1 of vaccine approval.

          Yes despite your response above, they are just as delusional and responsible for failure and death as Trump.

      2. Pat

        You look at areas that are the epitome of the neoliberal playbook and speak of profligate spending.
        Just a hunch that if you and I were to compile our lists of the biggest government fails and the wastes or losses of public funds and we would have vastly different lists.

        1. d w

          well one could make the argument about wasteful spending, not just now, but from 2017 to 2021. and at the time, there were no shouts about that. makes that all political nothing else

          1. Pat

            Funny I have been yelling about corporate give always and privatization for well before that.

            Think of it this way, I haven’t been surprised at how little Trump, Bezos et al pay in taxes versus say me. Nor have I been shocked about the corporate tax returns that show our low tax rate is for show when you get big, only small businesses pay that. Nor am I surprised at government services to private air fields, or for security or …

            The difference say between Texas and NY is that the government provides a whole level of corporate support in say transportation and healthcare for their workforce that other states don’t.

      3. Eye 65

        They’ve been given printing priority by Jay Powell. COVID is the cover story for back door bailouts.

  5. oledeadmeat

    Curious though how Sweden now is only beginning to show a slight uptick in Covid cases, started July averaging only 2 deaths per day, and appears poised to end the month averaging only a single death per day.

    All with the barest of behavioral restrictions and only a 40% fully vaccinated rate.

    If anything the trends (as illustrated by the rising and falling of various rates) of new cases and deaths for Sweden this year are on a par with or markedly better than the rest of Europe and the world.

    This suggests that Covid’s spread is a trifle more complicated than lockdowns and masks.

    The argument is that if mask mandates and/or lockdowns were significant factors in fighting the spread of Covid, one expects that their lack in a particular nation would result in a markedly worse pattern of experience instead of one that parallels or betters the patterns of more restrictive nations.

    Why isn’t Sweden’s experience worse?

    1. Brian Beijer

      Living in Sweden, I can give you my non-medical, uneducated guess as to why this may be the case. But first, a disclaimer about Sweden’s statistics. They are about as trustworthy as any statistical information about Covid that comes from the CDC and Fauci. Over the years of living here, I have learned that the government here loves to bugger with statistics. I do not trust any statistic that comes from the government until it is confirmed by an outside source.

      Back to the question, I would guess that we have a lower death rate because most people here have been constantly exposed to the virus on a daily basis since March 2020. Sweden never employed mandatory mask usage, only made it a suggestion. That was after Anders Tegnell had convinced most of the population that masks were either useless, or perhaps even dangerous, to wear if one did not have the proper skills to use them. Social distancing was also only a suggestion with a safe distance of 4.5 feet if there was adequate space. Otherwise, 3 feet was determined to also be safe in crowded spaces such as on buses, trams and trains. At one point, there was a maximum limit to the number of people that could be in stores, but it was left up to the store itself to determine that number. My grocery store, that is half the size of a normal Kroger, set the limit at 275 people. I see many people, even today, walk into a store un-masked and apply rubbing alcohol on their hands because Tegnell and Folkhälsomyndigheten as made it into a mantra to “wash your hands”. The Swedish government has never admitted that this is an airborne virus. At my workplace, no one has ever worn masks, except on occasion due to special circumstances. Nearly half of our workers have had Covid. I have had it twice in 2020. So far, I have remained healthy in 2021, despite not taking the vaccine. I continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing as best I can though.

      Today, more than 95% of the people I see do not wear masks and social distancing is at most 3 feet, if it is practiced at all. So, to answer your question, I suspect that most people’s immune systems are exposed to the virus multiple times a day and have been for the past one and a half years. Perhaps Tegnell got his wish, and we have acheived some sort of herd immunity. If we have in fact acheived this; it has come at the terrible cost of many thousands of lives that died unnecessarily. Of course, I could be completely wrong, and we will see that uptick you’re wondering about in a few weeks time.

      I apologize if this has come across as a rambling rant. Like most of us, this subject is difficult to discuss without being emotional. Mostly I feel frustration and rage at the government for abandoning it’s primary responsibilty to at least try to protect it’s citizens in a time of crisis. I strongly suspect that this isn’t due to incompetence but a deliberate willingness to allow thousands to die and possibly hundreds of thousands to suffer long Covid in an effort to minimize the damage to the economy.

      1. oledeadmeat

        Brian, I appreciate your reply, but I think you are operating under an assumption that is not even supported by your own experience.

