Why I’m an optimist on Covid

Because I’m an optimist on everything– that’s just my wiring :-).  But, I truly believe a fair assessment of what we know currently know about the state of the virus and the state of biotechnology/biopharmacology research gives plenty of reason for optimism.  Brilliant people around the world are now supremely dedicated to finding an effective treatment and with the tremendous breakthroughs in our understandings of human biology and diseases in recent years, I think it more likely than not that we will– well before the 18 month till vaccine scenario– have a variety of treatments good enough that we can prevent bad cases from going severe and severe case from going critical/fatal.  

Sarah Zhang has a nice piece in the Atlantic summarizing all the potential lines of treatment and the various progress being made.  Her conclusion is modest, but, I think undersells the potential:

Much of the early research into drugs against COVID-19 has focused on repurposing existing drugs because they are the fastest way to get something to a patient in a hospital bed. Doctors already know their side effects, and companies already know how to manufacture them. Unless researchers get very lucky, though, these repurposed drugs are unlikely to be a cure-all for COVID-19. Still, they might just work well enough to keep a mildly ill person from becoming severely ill, which is enough to free up a ventilator. “We can do better probably as time goes by,” says García-Sastre, “but right now we need something to start.”

But, of course, keeping mild from becoming severe and keeping people off ventilators is actually a really big deal.  Again, we’re not there, but there’s so many different strands of encouraging research and drug development.

The New Yorker profiles David Ho and his quest for a “pandemic pill.”  No, he’s not going to save us now, but and many other super-smart people he’s working with have made great progress and learned so much about defeating viruses in the process.  The article talks a lot about how we dropped the ball after after SARS and the problematic economics behind properly funding this research.  But, I’m also optimistic that we’ll now actually clearly value and properly fund this area of research going forward.

And, no, a Tuberculosis vaccine is not going to be our magical savior, but there really is some interesting data that suggests it really could help as it seems to be at least somewhat effective for an array of respiratory infections.  

Likewise, will this new pill invented at UNC save us?  Probably not.  It’s intriguing and promising, but a lot of “if”s:

The paper has yet to undergo peer-review, which means there might be undiscovered flaws that undercut the findings. The medicine, EIDD-2801, still needs to be tested on humans. But if it performs in human trials as it has both in animals and in test tubes—and if there are no dangerous side effects—it might be a game-changing treatment for not just COVID-19 but other diseases caused by closely related coronaviruses. 

Though, I just googled again and it’s already FDA approved for a human trial.  

[And, just after posting, I also saw this Scientific American article on it.  This sentence really caught my attention: 

In addition to planning clinical trials in the U.S., Ridgeback has also asked U.K. authorities to start tests there as well. “We’ve done three to four years of development work in just the past three to four weeks in response to the new pandemic,” Holman says.

Exactly.  All over the world, researchers under this amazing pressure are doing years worth of work in weeks.  I can’t help but believe that will pay off]

So, chances are EIDD-2801 will not be our savior, or that the Tuberculosis vaccine will not, or that Remdesivir will not, or that cytokine inhibitors will not, but, it really does strike me that with the intense and comprehensive global effort to find effective treatments, and the very clear progress that science has made in this type of research, there’s every reason to believe we could have a number of effective Covid-19 treatments by sometime this summer.  And, if that’s the case, we’ll still have a pandemic on our hands, but one that is suddenly much less fatal, much less likely to overwhelm localized medical resources, and therefore one that actually lets us get back to our lives.

And, given that obvious difficulty we’ve had in scaling up testing in any meaningful way.  Not to mention the difficulty in containing a disease with a disturbingly high percentage of asymtopmatic and presymptomatic transmitters, effective treatments strike me as our most likely way out of this.

Or, maybe the pessimists are right and life totally sucks for 18 months (the longer range given for a new vaccine, which, unsurprisingly, I find pessimistically long given the unprecedented efforts).  But, damn it, I’m being an optimist and betting on human ingenuity.  

This mess is entirely predictable when you systematically undermine government

A few weeks ago when it became clear just how stunningly poorly Trump has caused the federal government to perform in this crisis I thought to myself, “OMG, Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk is so amazingly on-point for this.  I did a quick little google search expecting to find all sorts of columns, Op-Eds, etc., making this case (heck like all Lewis’ books, it was a bestseller), but basically came up empty.  Because I am… lazy, I did not go ahead and write that post myself.  I figured I’d just be patient and go with ye olde copy and paste.  And lo and behold, even better than other people talking about Lewis’ book, Vox has an interview with the man himself.  Some highlights:

In his most recent book, The Fifth Risk, Lewis explores the different ways the US government manages its “vast portfolio” of risks — and how the Trump administration has systematically and purposefully undermined that effort. I spoke to Lewis about what the US government’s risk portfolio looks like, why Donald Trump’s leadership puts us all in danger, how undermining trust may be the biggest risk of them all, and more…

Roge Karma

There are a lot of ways to view the US federal government and the role of the president. But one that you draw out in The Fifth Risk is the idea of the president as a risk manager and the government as a risk aggregator. That is not a way we are used to thinking about our leaders or our institutions. So what does it mean for the president to be a risk manager? And why do you think that is a helpful lens through which to look at our leaders/institutions?

Michael Lewis

A lot of what the federal government does is manage risk, broadly defined. When I walked into my first agency, the Department of Energy, I encountered a man named John McWilliams who was the department’s “chief risk officer” and who had compiled a list of the 138 most dire risks that the Department of Energy alone faced. At the time, I didn’t even know what the Department of Energy did, so that there were 138 risks inside of it worth counting was interesting.

McWilliams was someone who thought about risk like a Wall Street person thought about risk. He thought about volatility. He thought about risk as a portfolio. He was grappling with it in that language. And I thought that was a very interesting way to think of the job of the president: to manage this giant portfolio at risk, not just the Department Energy, but across all of these agencies.

I’d also spent six months with Obama before the end of his first term. When I sat down with him and talked about what he thought about day to day, he framed the job as a decision-making job, and all of the decisions involved risk. In the end, the decisions that got to him were all the horrible risk decisions that nobody else wanted to make. A lot of our conversation was just about that: how to make smart, risk-based decisions…

Roge Karma

If the president is fundamentally a risk manager, then what does that make Donald Trump? What does Donald Trump do to the basket of risks that the US government is supposed to manage?

Michael Lewis

He amplifies them all. And he does so in various ways. One is that he has virtually no interest in hiring people for their ability to manage risks, for their understanding of risk, or for their knowledge and expertise about risks. So the people he hires in risk management positions are often wildly ill-suited to them because the only filter they pass through is a loyalty test to Donald Trump.

In the runup to the 2016 election, huge numbers of people, both Democrats and Republicans, who are experts in the specific risks the government managed, came out against Trump. And he just refused to take them into his administration.

Roge Karma

Could you talk a bit about the type of people who were hired by Trump?

Michael Lewis

There was a list of CVs that Politico dug up of Trump appointees to the Department of Agriculture, and none of them were qualified for anything they got appointed to do.

