Category Archives: COVID-19

Why Just Re-Opening and Ignoring COVID is a Total Crock

The Niskanen Center has historically been an almost-libertarian think tank, but one much more focused on economic reality than many of its peers. In the past six months or so, it’s become my favorite think tank to read, not because I always agree with it — I certainly do not, although I do think the Center may have drifted a bit left, i.e. inwards towards the center from the fringier right-wing domains it started in — but because its positions are so often well-reasoned and well-supported.

The most recent essay from Niskanen on why libertarian proposals to just re-open everything and wait for herd immunity to solve the COVID problem, The Useful Libertarian Idiocy of The Great Barrington Declaration, is typically good (and also fairly long compared to the average sound bite). Here’s one of my favorite parts:

“Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19,” according to the [libertarian Great Barrington Declaration Declaration]. However, it offers no assurance that they can be successfully protected when those who aren’t especially vulnerable hasten to “resume life as normal,” as the authors recommend. As John Barry of the Tulane School of Public Health recently wrote in the Times:

One can keep a child from visiting a grandparent in another city easily enough, but what happens when the child and grandparent live in the same household? And how do you protect a 25-year-old diabetic, or cancer survivor, or obese person, or anyone else with a comorbidity who needs to go to work every day? Upon closer examination, the “focused protection” that the declaration urges devolves into a kind of three-card monte; one can’t pin it down.

The idea that we can protect the vulnerable through a strategy that cheers on soaring rates of infection is dumbfounding. It seems that the only way to protect the elderly, immunocompromised, and otherwise at-risk while simultaneously encouraging the spread of infection through the community would be to seal them off from the rest of the population, which simply isn’t possible, practically or politically.

Consider a single mom, Maria, with an autoimmune problem (rheumatoid arthritis, say) who needs to take an immunosuppressant to function as a breadwinner and a parent. Surely it’s better for the whole family if the kids are attending school in the flesh. That means that Maria can support her family by continuing to clean hotel rooms. But now suppose everything simply returns to normal with the conscious aim of getting the bulk of the population infected. How do we protect Maria? She certainly won’t be able to go to work at the hotel to support her kids. And it becomes very likely that her kids will get infected at school, which may not harm them, but could pose a mortal risk to her. In that case, who will take care of them? How will they afford groceries?

Reflecting on cases like these, which could be multiplied indefinitely, the proposal comes to seem pointless. Nobody is going to do this. What’s even the idea here? That a governor or mayor or city council will one day announce that it is now officially a Great Barrington “focused protection” jurisdiction and everyone will just shout “Hurrah!” and sprint to the nearest massage parlor or high step it to the hoe down whilst Maria and the old folks across the street and the neighbor kid with a rare lymphatic disorder …. what? They’re issued impermeable bubbles? We all know that nobody’s getting a taxpayer-funded bubble. And very few of us are willing to simply allow the virus to cull the weak. Which is why next to nobody’s going to try the Great Barrington strategy. And if somebody does try it, it obviously can’t work.

“Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home,” the Declaration’s authors argue. “Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume.” This is all very easy to say! But you can’t believe most people are actually going to go along with this amid soaring infection rates unless you think people are generally a bunch of amoral idiots.

I’m no angel, but it’s nevertheless important to me, as a matter of elementary moral duty, to avoid becoming a link in a chain of viral transmission that could kill somebody. But even if you’re completely bereft of any sense of responsibility for the lives and welfare of others, it remains that there are plenty of selfish reasons to steer clear of the maskless rager over at the Sig Ep house (an unfortunate reality here in Iowa City.) Lots of folks who get sick from the coronavirus take months to recover. There are widespread reports of lingering neurological effects. The virus seems to cause lasting damage to the hearts and lungs of many who get infected, including in those who showed no symptoms. John Barry notes that “One recent study of 100 recovered adults found that 78 of them showed signs of heart damage. We have no idea whether this damage will cut years from their lives or affect their quality of life.”

So mere personal prudence is enough to lead many of us to decline invitations to weddings, retire our gym memberships, and eschew dine-in restaurants. It’s enough to keep managers and business owners from calling their workers back to the office. Now add a functioning moral compass to mix. In that case, a moderate level of entirely voluntary self-isolation and avoidance of un-distanced and/or mask-free social situations becomes practically inevitable.

There’s loads more where that came from.

Posted in COVID-19 | 19 Comments

Even More Brutal

So brutal it’s hard to watch, especially if you’ve ever been a hospital patient or had to visit one.

Hospital by the Lincoln Project.

Previously: Brutal – But Only the Beginning and The Brutality Continues.

Posted in 2020 Election, COVID-19, Trump | Leave a comment

Let’s All Hope Trump Recovers

Trump and Pence

Both Dangerous

There are two main reasons why we should all hope that Donald J. Trump recovers from COVID-19.

