COVID-19 Myths

Wrongheaded thinking about the pandemic won't go away.

Wrongheaded thinking about the pandemic that just won't go away.

Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health who previously served as Baltimore’s health commissioner, takes to the Washington Post to debunk six myths about the pandemic.

Rather than cut-and-paste the whole thing here, I’ll just highlight the myths themselves and let the readers who wish to do so click through:

  • Instead of preventing covid-19, we should let people infect each other to achieve herd immunity.
  • Most cases of covid-19 are mild. We can keep older people at home and allow young, healthy people to go back to school and work.
  • People are getting sick and dying from other illnesses in greater numbers than covid-19.
  • It’s worth the sacrifice if some people die so that the country has a functioning economy.
  • We’ve been in lockdown for more than a month and cases aren’t declining; social distancing doesn’t work.
  • We can’t keep the country in lockdown until a vaccine is developed, which could take years.

I’ve seen variants on all of these repeatedly on my Facebook feed, mostly from people I served with in the Army or went to high school with. Presumably, some of it is disinformation from President Trump, Fox News, and the like. But some of it is “common sense” that’s just wrong.

After weeks of failing to heed my own advice that people simply aren’t persuadable with facts, I’ve finally given up trying to persuade people who believe these things since no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    After weeks of failing to heed my own advice that people simply aren’t persuadable with facts, I’ve finally given up trying to persuade people who believe these things since no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient.

    Proving once again that you can’t fix stupid.

    11
  2. SKI says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Or, probably more accurate, tribalism is incredibly powerful and it is difficult to persuade someone to believe something when their identity is based on that thing not being accurate.

    12
  3. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    This may well be so, but such beliefs are often subjective, or have long-term and/or ambiguous consequences that are confounded by other factors (or can be reasoned to so be confounded).

    Many beliefs around COVID-19 can be objectively disproved, right away and with no confounders involved. granted some require some thought, like the effects of staying at home and social distancing, and the principle that a disaster averted draws little attention or appreciation.

    I think we also come back to my explanation that until some people get infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus, or know someone who gets infected, they simply refuse to believe the evidence, seeing a quarter million deaths worldwide as a mere statistic.

    9
  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    My favorite quote to describe this behavior comes from Louis CK:

    “They’re PIG newtons daddy, don’t you know!”

    I agree with Kathy that what will change their minds is direct contact. They haven’t had any, so it doesn’t seem real. The disease doesn’t seem real, but the changes in their life from social distancing do.

    The challenge for me is to not get cynical, sarcastic, mocking and mean with these people. I don’t want to be that person, it doesn’t help anything. I want to maintain a stance of concern, not disparagement.

    7
  5. Kathy says:

    My top lesson learned from this pandemic is that overreaction beats everything else. But regardless of how well it does, it will be lambasted as unnecessary.

    It’s like a fire suppression system in a building. A small fire begins in the corner of a room, and all the sprinklers in the floor let loose. This causes a lot of major water damage to places that were not even close to the fire, sure, but it prevents a fire.

    If what burned was a lithium battery left on a table, the sprinklers in that room alone would have been enough. But it it had been a chemical fire, many of which don’t get extinguished with fire (try to put out a magnesium flare someday), you need to soak down the whole floor to prevent the fire from spreading.

    Such fires are rare. 99 times out of 100, setting off all the sprinklers is an overreaction. But you don’t know until the fire is out and you can look.

    So, for example, masks should be mandatory at the first sign of a transmissible respiratory infection. They may prove unnecessary, but they don’t do any harm in the meantime. and if they prove necessary, you save thousands of lives and spare millions the ordeal of disease.

    14
  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Most of the pushback seems to be nothing more than childish whining from narcissists about being inconvenienced. Anyone who is outraged that the government shut down the economy is not only an idiot, but a liar. They don’t care about the economy or other people–they care only about what’s happening to them. Me Me Me.

    Americans love to depict the big Other as spoiled brats. Urbanites, poor people, liberals, SJWs, people of color–all just complaining and self-absorbed and wanting what’s not theirs. Turns out that normal white Americans filled to the brim with Common Sense can be a million times worse than the most annoying SJW of all time.

    16
  7. 95 South says:

    @Modulo Myself: Yeah, there’s nothing worse than Americans complaining about the Other as spoiled brats. Like: “Most of the pushback seems to be nothing more than childish whining from narcissists about being inconvenienced.” And: “they care only about what’s happening to them. Me Me Me.”

    3
  8. 95 South says:

    The original article has good responses to the 1st, 2nd, and 6th argument. She fails on the other three.

  9. SKI says:

    @Kathy: Not sure what you are saying here or how it disagrees with what I wrote.

    “Othering” is a huge part of tribalism.

    1
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’ve finally given up trying to persuade people who believe these things since no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient.

    I was among the first here at OTB to seriously refer to Trumpies as a cult. I’m sure most people thought that was hyperbolic, but it was never just political rhetoric, it’s a factual description. This is a cult of personality in which a largely (not exclusively) evangelical Christian base simply swapped Jesus for Trump, transferring their mindless faith from a long-dead Jewish philosopher/carpenter to a reality TV clown.

    Of course facts don’t matter to them, they’ve never cared a whit for facts. They can’t care about facts without invalidating their faith. It would be heresy. They could end up in Hell, or San Francisco which I gather from their loony ramblings is the worst place on earth. (Surprisingly high rents for such a horrible place, but again, that’s dealing in reality.)

