Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Just Some More Gibberish on Covid

Or one would think so, given people resist wearing a mask, social distancing and they want to party like its 1999. Song written in 1982  .  .  .   “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. I only want you to have some fun,” Covid.

Melissa Jeltsen, Huffpost; “The U.S. has entered an ominous new surge of the  coronavirus  pandemic, with   more cases reported on Friday (10/23/20) than any other day since the crisis began in March. And yet, in many areas of the country where infections are spiking, wearing a mask in public is still completely optional.”

Speaking of which, optional mask wearing and distancing? Even if there was no Covid, I would not want someone close to me. Here in Michigan, we have a special type of intellect where people quote numbers and they really do not know how they compare to others. One particular person cited the raw numbers for North and South Dakota and claimed it was not necessary to wear masks or socially distance there. He claimed it was proof enough for the bars and restaurants to go back to normal. Looking at the raw numbers does not give you a state by state comparison unless you convert to “numbers per million,” etc. When we look at the numbers in such a manner and extrapolate the raw numbers to numbers of people per million, we discover North and South Dakota are 1 (50,181) and 2 (44,922) in ranking for contracting Covid. More congested Michigan is number 41 (17,991) in contraction and again we are on a roll right now. State Repubs do not believe masking and distancing should be mandatory or at least when demanded by a female Dem Governor in Michigan. The Michigan Senate has been controlled by Repubs since 1990 and the House 80% of the time since 1992.

“Of the 10 states with the highest rates of new coronavirus cases per capita according to a White House Coronavirus Task Force report this month, seven do not require residents to wear masks. Seven of 10 reside in the South and the other three are South and North Dakota and Wisconsin. Illinois is the only non-western or southern state in the next 10 states.

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Coronavirus dashboard for October 20: some good news among the gloom

Coronavirus dashboard for October 20: some good news among the gloom


Total US confirmed infections: 8,273,296*

Average US infections last 7 days: 59,527 (vs. recent low of 34,354 on Sept 12)

Total US deaths: 221,052

Average US deaths last 7 days: 738 (vs. recent low of 689 4 days ago)

*I suspect the real number is 14-15,000,000, or over 4% of the total US population
Source: COVID Tracking Project

As we head into the cold weather, experts are warning that, as bad as the pandemic has been up until now, it is likely to be far worse over the next few months.

We’ll look at the bad news. But first, let’s look at some good news: 60,000,000 Americans live in two large States that have largely contained the pandemic – California and New York.

My benchmark, as usual is adjoining Canada, which most recently has averaged 6.34 infections per 100,000 people daily:

Canada’s most recent death rate has averaged 0.0534 per 100,000 over the past week (or roughly 1 death daily for every 2,000,000 people):

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Two noteworthy tweets

Two noteworthy tweets

It’s a slow economic news week. Housing starts and permits are reported tomorrow, and jobless claims and existing home sales on Thursday. I’ll update the Coronavirus Dashboard Wednesday.  So for today, two nuggets.

1. Nate Silver discovers behavioral psychology:

This has been my paradigm for months. Panic breeds compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing. Complacency breeds risk-taking. Over time both trends wane, breeding the conditions necessary for the opposite outcome. Not only has this been true in almost all US States, but we have now seen the same dynamic play out in Europe.

Nice to see that Nate Silver is learning about learning.
2. What is the solution to the Supreme Court?

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Eating More Chocolate: A Cure for Pandemic Fatigue?

Just doing the local rounds and reading. One of three writers over at Naked Capitalism had this up on a small way escape the boredom of Covid.  It is more than just a promotion about chocolate and it does make you smile. When I was working in Riethim-Weilheim area of Germany near Tuttligen, on the weekend I would drive into Switzerland to a  Chocolatier in Schaffhausen and buy a nice box of chocolates to share with my German associates and then wander over to  Konstanz to explore along the lake.  Good stuff and it made friends. A little bit about the writer: Jerri-Lynn Scofield has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

I just finished compiling today’s Links and they are particularly dire. COVID-19 is not going away. There is no vaccine or cure in sight. Even some places that had seemed to control spread of the disease – much of Europe – are imposing more draconian restrictions, in response to an uptick in cases. The only positive thing I can think of to say is the virus does not seem to have evolved into a more virulent form and that treatment is getting better. Small comfort.

According to today’s New York Times, As the Coronavirus Surges, a New Culprit Emerges: Pandemic Fatigue:

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Christie, never forget

Chris Christie:

“I believed when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that I and many others underwent every day,” Mr. Christie said in the statement. “I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team.”

So, what should we make of this?  Is it a genuine change of heart after a brush with death, or a convenient time to scurry like a rat off a sinking ship?  And how could Christie believe that safe zone crap?  Did he wear a mask at the grocery store?

