176 thoughts on “Politics open thread, December 20-26

  1. STOCKHOLM, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Sweden’s king said his country had failed in its handling of COVID-19, in a sharp criticism of pandemic policy partly blamed for a high death toll among the elderly.

    Carl XVI Gustaf, whose son and daughter-in-law tested positive last month, used an annual royal Christmas TV special to highlight the growing impact of the virus, in a rare intervention from a monarch whose duties are largely ceremonial.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sweden-king-failed-coronavirus-policy_n_5fdc966ac5b650b99adbb44c

  2. According to the data, mask mandates made a big difference in Kansas counties that implemented them.

    As of mid-August, 24 of Kansas’s 105 counties had abided by the state mandate or adopted their own mask mandate, and 81 counties had opted out, as Kansas law allows. At that time, the number of new daily cases per capita – calculated as a 7-day rolling average – had decreased an average of 6% among counties with a mask mandate and increased by 100% in counties without a mandate.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/11/21/covid-19-kansas-face-masks-prevented-rise-coronavirus-cases/6373257002/

  3. Reality or DD – I see news that there is a mutation in the virus appearing in London. Do you know if the vaccine will still be effective against a mutating virus? The articles seem to imply that it will, but it’s not completely clear.

  4. Becky, everything I’ve read says it is “highly unlikely” that the vaccine will not be effective against the new mutation.

  5. Now that we’re going to have Guardians of the Galaxy, where are they going to find the talking raccoons?

  6. Becky – my understanding is that it should be; at least that is the consensus. Eventually the virus will likely mutate enough that the vaccine will need to be changed, but that is not any time soon. It isn’t even totally clear that the London mutations are causing it to be more contagious (although there is some evidence); some people in the science community believe this is somewhat politically motivated- blame a mutating virus for more cases, not because people aren’t staying home. Regardless, fewer cases mean fewer mutations, so keeping cases down is important. Especially since we are here with the vaccine.

  7. Last night, the kids and i were talking about how many people we knew who had had covid. DD2 was just home from college and started the conversation by telling us that most of her new college friends didn’t know anyone who had gotten sick. We started totalling up the number of people we knew and stopped at about 20 family units. E.g. if a number of siblings had the virus, they counted as one case.

    What has been your experience? Knowing lots of people who have been infected, knowing none, somewhere in between?

  8. From the WSJ piece Louise linked:

    “There’s just a great deal of mistrust,” said Lori Porter, chief executive of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, an advocacy group, which found in its own survey that nearly 72% of certified nursing assistants didn’t want to receive the vaccine. “A lot of my CNAs, their responses have been, ‘No one cares about old people and no one cares about us and we don’t intend to be guinea pigs.’ ”

    This response is not irrational — those in this first group of vaccine recipients are essentially participating in the next stage of clinical trials, but without the extensive disclosures and other information provided to trials participants. And with a whole lot of pressure from their employers and the general media public that they should shut up and get the shot and be happy that they are first in line.

    There was a similar piece in the NYT a few days ago. That story also discussed the challenging issue of getting consent from elderly patients and their family members authorized to act on their behalf:

    “While some states began vaccinations in nursing homes this week, the broader nationwide effort will start over the next few days. And there remains widespread confusion about a key element: how nursing homes will get consent to vaccinate residents who aren’t able to make their own medical decisions. A CVS executive said such residents’ legal representatives will be able to provide consent to nursing homes electronically or over the phone, but officials at multiple large nursing home chains said they weren’t aware of that.
    If residents or their representatives haven’t given consent before CVS or Walgreens employees show up, it is not clear whether or when they will have another chance to be inoculated.
    “Given the pace of this rollout, I am very concerned that nursing facilities won’t have the time or capacity to really explain the vaccine to residents and their families,” said Nicole Howell, a state-funded ombudsman in California whose office works with 29,000 long-term care residents.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/business/covid-coronavirus-vaccine-nursing-homes.html

  9. I don’t know anyone locally who I know has been sick. The Sunday School teacher’s father (96) tested positive post-mortem, after dying in his sleep with no symptoms of illness and one guy at work chose to share that he tested positive (asymptomatic) before an unrelated medical procedure and the people who had been around him at work I think had to quarantine per the corporate/state requirements.

    In Iowa, where cases are higher, lots of people have had it including my step-niece and her son.

  10. a co-worker on my team’s wife has tested positive with symptoms that sent her to the ER. He presumes he is positive as well but was asymptomatic on Thursday. They are in their early 30’s. There have been other cases at work, but not on my team. And many cases of co-worker’s extended families.

  11. Kids principal got sick and the entire school administration had to quarantine. There were kids in both my children’s school who contracted the virus. One of DD’s teachers got the virus. All these cases were contracted outside of school.
    In the home country, priests we knew who lived in homes for retired priests have died and one of our distant relatives passed away. Two of my uncles got the virus but recovered.
    I am keeping DD home from school the first two weeks in Jan because I don’t want disruption for her Math exam.
    She rides the bus and there was disruption because she suddenly had to quarantine.
    I hope the 65+ and high risk group can go fairly soon to get vaccinated. We have come so far and we need to cross the finish line. Waiting to exhale !

  12. At this point, I would say that we know lots of people who got infected. Three that we know of died (one in their 40s, one in their 60s, one in their 80s); one was a family member of one of DH’s students, the other two were family members of a close friend of mine. Of the many people we know who have been infected but lived, most had symptoms ranging from mild to severe-but-not-requiring-hospitalization. The only ones I can think of who didn’t get sick at all were DH’s college-age niece and nephew, who apparently were most likely infected via their sorority/fraternity. They found out they were positive via the regular testing that their colleges were doing.

  13. The closest I know of are the neighbor’s daughter and her husband. I’ve never met them, but she works in HR & helped with my job applications. They were apparently quite sick a couple days ago, then seemed to be getting better. Yesterday when I saw the neighbor, she talked about everything but her daughter being sick, including that she had just worked her last shift for the year and is ready for a break. She’s 60 & lives alone, so all I can think is that she is busy grocery shopping for and thinking about her kids, as she refers to them. I will give her a double dose of the cookies we are baking tomorrow, wish there was anything I could do to help.

    Other than them, the only person I know of who’s had it is a doc in my home town who’s a few years you get than my parents. He was hospitalized this summer; I think he’s recovered.

    I’ve been surprised to hear my son’s first basketball coach here, who likes to make a lot of noise about being from the ghetto, say recently that none of his loved ones back home have it.

    Cass, what factors do you think are different, such that your son knows so many people who have had it?

  14. S&M. I don’t know what factors there might be, aside from knowing a bunch of teenagers and twenty somethings. It might be that my crew knows a bunch of people in different areas.

    The people we knew who has Covid included…

    My high school classmates
    Many of DD2s friends in various college towns
    Staff member from an organization I’m a director of
    Members of various community groups DH or the kids or I belong to
    Suppliers
    Contractors
    Various community members
    People from my hometown that I’ve maintained contact with through my siblings

    Just random people. It’s not that they have a connection with each other

  15. One SIL does recreation therapy with dementia patients in a nursing facility. She contracted Covid over the summer and experienced fatigue for about a week. (My brother also tested positive but was asymptomatic.) SIL explained that after she and another co-worker tested positive, that the entire dementia unit of twenty was tested and all were positive. She and co-worker always wore masks (job requirement, obviously) but that it is nearly impossible to keep dementia patients masked. Inconsistent masking of patients is one more variable for nursing home employees to contend with. SIL is expecting to be offered the vaccine through her employer sometime in January and says that she will take it.

    In anticipation of DH being offered the vaccine soon, we both got our 2nd Shingrix dose yesterday. We were due, it just spurred us to action now, as he said he would like at least a week or two between the Shingrix vaccine and the new Moderna Covid vaccine.