    There’s the racism and the misogyny, of course, but at its core I believe Cult45 is about the decline of Christianity. The blond, Aryan, Jewish-but-not-really philosopher/carpenter has been too slow to return and smite all those terrible people who think it’s OK to be gay and believe in evolution. Trump is their revenge hit-man, gonna show all them libruls and atheists and homos and colored folk what’s what and yay-uh, the meek of the coal mines and the poor of the farm towns would be elevated, raised up on high, can I get an Amen?

    Arguing facts with a Trumpie is exactly like arguing with a Christian. They never win the argument. Never. But see, that in itself is a courageous act of ‘witnessing’ in their minds and their reward will be in heaven when they shall sit at the right hand of Gawd-uh, because the Creator of the Universe wants to spend eternity chatting with the dumbest fucking people on this dust-speck of a planet.

    16
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @95 South:
    Oh? Make the case.

    11
  12. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: i like John Fugelsang’s line, “Trump is Jesus for followers of Jesus who reject the teachings of Jesus.“

    32
  13. Mister Bluster says:

    “Trump is Jesus for followers of Jesus who reject the teachings of Jesus.“

    Trump is the Anti-Christ.

    6
  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Most of the pushback seems to be nothing more than childish whining from narcissists about being inconvenienced.

    VOX has a piece on how overblown the anti-shutdown protests are. News coverage is way out of proportion to the numbers of protesters.

    The social distancing protests have also drawn modest crowds, with between 35,000 and 47,000 total attendees reported across all events combined through May 3.

    Early in the game it looked like there was some recognition that this was astroturfed with DeVos and Mercer money. But now that’s ignored and I see stories mentioning “unpaid” protesters, . Nobody said the dupes were getting paid. But along with paying organizers one way or another, the Billionaire Boys Club money gets coverage by the RW media, which gets picked up by the supposedly liberal MSM. They do know how to use captive media to amplify their protests.

    8
  15. gVOR08 says:

    I feel the need to defend common sense. Common sense would, after all, tell you to trust the experts. I think we need to recognize there are flavors of common sense. Conservative common sense adds a few things to normal common sense: the natural order, the need to see everything in clear moral terms, and the conservative information infrastructure.

    Why think through how viruses spread and what the experts say about its origins when “Chinese bad” is so much simpler? Why worry about ourselves and other real people when it’s people of color and prisoners and the working poor who’ll get it? Who are you going to trust, deep state Fauci or Hannity? Common sense is good, conservative common sense is the dumbest thing on the planet.

    5
  16. wr says:

    @95 South: “The original article has good responses to the 1st, 2nd, and 6th argument. She fails on the other three.”

    Imagine a world in which a Trumpie like 95South could actually make an argument — explaining, for example, how he believes this writer has failed in three of her answers. Instead, as always, we are expected just to believe that he is such an authority on everything that it’s enough for him to say something is wrong and we’ll all nod along.

    21
  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    Oooh, that’s a great line.

    3
  18. Kathy says:

    @Kathy:

    But it it had been a chemical fire, many of which don’t get extinguished with fire [..]

    Sorry about that, it should read “many of which don’t get extinguished with water

    1
  19. 95 South says:

    I didn’t want to go deep on this, but I had a little time, so here’s what I came up with. (I also found by copying the article into Word that I’d messed up the order of the arguments. It’s easier to read when you don’t have pop-ups bothering you.)

    1- Well put. It’s a long way before herd immunity will kick in. We don’t know when a vaccine will be available, and we may have 200 million Americans infected by that time whether or not we continue the current restrictions, but that being said the strategy of flattening the curve until a vaccine is developed or herd immunity is attained makes sense.
    2- Weak. She doesn’t address the argument for greater restrictions on those more likely to be severely affected by covid-19 than on others. Instead she plays off fears. Young, healthy people can get seriously ill or die, but it doesn’t negate the original argument.
    3- She makes a good point, that it’s not the confinement that is resulting in increases in preventable deaths, but the fear of getting medical treatment, which would remain even if we reopened.
    4- Bad. She admits it’s a false choice, but she’s the one who accepted the framing. Everyone would acknowledge there’s a continuum between the status quo and full reopening. She should also have addressed the distress caused by the restrictions.
    5- Good. Straightforward statistics. She’s right.
    6- Bad. Like in point 4, she’s strawmanning. She’s fine to argue we haven’t met the conditions for reopening, it’s even a good argument to make. But it doesn’t address the argument she claimed to be rebutting.

    Overall, it seems she had a series of points, and a series of arguments she wanted to rebut, but she didn’t put in the effort to match them or even to frame them correctly. A good editor would have helped.

    11
  20. Mister Bluster says:

    News coverage is way out of proportion to the numbers of protesters.
    I can’t believe it!
    When was the last time reports of human gatherings and events were magnified?

    Matthew tells of crowds following Jesus to his place of retreat and of numerous miracles which he performed. In particular, he tells of Jesus feeding five thousand men plus an indefinite number of women and children on five loaves and two fish, miraculously multiplied.
    Azimov’s Guide to the Bible

    3
  21. KM says:

    @Modulo Myself :

    Most of the pushback seems to be nothing more than childish whining from narcissists about being inconvenienced. Anyone who is outraged that the government shut down the economy is not only an idiot, but a liar. They don’t care about the economy or other people–they care only about what’s happening to them. Me Me Me.