Regardless, anyone public figure who failed to oppose Trump should never be trusted or forgiven.  They betrayed us, they betrayed our country, they betrayed the immigrant children separated from their parents, the victims of covid, the people who depend on the ACA for health insurance, black, brown, gay, trans people, Jews and Muslims . . .  It was a choice.

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Coronavirus dashboard for October 14: winter is coming

Coronavirus dashboard for October 14: winter is coming

Total US confirmed cases: 7,806,805*
Average cases last 7 days: 51,038
Total US deaths: 215,887

Average deaths last 7 days: 714*Actual cases probably more like 14 million, or over 4% of the US populationSource: COVID Tracking ProjectToday let’s take a look at the most recent upsurge in COVID not just in the US, but in the entire West.Here is the 7 day average of new cases per capita in the US, Canada, and the 5 most populous countries in Europe:

Every single country, even Germany, is experiencing an upsurge. France, Spain, and the UK are having an even worse outbreak than the US.


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Perhaps, Recall the Thalidomide Disaster, etc. while Searching for a Covid Vaccine

There is a big push by trump and Republicans to bring a Covid to market quickly.

Remember the Thalidomide Disaster, The Morning Call, May 12, 2020


In the rush to find a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus, let’s not forget the bitter lesson learned in the 1950s and ’60s when thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women for morning sickness. Thalidomide was approved for European use in 1957 although it was never tested on pregnant women.

Our Food and Drug Administration never approved the drug, but 20,000 pills had been given to doctors for distribution to patients in clinical trials. After reports surfaced about babies born with birth defects to mothers who had taken the drug, thalidomide was taken off the market.

Worldwide, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 babies were born with deformed or shortened limbs; about 40% died around the time of birth. Children who didn’t die in infancy suffered from eye, ear, heart, and urinary tract problems.

Thalidomide was taken off the market in 1961. In the years since the tragedy, several countries, including the U.S., have tightened their drug regulations.

The Thalidomide Tragedy: Lessons for Drug Safety and Regulation,” Helix, Bara Fintel, Athena T. Samaras, Edson Carias, September 2009

Clinical Trials

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Book Review, “America’s Bitter Pill

Kip Sullivan and I have had a running dialogue over the last year or so. Kip has been writing for such sites as The Health Care Blog, other blogs and newspaper. I find his knowledge insightful as we discuss what we know and where we are going with healthcare. Today Kip is working on implementing “Health Care For All – Minnesota” and is also developing a 3-year research and public education campaign. If you have questions this is the person to ask them.

This review was written in 2015 and is still relevant in 2020 in terms of how we started to arrive at where we are in healthcare. I have read some of the same complaints he outlines in his dialogue.

America’s Bitter Pill: CBO was Right. The White House and Steven Brill Were Wrong.”

Steven Brill’s latest book, America’s Bitter Pill, is a frustrating mix of excellent history and muddled health policy analysis. The book is a very good addition to the literature on the history of the Affordable Care Act and by far the best reporting I’ve read on the bungled implementation of the federal health insurance exchange. But Brill’s analysis of why the ACA cannot reduce health care costs is naïve and confusing. Brill claims a few smart men on the White House “economic team,” including Peter Orszag and Ezekiel Emanuel, fought hard to push “game-changing” cost-containment into the ACA but were defeated by others who were less interested in cost containment.

That explanation is wrong on two counts:

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Coronavirus dashboard for October 9: everybody has to touch the hot stove at least once

Coronavirus dashboard for October 9: everybody has to touch the hot stove at least once


Total confirmed US infections: 7,605,218*
Average infections last 7 days: 46,869
Total US deaths: 212,762

*Actual number is probably 5 to 7 million higher, or about 4% of the total US population

Source: COVID Tracking Project

In the last 4 weeks, the average number of new infections has risen again. Here is the breakdown by regions:

Here is the same for deaths:


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“Dying In A Leaderless Vacuum”, NEJM

“The New England Journal of Medicine Breaks two centuries of precedent to take an electoral stand,” Medpage Today, Shannon Firth, October 9, 2020

Angry Bear Readers: I am stealing the NEJM’s title as it states all of the issues we are faced with today with the Covid Pandemic. “Dying in a Leaderless Vacuum.” The NEJM is not known for being political. Yet today, the NEJM is taking a stand on what is happening in the United States for the first time in 200 years, with the regard to the lack of leadership by our government during the Covid19 pandemic. I have not included the whole editorial and have only C&Ped two paragraphs which I believe captures much of the argument being made by the NEJM. The entire article is not a long read and I hope and expect you will follow the link to it and read the editorial in entirety.

I have also attached three links to other articles. One is by Internal Medicine Physician and BMJ columnist Abraar Karan, the second is a copy of a letter by renowned epidemiologist William Foege who led the eradication of smallpox and a former CDC Director, and the last is the USA Today article about Foeege letter to Redfield and the events leading up to the letter. Again, all are easy reads in entirety and by taking a few minutes of reading you will be much further ahead of the others around you in information.

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