  16. My BIL and SIL have had it, I know some people at work who have had it, and my cousin-in-law’s baby tested positive recently. Probably got it from daycare.

    My nephew’s coach’s husband died recently from it.

  17. I know around 20 people who have had it, including cousins of mine and of DH, high school friends, college friends and grad school friends, and the children of old friends. The relative who died was around 70, two that were hospitalized were in early 50’s, the friend’s daughter who was on a vent but was able to come off it was a 25 yr old elementary school teacher, and in the room next to her was a 26 yr old on a ventilator. Some of the asymptomatic or very mildly symptomatic were in their mid-50s in addition to the college age ones. I wish there was a more predictable pattern that would make it easier to assess risk. As I’m typing this I’m thinking of more people I know through my parents, so the total is probably 30-something. More than a handful have lasting symptoms months later, and a few of these were extremely active and fit before getting sick. A few that never had symptoms did not seem to be particularly active or fit.

  18. “Oh, Debbie…”

    Facepalm. The best part is that she delivered her little “stay home” speech from the beach house where she was gathering with her family for thanksgiving.

    I know quite a few people who have had Covid, which isn’t unexpected because I know a lot of people who aren’t taking precautions. In June covid ripped through the office I retired from (I went from 10 hours a week to zero when they reopened in April after a 2 week shutdown and did not require masks or other precautions). 15 out of 17 people got sick. The guy responsible for the “you can’t ask clients to wear a mask” edict was sick for four weeks. I don’t know anyone who has been hospitalized, although we suspect DH’s aunt died of it in April, in a nursing home. There was very little testing in her state at that point so we’ll never know.

    BTW, “retiring from” turns out to be great even for one who had hoped to “retire to.” As the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.”

    As for front line workers who don’t want to get the vaccine, I think you just move onto the next person who does want it. Its not like we have tons of excess supply at this point, and anyone who gets vaccinated helps the overall effort. So I think we as a country should not spend any time or effort wringing our national hands about people who pass on the opportunity to be first. Just move on.

  19. Birx wasn’t gathering for Thanksgiving. Just a meal.
    After all, the winterization of her beach house wasn’t going to happen all by itself. She needed to be there to make sure it got done.

  20. Birks did have a ten person pod. The family in potomac are the great grands and her daughters family. Both sets of grandparents live in separate locations, and are in that pod. The optics look bad, and for a public health official setting an example she might have relied on daughter and son in law to do the winterizing, but she wasnt combining previously separate households.

  21. I know a lot of people who have had COVID. A few local friends’ parents died from it; some are in the hospital now. Other friends’ parents had it during the spring surge but luckily pulled through.
    One of our good friends (age around 50) had it in March and has lung damage and still doesn’t feel right. Several friends who were performing in Europe had it in February. About 1/10 of the people at my work have had it that we know of.

  22. People who are living in separate households are living in separate households. Trying to put them together into a “pod” to justify the sorts of gatherings that Birx specifically admonished others to avoid is hypocritical. With her virtue-signaling mask in place, she scolded people who “went across the country or even into the next state” while she, herself, was in the next state, gathering with people who are not part of her immediate household.

    This sort of behavior actually helps reinforce the sense that all of these restrictions are just for show. If Birx actually believed what she was saying, she would have stayed isolated in her DC home and hired a contractor to winterize “one” of her vacation homes, and there would be more reason for the little people to be afraid.

  23. Speaking of pods, back in the late summer, all anyone could talk about was “learning pods.” People were frantic to get their kids into one! They were going to revolutionize education! I am curious to get a follow-up. How much of a “thing” did these private learning pods become? Around here, I don’t know of any. On remote school days (whether the kids in question are going to school on the hybrid plan or opted into full-remote), the kids I know are either with (just) their family at home, or else are going to the local Youth Services center, where the town established a supervised setting for kids who can’t do their remote days at home. Teacher DH does not know of any families at his school who pulled their kids out of school to do “true” homeschooling, either individually or in pods.

    Does anyone have info (anecdotal or otherwise) about how the learning-pod thing has been shaking out?

  24. Re. Birx, I agree with Scarlett. The very heavy messaging prior to Thanksgiving (and continuing into Christmas) has been that you should not socialize with people who do not physically live in your household. Period. There has been no statement that if you are in a “pod” with another household then it’s OK to get together with them.

  25. I don’t like Birx. She has been really unimpressive through the entire pandemic.

    I had lost count of the number of people I know who have had Covid. Personally, I have known 5 people who have died from it. The youngest was in his 50s. The other 4 were in their 70-80s, two of whom lived in nursing homes.

  26. I find the Birx story confusing. In the article I read it wasn’t very clear who is in her nuclear household. Additionally, there is an estranged sister of Birx’s son-in-law that is talking to the press, so I don’t know what the real story is. Regardless, it doesn’t take that many people to winterize a home.

    One of my takeaways from this pandemic is that everyone thinks their logic is the correct logic. It might not be that the rules aren’t meant for them, as much as, “I’m following the rules, because of x, y, and z”.

  27. “As for front line workers who don’t want to get the vaccine, I think you just move onto the next person who does want it. Its not like we have tons of excess supply at this point, and anyone who gets vaccinated helps the overall effort. So I think we as a country should not spend any time or effort wringing our national hands about people who pass on the opportunity to be first. Just move on.”

    I agree. There are plenty of people who do want to take the vaccine. Maybe the anti-vaxers will change their minds after seeing everyone else get one. Maybe not. Either way, I am less concerned since the effectiveness is so high.

  28. From the official Massachusetts government website, regarding advice for the Holidays:

    “Limit in-person holiday gatherings to only people you live with.”

    “Host a virtual holiday dinner with extended family or friends.”

    “View holiday lights from your car with those you live with”.

    “Any time you gather with others outside of your household, you increase the risk of contracting or spreading illness. All residents are discouraged from gathering.”

    So, there’s a very heavy emphasis on just socializing with people who live with you full-time. There is no “pod” concept whatsoever.

  29. Lemon Tree – YES. People think whatever they are doing is the correct thing. A lot of times they read something and then stick to it even if the guidance changes. Over the summer my parents would refer to someone as “quarantining” if they were not socializing with friends *even if they were still going to stores and dr appts, etc.* and every time I thought to myself “that is not what quarantining means!!!!”. Sigh.

  30. Scarlett and NOB +1

    The whole Brix thing is very disappointing. What is the logic behind telling people to do one thing and your doing another thing? Do they think they are not going to get called out?

  31. Reality,

    Wow! That story is amazing. It sort of reminds me of Billy Evans – Elizabeth Holmes’ (Theranos) husband. Who married her after everything came out.

    At least in that case one would imagine her mind warping charisma might be hard to resist when directed at one person. To look at him, Shkreli doesn’t seem to have the kind of conman persona. But maybe he does?

  32. I read the Shkreli story yesterday. The journalists I follow on Twitter were all talking about it. It is an amazing read.

  33. WASHINGTON (AP) — Contradicting his secretary of state and other top officials, President Donald Trump suggested without evidence that China — not Russia — may be behind the cyber espionage operation against the United States and tried to minimize its impact.

    Any idea why he might be doing this?

  34. ” I wish there was a more predictable pattern that would make it easier to assess risk. As I’m typing this I’m thinking of more people I know through my parents, so the total is probably 30-something. More than a handful have lasting symptoms months later, and a few of these were extremely active and fit before getting sick. A few that never had symptoms did not seem to be particularly active or fit.”

    @Becky – Yes. This is my experience too. Enough of the people of all ages spent time hospitalized or with lingering effects that I am perfectly happy to continue to stay home & follow most of the guidance until I can get the vaccine.

    I know quite a few people who have had it. All ages, reasons. The symptoms are wide ranging and do not seem to correlate to health or age much at all. The only thing I will say is that none of the people I know who caught the virus were especially careful. Essential workers, people who were doing a lot of socializing or gathering with family, kid activities, etc. No one who was actually mostly staying home except for going to the store.