    I’m going to add there’s a huge helping of “You’re Not the Boss of ME!” to whining about inconvenience. Most of the people objecting are doing so from the position that you have no right to tell them them what to do period, let alone have the right to require them to wear a piece of medical hardware designed to protect them and others during a pandemic. This is complete BS – society has the right to demand you wear clothes in public and stores have the right to deny you service if you don’t meet their criteria (no shirt, no shoes!). If you were to use the same arguments they have for masks to claim you can be nude in public, you’d get laughed at.

    What we are seeing are stubborn, stupid or scared people lashing out in the only way they know how. They can’t tell the virus to F off but they can certainly tell you. Doesn’t matter if it kills them or you – they’ll show you who’s Boss!

    8
  22. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I was among the first here at OTB to seriously refer to Trumpies as a cult. I’m sure most people thought that was hyperbolic, but it was never just political rhetoric, it’s a factual description.

    Fascist behavior is very similar to cultish behavior. You can call it a cult if you like, my view is that Fascism is a more precise description of Trumpism. YMMV.

    7
  23. charon says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    When was the last time reports of human gatherings and events were magnified?

    Jesus would have been a huge celebrity, very famous, to attract flash mobs that way. It is very odd there are no contemporaneous mentions of such a huge celebrity.

    1
  24. grumpy realist says:

    And it looks like that stupid video from those two “physicians” in Bakersfield is still running around the internet. I just had to tear the throat out of an acquaintance of mine who has been insisting that I watch it, whining that it was my duty to watch it before making any decisions about the validity of their arguments. (I had already ripped a hole in their arguments due to their trashy statistics.)

    I pointed out that the exact same argument was used by FakeMoonLanders, Truthers, TheWorldIsFlat idiots, and that I didn’t have time to deal with abusive idiots who refused to check their own theories.

    8
  25. Mister Bluster says:

    Let’s review:

    @95South has stated:
    I’m trying to find the truth, and to help people who have gotten off-track in their thinking.
    Republicans will do what is morally right without regard to party.
    Republicans have a history of putting country before party.
    I’m not a Trumpist.
    I’m not s (sic) Trump supporter.

    Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.
    Are we to believe that @95South does not support Trump because “Republicans, except Trump, will do what is morally right without regard to party.”?
    That “Republicans, except Trump, have a history of putting country before party.”?
    This must mean that Trump has “gotten off-track” in his thinking and needs the help of @95South more than anyone.
    Here is the White House switchboard number: 202-456-1414. Call today.

    7
  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @SKI: Or, probably more accurate, tribalism is incredibly powerful and it is difficult to persuade someone to believe something when their identity is based on really stupid things.

    FTFY, free to a first time customer. 😉

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: He’s just off his meds.

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @95 South: Perhaps that’s because numbers 3, 4, and 5 are held as articles of faith by those who assert them as fact. But everybody needs a gig and a place to row it, so accroches-toi a ton reve. (Sorry I don’t have the correct accents–no French virtual keyboard. 🙁 )

  29. Teve says:

    Republicans have a history of putting country before party.

    12:35 pm and I’ve just read the dumbest thing I’ll read all day.

    6
  30. 95 South says:

    @Teve: You know the dumbest thing I’ve read recently was the claim that Pence was moving empty boxes. You posted that, didn’t you? You know Snopes has called it “false”. If you don’t post a correction, does it make you an unpersuadable cultist?

    4
  31. gVOR08 says:

    @Mister Bluster: The authors of the article I linked note other, larger, protests that received little or no attention. One could cite the demonstrations by hundreds of thousands against Iraq War II, which were barely mentioned at the time. Having their own information infrastructure allows the RW to magnify these things in a way liberals, dependent on the supposedly liberal MSM, can’t match.

    3
  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Surprisingly high rents for such a horrible place

    No, I think you have that backwards, at least for my opinion anyway. San Francisco is such a horrible place because of the high rents, not despite them.

    2
  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @95 South: I was going to note that in your first statement, you had picked numbers 1, 2, and 6 as the well made arguments and changed to 1, 3, and 5 here, but then I realized that I don’t have a dog in this fight at all, so I decided not to. Accroches-toi a ton reves and laissez les bon temps rouller!

    1
  34. senyorDave says:

    My stepson probably believes several of these myths, at least in part if not in total. He hates being told what to do, especially when it is the government. I suspect the only way to convince him would be if he or someone he cares about were to get the virus.
    My stepson claims to be a libertarian, but he really hates and distrusts the government unless it is something that he needs. Then he gets pissed when it isn’t tailored just to his needs.

    4
  35. senyorDave says:

    @95 South: I assume that you certainly know that there is a world of difference between making a mistake and being a cultist. Trump has spend three and a half years lying about almost anything imaginable. And many, if not most of his supporters still believe every word out of his mouth.

    3
  36. 95 South says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That’s why I said I messed up the numbering. Because I messed up the numbering. So I said so. Thanks for pointing it out though.

    4
  37. MarkedMan says:

    @charon:

    Fascist behavior is very similar to cultish behavior

    I don’t think I agree with this, in general. While both fascistic societies and cults usually have a dictator at the top, fascism implies a highly regimented military and police structure to enforce their directives. Put another way, fascists don’t really care what you think, they only care what you do. Further, fascism need not be anti-science or anti-reality. Cultism, on the other hand is primarily concerned with collective belief. Belief in the almost mystical power of the leader is paramount, and so reality must be ignored or denigrated where ever it conflicts with the leaders statements.

