Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Interesting Reads Today

Of course the big story remains the coronavirus, but I want to first draw attention to some analysis of the primaries yesterday--both Dem and GOP:

First, Andrea Widburg--Another primary and another spectacular victory for Donald Trump--draws attention to a real phenomenon:

Normally, when an incumbent who is popular with his party is running unopposed in a primary – or when the opponents are fairly marginal figures most voters have forgotten actually exist – there’s very low turnout for the incumbent. That was not the case with Donald Trump last week, on Super Tuesday. He had a blowout primary, with people turning out in unexpected droves to vote for him.
Trump voters knew that their vote wouldn’t matter in terms of Trump gaining the delegates for their state. They turned out to make a point: Trump’s voters are wildly enthusiastic. They don’t just talk the talk on social media, they walk the walk at polling stations, even when the results are a foregone conclusion.

ABC has a fascinating article that deserves to be read in tandem with Widburg's blog. Unfortunately there is no mention of the Trump turnout phenomenon, but we'll get to that later. The real story is (perhaps not surprisingly) in the sub-title of the ABC article--A lack of enthusiasm for either candidate was apparent in exit poll results. Here's the really bad news for Dems:

... enthusiasm was not widespread. Just 41% in Missouri, 35% in Washington and 31% of same-day voters in Michigan were enthusiastic about Biden as the nominee.

Now, obviously voter enthusiasm doesn't have to translate into electoral victory. That enthusiasm has to exist among a large portion of the electorate. Again, in that regard, Trump is a phenomenon--we've seen that in the earlier primaries, and Widburg (above) notes that the phenomenon continues. But Gallup presents evidence that the Trump phenomenon may have coattails that extend down-ballot this time around. Monica Showalter links to Gallup and its details, but I like the title of her article for the reality that it presents--Nancy Pelosi's nightmare come true: Trump - and Republicans - soar in Gallup post-impeachment poll:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More Americans approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing than of congressional Democrats' performance -- 40% vs. 35%. The rating for Republicans in Congress has risen six percentage points since late October, before the impeachment of President Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the same period, congressional Democrats' approval rating has edged down three points and disapproval has climbed five points, from 57% to 62%. 
In general, congressional Democrats have historically had slightly higher job approval ratings than congressional Republicans. The average approval rating since 1999, when Gallup began periodically tracking both, is 41% for the Democrats in Congress and 35% for the Republicans in Congress. Yet, Republicans have edged out Democrats a number of times over the 21-year trend. 
The latest readings for these measures, from a Feb. 17-28 poll, are Gallup's first since the Dec. 18 impeachment of Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives and his subsequent acquittal in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 5.

Now, re Covid-19, last night I watched a video that one of my brothers referred me to. It's long and it ranges not only over Covid-19 but also related epidemiological topics. I found the entire video absorbing, and the interviewee has outstanding credentials:

Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. Look for his book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs" for more info.

It helps immensely that Osterholm is not only knowledgeable but also an engaging speaker. I should add to the above that Osterholm also had extensive experience in the United States biological defense program. In the course of the interview Osterholm offers as his considered and firm opinion that Covid-19 is NOT an escaped bioweapon.

Megan McArdle has an article at the WaPo that riffs off a theme many may have read about--the way exponential growth works: When a danger is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn’t:

When something dangerous is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn’t. In the early days of the Wuhan epidemic, when no one was taking precautions, the number of cases appears to have doubled every four to five days. 
The crisis in northern Italy is what happens when a fast doubling rate meets a “threshold effect,” where the character of an event can massively change once its size hits a certain threshold. 
In this case, the threshold is things such as ICU beds. If the epidemic is small enough, doctors can provide respiratory support to the significant fraction of patients who develop complications, and relatively few will die. But once the number of critical patients exceeds the number of ventilators and ICU beds and other critical-care facilities, mortality rates spike.

Having made that point, which others have as well, McArdle offers some hope:

The experts are telling us that here in the United States, we can avoid hitting that threshold where sizable regions of the country will suddenly step into hell. We still have time to #flattenthecurve, as a popular infographic put it, slowing the spread so that the number of cases never exceeds what our health system can handle. The United States has an unusually high number of ICU beds, which gives us a head start. But we mustn’t squander that advantage through complacency. 
So everyone needs to understand a few things. 
First, the virus is here, and it is spreading quickly, even though everything looks normal. Right now, the United States has more reported cases than Italy had in late February. What matters isn’t what you can see but what you can’t: the patients who will need ICU care in two to six weeks. 
Second, this is not “a bad flu.” It kills more of its hosts, and it will spread farther unless we take aggressive steps to slow it down, because no one is yet immune to this disease. It will be quite some time before the virus runs out of new patients. 
Third, we can fight it. Despite early exposure, Singapore and Hong Kong have kept their caseloads low, not by completely shutting down large swaths of their economies as China did but through aggressive personal hygiene and “social distancing.” South Korea seems to be getting its initial outbreak under control using similar measures. If we do the same, we can not only keep our hospitals from overloading but also buy researchers time to develop vaccines and therapies. 
Fourth, and most important: We are all in this together. It is your responsibility to keep America safe by following the CDC guidelines, just as much as it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s or President Trump’s responsibility to lead us to safety. And until this virus is beaten, we all need to act like it.


  1. Wash your hands and keep common areas clean. Try bying some Lysol.

    Rob S

    1. My wife just got some glasses from Zenni. We 'quarantined' them for 9 days in a plastic container then washed them down with Dawn and wiped everything with Lysol wipes. Soap is apparently best of all, but Lysol and bleach work well on smooth hard surfaces.

  2. I wonder if Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are being advised to reduce their rallies and speaking schedules because they are both in high(er) risk groups, both by reason of age (77+ years old) and medical histories (Sanders' heart disease and Biden's two brain aneurysms...which were admittedly 30 years ago)...

    1. I've seen some articles suggesting they're trying to hide Biden.

  3. FYI this Wuhan-Flu infographic (link below) is being distributed around University of California today.
    (Originating from UCSF Dean of School of Medicine)
    The standout graphic is the one showing how dramatically over-hyped by the media this is.!Avuke1C95zhIh80J82PZ-RXpBA74Hw?e=9ZW8UV