But since we’re on the Department of Energy, Trump appointed Rick Perry as secretary of energy. He had called for the elimination of the department in a presidential debate without being able to remember the name of the department. Later, once he was appointed secretary of energy, Perry said he didn’t realize the department did things like manage the nuclear arsenal. There may be less qualified people to run the Department of Energy, but it’s hard to think of them.

You can move around the government and find at the very top level people who were really ill-suited to the jobs, but the people who flooded into the second- and third-tier jobs — they were all just hacks on campaigns.

Here’s an example that chills my spine. The Department of Agriculture has a $3 billion a year research budget for the science that it funds — all mostly focused on how we are going to feed ourselves in the future, especially as the climate changes. In the past, this research has yielded gold, but that’s because it’s been in the hands of real scientists. Trump tried to install in that job a right-wing talk radio show host from Iowa who happened to back him and who had absolutely no understanding of the science of agriculture or anything like it…

Trump has created a bizarre absence of information channels from people who know things to the Oval Office. Just look at the coronavirus. People were trying to tell him this was a problem in early January. And on the rare occasions anybody who knows something gets through to him, he doesn’t want to hear it. That’s his temperament. He doesn’t want you to give him the bad news. And if you give him the bad news, you’re fired.

That’s exactly the opposite of the temperament you want in somebody who’s managing risk. People are already reluctant to give you bad news or bad information or tell you about risky situations because it’s an inherently unpleasant thing to do. If you disincentivize them even further, you’re just not going to find out what you need to know…

Roge Karma

Let’s talk about the coronavirus then. I think this pandemic has really brought your book’s thesis to life. So if you had to write another chapter of The Fifth Risk about coronavirus, what would it be about?

Michael Lewis

What I would do next is study the way society is now compensating for the ineptitude and malign character of its leader. It really does remind me of a dysfunctional family with a psychotic, alcoholic dad, where everybody’s trying to cover for dad.

The pandemic has taken this to an extreme. My mayor, the mayor of San Francisco, has to take extraordinary action all by herself because the president doesn’t know what he’s doing. And we’re all gonna be much better for it. A lot of people are gonna be alive because of it. But it was an example of local officials taking charge of something that they really shouldn’t have had to take charge of.

If you need some pandemic reading, you could do a lot worse than the Fifth Risk.  It’s not Moneyball, but I don’t think Michael Lewis is even capable of not being an engaging writer.  And, since I’ve got two copies on my shelf, I’ll happily send you one (presuming I know you or we’re regular correspondents– don’t know about postage to Finland, though) via media mail if you hit me up with an email

Leave the damn parks open!

What a metaphorical breath of fresh air Zeynep Tufekci (who had a great op-ed on masks pretty recently) on the importance of keeping parks open.  I keep waiting for an actual epidemiologist to say it (Tufekci is a social scientist), but the balance of evidence is so clear that your risks of disease transmission are so much lower outside than inside.  Throw in a proper 6-foot distance and you are in good shape.  Sure, its theoretically possible.  And sure, somebody near you may have a coughing and/or sneezing fit just as they walk by you in the park, but these are going to be very rare events.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Cary, NC public parks the last month and you will have to work hard to convince me that I was not safe in doing so.  In all my time, I have yet to come across another person/family group who was not clearly respectful of social distancing.  And, sure, there may occasions when public places are just too crowded (e.g., DC made the right call in closing down the Tidal Basin which was packed with cherry blossom viewers).  Okay, shut them down.  But closing non-overlycrowded public spaces as a preventative is truly counterproductive.  The default should be that public spaces are open unless there clearly is a problem (or clearly will be) with human density such that proper social distancing is not possible.  I imagine this means certain parks or certain parts of parks may need to be closed.  But save the closing for the dense spaces. It was kind of amazing to see all the people bashing this on twitter (just stay inside damnit!) with claims that people were just too dumb to social distance.  Well, in my little bubble of Cary, NC, we’re clearly not and I suspect we’re not particularly unique.  And, again, where people really cannot properly distance, okay, that’s what the closures are for.

Anyway, Tufekci:

In the short run, closing parks may seem prudent, when our hospitals are overrun and we are trying so hard to curb the spread of COVID-19. But in the medium to long run, it will turn out to be a mistake that backfires at every level. While it’s imperative that people comply with social-distancing and other guidelines to fight this pandemic, shutting down all parks and trails is unsustainable, counterproductive, and even harmful…

Exercise, the outdoors, and sunshine are essential, not just as luxuries but as ways to sustain population health and resilience. [emphases mine] That makes it important to set the right policies now. Once parks are closed, opening them back up will be harder. Authorities may dig in their heels and the issue may become more polarizing. Instead, we should start with sensible and viable policies as early as possible.

The outdoors, exercise, sunshine, and fresh air are all good for people’s immune systems and health, and not so great for viruses. There is a compelling link between exercise and a strong immune system. A lack of vitamin D, which our bodies synthesize when our skin is exposed to the sun, has long been associated with increased susceptibility to respiratory diseases. The outdoors and sunshine are such strong factors in fighting viral infections that a 2009 study of the extraordinary success of outdoor hospitals during the 1918 influenza epidemic suggested that during the next pandemic (I guess this one!) we should encourage “the public to spend as much time outdoors as possible,” as a public-health measure…

Unlike poorly ventilated apartment buildings that are often very conducive to spreading infections, sunlight and natural ventilation outdoors help decrease the threat of infection. This doesn’t mean that you can bake in the sun and consider yourself sterilized, or that you should ignore social-distancing rules outside. And plain sunlight shouldn’t be confused with medical sterilization methods such as UV-C light boxes. However, there’s a good reason sunshine was used as a form of treatment and disinfectant before we had more advanced methods. From many lab and other studies, we know that “ultraviolet radiation inactivates influenza virus and other viral pathogens and that sunlight kills bacteria.” While we should not allow any park to turn into a concert-like situation, with people standing shoulder to shoulder and no space between groups, there’s no reason to panic if a few thousand people are sunning themselves in a park the size of Brockwell, which is 125 acres and can easily accommodate many thousands with sufficient distance among them…

When the efforts to “flatten the curve” start working and the number of known infections starts going down, authorities will need to be taken seriously. Things will look better but be far, far from over. If completely kept indoors with no outlet for a long time, the public may be tempted to start fully ignoring the distancing rules at the first sign of lower infection rates, like an extreme dieter who binges at a lavish open buffet. Just like healthy diets, the best pandemic interventions are sustainable, logical, and scientifically justified. If pandemic theater gets mixed up with scientifically sound practices, we will not be able to persuade people to continue with the latter.

Like so much in life, people just want stark choices and reject nuance.  The pretty clear answer is “leave most of the parks open most of the time and adjust according by usage patterns and where other evidence suggests it is wise.”  So, go to the park!  (Unless the situation warrants otherwise).

[Postscript: after I wrote this but before it went live, I learned that Paris is banning all outdoor exercise between 10am-7pm.  That sounds like foolish overkill to me (and I expect you’ll see more crowded streets between 7am-10am, but maybe it really is that bad there).]