    To Michael’s point, Trumpers certainly are cult like. But as of now they are not nearly organized enough to be fascistic.

    5
  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @95 South:
    The ‘protect the old’ theory has a rather obvious flaw, don’t you think?

    My wife’s father died a few weeks ago at age (IIRC) of 89. No one was very upset because he was 89, FFS. The death of a child is orders of magnitude more terrible in every way, from the devastating emotional impact to the long-term economic impact. “Few children” is more than “many old people.”

    It appears that this coronavirus can cause Kawasaki-like symptoms in children with the important distinction that Kawasaki is curable, whereas these kids die. Put it this way: your daughter’s pre-school announces that there’s only a small chance – on top of all the other small chances – that your daughter will contract a painful and fatal illness. Are you taking her to school?

    At the same time, isolating the elderly will in many if not most cases, mean concentrating them in elder home death pods. Then, too, many older people are babysitters for children. Indeed lots of young people cannot work without grandma babysitting. And many old people require care from younger people, many of whom have children of their own. There is no discrete line separating young from old. The logical answer is to impose isolation and social distancing across the board. Particularly at a time when we are still learning about more and more health effects of this virus and have neither treatment nor vaccine.

    Somehow South Korea, which learned of the virus on the same day as we did, has a death rate far, far less than ours. Why? Because they acted quickly and rationally and managed to do it without endangering their children or killing off their elderly.

    Write off the elderly and risk the children is not an idea likely to be embraced by the American people.

    18
  39. @gVOR08:

    I feel the need to defend common sense. Common sense would, after all, tell you to trust the experts.

    I don’t think that is true at all, unfortunately.

    2
  40. Mister Bluster says:

    Jesus would have been a huge celebrity, very famous, to attract flash mobs that way. It is very odd there are no contemporaneous mentions of such a huge celebrity.

    Tell it to Judas

    And all the good you’ve done
    Will soon be swept away
    You’ve begun to matter more
    Than the things you say

    1
  41. Jay L Gischer says:

    @95 South: I just wanted to tell you (again?) how much I appreciate it that you will come here and give us your earnest, honest opinion, instead of slogans or talking points. I find it incredibly valuable, whether or not I agree with you.

    The part that distresses me about this is we have the Evangelical Trump supporter who has read, probably many times, the parable of the Good Samaritan, as well as the part where Cain says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and still can hold the attitude of “well, let the weak and the sick die, because this is a problem for me” I thought I lived in a culture that protected its weak and old. I’m still fighting for that value.

    19
  42. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    I don’t disagree. I just pointed out oddities and offered a complementary explanation.

  43. Kit says:

    The inability of anyone apart from @95 South to admit that that opinion piece would have benefited from some editing is ironic given the subject of James’ post: no one can ever be persuaded.

    3
  44. 95 South says:

    @Jay L Gischer: First of all, I’m sorry for clicking thumbs down on your comment. I meant to click Reply.

    The question of Evangelicals wanting people to die is off-topic, but as I’ve said before, I thinnk it’s a misunderstanding. I only saw the one “Sacrifice the Weak” sign from the Tennessee rally. Dan Patrick is a grandfather and said he and other grandparents would sacrifice themselves for the young. People are worried about the excess deaths caused by unemployment particularly among the poor. A lot of the reopen people talk about fundamental rights. I’ve never heard “well, let the weak and the sick die, because this is a problem for me”.

    2
  45. Jen says:

    @Kit: I will acknowledge that the piece isn’t what it could have been, but will also point out that she is likely constrained by a word count and that doesn’t lend well to the deeper detail that some of these require. For example, 95South has issues with:

    2- Weak. She doesn’t address the argument for greater restrictions on those more likely to be severely affected by covid-19 than on others. Instead she plays off fears. Young, healthy people can get seriously ill or die, but it doesn’t negate the original argument.
    […]
    4- Bad. She admits it’s a false choice, but she’s the one who accepted the framing. Everyone would acknowledge there’s a continuum between the status quo and full reopening. She should also have addressed the distress caused by the restrictions.
    […]
    6- Bad. Like in point 4, she’s strawmanning. She’s fine to argue we haven’t met the conditions for reopening, it’s even a good argument to make. But it doesn’t address the argument she claimed to be rebutting.

    Her point in number 2 should have focused on the danger that asymptomatic carriers present to society as a whole. While deaths are primarily in much older populations, hospitalizations are a broader range. We have PLENTY of people in this country who are younger but obese (BMI over 30 is a risk factor for hospitalization; 39.4 percent of US adults are considered obese), so her point stands: it’s a myth to assume that we can just lock away the elderly and go about as normal.

    On Myth 4–she’s not the one pushing that particular line, the “reopen” people are. They are the ones who are setting up the dichotomy. “Distress about the restrictions” is silly. We’ve had incredibly loose restrictions compared to other countries. Jeez, Spain just let kids leave the house.

    On Myth 6, she isn’t “strawmanning,” as I’ve heard exactly this argument made. It is, however, an extreme position and she probably should have framed it differently, but then again, I’m not the author of the piece, she is.

    2
  46. Scott F. says:

    @SKI: and @Michael Reynolds:
    I think tribalism and cultism both miss what I see as the most pernicious component of this phenomenon where people simply aren’t persuadable with facts – Trump’s relentless and aggressive attacks against the very idea of facts.

    Trump’s approval has never slipped below 37% (on average per FiveThirtyEight), while both Bushes fell into the 20’s at some point. This suggests tribalism has it’s limits against the evidence of people’s every day lives.