    “How much of a “thing” did these private learning pods become?”

    @NOB – The only thing that I actually know about is that there are a few places near me that are offering essentially babysitting for elementary kids. The kids can bring their chromebook/laptop to a place with supervision to do their remote learning. This seems to be happening in locations that would generally be doing summer camps & afterschool programs. I also know people who have hired nannies to come supervise their younger elementary kids as well – but a lot of times it is just college kids who are home for the semester too.

    “As for front line workers who don’t want to get the vaccine, I think you just move onto the next person who does want it. Its not like we have tons of excess supply at this point, and anyone who gets vaccinated helps the overall effort. So I think we as a country should not spend any time or effort wringing our national hands about people who pass on the opportunity to be first. Just move on.”

    @HFM – ITA. And I will happily take anyone’s dose who doesn’t want it when we get to “normal” middle aged people.

  35. “The symptoms are wide ranging and do not seem to correlate to health or age much at all.”

    I know a lot of people who have tested positive. One of DH’s colleagues got it, along with his family of 8, a few weeks after the semester ended. He taught in person but is a major germophobe so I was surprised that he got it. (Although it is very difficult to keep a large family under house arrest for months, so he could have picked it up in a number of places.) No one in the family was very sick and he is kind of relieved to have it over with and be exempt from the weekly on-campus testing required of those who are still coming to the office through the break. DH had many students who tested positive and disappeared to remote for two weeks, but almost all of them were either asymptomatic or only mildly unwell. None of them needed extra help to keep up in the class.

    One of my favorite supermarket cashiers was back at work last Friday for the first time in 2.5 weeks following her diagnosis. She spent three days in the hospital and told me that she was close to needing a ventilator but then improved and was discharged to recover at home. She said her lungs didn’t feel normal yet, but there she was doing her job in the checkout line. She, too, is relieved to be done with it. None of her family members got sick.

    What does seem to correlate to age or health is death. Those friends of friends/family who have died were all quite elderly with serious health problems.

  36. Nate Silver is having a fit about how age should be prioritized before anything else.

  37. Any idea why he might be doing this?

    Because his in bed with Putin, which we’ve know for years.

  38. Because his in bed with Putin, which we’ve know for years.

    But I was assured by the usual suspects that such a thing couldn’t possibly be true.

  39. RMS – my dad is thrilled to be 75+ and next to get the vaccine. He wants to go to casinos and restaurants without his kids telling him he is being reckless.

    Personally I want all teachers to be getting it next (which I think it part of the next group, but it isn’t very clear and may vary by state). I also find it shocking roughly 1/3 or Americans have a pre-ex condition!. After this settles I hope that we focus our attention on that issue.

  40. People over 75 are also much less skeptical of vaccines than people under 50. They remember polio. My elderly neighbor was talking approvingly about how everyone was lined up in school and vaccinated and she was sure no one signed a permission slip.

  41. Nate Silver is right.
    If the vaccine is truly safe and effective for the elderly (>75), then prioritizing that group will greatly reduce mortality. Only a small percentage of elderly are living in nursing homes, but after a significant number of those residents have received both doses of either vaccine, we will know a whole lot more about how they work in the most fragile elderly population, and the rest of that age cohort will be in the position to make a more informed decision regarding their participation.

    But if the experts like Dr. Vin Gupta continue with their warnings that those who get the vaccine still need to mask/social distance/avoid travel until *everyone* is dosed — well, it’s not really clear whether their lives will change for the foreseeable future. Unless those who get the vaccine decide that they are no longer listening to the experts like Vin Gupta.

  42. I was initially dismayed to see the below because the risk to older seniors is so high. If seniors are covered and if they are still working in essential services, they will get covered automatically.

    Previously the committee had talked about putting all essential workers ahead of seniors — an idea which drew pushback from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, among others.

  43. “What does seem to correlate to age or health is death. ”

    Yes – this definitely seems to be true. It’s still a bit unnerving how the symptoms that some 25-65 yo adults get vs others seem to be almost completely random. Both in type and severity. I am not looking to have a hospital stay if I can help it.

  44. I moderate a niche homeschooling group on the internet – it has gone from 1.5k to 4+k members in the past 10 months. A lot of the people are actually homeschooling (and a good chunk are forever trapped in the precontemplation stage). There is not a lot of chatter about pods – there was at the beginning. Someone mentioned today that they are removing their kid from a pod because the teacher just makes sure they show up to zoom. That parent will have the AP manage the kids getting on the right zoom call.

    I think there will be a meaningful increase in homeschooling post pandemic – anecdotally, I see a lot of people who love it. It may not matter to the typical school if 2.5% homeschool instead of 1.5%, but it is totally changing the dynamics of the homeschool community.

  45. Homeschool Pods – there was so much chatter in my area about this. Hundreds of posts/comments and frantic searches for teachers. I have no idea how it all shook out, but based on the number of children in my kid’s classes, the school enrollment seems about normal. I know several families that moved to private schools, but I only know of one family (and they are on the east coast) that are officially home school. There are few families that have created pods with a nanny, but they are virtually learning in public school.

    There was talk in the summer that the WeWork type office spaces were going to be the new pod classrooms. Several local companies were advertising their spaces for this. I noticed yesterday one of those companies is out of business. It seems that in the end, most people put their trust into the public schools.

  46. @Reality – Wow. Thanks for sharing. I feel like they try hard to make her not look like an idiot, but don’t quite succeed.

  47. Ada – how is the increase in homeschooling due to COVID changing the homeschooling dynamics? I’m just curious.

    My brother and his wife are homeschooling their 3 elementary age kids because my brother is immuno-compromised so they didn’t want to send the kids during the pandemic. And my brother and SIL are both working from home during COVID. But once my brother and SIL go back to work in person, I would assume that the kids will have to go back to school in person as well.

  48. I think any increase in homeschooling has to include a definition of what homeschooling is. In my area, ~5% of families homeschool, ~5% attend private school, ~90% attend public school.

    Pre-COVID, people who enrolled in the not-real-time, teacher-supported but parent-supervised online grade level instruction called themselves “homeschoolers” in my circle. Now that everyone has been forced to try that approach, many families are finding that it works well for them and I think there may be a critical mass of people who can find enough local peers to make that option appealing from a socialization perspective, because children enrolled online will have at least a few friends who are also not enrolled all day in public school.

    I suspect public school will be hybrid here next fall. It’s remote only now and (my guess is) will remain that way for the rest of the school year.

  49. In Colorado, school enrollment is down about 3.5%. This is having significant budgetary effects on districts because about 2/3 of their funding (varies by district) comes from the state on a per-pupil basis.

  50. WCE, I agree with you on definitions of homeschooling. My personal favorite has always been the folks who “homeschool” their toddlers & preschoolers.

  51. Good summary of why vaccinating the elderly makes sense based on Israeli data
    ************************************************************************************************
    With just the 51,000 over-90s vaccinated, which is around 0.5% of Israel’s population, the total risk of fatalities from Covid-19 drops a huge 19%.

    Expanding vaccination to all over-80s would only require 273k people to be vaccinated, but would more than half the fatality risk of the virus.

    By the time we’ve vaccinated all over-70s, we’ll be up to 76% lower fatality risk with just 735,000 people vaccinated.

    For those people who are into 80-20 principles, the graph suggests that when Israel has vaccinated the most vulnerable 20% of people, the fatality risk will be reduced by 80%.

    https://www.ariehkovler.com/2020/12/a-little-vaccine-goes-a-long-way/

  52. From the picture of Smythe, you can tell she doesn’t have good judgment, because dear God that dress. Sleeves! Where are you going with that woman?