 

It’s not all Trump’s fault

No, not all.  But far too damn much of it is.  As super-well documented, America lost precious time to actually gear up and tackle this crisis while Trump was in the most extreme wishful-thinking/denial.  And, once he even admitted the problem he has no clue how to actually manage it (Jared Kushner?!).  Frum lets loose:

That the pandemic occurred is not Trump’s fault. The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. That states are bidding against other states for equipment, paying many multiples of the precrisis price for ventilators, is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours in dense airport crowds alongside infected people? That was Trump’s fault too. Ten weeks of insisting that the coronavirus is a harmless flu that would miraculously go away on its own? Trump’s fault again. The refusal of red-state governors to act promptly, the failure to close Florida and Gulf Coast beaches until late March? That fault is more widely shared, but again, responsibility rests with Trump: He could have stopped it, and he did not.

The lying about the coronavirus by hosts on Fox News and conservative talk radio is Trump’s fault: They did it to protect him. The false hope of instant cures and nonexistent vaccines is Trump’s fault, because he told those lies to cover up his failure to act in time. The severity of the economic crisis is Trump’s fault; things would have been less bad if he had acted faster instead of sending out his chief economic adviser and his son Eric to assure Americans that the first stock-market dips were buying opportunities. The firing of a Navy captain for speaking truthfully about the virus’s threat to his crew? Trump’s fault. The fact that so many key government jobs were either empty or filled by mediocrities? Trump’s fault. The insertion of Trump’s arrogant and incompetent son-in-law as commander in chief of the national medical supply chain? Trump’s fault.

For three years, Trump has blathered and bluffed and bullied his way through an office for which he is utterly inadequate. But sooner or later, every president must face a supreme test, a test that cannot be evaded by blather and bluff and bullying. That test has overwhelmed Trump.

Trump failed. He is failing. He will continue to fail. And Americans are paying for his failures.

Wisconsin abomination

OMG what has happened in Wisconsin is just an utter abomination.  This is truly, truly how democracies die.  A Republican legislative majority, entrenched by an extreme gerrymander (quick digression “Democrats also won roughly 53 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly seats — securing 1,306,878 votes to 1,103,505…Republicans retained roughly the same overwhelming majority — 63 seats to 36 — that they have held since they redrew the maps in 2011) has insisted on holding an in-person election at a super-clear threat to the public health and a gigantic threat to Wisonsin citizens’ right to vote.  And, then, 5 Republican Supreme Court justices (and, yes, it is absolutely appropriate to describe the justices by their partisanship in this case) upheld on such pathetic and flimsy reasoning most any 1L student could surely shoot it down.  

As law professor Leah Littman writes, this is, indeed, “a terrible sign for November”

It’s obvious how voting in public amid a pandemic is not compatible with safety. The federal government’s health experts have recommended that people stay home and keep their distance from one another. Voters would have to disregard that lifesaving guidance in order to cast their vote. That is why experts and advocates have strongly recommended that the United States move to a system of voting by mail for the upcoming general election. Doing so would ensure that people can exercise their franchise and that America remains a representative democracy without threatening millions of lives…

The Court did little to explain its decision. It first maintained that the residents never requested the extension (though the dissent referenced a portion of the case transcript in which they did). The Court then cited a prior decision, Purcell v. Gonzalez, that reasoned that courts should be reticent to disturb election procedures close to the date of an election. But that principle is based on the idea that elections should not be riddled with last-minute chaos. It is hardly applicable to the circumstances that the country is facing now—namely, an election that is already riddled with the sweeping, last-minute chaos resulting from the coronavirus. [bold is mine]

Who will benefit from the Court’s decision and who will be hurt—and possibly killed—by it is entirely predictable. The Court’s decision will depress voter turnout in the all-important judicial elections. The president recently said out loud what Republican voting strategists have long seemed to believe: Lower voter turnout benefits Republicans. With higher levels of voting, as Trump put it, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” …

The Court’s decision is an ominous harbinger for what the Court might allow in November in the general election. Imagine, for example, that states do not allow absentee voting or voting by mail even though the coronavirus remains a serious threat to public health. Imagine also that the president, continuing to minimize the threat posed by the virus, tells his supporters that they should go out and vote anyway. Monday’s decision suggests that the Supreme Court wouldn’t care.

The Court’s indifference to Wisconsin voters is brazenly ironic. Before it issued the Wisconsin order, the Court indefinitely postponed all of the cases that were originally scheduled to be heard in March or April of this year, including a major argument over whether the House of Representatives can subpoena the president’s financial records. In the order explaining its decision to delay the hearings, the Court cited the historic and unprecedented nature of the coronavirus and the threat it poses. But while the Court is more than happy to make accommodations for the sake of the health of its own justices and members of the Supreme Court bar, it refuses to do the same for voters who are merely trying to participate in democracy.

Scott Lemieux:

Say what you will about “some lives matter, and some don’t,” it’s an ethos. And if the Court is willing to do this just to help their party be insulated from democratic elections in one state, imagine what they’ll be willing to do in presidential and Senate elections where their ability to maintain control of the Court itself is at stake…

Meanwhile, since we could all use some comic relief, here are some thoughts on the matter from Illya “The Senate Should Refuse to Confirm All of Hillary Clinton’s Judicial Nominees” Shapiro:

“It’s unfortunate that both the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Court rulings broke down the way they did, because it lends credence to the perception that law is increasingly no different than politics,” said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the Cato Institute, the libertarian group. “But the decisions weren’t partisan.”

“Yes, what an unfortunate coincidence that all of these voting rights decisions that favor Republicans break strictly along partisan lines, leading to the impression that they are partisan, which they totally are not even they don’t even make a pretense of being constitutional law. Pull my finger.” This is the kind of “intellectual” environment in which Richard Epstein can look like a thought leader.

Drum:

It’s worth noting that this was not an easy case. In normal circumstances, it might have been correct to overturn the district court decision. But these aren’t normal circumstances, and what’s disturbing about the majority ruling from the Supreme Court’s Republicans is that it barely even mentions those circumstances. It says instead that the case hinges on a “narrow, technical” question about the absentee ballot process. At the very end of the opinion, here is the sole reference to the COVID-19 pandemic:

The Court’s decision on the narrow question before the Court should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold the election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID–19 are appropriate. That point cannot be stressed enough.

That’s it. In the main body of the opinion, you would never learn that a deadly pandemic even existed, let alone that it was the driving motivation of the district court’s decision.

This is cowardly. If you want to make a case that the law is the law and it needs to be followed even in the middle of a destructive plague, then go ahead. But at the very least, you need to have the integrity to make the case. You need to be willing to say forthrightly that legal technicalities need to be followed even if they will either (a) deprive thousands of people of their votes or (b) drive them to the polls, where they run the risk of contracting a deadly disease. If you can’t quite find the words to say that out loud, then you need to rethink your reasoning…

The Supreme Court decision, by contrast, avoids the facts on the ground entirely. If this were nothing more than a snowstorm or a transit strike, maybe that would be OK. But when it’s the deadliest pandemic in over a hundred years? That’s a little different.