        Sweden’s government may be indifferent to how many die as opposed to economic disruptions – I can’t speak to that, but it is irrelevant to the question of actual results.

        Sweden effectively ignored masking and lockdowns – per your own comments. Yet the information we have to date (unreliable as you note, but the best information we have, and not discernably more unreliable than other nations) suggests your nation is no worse off than nations that did mask up and lockdown.

        If thousands died in nations that did lockdown and mask up and thousands died in Sweden which did not, does locking down and masking up make a quantifiable, significant difference?

        If anything, I suspect your experience and description means there are many more unreported Covid infections that never became symptomatic and hence never needed treatment and did not die as a result.

        Would that mean herd immunity? I can’t say, but it seems a reasonable possibility. That may explain while new reported Covid cases are not trending up as steeply as in other nations in Europe.

        And may I ask, did you choose not to be vaccinated or is it still unavailable to you for some reason?

        1. Basil Pesto

          There have been 14,655 covid deaths (almost certainly an undercount) in Sweden, ~0.19% of the population.

          To date there have been 922 Covid deaths (I doubt this is a significant undercount) in Australia, 0.0035% of the population.

          So in those two cases of a non-lockdown country, and a non-frivolous lockdown country, the non-lockdown country is in fact at least 13,500 people worse off, despite having a population ~2.5 times smaller than the country that did lockdown as and when required, and doing it in a robust and comprehensive way.

          This is setting aside long term morbidities, which you conveniently ignore.

          There are lockdowns, and then there are lockdowns. Ours (Australia’s) for the most part have been non-trivial, and effective. We were late to get with the masking/airborne programme as far as the official gov’t position goes, but we got there in the end (around last August for masks) and many were wearing masks before then anyway. I’m not sure who you’re trying to kid by rhetorically asking whether locking down and masking up make a difference. With compliance (and honest and trustworthy organs of public health that encourage compliance) the answer is plainly yes. And, for the better part of a year until delta came to town, most of the country was able to do as it pleased as in Sweden, but without having to share Mr Beijer’s and his compatriots’ fear of getting sick and possibly dying in an exceptionally capricious and unpleasant way, which, quaint as it may seem to you, I count as a win.

          all-cause excess mortality in Australia was lower in 2020 than in the preceding 5 years. But for the lockdowns it of course would have been higher.

          This study from the ABS speaks to that in more detail. NB:

          Deaths are significantly lower than expected from the week beginning 1 June to mid-July 2020, dropping below lower thresholds. Winter months are typically associated with higher mortality. These decreases provide insights into how public health measures put in place to manage the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted on mortality.

          Guess what those public health measures were? Hint: they weren’t “yeah, whatever, do what you want”

          1. oledeadmeat


            Australia has an interesting record indeed. Its new cases and deaths over time reflect trends that are really quite exceptional, and outside the much more prevalent patterns among 1st world countries.

            So I believe your analysis is much too simplistic. There are a huge number of variables to consider, and Australia’s experience stands in sharp contrast to other nations that adopted similar restrictive regimes.

            That would suggest that Australia’s present state owes more to other variables than what you suggest.

            For your argument to be more persuasive, I would suggest you look for more 1st world nations to demonstrate trends like Australia coupled with similar lockdown/masking regimes. The only nation I can think of that would in many ways be a useful comparison is Canada – large geography, a native population mixed in with European immigrants, roughly the same level of total population and somewhat similar urban densities. Sadly, its experience does not remotely resemble Australia’s. Does anyone’s?

            I would do the same for Sweden, but there is a dearth of 1st world nations that were as unrestrictive.

            Of course, there also exists the possibility that the lack of masking/lockdowns did magnify harmful outcomes in Sweden, and that its trends still match the pattern of many other nations because Sweden benefited from some other unknown variable.

            1. Basil Pesto

              If you were even fractionally as curious as you present yourself as, then, instead of JAQing off, you would avail yourself of the abundant information that is available to facilitate a comparative analysis of Covid responses. What you’re doing is scarcely worth replying to, but I do it in the event that some innocent bystander comes across your posts in the coming days, weeks, months, sees them, and thinks “well golly gee, golly gosh, that’s a good point!”