    Given how they provide the fashion details in the photo captions, my guess is the dresses were provided by the magazine.

  53. WCE,
    I saw that story too and ITA.
    Many of the concerns about side effects, whether short or long term, don’t have the same impact on the elderly, especially those living in LTC facilities. They can be closely monitored, don’t have to call in sick, and have fewer years left in which long term concerns would be a problem.
    The real issue IMO is whether the vaccines actually protect this group from getting really sick and dying.

  54. “Good summary of why vaccinating the elderly makes sense based on Israeli data.”

    Without having read the referenced post, I’m wondering what assumptions about the vaccines’ efficacy for the elderly were incorporated into that analysis.

    “The real issue IMO is whether the vaccines actually protect this group from getting really sick and dying.”

    Yes. TMK, testing of this age group was very limited, so it’s not know how efficacious that vaccines will be for them.

  55. “Pre-COVID, people who enrolled in the not-real-time, teacher-supported but parent-supervised online grade level instruction called themselves “homeschoolers” in my circle. Now that everyone has been forced to try that approach, many families are finding that it works well for them”

    My guess is that some movement toward that delivery model will be driven by kids.

    I wonder how that will affect bullies. My guess is that bullying will be one of the factors driving families toward that model.

  56. I see pictures in the local paper of people gathering in bars and clubs. No wonder our spread is increasing. BIL/SIL and family want to visit to see DH’s parents. I had to be the Grinch and say no. I told them in addition to their parents, I had my parents in the picture as well.
    I don’t know why they even asked and DH even considered a visit at this time. A vaccine is maybe two months away for the seniors. I can’t understand how people who are highly educated and who have so far visited their parents only when convenient to themselves, decide now is the time to see them. There have been many years prior to this, where they could have hosted their parents for the holidays but didn’t. They will be flying and driving around to look at colleges for their DS and wanted to stop to visit. This is in spite of warnings not to gather for the holidays.
    My PSA is for people is to spend the time with their loved ones while the going is good.
    End of rant.

  57. Louise, I also see pictures of people gathering, many without masks. Many believe they can be the exception to the rule, or they don’t believe in the rules since they see so much hypocrisy from our leaders. This occurs in almost all locations, mask mandates or not. The escalating spread does not surprise me. The latest numbers I saw show deaths/capita in NJ, NY, CA, MA, WY, and TX all rising and clustered together.

  58. Kim, I think it’s mostly that people don’t think it will happen to them. They think they won’t get the virus, or if they do that it will be asymptomatic or very mild.

  59. I mentioned my cousin-in-law’s baby tested positive. He had a fever for a little bit, but that’s not unusual for babies. They’re participating in a study affiliated with one of the nearby hospitals/medical schools, and AFAIK, they’ve not been able to get a second positive test out of this kid. His parents have not tested positive, either.

    Based on the positive test, I think he’s supposed to still be isolated through Christmas. Both his grandmothers consider themselves high-risk. However, he is the first and only grandchild on both sides to two sets of rather-crazy grandparents. In previous years, I’ve mentioned the absurd negotiations that occur beginning in October re: who’s going to spend the holidays where, where are they going to wake up, where are they going to eat Breakfast #1, whose presents are going to be under what tree and during what hours will they see whom, etc.

    I know that this is driving the grandmas abso-fu&)(*ing-lutely batshit crazy. And the one I know really does consider herself high-risk. So for nine months they’ve talked about all the things they can’t do, or won’t do, but she does have to go to Target occasionally and shop for crap, and to Trader Joe’s. But she definitely is not among the many people who assume they won’t contract it, or they’ll have only a mild case. She sees her own death from this as a very real possibility, I assure you. For some, they just need to take some risk, or feel that it’s worth it, or whatever. Even though I could totally skip Target, and Trader Joe’s for that matter, except those frozen self-rising almond croissants are tempting.

    Yesterday I had the kids Facetime her while they opened the presents she’d sent them. And I knew it, I told DW watch for it, I totally called it that she was going to talk about the grandson and mention a few justifications for why it’s probably going to be OK if they get together on Christmas. “But it’s up to his parents!!”

    So I totally get it, it’s a risk calculation. What drives *me* crazy is that cousin-in-law is a health care worker who is always sharing the many scoldy memes about staying home and protecting heroes like her, take this seriously, don’t be one of those idiots who ignores the guidelines, etc.

    And yet, push comes to shove and it’s their own family…

  60. Kim,

    I think another reason for people giving up on following the restrictions is the restrictions haven’t worked. My state has been in various stages of lockdown since March. Many if not most schools are still in the distance learning mode, kid activities have been cancelled, restaurants operating under significant restrictions, if not completely closed, and the virus is still here.

    The vaccine MAY work, but who knows how it will be rolled out.

    Also, social interaction is almost as necessary as food. Very few people could manage a highly restrictive food diet for nine months. It’s not surprising that people can’t maintain such a highly restrictive social diet.

  61. Dr Fauci reported on a Childrens newscast that he took a top secret trip to the North Pole to give Santa the vaccination and he is good to go this Thursday. Kids, I think, can attribute magical powers without help to Santa, including immunity, but for a certain type of kid this probably is useful. I still thought it was cute.

  62. Cass, yes the virus is still here despite the restrictions. But a lot of people haven’t followed the restrictions. And we don’t know how much worse it would have been without the restrictions. Per above about Kansas, things were significantly worse in counties without mask mandates than the counties that had them.

  63. “They think they won’t get the virus, or if they do that it will be asymptomatic or very mild.”

    And for most people they would be correct that it will be relatively mild. I also agree with Cassandra that people don’t see that the restrictions have worked all that well. (Okay, before you post the auditorium picture of a crowd without masks, SOME restrictions have not seemed to work all that well.) And of course, people need social interaction.

    “And yet, push comes to shove and it’s their own family…”

    Right! The hypocrites are the worst.

  64. Right or wrong, it does seem like people are done with restrictions. There is a major interstate near me. Traffic on it is heavy. DD2 and DS went skiing on Saturday, they said the slopes were packed. Costco was packed last weekend.

    The testing issue is weird. DD2 has gotten tested once or twice a week since she moved into the dorms. Anyone who lives in her college town can be tested, apparently free of charge, simply by making an appointment. I watched DD2 make two testing appointments in about two minutes on her phone. It seems so easy, I do t know why the program isn’t rolled out in other places.

  65. Also, people evaluate what they are told for plausibility, accuracy, and reasonableness. “Consider the source” is a saying for a reason.

  66. Cass is right that the restrictions haven’t worked, especially in California, which is a poster child for doing everything “right” and still getting slammed.

    These kinds of restrictions have *never* been imposed for a respiratory virus. Our governments panicked and decided to throw out a century’s worth of pandemic planning guidelines in about two weeks, and now are desperately insisting that they can control a respiratory virus if people would just stop being human beings with inconvenient social and economic needs and do what they’re told.

    Mask mandates are among the most visible and most useless interventions. The data are clear that they don’t make a dent in transmission (unless you are the CDC cherry-picking study starting dates to make the numbers look better). And even though most people are dutifully wearing masks in public places where transmission chances are low (even outdoors, which is silly), it’s not possible to eat and drink whilst wearing a mask. And many people find it desirable and even essential to break bread with others outside their immediate household, especially for family celebrations and holidays.

    Millions of people travelled for Thanksgiving, and the “surge upon a surge” didn’t happen. They are going to travel for Christmas too, because none of us are guaranteed that our loved ones will be with us next Christmas, no matter what precautions we take. Carpe diem.

  67. Meme, that is super cute about Santa and Dr. Fauci. I agree that some kids need more than “magical powers” to trust that Santa is safe. I have a kid that was like that.

    Cass, testing like your DD is getting at college is what it is like here in MN. In less than minute I can schedule an appointment (although one is not required), show up at a site, spit into a tube and be out in five minutes. The other day on the news they showed the testing lines in LA and my kids could not get over how that was possible. It all comes down to leadership.