Don’t think this is how democracies die?  Read up.

On the bright side.  I’m not sure enough national Democratic leaders fully appreciated the lengths that Republicans were willing to go to in order to steal elections. And have it endorsed by the Supreme Court.  I think maybe they are now.  And Republicans, fearing a shrinking economy leading to electoral doom in November are going to be the ones really wanting more relief bills.  And Democrats absolutely, positively, have to insist that the laws are in place to avoid travesties like this in November.  

Quick hits (part II)

Yeah, this is out late today.  But you weren’t going anywhere were you :-).

1) Eric Levitz on the pandemic and progressivism:

As the UC Irvine legal scholar Mehrsa Baradaran writes for The American Prospect, the coronavirus has conspicuously affirmed some of the progressive movement’s core premises: among them that “our actions affect other people even when we aren’t aware,” that the imperatives of economic growth can conflict with the general welfare, and that we are perfectly capable of rapidly reordering society to subordinate GDP growth to human needs.

Baradaran’s litany is worthy of expansion and elaboration. Coronavirus has provided an object lesson in humanity’s interdependence, which is to say, in the ways that the deprivation of some threatens the well-being of all. When one nation lacks the public-health infrastructure necessary to contain an infectious disease, the public health of all nations are undermined. If millions of Americans cannot afford to stay home from work or access medical care when they are ill, the well-being of all Americans is jeopardized. COVID-19 has rendered these realities sufficiently undeniable for conservative Republican congressmen to endorse socializing the costs of coronavirus testing and treatment and for the president to sign his name to (grossly inadequate) paid-leave legislation. 

Meanwhile, as a historic recession threatens to throw nearly 50 million Americans out of work, the prospect of mass un-insurance in the middle of a pandemic has thrown a spotlight onto the perversity of our nation’s employer-based health-care system. The deepening economic crisis has also exposed the inescapably political foundations of the market economy. For decades, the right has reconciled the public to gross inequality and wrenching economic dislocation by framing impartial market forces for the crimes of reactionary policy-makers. But it is hard to maintain the fiction of an apolitical economic sphere when the “invisible hand” is so clearly attached to Jerome Powell’s forearm. It is rare for an improbable misfortune to propel an entire economy to the verge of financial ruin. But it is quite common for such tribulations to ruin individual workers and business owners. The coronavirus crisis provides a vivid reminder that the state is perfectly capable of sheltering its constituents from the market’s mercilessness; the question has only ever been whose risks it wishes to socialize.

Finally, the pandemic has raised awareness of the profound social value that grocery-store clerks, warehouse workers, and deliver drivers create — and the failure of markets, as currently structured, to adequately compensate such labor. This development has not merely earned service-sector workers a former president’s public tribute but also facilitated their efforts to organize and assert power over their employers.

2) More good stuff on the political science of Trump approval:

The mechanism by which disaster leads to higher approval is subtler. It’s less about how voters react to the crisis itself, experts say, than about the signals they get from political leaders and the media. When disaster hits, or war is launched, the opposition party becomes a bit less oppositional, dialing back its criticism of the president and giving mainstream journalists fewer negative quotes to pass along to readers. That sends a powerful message.

“Most partisan signals in Washington are not very credible to anyone other than the partisans of the two parties,” said Tim Groeling, a UCLA professor who coauthored a book on the topic with Baum. Republicans aren’t going to change their mind about Trump because Nancy Pelosi criticizes him, and vice versa. “But, when you have a ‘rally’ event, something that causes those partisan patterns to break down, you can get significant effects. When a Democrat says something nice about Donald Trump—three months after an impeachment based on partisan lines—that is very credible information to voters.”

The Trump approval bump shows these dynamics in action. It hasn’t been driven by Republicans; they already supported the president so uniformly that they were nearly maxed out. Rather, the change is coming from Democrats and independents, who started from a lower baseline and who are more likely to take their cues from the media and Democratic Party leaders.

“It’s not that people aren’t criticizing Trump,” said Adam Berinsky, a political scientist at MIT who studies public opinion. “It’s that criticism, to the extent that it exists, is being minimized relative to a typical week of the Trump presidency.” In Congress, Democratic leaders actually worked with the Trump administration and the GOP to pass a historic, $2 trillion economic recovery package. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has shied away from a full-throated attack on Trump’s handling of the crisis. And at the state level, Democratic governors like Andrew CuomoJay Inslee, and Gavin Newsom have offered at least tepid praise for the federal response. Meanwhile, TV networks have been broadcasting Trump’s daily briefings live, giving the president an opportunity to appear serious and pushing the media to cover what he and his team are saying, rather than what the government has actually accomplished. “These blips in Trump’s approval have been independents and Democrats giving him another chance because of those credible messages,” said Groeling…

“A lot of these rally effects don’t often translate into good electoral fortune for a president,” said Stephen Ansolabehere, a political scientist at Harvard. “The economy will be the bigger thing, and the great case of that was the first Gulf War.” George H. W. Bush’s approval shot up dramatically when the United States launched Operation Desert Storm, and soared even higher, above 90 percent, after the conflict’s successful resolution. But a tanking economy proved more significant, pulling Bush’s approval down into the 40s for most of his reelection year and paving the way for Bill Clinton’s victory.

3) Was pretty intrigued to learn about the potential importance of “viral dose.”

The importance of viral dose is being overlooked in discussions of the coronavirus. As with any other poison, viruses are usually more dangerous in larger amounts. Small initial exposures tend to lead to mild or asymptomatic infections, while larger doses can be lethal.

From a policy perspective, we need to consider that not all exposures to the coronavirus may be the same. Stepping into an office building that once had someone with the coronavirus in it is not as dangerous as sitting next to that infected person for an hourlong train commute.

This may seem obvious, but many people are not making this distinction. We need to focus more on preventing high-dose infection.

Both small and large amounts of virus can replicate within our cells and cause severe disease in vulnerable individuals such as the immunocompromised. In healthy people, however, immune systems respond as soon as they sense a virus growing inside. Recovery depends on which wins the race: viral spread or immune activation.

Virus experts know that viral dose affects illness severity. In the lab, mice receiving a low dose of virus clear it and recover, while the same virus at a higher dose kills them. Dose sensitivity has been observed for every common acute viral infection that has been studied in lab animals, including coronaviruses…

Despite the evidence for the importance of viral dose, many of the epidemiological models being used to inform policy during this pandemic ignore it. This is a mistake.

People should take particular care against high-dose exposures, which are most likely to occur in close in-person interactions — such as coffee meetings, crowded bars and quiet time in a room with Grandma — and from touching our faces after getting substantial amounts of virus on our hands. In-person interactions are more dangerous in enclosed spaces and at short distances, with dose escalating with exposure time. For transient interactions that violate the rule of maintaining six feet between you and others, such as paying a cashier at the grocery store, keep them brief — aim for “within six feet, only six seconds.”

Because dose matters, medical personnel face an extreme risk, since they deal with the sickest, highest-viral-load patients. We must prioritize protective gear for them.