              First, you ignore that Melbourne and Victoria were on the precipice of a serious outbreak last year (I live in Melbourne). 820 of the 922 deaths I mentioned have been in Victoria (the state which Melbourne is the capital of). This was brought about by state government cock-ups at the time, related to hotel quarantines, which I won’t go into here. The upshot is this: On July 7, the lockdown was entered, with 117 cases on that day. Masks, however, were not mandated at this time. Cases continued to increase through August, well after the three-week period since the lockdown began. Masks were subsequently mandated indoors and outdoors for all on July 22. Daily cases in Victoria peaked on August 7, with 700 that day. Cases then declined precipitously after a 2 and a bit week hysteresis following the implementation of both lockdown and total mask mandate. Nobody wanted to go into that lockdown; it was long and unpleasant and could have been avoided without generic neoliberal mismanagement of the quarantine facilities in the first place (privately contracted staff, instead of government staff). But it, and the masks, worked. Those daily case numbers are minute compared to many other countries, but they would have been broadly the same rates per capita if action hadn’t been taken.

              Here is a study that a cursory google search turned up, analysing the efficacy of the Melbourne mask mandate. Perhaps you should bring some of your unstated phantom variables to their attention and inform them of what a grave error they have made.

              Since that long lockdown, Melbourne (and in some cases regional Victoria) has entered into three ‘snap’ lockdowns this year: in February, June, and in the last couple of weeks (it was lifted on Wednesday). They’ve lasted no longer than two weeks, and have succeeded in halting the spread of the virus, which prior to the snap lockdowns had been showing unmistakable growth trends of community spread in each and every instance. Nobody likes them, everybody gets that they work and co-operates (with the exception of what I described the other day as paranoiac edgelord sooks, who protested the lockdowns last week and were met with widespread approbation. One of them punched a horse – stick around to 0:22 of that clip for the money quote – but who knows, maybe Andrews failed to account for all the variables there too).

              It is also worth pointing out, as Rev Kev has often in comments here, that the reason NSW is struggling with delta now is because they failed to heed the lessons of Melbourne and Victoria for petty and atrocious ideological and/or party political reasons (Victoria and NSW are the most populous states; the former has Labour (liberal) in government, the latter has the Liberal party (conservatives)). I shan’t mince words here: their response has been utterly fucking disgraceful. Politics at its most egregious and feeble, as practiced by our terminally second-rate political class. NSW will be in strict lockdown for at least another month because they did not instigate a strict lockdown and mask mandate until it was far too late. Victoria should have done this sooner in 2020 – I certainly thought so at the time – but if one is being charitable, it was the first properly major outbreak. The NSW government has no excuse.

              For someone crying ‘variables!’, it’s telling that you have committed absolutely no effort to discerning whether there might be any relevant variables in the other countries that you cite when it comes to covid mitigation policies, which you claim have “have similar lockdown/masking regimes”. Since you provide no evidence of that, I had to look myself. So, to Canada. From the BBC, referring to Toronto:

              While thousands of small independent businesses have been closed, many large workplaces, including factories and warehouses, have remained open, and have become a source for outbreaks.

              Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been criticised by many for ignoring calls by experts to provide paid sick leave so people could stay home and get tested if they had symptoms. The province eventually agreed to mandate three days of paid emergency leave this April.

              Victoria implemented job support payments for those who could not work during lockdown. Seems an important variable.

              Or consider this:

              We first observe that indoor face mask mandates were implemented across 34 districts (‘public health units’) in Ontario at different dates, staggered over two months. This is because the provincial authorities allowed regional health agencies or municipalities to decide on mask mandates independently.

              goodness gracious, another important variable!

              Or this from BC:

              She said she’s not a fan of a penalty-based approach where people are fined for not wearing masks, because certain marginalized groups including the homeless are often disproportionately targeted.

              uh huh. In Melbourne there was a $200 fine for those not complying with the mask order (about 15% of the Vic gov’t’s support payments). The study I linked to earlier estimated a 97% compliance rate in Melbourne. BC didn’t implement a mask mandate until November.

              I was going to research Italy’s policies but, frankly, life’s too short, and I submit that I’ve done enough work in this post to shift the burden of proof in this argument unto you. It is a comically trivial truism to put forward that variables are a thing in complex systems. Some meaningful comparative analysis might have been helpful to your argument, but you provided none; just vague handwaves of the “yeah but” variety.

              The lockdown and mask policies, as well as strict management of immigration, are the principal reasons that Australia has 14,000+ fewer dead than Sweden. I will leave it to others to judge whether my arguments are more or less persuasive. Suffice it to say that my appreciation of Yves’ maxim that bullshit takes three times as much effort to debunk as it does to propagate grows by the day.

          2. oledeadmeat

            See also, e.g., Italy’s experience.

