Testing will end coronaplague, but quarantine anyway…

From the local K-8 school…

I am writing to inform you that a student … has tested positive for COVID-19. All families with students in the impacted cohort have been notified and their children were picked up from school immediately. Our first responsibility is to keep our students and staff safe.

(In case you thought their first responsibility was education!)

We have been planning for this scenario during our reopening planning process and have a comprehensive plan in place to sanitize the school, inform families whose students were at risk of exposure or in close contact, and support the affected family as they navigate this stressful experience.

Our student body and staff have been closely adhering to the safety protocols including mask wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing.

(But we don’t believe that any of this stuff actually works, which is why what might be a false positive test leads us to shut down a “cohort” of the school?)

We are grateful to our families for their continued efforts to keep students home at the first sign of symptoms. These measures, taken in combination, greatly reduce the risk of additional transmission.
Though we cannot provide specific information about our school community member who tested positive, your child was not a close contact (defined as being within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes) of the affected school member. Please continue to monitor your child for symptoms, and keep your child home if he/she/they shows any symptoms or is not feeling well.

Parents of students who were in close contact with the community member have been notified separately. All close contacts should be tested but must self-quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure to the person who tested positive, regardless of test result.

(Testing is critical for prevailing in the war that we’ve declared on this virus, but we are going to throw out the test results and quarantine everyone regardless.)

Some good news for Chlorox:

To further prevent transmission of the virus to other staff and students, we have disinfected the school with a focus on those areas frequented by the community member that tested positive. We will continue to be vigilant in adhering to all of the protocols that have been put in place in an effort to continue in person learning.

But they close the school every afternoon at 1:45 pm, a shortened school day compared to the old 2:50 pm. I had thought this was so that school employees, who can’t be expected to work past 3 pm, would have time to douse everything with Chlorox. If everything is already disinfected daily, what is this going to be? Double secret disinfection?

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Silicon Valley Shutdown Karens move into bigger houses

My rich friends in the Bay Area are tireless Facebook advocates for more shutdown. Most of them live in spacious homes worth $2-3 million or more. Consistent with Your lockdown may vary, here’s “Bay Area home prices soar with suburban boom” (Mercury News, October 7):

Coronavirus drives demand for space, single-family homes

With millions out of work, and restaurants, shops and retailers closing, one spot in the economy shines for thriving and affluent professionals — Bay Area real estate.

As if the devastating pandemic had passed over the tech campuses, Spanish-tiled roofs and Tesla-filled garages of Silicon Valley, luxury home sales exploded in August and drove median prices up 16 percent from the previous year to levels approaching the market peak in 2018.

The median sale price for an existing single family home in August in the Bay Area was $975,000, according to DQNews data. The gains were driven by a limited supply of properties for sale and a greater portion of high-end homes selling, agents and economists said.

“We’ve never seen such high price appreciation in a recession,” said Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist with real estate data firm CoreLogic. “The recession hasn’t hit everyone the same way.”

Bay Area agents say demand is driven by techies and professionals looking for more space for family and home office Zoom-rooms.

If these are the folks making decisions on when to end shutdown, I’m not predicting an early exit from cower-in-place!

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Young slender Ukrainian blonde moves to Sweden to produce pornography

For the Church of Shutdown faithful, Sweden’s lower death rate from COVID-19 can be explained primarily by the Swedes being masked and mostly shut down. By continuing to run schools, offices, restaurants, and gyms, the Swedes are merely practicing a variant form of shutdown. Without evidence or knowledge, American Shutdowners will simply assert that everyone in Sweden is wearing a mask. Sometimes white American Shutdown Karens will says that Sweden is a special case because the Swedes are vastly more intelligent than Americans (this might be a swipe at our darker-skinned underclass, which they believe does not exist in the Land of Blondes (in fact, 25 percent of Swedes are immigrants or children of immigrants)).