4) And a possible genetic factors on why people respond do differently:

There may also be a genetic influence.

“One of the things that we’ve learned from human genetics is that there are extremes at the human phenotype distribution, and pathogen susceptibility is no different,” Stanford geneticist Carlos Bustamante told the journal Science. Stanford is part of a “COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative,” a Finnish effort to link genetic variants associated with COVID-19 susceptibility and severity.

“There are going to be people who are particularly susceptible, and there are going to be those who are particularly resistant,” he said.

Biologically, what’s going on?

One leading theory is focused on the “doors” of a cell that permit the virus to enter. We know that the virus enters the body through epithelial cells in the respiratory tract. To get inside the cell, the virus uses a “door” — a receptor called ACE-2 (angiotensin converting enzyme 2) — on the cell’s surface.

Individual variations in this receptor could make it harder or easier for the virus to enter, cause infection and burrow deep into the lungs. In some of us, the cell “door” may open easily; in others, it may stay closed.

Or perhaps some people simply have more of these receptors on their cells. With more “doors,” the virus may enter more readily, so patients suffer worse infection and more serious disease, said Schwartz.

5) Good God the Kennedy family has so much tragedy.  Mom and 8 year old son head out into Chesapeake Bay in a canoe to chase after a lost ball.  Dead.

6) Everywhere you look, the federal government has screwed up, “Federal government spent millions to ramp up mask readiness, but that isn’t helping now.”  And sure, it cannot all be laid upon Trump, even a Clinton/Obama administration would have missed on some of this stuff.  But, really they have gotten everything wrong.

In September 2018, the Trump administration received detailed plans for a new machine designed to churn out millions of protective respirator masks at high speed during a pandemic.

The plans, submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by medical manufacturer O&M Halyard, were the culmination of a venture unveiled almost three years earlier by the Obama administration.

But HHS did not proceed with making the machine.

The project was one of two N95 mask ventures — totaling $9.8 million — that the federal government embarked on over the past five years to better prepare for pandemics.

The other involves the development of reusable masks to replace the single-use variety currently so scarce that medical professionals are using theirs over and over. Expert panels have advised the government for at least 14 years that reusable masks were vital.

7) Republicans saying the quiet part out loud about mail voting and easier absentee voting: “Georgia GOP Leader: More Absentee Voting Will Help Turnout, Be ‘Devastating To Republicans’ “The president said it best ― this will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia,” said state House Speaker David Ralston.”

8) Easily the best thing I’ve read on the run on toilet paper.  Think about all the toilet paper not being used in office buildings, universities, etc., while we are now using way more toilet paper at home.  And that office toilet paper is definitely not Charmin, so this is not an easy transition.

9) Of course, we got ventilators wrong, too:

It was 2010 and Newport Medical Instruments, a small medical device company in Costa Mesa, California, was excited. They had just signed a federal contract to design and build up to 40,000 mobile ventilators, which would be placed into the national stockpile in the interest of pandemic preparedness. After SARS and bird flu and swine flu, the government needed to steel itself should a deadly infectious disease go viral.

Newport agreed to deliver the devices at a low-cost, not only to maximize federal purchases but also to build a reputation that could increase sales to other countries and the private sector. The company sent prototypes within a year, and was on track for market approval by 2013.

But before that could happen, Covidien, a larger firm, announced a bid to purchase Newport for $108 million in March 2012. The Federal Trade Commission didn’t even give it a second look; the deal closed in May. And Covidien sold its own ventilators. They weren’t interested in developing a new model that could cut into its existing profits. Covidien immediately asked for more money from the government, and by 2014 they called off the deal because “it was not sufficiently profitable for the company.” The government started over, found another little company to make the ventilators, and they were just about to start delivering them—in mid-2020, too late to assist the immediate COVID-19 crisis.

Amazingly, this maneuver, where a large company buys out an upstart making an innovative product that could outcompete their tried-and-true model, is relatively common. In a 2018 paper called Killer Acquisitions, researchers at Yale and the London Business School found an average of 45 instances per year of pharmaceutical firms buying out competitors developing rival drugs that could cut into their profits, and subsequently putting the new therapeutic on ice. Last October, Roche purchased a small firm called Spark Therapeutics, which was successfully testing a one-time hemophilia A treatment. Roche’s hemophilia drug Hemlibra requires a dosage every four weeks, so they had plenty of incentive to put the one-time drug, or in other words the cure, on the shelf.

10) This Adam Serwer piece on what the present situation reveals about the differences between the parties is a real must read.  A great look at how the parties responded to crises under Democratic and Republican presidents.  The short version is that Democrats did what was needed for the good of the country under both circumstances.  Republicans– not so much.  Really– you are inside social distancing anyway– read it.  “We Can Finally See the Real Source of Washington Gridlock: America’s political dysfunction is rooted not in ideological polarization, but in the Republican Party’s conviction that it alone should be allowed to govern.”

McConnell, who had demanded to know “how we’re going to pay for” the $831 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, enthusiastically supported the $2 trillion CARES Act. Graham, who had complained that $800 billion was far too much spending in 2009, said last month’s bill would “help save the country.” Grassley bragged about having “beefed up” funding for small businesses and unemployment insurance. Alexander declared, “We are here not as Democrats and Republicans, but we are here to work together to do whatever we can to address COVID-19.” The soaring spirit of civic responsibility that was altogether absent during the Great Recession suddenly reasserted itself, even as the overriding concern about excess government spending disappeared.

The distinction between 2009 and 2020 cannot be explained by the fact that this economic slowdown was a necessary part of combatting the coronavirus. Although those affected today are hurting through no fault of their own, the same was true of millions of Americans in the Great Recession. For that matter, most Republicans—including McConnell, Graham, Grassley, and Alexander—had voted for the 2008 bank bailout prior to voting against the stimulus. In other words, they voted to help those most responsible for the Great Recession, then voted to stiff those Americans whose lives and livelihoods had been destroyed by the bankers’ greed and regulators’ ineptitude, and who would suffer through a sluggish recovery as a result...

The complete Republican reversal on the need for the federal government to address an economic crisis is not merely hypocrisy, although it is also that. Ideological divides between the left and right did not evaporate during the negotiations—in fact, they fell along familiar lines. Democrats wanted more generous provisions for unemployment insurance and aid to families, and Republicans wanted more money for big business and fewer strings attached to it. But those differences did not prevent Congress from legislating. Washington gridlock does not stem from ideological differences about the size or role of government, although those conflicts inevitably shape legislation. It stems from the ideological conviction, held by much of the Republican Party, that the Democratic Party is inherently illegitimate and has no right to govern. [emphasis mine]

11) And while we’re at it, OMG is the Wisconsin GOP just the absolute apotheosis of this.  Their behavior is exactly how democracies die.