            Italy had an outdoor mask mandate until late June of this year, and still has an indoor mask mandate to this very day.

            The pattern of deaths and new cases of Italy are much closer to Sweden’s than to Australia’s. Why do you suppose that is?

        2. Brian Beijer

          No, there are plenty of vaccines available. Just today, there was an article in one of our newspapers where medical facilities were complaining that they have a supply of vaccines ready and no one is taking them. I suspect there are many in Sweden who haven’t taken the vaccine, not because of vaccine hesitancy, but because they do not view Covid as being really dangerous to those who are relatively young and healthy. Again, everyone here has already lived in a mostly non-restricted society since the pandemic began. If you’ve made it this far without a vaccine, there’s no urgency to get one unless you plan on international travel.

          Getting to your point, I have chosen not to be vaccinated. I’m definitely not an anti-vaxxer. I honestly cannot give you a rational reason why I’ve made my choice. I could list the cons about these vaccines, but the truth is that my choice is based on an instinctual gut reaction. When governments, major scientific institutions (such as the CDC and Folkhälsomyndigheten) and multi-national pharmaceutical companies are all on the same page about X, my instinct is to go with Y. All of these players have a long history of being wrong, so I like my odds.

          This instinct has helped me to survive up to this point. For example, while everyone else here reaches for the rubbing alcohol to clean their hands before going into a store, I put on my mask. I doubt I would be alive today had I ever followed Tegnell’s recommendations. Of course, reading Naked Capitalism has been a huge blessing during this time. Either Yves or Lambert wrote recently, “whatever you’ve been doing; keep doing it.” That’s what I’ve decided to do.

          As to your other points, I think Basil Pesto’s response is better than anything I could have written, so I’ll just say ditto to that.

          1. Alex V

            This is an interesting set of statements:

            “I have had it twice in 2020.”

            “I doubt I would be alive today had I ever followed Tegnell’s recommendations.”

            Are you claiming the intensity/mortality of an infection is extremely or even exclusively linked to the dosage of viral material?

    2. d w

      what do you think this suggests is how covid actually spreads (or an additional way?

      is it not by an infected person essentially breathing (it is airborne) , so what other way can control it, short of restricting people from interacting?
      course there also seems to be a common thread where health numbers show good progress, even if nothing has changed?

    3. Anonymous 2

      Worth comparing with its neighbours – Norway, Denmark, Finland – who are also doing very well and have done considerably better than Sweden over the last sixteen months.

      1. Kevin Carhart

        Exactly, the closest and most comparable countries. The Lancet said in December, “In the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish national response continues to be an outlier with cases and deaths increasing more rapidly than in its Nordic neighbours. On Dec 20, 2020, COVID-19 deaths in Sweden had reached more than 80003 or 787 deaths per 1 million population, which is 4·5 to ten times higher than its neighbours…”

        I’m pulling that from the following post about Sweden from March:

        Includes a report from Swedish commenter fajensen, down in comments.

        1. oledeadmeat

          1- You recognize that by referencing the most comparable countries – you are implicitly accepting the notion of many other variables affecting the results, and that those other variables matter more. Why not discuss the experiences of France and Italy as well?

          2- Even those are not precisely comparable. Consider for example the question of mass transit. Stockholm’s mass transit system (a de facto art gallery as well) transports roughly three times more people per year within that city and its suburbs than Norway’s entire system.

          That speaks volumes in itself about the difference of living with say, Oslo vs Stockholm.

          And again, Basil’s example of Australia as an exemplar raises far more questions than it answers. The European nations experienced multiple waves, regardless of mandates, and the trends run roughly parallel. Australia’s is far, far different. Why is that?

  6. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    There are science based alternate views. But I never see any of them here. So much for heterogeneity of thought.

    1. Dave in Austin

      Just a comment on Australia, Canada, Sweden and Finland.

      Countries with a land border with other non-coperating states can’t protect themselves. Interesting to note that “we beat” the Huks in the Phillipines but lost in Vietnam for the same reason.

      My visits to Sweden, Italy and the rest of Europe reinforce the stereotype that physical distance variey widely. Sweden has people who talk to eachother from 3+ feet apart and has few crowded stores- square feet/person is high. Similarly the parts of small town US/Canada with low rates include MN, WI, ND, SD and the adjacent areas of Canada largely settled by “Lake Wobegon People”. The high rates in those places were largely Amerind places with close living and in the case of WI towns with lots of immigrant workers crowded together working in agriculture and meatpacking.