Enter @SvitlanaNosul, publishing smartphone videos that can be described only as “pornography” (showing humans doing things that are shocking to our sensibilities, e.g., riding the subway without masks). Examples:

Her Twitter bio:

I was born in the USSR, grew up in independent* Ukraine, and now live in the kingdom* of Sweden I stand for the truth and the right to be a free human being

She is lucky that she didn’t emigrate to Maskachusetts!

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Is watching sports less popular because we can’t watch other people watching sports?

“Why Are Pandemic Sports Ratings So Terrible?” (New York Magazine) describes a fall in TV viewership in a country where millions of people are more or less locked into their homes, unemployed, etc. How can Americans possibly have something better to do right now than turn on the TV and watch a game that they used to enjoy watching?

Here’s my theory: a big reason that people care about sports is that they see other people caring about sports. In the pre-coronapanic days you’d go into a restaurant and see people in the bar with their eyes glued to a professional sports game. This subconsciously communicated that the game was important. Maybe you’d go over to a friend’s house and the game would be on. Another hint that this game is important.

If you’re by yourself at home, on the other hand, there is nobody else to tell you that a particular sport is important enough to be worth watching.

Readers: What’s your theory? Americans are glued to screens more than ever, right? Why aren’t they watching sports on those screens?

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Schools are closed so that teachers don’t die, but nobody is worried about folks under 70 in the D.C. epidemic?

As some of you may have heard, an epidemic of coronavirus has finally reached the rich and powerful in Washington, D.C. One infected soul (or soul-less?) is Donald J. Trump, age 74. The progress of his COVID-19 encounter mesmerized Americans, but I never saw any coverage of people concerned about deaths or serious long-term health consequences for the under-70 politicians and staff. From this can we infer that Americans don’t think that COVID-19 is hazardous for those under-70? (Maskachusetts removed the age-related statistics from its dashboard in mid-August, but the memories may linger!)

On the other hand, we are informed that schools have to be kept closed to protect students. When science deniers object that no person under 20 has ever died from/with COVID-19 here in MA, for example, the School Shutdown Karen shifts gears to say that it is, in fact, teachers who have to be protected. But unionized public school teachers can retire with full inflation-adjusted pension benefits and unlimited health insurance when they’re in their 50s. So there shouldn’t actually be anyone over 70 in a school building.

How to explain the apparent logical discrepancy?

Some background from the Official Newspaper of the Shutdown Karens, “‘I Don’t Want to Go Back’: Many Teachers Are Fearful and Angry Over Pressure to Return” (NYT, July):

“I want to serve the students, but it’s hard to say you’re going to sacrifice all of the teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers and bus drivers,” said Hannah Wysong, a teacher at the Esperanza Community School in Tempe, Ariz., where virus cases are increasing.

On social media, teachers across the country promoted the hashtag #14daysnonewcases, with some pledging to refuse to enter classrooms until the coronavirus transmission rate in their counties falls, essentially, to zero.

From Mini Mike, “Teachers Sue to Keep Schools Shut as Parents Demand They Reopen” (Bloomberg, July):

The Florida Education Association, a group of teachers unions, filed suit Monday to block an emergency order to reopen schools next month despite a spike in coronavirus infections. Meanwhile, a lawsuit in New York is seeking to ensure that schools there aren’t closed for the fall term.

On the other end of the argument, a woman and her two children in Brooklyn last week filed suit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is still deciding whether to allow schools to reopen this fall. The suit claims the state’s order to keep schools shut thus far and offer only online instruction is unconstitutional because it leads to disparate treatment for students with special needs.

From North Carolina, this month, “Wake teachers warn board that reopening schools will put people at risk of dying” (they don’t have “Woke teachers” like we do here in the Boston suburbs?):

“It’s heartbreaking for me as a teacher because I want to see my students so badly in person, and they’re really struggling,” said Ginny Clayton, a teacher at Cary High School. “But that’s not the criteria for coming back to school — it’s safety. We ultimately have to do what’s right by our kids by keeping them safe.”