Wisconsin Republicans have spent a decade eroding democracy in their state, entrenching their power against shifts in the popular will. With the help of former governor Scott Walker (R), GOP state lawmakers rammed through one of the most extreme gerrymanders the country has ever seen, assuring them a lock on the legislature. They imposed stringent voter ID laws intended to suppress Democratic votes. And when Tony Evers (D) won the governorship in 2018, the legislature voted to strip him of the power to, among other things, alter government benefit programs, before he could take the oath of office. Conservative judges largely blessed these power grabs.

Now Wisconsin Republicans are testing whether taking a hard line on voting rules during the coronavirus crisis might give them an even more pronounced — and even less legitimate — electoral advantage. The state is set to hold its primary on Tuesday, and Republicans have filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court, asking the justices to shorten the deadline voters have to submit their absentee ballots. This is just one example of Wisconsin Republicans insisting on rules that make it difficult to vote during this public health emergency, using the crisis as cover to limit democratic participation.

If they successfully benefit from exploiting covid-19 this week, they will show Republicans everywhere that they can use the coronavirus for political gain. The credibility of November’s presidential vote is at stake.

Unlike other states that have moved their presidential primaries, Wisconsin has stuck to its April 7 Election Day. The election will decide not just who gets the state’s primary delegates but also the final makeup of the state Supreme Court and a variety of local offices. Among those on the ballot is an extremely conservative Supreme Court justice up for reelection.

This is the context in which the state GOP has rejected pleas to make it easier for those who do not want to show up to a crowded polling location to vote.

The governor asked the legislature to relax a requirement that mail-in voters upload their voter IDs, despite the fact that some may not have the technology or the know-how to do so and cannot go to the libraries shuttered by the pandemic for help. Republicans refused. Evers asked lawmakers to extend the deadline for people to return absentee ballots, as a surge in requests overwhelmed state workers. State GOP leaders said no. He requested that every registered voter simply be sent an absentee ballot. No, again.

On Saturday, the governor forced the legislature to convene a special session to consider canceling in-person voting and giving Wisconsinites until late May to return mail-in ballots. GOP lawmakers met but did nothing.

The courts have ordered only limited changes. U.S. District Judge William M. Conley on Thursday moved the ballot deadline, allowing ballots that arrive by April 13 to be counted. And he eased a requirement that all mail-in ballots be signed by a witness — a nonsensical standard in the era of social distancing. State and national Republican officials appealed the ruling, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit stayed Conley’s adjustments to the witness signature rule. Republicans’ emergency Supreme Court petition asks the justices to roll back part of Conley’s deadline extension, too.

The result is that, barring some last-minute shift, many Wisconsans will have to choose between risking their health to vote in-person and not voting at all. But voting in-person is not much of an option. Thousands of polling workers have said they will not show up. Polling places across the state will be closed. If people can even find an open location, they will be jumbled with many others who would usually vote elsewhere, risking the spread of disease between communities who are otherwise sheltering apart.

12) Dan Drezner with a nice summary we see the worst of Trump’s toddler-like behavior with the current crisis.

Trump’s toddler traits have significantly hampered America’s response to the pandemic. They aren’t new, either. In the first three years of his term, I’ve collected 1,300 instances when a Trump staffer, subordinate or ally — in other words, someone with a rooting interest in the success of Trump’s presidency — nonetheless described him the way most of us might describe a petulant 2-year-old. Trump offers the greatest example of pervasive developmental delay in American political history…

Trump’s short, toddler-like attention span has been a problem throughout his administration. One former high-ranking government official told me that a 45-minute meeting with the president was really 45 different one-minute meetings, in which Trump would ask disconnected, rapid-fire questions such as “What do you think of NATO?” and “How big is an aircraft carrier?” One book reported that Trump would interrupt his first chief of staff to pepper him with questions about badgers. That inability to focus laid the groundwork for the bad pandemic response. During the transition, the Obama administration prepared a tabletop exercise to brief the incoming Trump team about how to handle an influenza pandemic. The president-elect did not participate, and a former senior official acknowledged that “to get the president to be focused on something like this would be quite hard.”

13) And Max Boot makes a good case that, yes, now we can fairly consider Trump to be the worst president ever.

14) I get that not everybody is always great at social distancing outdoors, but I still think people are over-reacting, like this column.  If you were going to get Covid just from momentarily walking or biking past some one at 3 feet instead of 6, Covid would be measles and have an R0 over 10, not the R0 of 2-3 that scientists estimate.

15) This was sobering, “What You Should Know Before You Need a Ventilator”

16) We can reuse N95 respirators 20 times effectively and safely with the equivalent of the lowest setting in your oven.  The shortages suck and were preventable, but nice to see this kind of innovation on the fly.

17) Annie Lowery, “The Economy Is Collapsing. So Are Trump’s Reelection Chances.”

As a general point, the economy matters for presidential campaigns—not to the extent that it is the only thing that matters, but it matters more than almost anything else. Research shows that voters seem to care about financial conditions more in the year of an election than in the prior years of a president’s term. And they seem to care more about the direction in which the economy’s headed than about its overall health.

The economy helps explain Jimmy Carter’s loss in 1980 and George H. W. Bush’s loss in 1992, as well as Barack Obama’s victory in 2012. The jobless rate was rising sharply during Carter’s and Bush’s reelection campaigns, with the ravages of stagflation and the fallout from an oil-price shock, respectively, souring voters on the incumbent presidents. Although Obama was presiding over a dismal economy when he fought Mitt Romney in his 2012 reelection bid, things were turning around.

This year’s projected headline numbers look dire for Trump, far worse than the numbers ever were for Carter, Bush, or Obama—far worse than they have looked for any postwar president. The jobless rate is anticipated to jump fivefold or tenfold in a matter of weeks, from its current rate of 3.5 percent. Growth is anticipated to tip down from a 2 or 3 percent annual rate to –18.3 percent, as Zandi estimates, if not lower. Household income is anticipated to collapse in unprecedented terms too. Taken by themselves, these statistics point to midnight in America, and a Reaganesque victory for the Democratic nominee.

“The historical parallels are obviously far from perfect, but voters have seemed pretty willing to punish incumbents for the economic impact of global depressions, droughts and floods, and all manner of conditions beyond any president’s control,” Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, wrote in an email. “The economic numbers in the next six months will probably look unlike any we’ve seen in the period covered by most statistical analyses of economic voting, so it would be rash to extrapolate the magnitudes of effects implied by those analyses, but even a muted effect will be far from moot.”

Trump, however, may not fit the usual pattern. Whatever the country has pitched into is not a normal crisis or recession. And the American electorate is behaving differently from how it has behaved in the past…

Still, in lay terms, bad things are bad. Reelection campaigns become more challenging during downturns. Negative headlines, about deaths and ventilators and ruined businesses and doctors wearing homemade protective gear and historical spikes in jobless claims and ineffectual federal aid, dim voter perceptions of the country’s leadership. The rally-’round-the-flag effect tends to be short-lived, often lasting just a few weeks or months. Nothing might persuade Trump’s strongest supporters to abandon him. But the death, destruction, and economic collapse this election year—millions of Americans will inevitably judge Trump for that.