    Last night at the school board meeting they are working on reopening k-5. One of the topics was weekly testing for teachers and staff, and the solution they have is to have the spit tests (provided by the state) done in school, and then a bus drive all the tests to the lab (located in another suburb) for the fastest way to get results. I thought it was a creative solution to get it from point A to point B without waiting for a third party to get in the mix and slow it down.

  68. I find at DS’s school each teacher has their own preferred way students can take a test. The German teacher allows the phone, so remote students can ask her questions during the test. Most require lockdown browser but one teacher doesn’t. And on it goes. And sometimes the initial grade will show low but then it gets updated. I have not got over giving extra credit points, points for correcting your work and anything else to bring your grade up. Home country did not allow such things.

  69. I do t know why the program isn’t rolled out in other places.

    Because people like you and Scarlett fought so hard against such a plan.

  70. @Lemon – That IS good!

    The standard precautions DO work to keep from actually spreading the virus if you have it or to keep yourself from getting it. What hasn’t been effective is guidelines or mandates that aren’t enforced or followed very carefully by the public as a whole. Still – it’s like they said all along – even half-hearted compliance will keep the infection from spreading as well as nothing from a public health perspective. (i.e., don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good or 80/20) The people who lose out are those who don’t have a choice in the matter – in particular health care workers.

    The current debate in our family is SIL’s wedding. It has been scheduled for late January for over a year. She absolutely refuses to move the date – wouldn’t move it up and won’t move it back. (this is not a sentimental date – it was a date where the venue she originally wanted was cheap and available) After many iterations, right now it is potentially an immediate family only catered dinner at IL’s house. These are two big families though so immediate family = >20 people. We did not have Thanksgiving. We did not have Christmas. Both by IL’s choice. IL’s are in their 70’s and not in fantastic health. This brings a second family into the mix. It’s effing JANUARY in the Upper Midwest in a small house – nothing can be outdoors, no ventilation, heat blaring. There were endless opportunities to do this differently in the last 10 months. At the time of the wedding, we could potentially be weeks away from at least IL’s getting vaccinated. I am so angry about the whole thing. It still might get cancelled – they are going to make a decision by Jan 1 supposedly, but I think they want to have it at all cost. We will see. IL’s are not thrilled but seem reluctant to force the baby of the family to cancel. They have been strongly encouraging postponing (and were strongly encouraging pulling forward into fall earlier).

  71. “The standard precautions DO work to keep from actually spreading the virus if you have it or to keep yourself from getting it.”

    No, they don’t. The only way you can avoid getting the virus is to TOTALLY avoid contact with other human beings. The other precautions may or may not reduce the risks, but cannot eliminate them. And nearly universal mask-wearing and venue shutdowns in California have not made a dent in the case spread. California now leads the country in total cases, even though everything is closed and has been for months.

    Consider that every nursing home requires masks, endless hand sanitizing, and other protocols for those who enter those facilities, and yet residents still get sick after being exposed by an infected staff member. Hospital workers who diligently follow also protocols get sick. The Danish mask mandate study showed that mask-wearers were as likely as those without masks to become infected.

  72. And nearly universal mask-wearing and venue shutdowns in California have not made a dent in the case spread.

    Asserting facts not in evidence.

  73. Well, it looks like another stimulus bill is going through. A lot of people need help, but holy smokes, all the pork that’s reportedly in there is just nauseating. Sometimes I think that “bipartisan” just means that both sides are selling you out.

    Our household income is low enough that we’ll get a check, but I was joking with DH last night that we’d better set it aside so we can use it to buy a loaf of bread once hyper inflation takes off.

  74. And nearly universal mask-wearing and venue shutdowns in California have not made a dent in the case spread.

    If this occurs or doesn’t occur will not make a dent.

    Just so you realize the level of derangement we’re dealing with from Scarlett.

  75. once hyper inflation takes off.

    You thought that 10 years ago and it never happened. Why didn’t being wrong cause you to reevaluate your thinking?

  76. @TCM – I don’t feel we have a choice. And while I really do not want to get sick, especially now – months out from even normal people like me getting vaccinated, not going will cause permanent family issues. And we are not high risk. Having the wedding will also cause lasting family issues, especially if people get Covid, and if IL’s get it – well let’s not go there. I don’t trust the younger people in the family at all. Bride just had her bachelorette party in Cancun for God’s sake.

    There have been vague plans that everyone will just “get tested” before the wedding, but tests are much harder to come by than they were when this was thrown out as an idea back in the summer.

  77. Ivy – I understand why you feel like you have to go. Would the lasting permanent damage be with the SIL or others in your family? If it is only with the SIL, then maybe it is okay to state your boundaries. I totally get why you would go, but I also think you are totally in the right to decline going.

  78. “I was joking with DH.”

    It was a bit of hyperbole, Rhett m’dear. DH responded that we wouldn’t buy bread, we’d barter for wheat and grind our own flour. I’m glad we have a plan ;).

    I don’t think we’re actually on the verge of hyper inflation, but the deficit spending by all administrations gives me heartburn. At some point, something will have to give and I don’t give it good odds of that process being smooth or pretty.

    As for your 10 year timeframe, that’s like jumping off a cliff and halfway down saying, “See, everything’s fine. What are you worried about?”

  79. At some point, something will have to give and I don’t give it good odds of that process being smooth or pretty.

    Not if a 1.7 birthrate is highly deflationary. Which it appears to be.

  80. “I totally get why you would go, but I also think you are totally in the right to decline going.”

    I agree — Ivy, what does your DH think? Is he on board with enthusiasm, or going along with it to avoid family strife?

  81. “Not if a 1.7 birthrate is highly deflationary. Which it appears to be.” Good thing I’m an outlier, then!

    Deflation is its own, separate harbinger of doom. Ramping up the credit card debt and then counting on fewer workers to pay it off doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to me.

  82. Ramping up the credit card debt and then counting on fewer workers to pay it off doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to me.

    Total US Credit Card debt is $930 billion. That’s only 0.6% of total US debt outstanding and 0.03% of the value of US assets. In the grand scheme of things it’s a tiny amount of money.

  83. Ivy, you are in such a difficult place. I think you should make it very clear that you won’t go (although, is this your DH’s sister? Then he should say it). The hope is that the more people confidently say they won’t go, the more they’ll realize it is unrealistic to have this January wedding. I’d gather that there are many more close family members who think the wedding shouldn’t happen, but are afraid to say anything. Power in numbers!

  84. Umm, Google is telling me that total US debt is $27 trillion and as of 2nd quarter, 135 percent of GDP.

    As gloomy as I am about things, I agree we aren’t teetering on the brink just yet. But the trend is ugly!

  85. Umm, Google is telling me that total US debt is $27 trillion and as of 2nd quarter, 135 percent of GDP.

    Umm….

    The financial position of the United States includes assets of at least $269.6 trillion (1576% of GDP) and debts of $145.8 trillion (852% of GDP) to produce a net worth of at least $123.8 trillion (723% of GDP)[a] as of Q1 2014.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_position_of_the_United_States#:~:text=The%20financial%20position%20of%20the,GDP)%20as%20of%20Q1%202014.

  86. Yes – this is DH’s sister. So it’s his conversation to have. He feels more strongly than me that it shouldn’t happen as currently planned. But he doesn’t want to be the one to push his sister himself – he’s been trying to tell his parents that they won’t be jerks if they say that they won’t host it on the scheduled date but will host at a later date (when it is warmer or when they are vaccinated – not everyone, just the parents). Her fiance’s parents are much younger (mid-50’s). I think DH is hoping that he doesn’t have to have the conversation at all, but I kinda think that’s wishful thinking. I think if he says something, they will listen. As one of the oldest, he has some sway. I’m staying out of the mix.