    Though cultism comes closer, it’s reliance on blind faith diminishes (in my mind at least) the programmatic use of terms like “hoax,” “Fake News,” “scam,” and “alternate facts” that Trump and his main mouthpieces use all the times. Trump can lie multiple times in a sentence, while a single misstatement in the press (Pence’s empty boxes) is disproportionately weighed against all the press gets right in order to claim that all sides are equally dealing in misinformation.

    Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” In an unprecedented way, Trump is making his own facts.

    4
  47. Scott says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You do know the elderly they are talking about is us. We are both 66, working, active. I have kids in college, I get up everyday, go to work, go to the gym, yard work, etc. We are not what people think of as elderly and yet we are in that category they keep talking about isolating.

    That is why I find this argument one of the most irritating. Quarantine us off. And support us? Send money? Pay my bills?

    And the fact remains, that there is increased vulnerability due to basic biology of aging. If it hits us, it will be called a death due to underlying conditions, the principal one being of existing at age 66.

    I’m pretty lucky because I’m reasonably healthy and have the resources to manage my exposure. I don’t have the vulnerability of the working elderly poor who are cashiering at the Dollar Store. Or greeting at Walmart. Or are still home care workers. Or custodians. And they just can’t be sequestered away.

    3
  48. Kathy says:

    There are a lot of masks in the market right now. Many are labeled N95, which is 99.9999999% likely a lie. But once the pandemic passes, ti would be a good idea to have a stockpile of N95 type masks, for the next pandemic. Not the ones used in hospitals, which require precise fitting, but like the dust masks with added filters. Past the pandemic, it will be easier to determine which products are more reliable and which offer real protection.

    One can’t wait for the world to catch up or the culture to change. And there’s flu and cold season, too. It’s not a bad idea to wear a mask then, if it provides protection for yourself (people aren’t wearing them that much right now anyway).

    I also intend to stockpile hand sanitizer (meaning keeping one liter in reserve at all times), rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and maybe a few cans of Lysol. Gloves, too, probably, though they seem superfluous now.

    2
  49. mattbernius says:

    @95 South:
    Thank you for taking the time to actually present your viewpoint. That was very helpful and much appreciated.

    6
  50. Mikey says:

    @95 South: I don’t disagree with your critiques, but like Jen, I think the author was limited in word count and the piece would surely have benefited from an additional couple hundred words (at least).

    2
  51. Teve says:

    @mikeljollet

    The President is tested every day.

    Every single person he comes into contact with is also tested.

    If anyone tests positive, they are immediately quarantined and their contacts are tested.

    See? He DOES understand how to stop the virus. He just doesn’t give a shit about YOU.

    10
  52. Jay L Gischer says:

    @95 South: Thanks. I’m used to getting the odd thumbs-down, and sometimes I think some of them come from people on my side of the political divide. So I don’t let it worry me.

    We’re sparring about point 4, right? “It’s worth the sacrifice if some people die …” This is not a situation where one people can say, “It’s ok, I’ll take that risk” and having them do that will give 10 people their jobs back. It’s pretty much all-or-nothing. Which means that while that sentiment might be very well intentioned for them, generalizing means, quite necessarily, that they are “volunteering” other people – other grandparents, other people who are immunocompromised, etc. for this. That’s no longer self-sacrifice.

    Sacrifice on an individual level is not going to help us as a culture.

    Now, it turns out I think my argument is maybe better than how she made it. But is that true for her readership, for the general public? I have no idea.

    7
  53. Kylopod says:

    @Scott F.:

    Trump’s approval has never slipped below 37% (on average per FiveThirtyEight), while both Bushes fell into the 20’s at some point.

    People forget that Bush was at one time viewed with cultish adoration from the evangelical right–in fact sometimes worshiped in a very literal way. His Gallup approval (checking right now) never went as low as 37% until Nov. 2005, and didn’t slip below that level until Mar. 2006. The turning point was Hurricane Katrina, which struck in Aug. 2005.

    Trump’s ratings haven’t fallen to those levels yet because until the present crisis the state of the country seemed more or less okay. As the economic disaster continues to wreak havoc in the coming months, I’m betting you’re going to see it slip below that 37% marker. These things take time to sink in, just as they did for Bush.

    1
  54. Kathy says:

    BTW, the thing about herd immunity presupposes immunity.

    This is a thorny, lightly understood issue. Speculation is that the length and strength of the immunity response depends, at least in part, on the severity and length of the infection. Thus people who had measles, and lived, are immune to it, but no one is immune to the common cold (at least not for very long).

    It’s possible, then, that asymptomatic cases and light cases may result in, at best, a few months of immunity, if there is any at all. While those with more severe cases may get immunity longer, should they survive.

    Therefore aiming for herd immunity, as of now, is irresponsible.

    Then, too, I know of no cases of reinfection, with two positive tests each time. I’ve heard of cases here and there with a positive test the second time, but no test at all the first; so the first may have been flu or something else. I don’t know anyone has proposed that people who’ve recovered volunteer to be reinfected to see whether they have immunity or not.

    As to long term effects, I refer you to Post-polio syndrome. Nasty.