The first is that we should never wish death on people, even people we may dislike intensively for all the evil they have done. (Similarly, we should condemn those who seek to dehumanize their opponents. This is why I condemn the practice, common in certain parts of the Internet, of referring to Trump as ‘the Trumpanzee’.)

The second is that were Trump to die, Vice-President Pence would become the Republican candidate for President in the next election. I am aware that this is not a legal inevitability, but it is, from what I know of the convoluted mechanisms by which the party would have to replace him, a practical certainty.

Trump is losing this election, and I cannot imagine that some great national bounce of sympathy for an irony of Sophoclean proportions will change that. But Pence, for all that he was a failed Governor and remains a religious zealot, is largely a blank slate to most voters. Maybe the upcoming Vice-Presidential candidates’ debate will substantially change that, but probably not. And a blank slate is a chance to reboot. If nothing else, it would be a chance to peel off the voters who were voting against Trump as a person rather than Trumpism as a program.

It might be that many people would say Pence was compromised by his years of silence and sycophancy. Others might view it as loyalty, misguided or not. And the right-wing evangelical vote would flock to the polls.

Ask yourself this: what would Never Trumpers like the Lincoln Project do if Pence were the candidate? Would they shift targets or fold their tents? I don’t want to find out.

Posted in 2020 Election, COVID-19 | 5 Comments

Former Pence Staffer Repents, Recants

“At this point, it’s country over party.” [Update: alternate link 1 & alternate link 2]

Pity that RVAT (“Republican Voters Against Trump”) looks so much like “RAT”.

Posted in 2020 Election, COVID-19 | Leave a comment

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

University Of Pittsburgh Scientists Discover Biomolecule That May Neutralize Coronavirus (Warning: Loud video starts automatically):

University of Pittsburgh scientists have isolated a biomolecule that “completely and specifically” neutralizes the virus that causes coronavirus.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers isolated the smallest biological molecule to date that neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a report published Monday in the journal Cell. The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody and has been used to create a drug known as Ab8 for use as a therapeutic and preventative against SARS-CoV-2, the report says.

The researchers reported that Ab8 is “highly effective” in preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice and hamsters.

I think — although the publication date is Sept 4, not Monday — the Cell article is the one titled, High potency of a bivalent human VH domain in SARS-CoV-2 animal models. (PDF) Its summary is a heavier lift:

We generated a phage-displayed human antibody VH domain library from which we identified a high-affinity VH binder ab8. Bivalent VH, VH-Fc ab8 bound with high avidity to membrane-associated S glycoprotein and to mutants found in patients. It potently neutralized mouse adapted SARS-CoV-2 in wild type mice at a dose as low as 2 mg/kg and exhibited high prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy in a hamster model of SARS-CoV-2 infection, possibly enhanced by its relatively small size. Electron microscopy combined with scanning mutagenesis identified ab8 interactions with all three S protomers and showed how ab8 neutralized the virus by directly interfering with ACE2 binding. VH-Fc ab8 did not aggregate and did not bind to 5300 human membrane-associated proteins. The potent neutralization activity of VH-Fc ab8 combined with good developability properties and cross-reactivity to SARS-CoV-2 mutants provide a strong rationale for its evaluation as a COVID-19 therapeutic.

Incidentally, on Sept. 14, Cell published Structurally resolved SARS-CoV-2 antibody shows high efficacy in severely infected hamsters and provides a potent cocktail pairing strategy, which also sounds promising:

Understanding how potent neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) inhibit SARS-CoV-2 is critical for effective therapeutic development. We previously described BD-368-2, a SARS-CoV-2 NAb with high potency; however, its neutralization mechanism is largely unknown. Here we report the 3.5-Å cryo-EM structure of BD-368-2/trimeric-spike complex, revealing that BD-368-2 fully blocks ACE2 recognition by occupying all three receptor-binding domains (RBDs) simultaneously, regardless of their “up” or “down” conformations. Also, BD-368-2 treats infected adult hamsters at low dosages and at various administering windows, in contrast to placebo hamsters that manifested severe interstitial pneumonia. Moreover, BD-368-2’s epitope completely avoids the common binding site of VH3-53/VH3-66 recurrent NAbs, evidenced by tripartite co-crystal structures with RBD. Pairing BD-368-2 with a potent recurrent NAb neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus at pM level and rescues mutation-induced neutralization escapes. Together, our results rationalized a new RBD epitope that leads to high neutralization potency and demonstrated BD-368-2’s therapeutic potential in treating COVID-19.

A PDF preprint is available online.

Posted in COVID-19 | 2 Comments

Onions Can Make You Cry

America’s Finest News Source™ brings you The Life Cycle of a Trump Lie.

Posted in COVID-19, The Scandals | Leave a comment