18) This is really good and a sad testament to wear Republican’s reflexive anti-government/strangle it in a bathtub philosophy has gotten us.  “How Tea Party Budget Battles Left the National Emergency Medical Stockpile Unprepared for Coronavirus

19) And the one article everybody on lefty twitter seems to agree is the absolute must-read of the last few days– deeply-reported Washington Post story, “The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged: From the Oval Office to the CDC, political and institutional failures cascaded through the system and opportunities to mitigate the pandemic were lost.”

Quick hits

Ummmm, so, if you are not interested in Covid-19 and the political responses, this post just may not be for you.

1) Pretty much every “how we get back to some semblance of normal” relies on very extensive testing.  Alas, this Op-Ed by a respected infectious disease expert throws sand in the gears by saying we’re simply not going to have the amount of necessary reagents to pull that off.  Yet none of the other stuff I read seems to acknowledge this problem.  Don’t know what to think.

2) So, this article on Covid and food safety, by a chef, is honestly pretty much the best thing I’ve read on the disease, period.  Covers food safety wonderfully, but so much more.

3) Wired, “It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work”

4) And this is one of the best articles I’ve read on disease transmission because it looks at studies of how diseases survive out there in the real world, not the lab.

5) Really loved this from Francis Fukuyama on how democracies versus autocracies and trust in the system and response to pandemic.

In the end, I don’t believe that we will be able to reach broad conclusions about whether dictatorships or democracies are better able to survive a pandemic. Democracies such as South Korea and Germany have been relatively successful so far in dealing with the crisis, even if the U.S. is doing less well. What matters in the end is not regime type, but whether citizens trust their leaders, and whether those leaders preside over a competent and effective state. And on this score, America’s deepening tribalism leaves few reasons for optimism.

6) Enough with his “narrow path.”  Bernie still campaigning is not what America needs right now.  Time to face reality, end his campaign, and focus all his energy on helping the fight to get Trump out of office.

7) Meanwhile, the EU and NATO both absolutely, positively need to kick Hungary out.  And, of course, it is absolutely shameful, not surprisingly, that there’s been no condemnation from the Trump administration (surely, Trump is jealous of Orban).

8) I’ve made a few really good investments this year.  A new router, a mesh network extender for said router, and a soundbar for my TV.  And damn I should have done that sooner.

9) Great Wired article on the tremendous progress of Solar power.  We can do this!

GOOD NEWS HAS been rare this past decade, so here’s some: Since 2010, the cost of generating solar electric power has dropped by 80 percent, and gigantic photovoltaic plants, some spanning thousands of acres, are transforming the economics of green energy. “Even from five years ago, it’s a really different story than today,” says Gregory Nemet, an academic who last year published a book called How Solar Energy Became Cheap. “This isn’t just cheap. It’s dirt cheap. In sunny places, it’s the cheapest way humans have ever invented to make electricity.”

If this cost collapse had occurred in a single year, it might have been hailed as the breakthrough of the century. But it happened gradually, and incremental improvements in crystalline silicon manufacturing don’t generate buzz. At the beginning of the 2010s, solar was a science project, accounting for less than 1 percent of the world’s installed power capacity. Now that number is 9 percent and growing fast. More than $1 trillion has been invested in new solar installations in that time. Solar power routinely wins competitive power auctions, with bids as low as 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. At that price, a solar plant isn’t just cheaper than a coal plant; it’s cheaper than coal itself. “We’re reaching a phase where it’s cheaper to build a new solar power plant than it is to operate an existing coal one,” says energy investor Ramez Naam.

10) Interactive charts so you can see how your country or state (pretty good, NC) are doing on their Covid curves.

11) I don’t know about only in America under Trump, but, damn if this isn’t just sadly, sadly typical, “Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a Pandemic. Instead, the Company Is Selling Versions of It Overseas.”

12) This Ed Yong piece about just how much scientific uncertainty there is on many aspects of Covid transmission is a must-must-read, “Everyone Thinks They’re Right About Masks: How the coronavirus travels through the air has become one of the most divisive debates in this pandemic.”

13) Meanwhile, largely due to the evidence for asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission, I’m very inclined to agree with this Op-Ed, “Wearing Masks Must Be a National Policy.”  Also, we need a rapid cultural shift to make that happen.  Scientists at Trump news conferences wearing masks.  PSA’s on proper mask use.  This cannot happen without the proper signals. .

14) Since they are all out, Vox on how to make your own.  And I loved this analysis on which materials make the best homemade masks not just for stopping germs, but for actually letting you breathe while you’re at it.  And Stanford’s mask material analysis if you are into this (obviously, I am).

15) Jamelle Bouie, “The Coronavirus Test Is Too Hard for Trump: The president joins Herbert Hoover and James Buchanan as a leader who failed when it mattered most.”

The list of presidential failures is long and varied. But when it comes to failure in the face of an external force — a natural disaster or an economic meltdown — it is difficult to find anything as catastrophic as President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, even at this early stage of the crisis.

There are moments that come close. There was President James Buchanan’s indifference to the secession crisis of 1860. Other than to give a speech — clarifying his view that secession was an extra-constitutional action — the outgoing president did little but watch as most of the South left the Union in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s election.

There was President Herbert Hoover’s response to the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression. He urged calm — “The fundamental business of the country, that is production and distribution of commodities is on a sound and prosperous basis” — encouraged volunteer action and pressured employers to keep wages up. But he wasn’t intellectually or politically equipped to go further — “We cannot legislate ourselves out of a world economic depression, we can and will work ourselves out” — and the country suffered as a result.

I would also include President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina and his handling of the subsequent crisis in New Orleans. His management of the situation — from his initial lack of interest to the abject failure of his disaster response team — produced devastation for thousands of people and marked the effective end of his presidency.

Trump hasn’t just failed to anticipate the way Buchanan did or failed to respond like Hoover or failed to prepare like Bush — he’s done all three. He inherited everything he needed to respond to a pandemic: explicit guidance from the previous administration and a team of experienced experts and intelligence agencies attuned to the threat posed by the quick spread of deadly disease. He even had some sensible advisers who, far from ignoring or making light of the virus, urged him to take it seriously.

The federal government may not have been able to stop coronavirus from reaching the United States — that was impossible to avoid in a globalized, highly-mobile world — but it was well equipped to deal with the problem once it reached our shores.

But as the world knows, Trump ignored, downplayed and dismissed the problem until it became one of the worst crises in our nation’s history.[emphasis mine]

16) Navy Seal convicted of war crimes?  Trump pardons.  Navy captain speaks up to get urgently needed medical care for his crew?  Relieved of command.  Just another day in Trump’s America.

On Monday, Capt. Brett Crozier, the commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, sent a letter to the Navy pleading for permission to unload his crew, including scores of sailors sickened with Covid-19, in Guam, where it was docked. The Pentagon had been dragging its feet, and the situation on the ship was growing dire.

“We are not at war,” he wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

After the letter was leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle, the Navy relented. But on Thursday, it relieved Captain Crozier of his command.