    Oh, about antibodies, they are only a part of the immune system response. An important part, to be sure. it seems they do better on a second infection, what we call immunity. Let’s say Virus X caught you unaware of its existence. Your immune system goes to work, producing antibodies among other effects (like killer T-cells, raising your temperature, and such). then the antibodies get remembered in memory B-cell and memory T-cells. If Virus X shows up again, your immune system recognizes it, and the memory cells get to make lots of antibodies. These stop the infection sooner than if they had to start from scratch. And that’s also how vaccines work.

    As a bonus, any future virus that shares enough characteristics with Virus X may provoke the immune response as though it were Virus X. This happened with cowpox, which was a mild disease in humans, and smallpox, which was very deadly. Indeed, it’s possible the mildest cases of SARS-CoV2 could involve a similar, less harmful virus (some coronaviruses cause a version of common cold). it’s even possible, this is my own speculation, that some positive antibody tests may be detecting a related, harmless, coronavirus, rather than SARS-CoV2.

    We’re not like the four blind men in the fable describing different parts of an elephant, but we can’t see the whole picture yet either.

    5
  55. DrDaveT says:

    @95 South:

    People are worried about the excess deaths caused by unemployment particularly among the poor.

    If this were true, then you would expect that those same people would be concerned about the excess deaths caused by poverty itself, at all times, regardless of coronavirus or any other specific transient event. And yet, they consistently vote against every measure and every politician who proposes to reduce those deaths. I conclude that it must not be “poor people dying due to unemployment” that they are really concerned about.

    (BTW, let me second @Jay L Gischer on appreciating your thoughtful point by point elaboration of your original point. I too value the fact that you bring actual arguments. I even with you that a couple of the myth rebuttals were weak enough to be ineffectual.)

    14
  56. Kathy says:

    In the case of the US, how much would pandemic preparedness cost per year? I mean real stockpiles of protective gear and ventilators (odds are good for the next pandemic to also be a respiratory disease; see MERS, SARS, H1N1, and the 1918 Flu for reference*), funding research for antiviral drugs and vaccines, having plans in place for rapid response, testing kits, etc., constant consulting with other countries, sharing information and so on.

    If it were as high as $100 billion per year, that’s a bargain. it would take 30 years to spend as much as the “stimulus packages” already approved for this year, and that’s before considering any lives saved, and lower tax revenue losses.

    (*) non-respiratory pandemics like AIDS, Ebola, Zika, West Nile, Hanta virus, and cholera, to name a few, are not as contagious, though they may be more deadly. few get transmitted pre-symptomatically, most require an intervening host (like mice or mosquitoes) and/or contact with body fluids, or come from tainted sources like fish, meats, or dirty water.

    As bad as these are, they haven’t caused the global havoc SARS-CoV2 has. It’s the respiratory diseases and pathogens that are the real threat.

    2
  57. 95 South says:

    @DrDaveT: I vote for the policies and I live my life in the way I think is best for the poor. If you vote differently I’m not going to say you hate the poor. I’ll say we disagree on policy.

    1
  58. DrDaveT says:

    @95 South:

    I vote for the policies and I live my life in the way I think is best for the poor.

    I applaud that. You are clearly not one of the people we were talking about. Even if we disagree on which policies are likely to be effective at reducing poverty.

    1
  59. 95 South says:

    @DrDaveT: The people you’re talking about don’t exist. No one votes to hurt the poor.

  60. senyorDave says:

    @95 South: No one votes to hurt the poor.
    If you don’t think that there are politicians that vote to hurt the poor intentionally you are either naive or a liar. You make arguments that indicate you are not naive, so I will have to choose the latter.

    9
  61. senyorDave says:

    @Kylopod: I’m betting you’re going to see it slip below that 37% marker.
    I’d like to believe that is true, but he has been spectacularly bad during this crisis, his first, and he still is at about 43%. I don’t see him going below 40% ever. The last year has been, arguably, a very bad year for any US president. He has been impeached, and even though not convicted, any person who reads at all understands that he did what he was impeached for (and most GOP senators admitted as much), and then on the heels of that, twiddles his thumbs for two months while most of the developed world was formulating plans to deal with a pandemic.

    3
  62. grumpy realist says:

    @senyorDave: Based on the reaction of my acquaintance, they’re not interested in the truth. They’re not interested in trying to figure out what is actually going on. They’re terrified that the world has changed and will do anything, just ANYTHING to scramble for crumbs of “evidence” that shows that COVID-19 isn’t as bad as the facts show it is.

    3
  63. Scott F. says:

    @Kylopod: I hope you are right that Trump’s ratings will fall as the coronavirus impacts on the economy , but I’ll only believe it when I’ve seen it.

    Trump’s already had his Katrina (Hurricane Maria), plus a prolonged government shutdown, and an impeachment. Granted the economy has been strong through-out (and recessions were the source of low approvals for both father and son Bush), but Trump’s done plenty that would have caused precipitous falls in approval for previous presidents. I think he’s skirted his comeuppance because he and his people have taken bald-face lying to levels never seen before in US politics.

    3
  64. 95 South says:

    @senyorDave: I’ll assume you’re naive for now.

  65. Kylopod says:

    @senyorDave:

    I’d like to believe that is true, but he has been spectacularly bad during this crisis, his first, and he still is at about 43%.

    One thing we political junkies often have trouble grasping is that most people aren’t engaged in politics like we are. Large numbers of Americans are just living their lives, not constantly glued to the TV or whatever, or with much awareness at all of what’s happening in the Trump Administration. (A poll last year found that 12% of the public don’t even know who Mike Pence is.) Just because someone says they approve of Trump in a poll even though we can see what a craven imbecile he is and how badly he’s handling this crisis, doesn’t mean that person must automatically be part of the MAGA-hat-wearing, lock-her-up-chanting cult; it could just mean they simply aren’t paying a lick of attention to the political scene at all. But that can quickly change if that person sees their job disappear and bank account dwindle.