      My favorite way to look at Covid stats is

  7. polar donkey

    If Pfizer is showing signs of ADE, will there be worse covid outbreaks or breakthrough cases in places that had more Pfizer shots than Moderna or J&J?

  8. Carolinian

    Cue Sinatra singing New York, New York? Some of us confess to a certain schadenfreude reading about these blows to the city’s extravagant self-regard. One does tend to wonder how the locus of our best and brightest and most educated has come up with characters like Cuomo and De Blasio. Perhaps they can geoengineer the city’s population to fit its business model but they may simply have to wait it out. If bankruptcies ensue for the city’s dominant real estate industry that will be a damned shame.

    Having grown up in a small town I was always fascinated by NYC and even lived there for awhile. But it’s not an easy place to live if you’re not rich and I wasn’t. It also helps to be young–which I was–and doubtless the young and less disease vulnerable will keep the place going. But for others Covid may be a wakeup call and Flyover country become fly to. There’s a great deal of nostalgia behind the NYC burnishing of people like Woody Allen but on practical level the digital revolution is beginning to look like a distinct threat. One hopes the end result doesn’t turn Allen’s Manhattan into John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

      1. Carolinian

        Yeah but we’re supposed to be dumb.

        Personally I’d say regionalism is very out of date and we should all stop bashing each other. We will if they will–which they won’t.

        1. d w

          sort of like having the House members be elected by members of a state, as opposed to the whole country

  9. upstater

    The New York State Fair will be open for business as usual August 20 – September 6, under a Cuomo directive. Prior to COVID, it draws over 100,000 people per day. Much is outdoors, but is elbow to elbow, and many exhibits are indoors.

    It is only 3 weeks away. Wondering how attendance will be this year. Last year was cancelled.

    1. petal

      Was talking to my mother today about this very thing. She said a some of the bigger food vendors have dropped out-Bakers, Gianelli’s, etc. Said it’s due to lack of help or something. We used to go every year, and I always had entries for 4H there. I miss going but can’t imagine the sheer density of people in this situation-recipe for disaster. The county fair board for her county cancelled the county fair again this year. They’re only having a livestock show and a few other things.

  10. antidlc

    “Needless to say, I’d bet against seeing much live theater in September.”

    I’m following the local theater scene closely as I have been actively involved for years as a season subscriber, donor, volunteer, secretary, and member of a theater non-profit. I know a lot of local actors.

    Last summer, a couple of theaters decided to hold performances despite a large number of covid cases in our county. One of the shows was a huge musical — lots of ensemble members with big chorus numbers. Some of us suspected this was an accident waiting to happen, and sure enough, the show had to close early due to a covid outbreak among the cast and crew. Another theater had to shut down a show after opening.

    Some of these theaters are starting to re-open. I am monitoring the situation here. One theater just completed a run of huge musical. I have not heard of any covid outbreak from that show, but another theater was supposed to open a show last Friday and decided to postpone the opening due to an covid outbreak in the theater community.

    I have noticed that there is a new job that has been created: Covid Compliance Officer.

    Several theaters are holding auditions and are planning to re-open. We’ll see.

    1. Basil Pesto

      I have noticed that there is a new job that has been created: Covid Compliance Officer.

      fyi, similar positions have been mandated in various Australian jurisdictions since last year. I might be wrong about this but I had thought that for a time they were necessary for all staffed enterprises (including for example film sets) but it looks like that’s changed to a more narrow set of work settings since then.

      1. antidlc

        I’ve just noticed recently that theaters and opera companies are advertising to fill these positions.

        A lot of theaters have been dark since last year and are now re-opening. Well, they are trying to re-open. We’ll see.

        1. HotFlash

          Audiences are shy, too. Overheard two joggers this aft, “Well, we sold 150 tickets for a 1200 seat venue. So do we move to a smaller venue, or do we cancel?”

  11. Pelham

    Maybe Cuomo is counting on the media to continue focusing on deaths and hospitalizations as key metrics — and the effects of Delta so far in these categories appears to be slight. That focus is justified but what tends to be left out is long Covid. And depending on what one reads from a scattering of sources, it is either a major threat (hobbling major organs for months or years among a large fraction of the even lightly infected) or a minor one.

    Either way, though, maybe we can all agree that these various openings — including those touted endlessly by restaurant chains and movie studios in TV ads — are nuts.