Captain Crozier joins a growing list of heroic men and women who have risked their careers over the last few weeks to speak out about life-threatening failures to treat the victims of this terrible pandemic. Many of them are doctors and nurses, and many of them, like Captain Crozier, have been punished. All of them deserve our deepest gratitude.

17) CAP with a Covid plan.  This sounds sensible and doable:

Using the Susceptible, Exposed, Infected and Resistant model developed by the University of Toronto, it is possible to project the impact of physical distancing on transmission. If restrictions are lifted on April 30, as proposed by President Trump, the model projects that 41.1 million Americans would become infected by late October, with 4.9 million infected at the peak in mid-July. An estimated 334,500 people would die. It is important to note that this projection assumes aggressive physical distancing—closure of businesses and transportation—which has not been implemented throughout the United States to date.

In order to break transmission through October—new cases would still occur, but at a flat rate—aggressive physical distancing would need to be in place for 45 days starting April 5, according to the model. In this scenario, the model projects that 15.7 million Americans would become infected by late October, with 5.2 million infected at the peak in mid-April. An estimated 139,600 people would die. After the peak in April, the number of new cases would decline and stabilize this summer. In October, transmission would begin to slowly grow again, absent other measures. According to the model, aggressive physical distancing for 60 days would almost completely suppress transmission through November.

18) Putting Jared Kushner in charge of Covid response is just an amazing case of adding insult to injury in Trump’s gross mishandling of everything Covid.  Instead of pouring salt in wounds, it’s like chopping off your leg and throwing it in a salt flat.  Michelle Goldberg:

According to Sherman, when New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist. “I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity,” Kushner reportedly said. “I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators.” (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo’s estimate.)

Even now, it’s hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing: “People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections which are not the realistic projections.”

Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures.

And Paul Waldman, “Trump’s ignorant son-in-law is running the coronavirus response. That’s unacceptable.”

So many awful things have happened over the past three years that we’ve become almost numb to them. But this a moment when our voices should be rising in anger. As if it weren’t bad enough that the president is messing this up so badly himself, he has outsourced management of one of the most deadly challenges the United States has ever faced to his ignorant son-in-law.

Perhaps there is an individual somewhere who is so brilliant, so deeply informed, so experienced, so persuasive, and possessed of such remarkable judgment that he or she would have been capable of solving all those problems Kushner has been assigned. Perhaps there is someone who with zero knowledge of public health or pandemics or government logistics could swoop in and successfully manage this kind of crisis.

It’s at least possible that such a person exists. But Kushner is not that person.

In fact, just like his father-in-law, Kushner is a walking case study in the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people of low ability drastically overestimate their own abilities, in large part because they are incapable of understanding what they don’t know.

Join that with a lifetime of unearned wealth and privilege (Kushner, a mediocre high school student, was accepted to Harvard after his father pledged to the university a well-timed $2.5 million donation), and you wind up with someone who is supremely and unjustifiably confident, moving through a world in which nobody ever tells them how badly they’ve messed up or how incompetent they are.

19) Nancy LeTourneau asks, “Is It Possible to Overstate Trump’s Depravity?”  Obviously, you know the answer to that.

It is infuriating to watch political reporters get sucked into the nonsense delivered by this president over and over again. But David Roberts recently described why that happens.

Ask someone who’s been in an abusive relationship with a malignant narcissist. One reason they’re able to maintain appearances/jobs/etc. is that they are relatively rare & unusual & the normal people around them simply can’t absorb that they are what they are…They try again and again, thinking there must be normal human intentions & emotions in there somewhere. It’s just remarkable how far someone w/out shame or conscience can get by exploiting this cognitive/emotional blindspot.

When Roberts writes about how we keep trying to see normal human intentions and emotions in someone who has never exhibited them before, it is because projection isn’t merely a matter of assuming that others are capable of our worst instincts. In general, we tend to project all of our responses onto others in an attempt to understand their actions. Since most of us aren’t malignant narcissists, it is difficult for us to grasp the levels of depravity exhibited by those who are. Normalizing Trump’s behavior is simply another form of projection.

Over the last three years I have consistently questioned whether I have gone overboard in assuming the worst about Donald Trump. But while it is never a good idea to lock oneself into any line of thinking, I doubt that it is possible to overstate this president’s depravity.

20) New Yorker’s Susan Glasser with a great take:

When you are done being angry about all the crazy, nasty, inconsistent, and untrue things that Donald Trump says each day about the coronavirus and other matters, remember that the flood of words is cover for an Administration that in some ways barely exists relative to its predecessors, especially when it comes to crucial areas of domestic, economic, and international security—or even straightforward crisis management. Turnover at the upper levels of Trump’s White House stands at eighty-three per cent, according to a Brookings Institution tracker. In his Cabinet, Trump has had far more turnover than Presidents Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and both George Bushes. The capacity of the federal government to respond to this catastrophe—even if Trump had been so inclined—has never been weaker. The virus was not of Trump’s making, but his government’s incoherent, disorganized response to it was utterly predictable.

On March 6th, Trump fired his acting White House chief of staff. Amid the extraordinary headlines of the world’s largest economy shutting down and the mass closure of U.S. schools and businesses, little attention was paid to the ouster of Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s appointment of a combative North Carolina congressman, the Republican Mark Meadows, as his successor. Even more remarkably, it was only this week, nearly a month later, that Meadows officially resigned from Congress and started in the White House, which he was required to do in order to avoid the constitutional prohibition on serving simultaneously in the executive and legislative branches. Trump, facing the gravest test a President can face, was literally without anyone to run his perpetually dysfunctional and faction-ridden White House.

Meadows is just the sort of political opportunist and cable-TV talking head to have been pulled into the President’s gravitational orbit—a former small-time real-estate developer in North Carolina’s Highlands with none of the executive experience or leadership credentials needed in this sort of crisis…

This is the case across the government. Amid the pandemic upending the world, Trump has no Senate-confirmed director of National Intelligence, having pushed aside both the director and the subsequent acting director for perceived disloyalty. After the captain of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, sent a memo pleading for relief for the hundreds of sailors facing a spreading covid-19 outbreak on his ship, he was relieved of his command by the acting secretary of the Navy. The previous Navy secretary had been pushed out by Trump in November, after he objected when the President intervened in a war-crimes case involving a Navy seal and two other service members. Elsewhere at the Pentagon, the undersecretary in charge of policy planning for the military was recently fired, with no replacement in sight—a key vacancy at a moment when the global health crisis seems to suggest an urgent rethinking of America’s entire national-security strategy.

As far as the White House staff, much has already been made of Trump’s downgrading of the pandemic-response team at the National Security Council. But even where positions are filled, as in many of the top government jobs related to health, the problem is not so much endemic vacancy but “feebleness, cluelessness, disempowerment,” as Stephen Morrison, the head of global health programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, put it to me.

If you had literally created a plan to hollow out government so that it would fail us in a crisis, you could hardly have done much better than Trump.  And thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans will die and suffer in many, many other ways because Americans elected this grossly incompetent, malignant narcissist.  And because the Republican party failed to stand up to him and remove him for the obvious good of the country when they had the chance.  

Okay, on that happy note…

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