    The economy is historically one of the most potent indicators of a president’s popularity. Many presidents who seemed like political behemoths at one point saw it totally collapse once the economy went south. It happened to Herbert Hoover. It happened to Dubya, who held out with much higher approval ratings for much longer than Trump despite his increasingly obvious incompetence. The truth is that, for the most part, it isn’t a president’s visible performance that sways voters the most; it’s what’s happening to the voters in their own lives.

    I don’t see him going below 40% ever.

    He already has, several times, most notably during the government shutdown last year.

    2
  66. MarkedMan says:

    @95 South: Snopes does call it false, but I think that is an overly literal and generous interpretation. What actually happened was Pence showed up with a van filled to the brim with boxes, but only the first two of them had anything in them. So, yes, technically Pence delivered boxes with PPE. But the photo op as a whole was a phony. Or do you think the van was full of empty boxes by accident?

    2
  67. 95 South says:

    @MarkedMan: It was a press event if that’s what you mean. It would have been more efficient if Pence wasn’t there. I see 9 boxes delivered. Teve fell for a fake story. Why are you defending it?

    Cultists defend obvious falsehoods. Are you a cultist? (That was sarcasm.)

  68. @MarkedMan: @95 South: If one watches the full clip, Pence is making a joke about unloading the empty boxes. This is clearly a case wherein an edited video plays into preconceived notions. I bought it at first, too.

    95 South is one point with the video, as posted by Kimmel, being a problem. Indeed, not only was the edit a problem it helps feed to idea that, in fact, the news is fake. In other words, it wasn’t just misleading, it allows people who don’t want to believe mass media an example to prove their POV.

    8
  69. Michael Cain says:

    @Scott F.:

    I hope you are right that Trump’s ratings will fall as the coronavirus impacts on the economy , but I’ll only believe it when I’ve seen it.

    I have seen anecdotal stuff — no systematic polling or anything — that in their stronghold areas, the Republicans are having success selling the idea that the shutdown and economic crash is all the Democrats’ fault.

    A couple of my rural relatives on Facebook seem to be jumping on that bandwagon. They are not to the stage of “Yeah, Democrats closed the cities to screw the economy in order to punish us!” but one of them is getting close.

  70. CSK says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Lucianne.com. The Gateway Pundit, The Conservative Treehouse, et al are pushing the notion that the Democrats, having failed to get Trump with Russia, Ukraine, or impeachment, engineered the Covid-19 “hoax” to ruin his chances of re-election.

    The other favored theory, promoted by OANN, is that Bill Gates, George Sorors, Anthony Fauci, and some other parties are pushing remdesivir as a form of population control.

  71. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Since when is Jimmy Kimmel news?

    1
  72. @Mikey: He’s not. But the clip was presented as an accurate representation of fact and was shared on Twitter by a number of otherwise serious people (myself included).

    It seemed to be pretty straight-forward.

    My point is that people who already distrust the mainstream press will further use this as an example.

    2
  73. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: On the open thread, you ask:

    The last large pandemic, the flu of 1918-1919, killed fifty million. Is that fair price to pay for not having lock downs and not wearing masks?

    Containment is pretty much out of the picture at this point — it’s a very transmissible infection in too many places. All of the strategies to slow the growth at great cost are anticipating things that do not exist yet — a vaccine or an effective treatment.

    Given how many other viruses result in immunity after infection, including (apparently) SARS, the anticipation that SARS2-Covid-19 will is not unreasonable. It’s likely to provide a decent level of immunity for some significant period.

    The consequences of being wrong are damn high, but the likelihood is medium to low.

    And herd-immunity is the goal of vaccination as well, by the way. The difference is how we get the herd immunized. If Covid-19 mutates too much for an effective immunity response from infection, it also likely mutates too much for an effective vaccine — if we can develop any vaccine at all, even for the exact version we have now.

    In the scenario where we develop a good treatment, or a vaccine in a relatively short time-frame, the closures are well worth the cost.

    In the scenario where we don’t… well, how long are you willing to hole up in your house? I can do it for years, except for groceries, medicines and doctors, but most people cannot.

    I think that if we are very diligent, we can get this virus into a state where can manage the pandemic long-term, while waiting for a cure. I also think we are going to have that option taken away from us by idiots like the woman who runs this restaurant and the idiots who patronize it:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/11/colorado-restaurant-illegal-reopening/

    Because Mama wants some pancakes and covid for mother’s day.

    I may be a bad person, but I’m hoping there is a major outbreak in Colorado because of this, and it serves as a warning to others. We can open parts of the economy back up, but we have to be smart about it.

    But, it’s hard to collectively be smart when there is the fucking-morons’ veto and a whole lot of fucking morons.

  74. MarkedMan says:

    @95 South: I watched, or rather fast forwarded and indeed you are correct. There are more than two boxes delivered and I’ll take your word there were nine. And that, I assume, is a good amount of PPE. And that somewhat mitigates the fact that the rest of the boxes were fakes, a show for the cameras.

  75. Jen says:

    A poll last year found that 12% of the public don’t even know who Mike Pence is.