  87. Gotcha! I was (unclearly, apparently) using credit card debt figuratively, to stand in for all US debt.

  88. Sorry about your tricky situation, Ivy. I had a cousin who was scheduled to get married in April. They we’re originally planning on sticking with the original date and having a big party. My aunt is definitely in the “at risk” category – she’s extremely suceptable to pneumonia. She told her son that if he was getting married, she was coming, but if she caught covid it. Would. Kill. Her.

    They cancelled, and then the state they’re in did a hard lockdown just before the wedding date, so it would have been moot anyway. They want to have a huge party, so last I heard, they haven’t rescheduled yet.

  89. So sorry about your situation, Ivy. DIL recently backed out of being in her best friend’s wedding because of the 150 person indoor wedding/no masks/no distancing situation. She agonized about doing it. Then is was fine once she initiated the conversation. I think we often overestimate the impact our absence will have on large events. I hope your DH will decide to lead the way. I bet there will be many family members who would be grateful. Good luck!

  90. Regarding weddings – people I know of got married this year in very scaled down circumstances. One bride wanted a multi day wedding. In the end it was a courthouse wedding with both sets of parents and siblings.
    If couples didn’t want to postpone the wedding, they just had to go with who was comfortable attending. In one case, the groom’s parents didn’t feel comfortable attending, so the bride and groom visited them at a later date.

  91. I find it so odd that people in the US insist on tying wedding and reception together, and frequently tie their living situations to both. If you and another person need to adjust your legal relationship, do it. But if you don’t demand a great big party then, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever have one. Send out wedding announcements now, or write lovely letters telling a couple hundred people closest to you how glad you are to have them in your life, and that you wanted to let them know you and your cheri amore are tying the knot/taking the next step/making it official/random putridly sweet metaphor. With any luck, you’ll be able to write something else in a year or two saying how your beloved has enriched your life, and you want to celebrate your union, wouldn’t dear friend/family member please come share your joy? If nothing else, you spare yourself the potential embarrassment of getting all the pressies and then splitting up. Look at what LGBTQWERY people did for years—decades—before marriage became legal. They had their party without their legal ceremony. You can have your legal ceremony, even with a member of the clergy, without the festivities (involving other people—get as festive as you want between your sheets).

    Stepping down from my soapbox now

  92. Every family and situation is different. But postponing a wedding in this period means that the couple will face real difficulties getting any venue for the rescheduled ceremony in 2021. So that is also a factor.
    There aren’t any easy solutions for many couples. Ivy is fortunate that this is her in-laws and her DH can make the call.

  93. Ivy, good luck. I hope your wedding dilemma can be resolved by your in-laws.

    My parents hope to be vaccinated this winter so that they can travel back east for a wedding in May. We’ve received a save the date card for a So Cal wedding in May for the daughter of one of DS’s cousins. The daughter of another of his cousins is planning to get married by a Justice of the Peace soon, and may have a party after the pandemic.

  94. Scarlett, I would expect you of all people to recognize that the religious ceremony does not need to be rescheduled simply because the wedding party is on hold. I get it that you hold to your religion in a way that means absolutely abstaining from certain activities until a couple has gotten the seals of approval from the courthouse & the Pope. Fine. But why are you acting like the wedding has to be at the same time as their signatures? As for the “shortage of venues”—really? Are peoples imaginations so limited that they can’t think beyond the ballroom at their local Hyatt? My current location specializes in parties in derelict spaces, like these https://signale.cornell.edu/books/65 although there are plenty of the kind of sumptuous old-money places Rhett loves available too. Florida has miles and miles of beaches where people can (and do) set up an arch and rows of folding chairs for a wedding’. Out on the High Prairie where we lived before that, the gorgeous Palo Duro Canyon offered dramatic backdrops for outdoor weddings, and country clubs and working ranches offer places for rent. And there are libraries, aquaria, museums, church basements, bars, parks where people can celebrate. If you’re stymied by a lack of a place to hold your wedding, you probably lack the problem solving ability to get married anyway.

  95. I do feel bad for them – they had originally wanted a big, traditional 200-person wedding, and they were well into planning it by March. They had multiple plans for scaled down versions – including a 50-person version at the original venue (which was probably never really a realistic idea) along with this immediate family version.

    Marriage court is open with some restrictions, and they have talked about doing that just the two of them as the ultimate fallback plan. If they decide to cancel the family party, I’m sure that’s what they’ll do. I think there was a lot of wishful thinking when the wedding looked like it was a long time in the future, back when alternate plans would have been easier to make.

  96. I am a little rusty on the technicalities of the pocket veto, but I *think* that as long as the bill gets formally delivered to the White House on the 23rd and the Congress does not formally adjourn it will not be an option. Lets hope tomorrow is a sunnier day for the sitting President.

  97. on the situation in California

    “Just how how many deaths the current surge will bring remains to be seen, but when it’s all said and done, there’s a real chance California’s deaths per capita numbers — widely used to defend the state’s strict restrictions — could eclipse several states that have been far less restrictive. Cox would find that both tragic and ironic.

    “It feels like during this whole pandemic, the people in charge have been acting like this is an experiment in a lab at Stanford,” he said. “It’s all about, ‘How can we win the COVID death rate race,’ with no regard given to any other real-world concern that impacts society like livelihoods, well-beings and mental health.”

    https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/California-COVID-lockdown-cases-deaths-businesses-15819841.php

  98. WCE,

    That’s an average weekend night in LA. Do you really think shutting that down didn’t make a difference?

  99. Rhett, I don’t think shutting down the schools and playgrounds for the past 9 months was the right cost-risk-benefit analysis. I’ve never argued that ZERO should be done which is what you seem to keep insisting.

  100. I’ve never argued that ZERO should be done which is what you seem to keep insisting.

    What non-zero options have you been campaigning for? My recollection is that your policy preferences have been focused on what is most important to your particular circumstances.

  101. 1) Limiting visitation in nursing homes is good.
    2) Extra testing of nursing home workers is good.

    But from memory that’s a small percentage of your statements. The majority have been ones advocating for those in a situation similar to yours. Over and over again you’ve lamented that policy isn’t crafted to meet the needs of your specific community.

  102. Rhett, it’s certainly true that I don’t support most legal mandates regarding COVID.

    COVID is the first time in my life I’ve engaged in civil disobedience.

  103. Rhett, it’s certainly true that I don’t support most legal mandates regarding COVID.

    What does that mean specifically? My fear is I’ll post my pics of crowded bars and clubs and trade shows and you’ll say – well of course that should have been prohibited. And when you hear that it makes me think you primarily care about what impacts you. Of course church’s and schools should be open and clubs and bars should be closed.

  104. It would be clearer if I’d said – And when I hear that it makes me think you primarily care about what impacts you.

  105. Comparing Iowa and Florida where my Dad lives to Oregon and California, restrictions have been much less strict in Iowa and Florida and more dependent on local case rate. My Dad says most people who are “at risk” obey recommendations and he doesn’t see a need to impose legal restrictions on low risk people who choose to risk coronavirus.

    I don’t know what my opposition to legal mandates means specifically, but in general, I would say that restrictions should depend on the local hospitalization rate. If I and others who don’t mind getting COVID were permitted to behave normally last summer, by visiting outdoor pools, etc., the hospitals might not be overwhelmed now.

  106. I don’t know what my opposition to legal mandates means specifically,

    That seems to be at the heart of our disagreement.

  107. Rhett, I think you are right about the heart of our disagreement.. I supported flattening the curve, which meant not overwhelming hospitals, but I do not support attempts to stop the spread. I think you are more supportive attempts to stop the spread.

  108. but I do not support attempts to stop the spread.

    Even with a highly effective and safe vaccine currently being administered around the county?

