Covid Quick Hits

News of the ongoing pandemic.

The city of Orlando and its water utility made an urgent appeal Friday afternoon for residents to cut back sharply on water usage for weeks because of a pandemic-triggered shortage of liquid oxygen used to purify water.

If commercial and residential customers are unable to reduce water usage quickly and sufficiently, Orlando Utilities Commission may issue a system-wide alert for boiling water needed for drinking and cooking. Without reductions in water usage, a boil-water alert would come within a week, utility officials said.


Medical authorities have reported that along with a spike in hospitalizations for COVID cases, hospitals are relying increasingly on treatment involving high flows of supplemental oxygen for patients.

That has spurred a nationwide shortage for liquid oxygen, which has been exacerbated by a lack of available tanker trucks and drivers.

Healthy and in their 30s, Christina and Josh Tidmore figured they were low-risk for COVID-19. With conflicting viewpoints about whether to get vaccinated against the virus filling their social media feeds and social circles, they decided to wait.

On July 20, Josh came home from work with a slight cough initially thought to be sinus trouble. On Aug. 11, he died of COVID-19 at a north Alabama hospital as Christina Tidmore witnessed a doctor and her team frantically try to resuscitate her husband.


Christina Tidmore also had COVID-19 but recovered. She said she and her husband were not against vaccines – their children are current on their childhood immunizations.

But the couple was unsure about the coronavirus vaccine due to conflicting viewpoints on their social media feeds and in conversations.

She said that they didn’t “know hardly anybody that had gotten real sick and figured we would be OK.” Josh himself in the spring shared an article critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci, writing, “this is why I don’t believe 99.9% of what’s said about this virus.”

Now, eligible family members are getting their coronavirus shots.

as reporters have clamored for access, they have run up against a Clinton-era law that protects the privacy of hospital patients: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – otherwise known as HIPAA.

The federal law, approved in 1996, protects patients and their privacy, and the COVID-19 emergency has not carved out any notable exceptions. If anything, the dire health conditions many hospitalized COVID patients face prevents them from physically granting media permission to film their story.

“HIPAA privacy rules bar hospitals from giving media access to facilities where patients’ protected health information is accessible without the patients’ prior authorization, and most hospitalized COVID-19 patients are in no condition to wave those protections,” said Hannah Peterson, spokeswoman with Infirmary Health, which operates hospitals in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

The federal government is prioritizing patient privacy during the pandemic. The Office for Civil Rights under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a guidance published in May 2020, said that health care providers cannot grant media access to patients without first receiving written HIPAA authorization from each patient who could be filmed or interviewed.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:


  2. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Regarding the “AL Hospitals” and HIPPA.
    Records of identifiable patients are protected, for sure, however summary data (e.g. number of ICU patients) is not protected under HIPPA.

    Depends on what the media is asking for. If the media is asking the hospital for medical information about a specific person, then they rightfully should be barred. OTOH, generally hospitals have not had any issue with acknowledge that a specific person is hospitalized and categorizing their condition.

  3. Kathy says:

    We can now update the saying about locking the barn with:

    Begging for the vaccine after you’re gravely ill with COVID.

  4. Matt Bernius says:

    There is also this clip of Dr Frankenstein losing control of his monster:

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    But the couple was unsure about the coronavirus vaccine due to conflicting viewpoints on their social media feeds and in conversations.

    The needed a better social media feed.

    I don’t know what can be said that hasn’t been already.

  6. CSK says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    As I noted in the Open Forum, will Trump persist in demanding credit for inventing the vaccine in the face of this kind of hostility?

  7. Michael Cain says:

    I was looking at our county’s hospital stats today. Our ICU beds touched 96% occupied at one point, but that has retreated. Then I looked at one of the neighboring counties where the vaccination rate is 10-12 percentage points lower across the board than ours. Their ICU rate looks much better, though. Then down in the footnotes, you find “Because so many of our residents receive hospital care outside the county, we include open ICU beds in three neighboring counties as available.”