  12. XXYY

    “Say to your workforce, ‘By Labor Day, everyone is back to the office,’ Cuomo pleaded. “We need that volume to support the restaurants, the shops, the services.”

    Amity means friendship! 

  13. michael hudson

    The kicker will be next month when foreign students return to New York for schooling at Columbia and NYU. Largely from India, China and other countries.
    There are NO plans to require masks in classes or in other venues, or even to get vaccinated if they have “religious” exemptions (faith in the right to infect others). Faculty members whom I know are worried.
    And by the way, there is NO enforcement of masks on subways. Every train that I’ve taken has unmasked riders.

    1. saywhat?

      faith in the right to infect others michael hudson

      Well, if others won’t do their part to protect you, you can still protect yourself perhaps as well or even better with a VENTED n95 mask. This type mask does nothing to protect others but offers enhanced protection to the wearer by venting the exhaust pressure under the mask that tends to break the mask-to-face seal when one exhales.

      The CDC says this:

      “The performance of the valved N95 mask is likely affected by the exhalation valve, which opens for strong outwards airflow,” the study said. “While the valve does not compromise the protection of the wearer, it can decrease protection of persons surrounding the wearer.” from [bold added]

      1. Carolinian

        Interesting. I have a painter’s cartridge mask that seals tightly for the inflow and doesn’t filter the outflow. Think if I had to ride the subway every day I’d wear one of those. A year ago this would get lots of stares–maybe not now.

        But as you say that’s not good for anybody around you. Wonder if some kind of filter mask could be worn over the N95.

        1. saywhat?

          Wonder if some kind of filter mask could be worn over the N95. Carolinian

          Sure but that compromises the protection for the wearer somewhat since any filtration over the exhaust valve will increase the exhalation pressure under the mask and thus tend to break the mask-to-face seal.

          1. Carolinian

            Or it would just blow out the sides of the surgical mask as happens when it is directly on your face. My thought was that large particles would at least be caught but perhaps that happens with the N95 anyway.

    2. Basil Pesto

      seems like a pretty ideal set of circumstances to allow new variants to develop and/or proliferate.

    3. Antagonist Muscles

      Wow, you ride on the subway? Kudos to you if this is to remain consistent with your critique of political and financial elitism. I figured by now Wall Street (and maybe even Manhattan) has labeled you as persona non grata. Did Marx hang around with the proletariat? Marx, of course, didn’t have to worry too much about the proletariat infecting him with viruses.

      Ten or fifteen years after I finished my undergraduate in business economics, I read a fair amount of your writings on Marx and other political economists. It was simultaneously interesting and infuriating. Interesting because there was a political movement to constrain feudalism and financial capitalism. Infuriating because the entire undergraduate economics curriculum did not mention Marx or the other classical economists a single time. They also somehow didn’t talk about money, focusing instead on some inexplicable fetish for price and marginal utility.

    4. Samuel Conner

      > (faith in the right to infect others)

      My perception from personal interaction with vaccinated anti-maskers is that they are not aware that they could be asymptomatic but infectious. This is IMO at least in part a consequence of a massive communications fail on the part of the public health authorities, only now being (seemingly reluctantly) walked back.

      1. Samuel Conner

        It hasn’t shown up in Lambert’s 7-day averages, but I think one can see in the most recent week over week changes in daily deaths that, as he puts it, “the train is rolling” on the mortality statistics front.

        Two days (7/29 vs 7/22 and 7/28 vs 7/21) does not a trend make, but the ratios look to me to be similar to the week over week ratios of new cases a couple of weeks ago. It seems very plausible to me to guess that we are going to see an alarming rise in mortalities.

    5. Pat

      Some bus drivers demand a mask, but most ignore an unmasked rider, I’m not sure if that is going to change.

      I don’t ride the subway often, but in my limited experience not only are there unmasked riders, there are a higher percentage of riders that are unmasked then on the bus, which I already found disturbing.

  14. Mikel

    When are any of these authorities going to admit the variants aren’t swimming and hiking around the world?

  15. Mikey Joe

    Cuomo may genuinely be panicking about another wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths peaking in October just before the election. He wants to run for governor for a 4th time.

    1. Jeff

      Have New Yorkers really checked out to the point that they haven’t booted Cuomo out of office? Is it really a state full of enablers?

      1. Bakes

        Booting Cuomo out of office would by necessity require a Republican being voted in. An artifact of our two-party system. And we simply can’t have that! /sarc

        Of course, there is the primary option. Good luck with that. It’s worked so well before. /sarc

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