    I’m genuinely surprised that it’s only 12%, I would have thought higher, and I’m willing to bet that this has something to do with Trump being President. For all his faults, and they are MANY, he did manage to engage a portion of the population that simply did not engage in politics before. If only 12% don’t know the name of the sitting VP, that’s probably actually a low, not high, number.

  76. Kylopod says:

    @Jen:

    I’m genuinely surprised that it’s only 12%

    I was too. I looked up the question “percentage of Americans who know who Mike Pence is” on Google, and honestly I was expecting the percentage who didn’t to be significantly higher; I wouldn’t have been shocked if it had been a majority. I’m used to seeing large percentages who are completely unaware of things which I would consider to be very basic facts (for instance, there have been polls in which a majority of Americans can’t name a single SCOTUS justice). I’m curious what the numbers were for Joe Biden while Obama was president, but I haven’t been able to find a comparable poll in that period.

  77. 95 South says:

    @MarkedMan: Did you know that at groundbreakings, the construction workers don’t need the politicians to dig first? And those are ceremonial shovels? I heard some politicians can’t even operate excavators. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about first pitches.

    1
  78. MarkedMan says:

    @95 South: Look, I don’t blame Pence here, but rather his staff. It’s pretty obvious he didn’t know the boxes were empty. But if you can’t see a moral difference between a few guys in suits turning over a shovelful of dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony, and Republican operatives showing up pretending to be bringing a truck full of life saving supplies but actually creating a Potemkin truck where only the first row of boxes have supplies, then we have nothing in common on which to have a discussion.

    4
  79. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My point is that people who already distrust the mainstream press will further use this as an example.

    And your point reinforces mine. Kimmel posts an errant video, it’s shared on Twitter by a number of otherwise serious people, and somehow this event balances the scales with the mountain of lies Trump has vomited on Twitter in not just the last 24 hours, but over weeks.

    5
  80. @Scott F.:

    somehow this event balances the scales with the mountain of lies Trump has vomited on Twitter in not just the last 24 hours, but over weeks.

    Which is not what I said. Indeed, I obviously don’t think this.

    1
  81. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My point is that people who already distrust the mainstream press will further use this as an example.

    OK, I understand where you’re coming from, thanks.

    Still, if people can use the example of a humorous late-night host doing what humorous late-night hosts do to impugn the mainstream press while continuing to trust a President who has verifiably lied over 17,000 times…I don’t even know what to say to them.

    3
  82. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    If Covid-19 mutates too much for an effective immunity response from infection, it also likely mutates too much for an effective vaccine — if we can develop any vaccine at all, even for the exact version we have now.

    Fortunately, it appears this virus mutates relatively slowly. See, for example:

    https://www.sciencealert.com/yes-sars-cov-2-is-mutating-but-before-you-freak-out-read-this

    SARS-CoV-2 is so far estimated to have a rate of less than 25 mutations per year, compared to influenza’s 50.

    1
  83. Jen says:

    @Mikey: Exactly. From the reading I’ve done, I’ve managed to gather that flu viruses mutate at 10 times the rate that coronaviruses do, making covid-19 remarkably stable. A piece that ran in the Atlantic noted that genetic variations and mutations occur, but not all of them matter–the changes that matter are ones that affect the virus’s ability to infect and how sick it makes you. Other changes don’t matter as much if at all.

  84. Teve says:

    @CSK:

    Our favorite cartoonist- the evolution of bill gates

  85. 95 South says:

    @MarkedMan: That’s not a truck. It looks like a small van. The man who stands up inside it looks like he doesn’t have room to go any deeper. You can see the “FR” logo across the inside, and I think that’s the wall separating the cargo from the driver’s area. If so, there’s one box left in the van.

    Teve got fooled by Jimmy Kimmel and won’t admit it, and you’re rallying behind the story that Snopes calls false. That’s cultish. Next week you’ll be complaining about all of Trump’s lies and, out loud or to yourself, you’ll be including Boxgate.

  86. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    Oh. My. Dear. God. Does anyone take that crap seriously? Dumb question. Apparently they do.

  87. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: my apologies for the lack of clarity. I was describing the asymmetric dynamic regarding what is given credibility in the public discourse in the age of Trump and did not intend to disparage your view in the least.

    See 95 South above for what I’m trying to describe. “Box gate” is enough for this commenter to ignore years of lies. Both sides do it – see?

    1
  88. John Crocker says:

    There looks to be at least one more row of boxes behind what he took making the van look more full. It isn’t anything that really matters, as it amounts to political photo op staging and set dressing.
    Kimmel misrepresented the situation, but Kimmel is a late night comedian, not a news source.
    Pretending, as some do (not necessarily anyone in this thread) that a monologue joke by a talk show host is indicative of some sort of broad pattern of lies is ridiculous, particularly when that is in defense of the Liar in Chief.

    3
  89. insidethemilkyway says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Kawasaki disease has been killing children for a long time. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1346107/ What has changed is that there is some reason to terrify parents now.

  90. SKI says:

    @insidethemilkyway:
    Yes, you are absolutely right. The reason physicians and governmental leaders are trying to work together to figure out what the spike of children who are exhibiting these symptoms and mostly testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies (but not live virus) in parts of the world is solely to terrify parents. It has nothing to do with, you know, actually trying to understand what they are dealing with. It is a complete massive conspiracy…

    1
  91. @SKI: In the last couple of days I have noted what seems to be an uptick in accusations that people with public health concerns are “terrified”–I am guessing this has become a right-wing talking point in some quarters.

    1