  8. David S. says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: The impression I’ve gotten is that what the media wants is to walk a camera or two through the ICU, with the goal of using visuals to viscerally expose people to how bad it is. I.e., summary data is effective on data nerds, but most people need to be told a story, preferably with moving pictures.

    I’m sympathetic to both sides of this one. There are good, necessary reasons to not allow this, but it does need to be shown. It’s something of a Catch-22.

  9. Jax says:

    @Michael Cain: We have no hospital in our county, so we’ve had multiple life flights a day going by overhead for the last two weeks. Not sure whether they’re directly related to COVID, but it’s definitely more than normal, and our COVID case counts are rising fast. School starts next week. No mask order.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I couldn’t help thinking that the Alabama professor who left his job over the school’s Covid-19 policy must be nearing retirement age anyway. I opened a link to his personal page to discover the picture of a really young person who’s only been teaching–outside of his graduate work–for about 10 years. He must be very brave, or very foolish considering that he may well have just walked out of the last tenure track job he will ever have considering his field is philosophy. I wish him well.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I keep seeing stuff saying social media doesn’t really have much effect. Kevin Drum’s been saying so and Harpers has a long article by Joseph Bernstein to that effect. And yet we keep seeing stories like this.

    I think the difference is the difference between average and marginal. Marginal in the sense that economics happens at the margin. It’s not the average price of corn that matters, it’s the price of the last bushel sold, the bushel sold at the current margin of activity. It’s true that most GOPs vote GOP because they’ve always voted GOP. But in 2016, at the margin, enough people decided to switch to R, or to turn out for R, to just barely pull Trump along. Social media probably doesn’t much affect the average voter or the average health care decision maker, but it does affect the marginal voter or decision maker.

  12. @Just nutha ignint cracker: I thought he might be a Lecturer (i.e., non-tenure track). But he just was promoted to Associate in 2020, meaning he also earned tenure.

    It was a bold move.

    (TT philosophy gigs do not grow on trees)

  13. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Well, he can always do what preceding generations of unemployed Ph.D.s in the humanities do: become a wine merchant or open a b and b in Vermont.

  14. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The needed a better social media feed.

    when i got on the Book of Faces, the First thing i did was turn off all location services and seek out the profiles of every dumbass former coworker and business and family member I could think of, and block them before they could see me in a ‘people you may know’ box, and put my profile on private and prevent lookup by address or email or phone number. The only people on my social media are smart people with good values.

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:..philosophy gigs do not grow on trees

    As a wise man once told me in the cafeteria at Sleepytown U as he slopped mashed potatoes on my plate. “Major in Philosophy. You will be unemployed but you will understand why.”

  16. Gustopher says:

    The federal government is prioritizing patient privacy during the pandemic. The Office for Civil Rights under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a guidance published in May 2020, said that health care providers cannot grant media access to patients without first receiving written HIPAA authorization from each patient who could be filmed or interviewed.

    So, who was interested in downplaying the impact of the pandemic then?

    I would say that the Biden administration should alter this guidance, but at this point it’s probably too late to scare people into getting vaccinated. With 5-6 weeks needed for an immune response, and delta everywhere, folks are likely to get exposed before the vaccine takes hold.

  17. Sleeping Dog says:


    I’m acquainted with a woman who doesn’t accept ‘friend requests’ at FaceBook and has a standing note for those interested in reaching her to do so via LinkedIn. She figures that eliminates the riffraff and her getting bombarded with weird sh!t.

  18. Teve says:

    I just came across some really astonishing data at the CDC. If you take deaths from COVID of 18 to 29-year-olds as the reference group, people 30 to 39 years old are four times more likely to die from the infection, people 40 to 49 years old are 10 times more likely to die, we’re still talking about a low number overall, people 50 to 64 are 35 times more likely to die. But then- people 65 to 74 years old are 95 times more likely to die, people 75 to 84 are 230 times more likely to die, and people 85+ are 600 times more likely to die.