“Every meeting should be about getting our kids back into school,” said Christine Hale, a Wake parent. “Nothing should be more important to the Board of Education than education.

The board’s decision to reopen schools has angered many teachers, especially because the majority of principals wanted to continue having online classes for students in fourth through eighth grades for the rest of the semester.

Readers: If teachers aged 22-57 have a significant risk of dying from COVID-19, as the teacher unions say, why didn’t we see a lot of stories about people concerned regarding the health of Melania Trump (age 50)? From the NYT:

Many of these political brothers/sisters/binary resisters appear to be roughly the same age (or beyond) as a senior school teacher. Why aren’t the people who want to keep schools shut concerned for their well-being in the face of the killer coronavirus?

Afternoon update, from a school in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, “Keep Our Learners Safe”:

The adults are altruistically keeping the children safe from a disease that has never killed anyone their age in their state (nor in Maskachusetts, through mid-August when the statistics began to be withheld).

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States ranked by coronashutdown level

Where can Americans find what had been regarded as their traditional liberties? Never-shut, never-masked Sweden, of course, but somehow it is tough to imagine them welcoming 330 million undocumented migrants.

Wallethub has put together a ranking of states by how aggressive their governors have been in restricting residents’ activities. Maskachusetts, with more than 50 governor’s orders so far, is 49/51 in freedom. Only California and Hawaii rank lower. Where can Americans enjoy what had been their Constitutional rights?

Intersecting the above with states that have no state personal income tax… the standouts are South Dakota, Wyoming, Florida, and Alaska.

A few photos from a late September excursion to Pittsfield, MA… The state government effectively closed the Appalachian Trail. People who had spent years preparing to be alone in the woods for months were thus prohibited from spreading coronaplague to squirrels and chipmunks.

At the mostly-empty Hilton Garden Inn:

Just going to have water?

At a closer-to-Boston state park. When handwashing and superior hygiene in general are the keys to controlling a virus, one great strategy is to close most of the public restrooms. This sign directs patrons to bathrooms that are a 20-minute round-trip walk away.

How about California, one of the two states more restricted than Maskachusetts? A tweet from the governor:

The text says to do the opposite of what health care workers are trained to do. “Never touch your mask” becomes “Touch your mask to install/deinstall it between every bite of food.” The image, however, says to minimizing touching the mask. #ScienceIsComplex ?

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American physicians: The healthiest people live in police states

The New England Journal of Medicine has endorsed Joe Biden (without mentioning him by name) in “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum”. Once we get over the shock that a group of physicians support the political party that made it illegal for Americans to refrain from purchasing insurance policies that make payments to physicians, what are these doctors/editors actually saying?

the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000.

We know that we could have done better. China, faced with the first outbreak, chose strict quarantine and isolation after an initial delay.

This is consistent with what the Swedish MD/PhDs said, i.e., that lockdowns could work in a police state. But how was Donald Trump supposed to arrogate police state powers to himself? Supposedly, only state governors had the ability to terminate Americans’ First Amendment rights to assemble, terminate children’s rights to go to school, etc.

(Why cite Vietnam? Laos and Cambodia have had zero deaths! See “Vietnam miracle escape from Covid may be down to ‘natural immunity'” (Telegraph) for a report on Oxford professors poking into this question)

The unkindest cut of all:

Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

(But Trump can just say that he wants to follow the 15,000ish doctors and MD/PhDs who say that shutdown is the wrong policy. Sunetra Gupta, Oxford professor, doesn’t qualify as an “expert”? Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard, is not an “expert”?)

To minimize COVID-19 deaths, therefore, what we really need is a police state that can take dramatic muscular action unfettered by a written constitution. This reminds me of Looking at Covid-19 death rate is like the old saying “An economist is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”?

Is asking an epidemiologist whether to keep schools and playgrounds open like asking your accountant whether you should buy a dog? Yes, the expert can give you a bit of insight (“my other clients with dogs spend $4,000 per year on vet, food, and grooming”), but not a life-optimizing answer.