    I can see you having a point when there was no hope in site. But that’s still your position?

  109. Keeping in mind the vaccination effort focusing on front line workers and the most at risk elderly. You still say, “ I do not support attempts to stop the spread.”

  110. Rhett, that was spoken as a generality rather than an absolute statement. Maybe it would be better to say, “I want attempts to stop the spread to pass a strict strict cost-risk-benefit analysis that includes non-COVID factors including weight gain, effects on undocumented/essential workers, disadvantaged children and mental health. The cost-risk-benefit analysis should change rapidly in favor of opening as high risk people are vaccinated.”

    I suspect it will be at least September before the adult population has vaccine access so we’re only halfway through this, and that’s if all the supply chain logistics work correctly. On the West Coast, the public health authorities cried wolf so many times that people ignore them now that the hospitals really are being overwhelmed.

    As an example, I want the pools to reopen, as do arthritic elderly people, based on Letters to the Editor in the Oregonian.

  111. “I supported flattening the curve, which meant not overwhelming hospitals, but I do not support attempts to stop the spread.”

    How do you differentiate efforts to flatten the curve from attempts to stop the spread?

  112. “Of course church’s and schools should be open and clubs and bars should be closed.”

    Why should churches be open while clubs and bars closed?

  113. Finn, I’m not sure there’s value in arguing about the transition point at which we should turn an analog variable into a binary one. I pointed out last spring that we were shifting the curve rather than flattening it and graphs of most states currently support that hypothesis.

    I know I want arthritic elderly people to be allowed to decide for themselves whether the COVID risk of visiting the swimming pool is worse than the pain of the arthritis itself and they can’t do that here now because pools are closed. Public health officials are free to “recommend” as much as they want.

    In other news, the household transmission rate for symptomatic cases was 18% in this JAMA study compared to 0.7% for asymptomatic cases, suggesting that asymptomatic transmission is quite rare.
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2774102

  114. “It would be clearer if I’d said – And when I hear that it makes me think you primarily care about what impacts you.”

    I actually think the conversation here would move forward more productively if everyone would stipulate that this is true universally. It is human nature. If they had shut down the transportation industry completely, and the only option was to drive you own car for 9 months or indefinitely, I expect Rhett would be chaffing in a similar way that WCE and Scarlett chafe at closing churches and having only an online option. People want what they value.

    WCE’s article is interesting. Anecdotally, I have known several families who discovered one (always young adult/students) had an asymptomatic case and no one else in the family has tested positive. It seemed strange to me because within families living together in a home, precautions are usually lax at best. I thought this was good news, especially coupled with what my brother who is involved in the vaccine testing said about not seeing spread from asymptomatic but vaccinated people in other illnesses.

  115. Dr Birx is retiring. Probably a good move for her, even if the trigger had to be her own refusal to follow the rules she hectored the public to follow. Instead of apologizing, sort of, for her Thanksgiving transgressions, it would have been far more impressive had she apologized for insisting on restrictions which she knew were not justified by the data. “I am sorry for refusing to allow you to make your own informed decisions regarding what is best for you and your family. As I did.”

  116. According to the data, the states that did not implement restrictions and left it to people to make their own decisions regarding what is best for themselves and their families now have the highest death rates.

  117. DD,
    That is incorrect.
    New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts still sit atop the list of highest death rates. Six of the top ten states are East Coast locked down masked up places. New Jersey has soared to over 2000 deaths per million.

  118. If they had shut down the transportation industry completely, and the only option was to drive you own car for 9 months or indefinitely, I expect Rhett would be chaffing in a similar way that WCE and Scarlett chafe at closing churches and having only an online option. People want what they value.

    But they did essentially shut down the transportation industry, at least as far as business travel is concerned. And as you know being a businessman who travels around is my very most favorite thing in the world. And I’m fine with it being shut down. As with all things, this to shall pass.

  119. New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts still sit atop the list of highest death rates.

    I think for a valid comparison, we would have to look at time frames. New York, in particular, generated a significant number of deaths when this was brand new and we had no idea of how to treat it. Thanks to the learnings from the tragedy that unfolded there, other states have had the benefit of hard-earned knowledge and have had lower death rates. I think any valid comparison across states would have to be starting after x date, when new, more effective approaches were known and implemented.

  120. HFN, Milo and I had a short version of that conversation on here a few weeks ago. He finds it preposterous, but there are some of us who think of policy decisions in terms of what brings the greatest benefit overall, not for our own little selves. I remember being surprised by a conversation on here long ago about whether clocks should be permanently set to DST or ST and someone who had been arguing for one said that her reason was that she liked to have daylight when she came home from work. Obviously I’m aware that some people vote for their own best interests—that’s why politicians who screw over the country keep getting elected as long as they continue bring home bacon for their constituents—but taking it to that extreme startled me.

  121. “I think for a valid comparison, we would have to look at time frames.”

    That’s a fair point. But then we would also have to look at population density, the number of nursing homes, the number of elderly, geography and climate, socioeconomic and racial factors, hospital resources…..and it becomes impossible to make a valid comparison.

    The bottom line is that there are many factors affecting the death rates in particular places. But NPIs (masks, capacity restrictions, and closures) are not among them. This is a paper exploring death rates among countries (not states, but the analysis is similar). The researchers found that geography, economy, and extent of a vulnerable population — not government interventions — were the most relevant factors:

    “Higher Covid death rates are observed in the [25/65°] latitude and in the [−35/−125°] longitude ranges. The national criteria most associated with death rate are life expectancy and its slowdown, public health context (metabolic and non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden vs. infectious diseases prevalence), economy (growth national product, financial support), and environment (temperature, ultra-violet index). Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate.” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.604339/full

  122. Scarlett,

    It seems their data is based on something they call the “stringency index.” As such MA which had lockdown guidelines and VA that had a lockdown order would be weighted very differently.

  123. I’ll just reiterate my objection to only focusing on only the death rate as the measure of benefit. I still put a high priority on avoiding hospitalization and any illness that could leave me with lingering decreased quality of life months later.

  124. I agree with Scarlett regarding Dr Birx. I still don’t understand why she flouted her own advice.

  125. I still don’t understand why she flouted her own advice.

    Especially since it was 70 degrees on that island on Thanksgiving. They could have just eaten outside.

  126. Houston,
    She flouted her own advice for the same reason that countless other politicians and health “experts” worldwide have done the same — because they know that the virus isn’t going to kill them (or even send them to the hospital), and they are unwilling to put their family and social lives on hold indefinitely.

    For example, the California Health and Human Services Secretary recently admitted that there is NO scientific basis for the ban on outdoor dining — they just issued the ban as a desperate measure to keep people eating at home alone where they belong. https://reason.com/2020/12/11/californias-health-secretary-concedes-there-is-no-empirical-basis-for-the-states-ban-on-outdoor-dining/

  127. Apparently Birx thought her family’s suffering was special.

    Deborah Birx says she took Thanksgiving trip after parents ‘stopped eating’

    “My parents stopped eating and drinking because they were so depressed,” the 64-year-old complained to Newsy.

    “My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months. They’ve become deeply depressed,” Birx said of the need to “recover from the trauma of the last 10 months.”

    Birx was quickly eviscerated online for being “tone deaf” and for suggesting that it justified her breaking her own task force’s rules even as they had far more significant consequences for many other families during the pandemic.

    “My dad died of Covid surrounded by people in hazmat suits. He didn’t understand,” writer Mark Aldrich replied to Newsy’s interview.

    “My mom couldn’t visit him. She is depressed. Birx’ parents felt depressed? I’m sorry. She still has a one parent surplus over my sister & me,” he wrote.

    Peg Manley tweeted: “My mother died in March, we still haven’t buried her.”

    Birx “hasn’t a clue,” Manley wrote. “We have all gone without family. Without celebrations.”