    More astonishing data, this time from Statista. Of all the deaths in the US as of August 4, 2021 from this disease, 349 people have been 0 to 17 years old. 2519 have been 18 to 29. 7218 have been 30 to 39. 19,163 have been 40 to 49. A whopping hundred thousand have been 50 to 64. 135,000 have been 65 to 74. 166,000 have been 75 to 84. And 179,000 have been 85 years and older. Almost half a million seniors died out of the 610,000 official deaths. Crikey.

  19. Teve says:

    @Teve: and there are about 52 million seniors in the US. If you assume the real number of Covid deaths is over a million, as many estimates have it, we’ve lost, in 18 months, ~2% of the seniors who were alive in early 2020.

  20. flat earth luddite says:


    Well, he can always do what preceding generations of unemployed Ph.D.s in the humanities do…

    Hey, all of our local fast food restaurants are looking to hire him! At $14/hr PLUS TIPS!

  21. Slugger says:

    For those of you concerned about the young professor who quit his job, life is not a straight path. I quit a well paying sinecure because I got p.o.ed in my youth. Best thing I ever did! Yes, my family had to get by on about half income for a couple of years, but we made it up in the long run. A young philosophy Ph.D. has the mental resources to stay afloat and make it sooner or later. He owns his capital, the mental tools that make him productive. In contrast, a blue collar worker doesn’t own his means of production which leaves a West Virginia coal miner very vulnerable to the winds of change. Worry about the blue collar guy.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: 60 sec Google says the mortality rate for 65 to 74 year olds is about 1,800 per 100,000, or 1.8%. I take this to be long term data, not current year. Rate is, of course, much higher for older cohorts. Your 2% number over like 18 months would be like 1.3% per year, or, to back of the envelope accuracy, something like half the preexisting mortality rate. That’s a lot, but far from the dying in the streets level it might take to convince a lot of people.

  23. Scott F. says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    The Trumpkins only loved him because Trump was willing to say the things they wanted to hear – you know The Truth in their heads that no one else had the courage to speak. He’ll bend back to their message way before they bend to his.

  24. charon says:

    This unique study explains a new mechanism that accounts for some of the variability in COVID-19 illness. The research has found that autoantibodies—antibodies that mistakenly target and react with a person’s own tissues or organs—block a key mechanism in the antiviral immune response; the type 1 interferon response.

    The type 1 interferon response is an immune mediator involved in antiviral protection and is a critical response in the body’s ability to fight viral infections. This new research shows that the autoantibodies that neutralize the interferon response, sharply increase in prevalence in patients over 60 years of age and underlie about 20% of all fatal COVID cases. Researchers believe that this may explain some of the variability that we see in COVID-19 illness in older people.

    The presence of auto-antibodies in some individuals with critical COVID-19 illness was previously demonstrated by Paul Bastard (University of Paris, France) and Jean-Laurent Cassanova (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, NY, U.S.). Bastard and Cassanova have led this current collaborative study which demonstrates this key mechanism by which some individuals are more vulnerable to COVID-19 illness. These autoantibodies sharply increase with age and are present in about 4% of older adults aged >70 years of age in the general population, partially explaining why older adults are so vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

  25. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I don’t know about that. I started a Linkedin account years ago, and immediately got bombarded by messages from idiots I didn’t know promoting their self-published self-help books. There may have been some way I could have prevented that, but I never bothered to check again.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Slugger: I’m not concerned about him at all. Merely noting that his move is not typical in that type of field. I’m glad that quitting your job worked for you. I’ve known a few people for whom quitting a “good” job meant they never had another one–myself included for 25 years. And I do wish him well. When I became a teacher, I soon realized that I wasn’t likely to continue working in situations where I didn’t feel I “was a good match to the environment.” I don’t regret it at all, but it meant that I spent a lot of years teaching a course here and a course there. I was in my late 40’s and headed toward divorce for reasons other than spotty employment at that era, so it didn’t trouble me. I still hope he gets a better road.