    A Twitter user named Kristopher said the isolation was even worse for his 78-year-old father, who lives alone.

    “I haven’t been able to TRAVEL to see him in over 10 months. I’ve listened to the experts.

    “WE CAN’T ALL DO WHATEVER THE F–K WE WANT and hope to defeat COVID,” he wrote.

  128. “My parents stopped eating and drinking because they were so depressed,” the 64-year-old complained to Newsy.

    “My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months. They’ve become deeply depressed,” Birx said of the need to “recover from the trauma of the last 10 months.”

    All the more reason for her to start the national conversation about whether state and local public health authorities — relying in large part on the absurd federal guidelines she helped to shape — forgot their basic mission of protecting public health in all its aspects and focused solely on the impossible task of controlling a respiratory virus that is not nearly as novel or lethal as initially feared.

    She could have done a huge mea culpa for contributing to the climate of fear that drove her family members to draconian isolation, along with millions of other Americans, and encouraged everyone to make their own risk assessments going forward.

  129. My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months.

    That doesn’t make any sense. Her daughter was free to leave the house through this whole thing. Brix was free to visit her parents at any time outdoors. It sure sounds like she’s full of shit.

  130. Many small business owners may by then be scrambling to establish reopening plans as the Covid-19 vaccine distribution expands. Trying to determine what can and cannot be deducted from income with regard to PPP loans is “the last thing they need,” Kuhlman said.

    Well trying to figure out which of my own expenses are deductible is the last thing I need, too, but I don’t see Congress saying “oh, just write it all off then, don’t worry about it.”

  131. Rocky, my son was reading me some of his favorites this morning. All summer he tried to tell me that getting rid of McConnell wasn’t important, because he was just a senator, and someone else would take his place. But among his top “most absurd” votes for the relief bill were tax breaks for horse racing and gambling. What state’s senator could’ve pushed for those, hmmmmm

  132. Since covid discussions are allowed this week, what’s the current consensus about vaccinated people who’ve already had covid?

    Local LG was infected, then went on TV yesterday to get his first vaccination shot.

    Should priority for that shot have been given to someone who hasn’t yet been infected?

  133. In August, the NZ score was 69/100 (with 100 being most stringent). In August, we (meaning my family) had no limits on gatherings, people were traveling freely around the country and schools were all face to face. There were concerts and sporting events. There was a small outbreak in Auckland, some schools went remote, some business activity was suspended. There was a recommendation (or maybe requirement) to wear masks on public transport for a period there. We went to Auckland toward the end of the outbreak (stringency level 35) and found that about 20% were wearing masks at the DMV. Two weeks later (stringency level 22), cases had continued to fall, as I drove through the big city to drop a child off at sleep away camp. Auckland was down to 1% mask wearing. Does that mean less mask wearing equals less cases?

    Of note, the stringency index in the US at in August was 67, making it “more free” than NZ. Is that what August looked like for y’all? Heck, you’re only at 72 in America now.

    Creating a stringency index is pretty cool. I’m unconvinced that it (as currently created) really quantifies the actual amount of human contact.

    https://www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/research/research-projects/coronavirus-government-response-tracker

  134. “ Since covid discussions are allowed this week, what’s the current consensus about vaccinated people who’ve already had covid?”

    You’re talking about my BIL and SIL, both recently vaccinated, who are in the next room wrapping presents. DW is helping them wrap, but my gift is getting up early with their baby, since I’m usually up, anyway..

  135. I am looking at the vaccine tracker and I see that 1 million shots have been given. However, 9.4 million doses have been distributed. For selfish reasons, I want the distribution of Phase 1a to go quicker, so we can get to the 75+ age group soon.

  136. Louise, are your in-laws planning to get the vaccine when it’s their turn? Where will they get it? It’s relatively straightforward to arrange the vaccine for nursing home residents and health care workers who are part of a facility of some kind. But how this will work for the millions of seniors who are living on their own is a mystery.

  137. Scarlett – I am assuming the healthcare system where you have your primary care physician and where all your details are registered will call you. I intend to call the healthcare system in the new year and find out. One of our healthcare systems was a vaccine trial site, so I’m assuming they will have decent information on how to get the vaccine.

  138. @Milo – just to highlight the variety of experience across America, this is what’s going on in the west.

    290 high schoolers putting together food boxes. Not a single mask. In a state that is running out if IVu capacity and has one of the highest per capita covid rates.

    We are all seeing different slices of the pandemic – I keep hearing from DC friends (not just you) that most people are wearing masks most of the time.

  139. It didn’t matter what religion you were or the pastors involved, food was sent out to anyone who had a need…Each of the boxes contained a ham

    I hope there are no Jewish or Muslim families in Idaho. Or did that go without saying? “It didn’t matter what religion you were, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, or the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, food was sent out to anyone who had a need.”

  140. Our church did food boxes too but there was a sign up list this year and it was 14+. I am sure all Covid protocols were followed. The church knows how many meatless food boxes to make and is able to honor special requests.
    In years past, all the end of the year gifts to needy families were things like clothes and toys, this year there was more of gift cards. I think in the future there will still toy requests to fill but the percentage of gift card donations will go up. DH is very much into taking gift tags and buying gifts. Their family had no money for any extras, so he loves brightening a kids holiday with toys.

  141. Earlier this week, I picked something up from a big box store on Landsberger Allee. Going out there really is moving through the landscape of a crushed civilization. Row upon row of mid-20th century modern apartment buildings look sad and forlorn; schools, other public buildings, and other signs of communal civic life are empty (one is burnt out). This building in particular upsets me. It was/is a recreation center. Its centerpiece was a collection of pools on multiple levels, with hanging plants and big potted plants all around. These days, there is water in the outdoor pool, but the “Babylonian gardens” inside are drained and used for basketball, badminton, and the like. https://sez-berlin.com/kontakt/ That part of the city is lower income; I don’t see anything being done to change that, despite all of Berlin’s progressive planning elsewhere.

  142. Ada, are those pictures truly from this week? It seems hard to reconcile that picture with what I see here. In CT most of our school are not F2F save for the youngest kids. If my high schooler were allowed in the school building for an extracurricular activity (she is not, all winter sports are cancelled and other ECs are virtual until further notice) the scene would look nothing like what you posted.

  143. To provide some additional context, many of our public buildings and libraries are closed. Many libraries have even stopped contactless pickup, which I can’t quite understand. That tells me we’ve swung the pendulum too far here. Somewhere in between ‘it’s not safe to put a book outside on a table” and your pictures from Idaho is probably the right answer.

  144. That’s not where my parents live, Swim, but it’s close enough that I’m confident that those are recent pictures. Idaho (and other rural western states) really aren’t into masks. Or government. Or rules. Or vaccines. I don’t quite see how this ends for them.

  145. Swim, you and I were posting on separate pages at the same time. It sounds like local situations are very similar. Here, the lockdown was announced a few days ahead of time, so people could get set for it, and there is an end date. Before lockdown, we were in kinda “lockdown light” with pools and gyms closed, masks required in stores, public transit, schools, busy streets, etc. That is what we will presumably go back to in a couple of weeks. Are there set dates for yours? What’s it like in neighboring areas? We are starting to see some confusion here as, for example, Berliner are permitted to go to Poland and return, but people from Brandenburg are not—but there is no way to get to Poland (or anywhere) from Berlin without driving through Brandenburg. It literally surrounds us. There are some other illogical discrepancies too.

  146. “Idaho (and other rural western states) really aren’t into masks. Or government. Or rules. Or vaccines. I don’t quite see how this ends for them.”

    Idaho currently has fewer hospitalizations (per million) than the states (CA, NY, NJ, MA) that are really into masks, government, rules and vaccines. It will end for them in the same way that it will end for every other state.

    https://covidtracking.com/data/charts/currently-hospitalized-by-state

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