In this, the NEJM simply ignores its own content, e.g., “The Untold Toll — The Pandemic’s Effects on Patients without Covid-19” Shutting down every other part of society in order to focus on COVID-19 necessarily results in a lot of deaths. “The COVID-19 shutdown will cost Americans millions of years of life” (The Hill) takes a stab at calculating the cost.

Maybe this is a good window into what would have happened if technocrats had been allowed to run the White House!

(Separately, if you work at a hospital or medical school, one fun thing to do is listen for when a physician criticizes Donald Trump for trying to stem the tide of undocumented low-skill migrants. Most of these folks eventually end up on Medicaid and/or have children who are on Medicaid, thus becoming revenue sources for physicians. Then ask “Should a Swiss, German, French, English, or Taiwanese doctor who is fluent in English be able to come over here and practice?”)


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COVID-19 in the school that shut down to avoid COVID-19

From September 23: Teachers at our local high school may go into work soon:

I am very disappointed to share that I learned this morning that there was a crowded indoor and outdoor student party Friday evening that involved alcohol and complete lack of safety precautions to protect against the spread of COVID. Police were called to the scene. An estimated number of 15 students ran into the woods. They collected names from 32 other individuals. 13 of those turned out to be made up names. That means at least 13 plus 15 (28) known to be on site are unaccounted for. If these students had been identified they could be requested to be isolated from school, monitored and tested.

The Sudbury Board of Health is stating that we must start school in remote learning for 14 days from the known incident. On the assumption that students involved are more likely juniors or seniors I asked if we could bring in just 9th and 10th graders. The answer is no, because we don’t know that no younger students were involved or that students involved were not siblings of younger students. … We plan to return to in-person hybrid on Tuesday, September 29th.

Email to parents today:

We were notified before noon today that one of our students tested positive for COVID. Per our protocol we trace all possible contacts up to two days prior to the onset of symptoms and let those people know as soon as possible. The contact tracing connected to L-S school related contacts has been completed. All so close contacts have been informed.

The student has a sibling who is a student and has shared rides with another student. The student who tested positive was also in close contact with another different student. The sibling and these other two students are all deemed close contacts and will need to be quarantined a minimum of 14 days. A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of the person who tested positive for more than 15 minutes.

The student also rode to school on a bus in the mornings. The bus driver and other riders confirm that assigned seating and mask protocols were not adhered to on this bus. A letter to remind riders of the importance of such protocols was sent to families at the start of this week. Because a rider has tested positive during the time protocols were not adhered to the entire bus of students is deemed to be close contacts and will need to be quarantined for 14 days.

All students who need to stay at home and quarantine have been notified. As in any case where an extended student absence is anticipated all teachers of that student will be notified through the house offices.

School is open… half the day for each child two days per week, except for those students who are now in forced quarantine.


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Why didn’t we adjust the school calendar to avoid cold/flu season?

The good news is that everyone here in Maskachusetts is wearing a mask in nearly all indoor and most outdoor venues. Thanks to 52+ governor’s orders, much remains shut down and/or capacity-restricted. We have an endless river of Chlorox for sanitizing and those schools that are vaguely open, for example, discharge students early so that the sanitizing process can begin at 12 or 1 pm.

The better news, for the viruses that cause common colds, is that none of this has prevented the common cold from thriving and hopping from human to human. The Boston area seems to be in the grip of a full-scale cold epidemic (of course, because colds are not COVID-19, nobody is bother is gather statistics).

Half of the parents whom I meet when out walking Mindy the Crippler or interacting with folks at the airport, etc., have now been presented with the task of keeping children home for 14 days following the sniffles, an upset stomach, a headache, or any other symptom that might conceivably be COVID-19. An alternative is to get a child tested for coronaplague, but that turns out not to be simple. The state, with its infinite river of IT $$, has a web site that shows testing centers near a given zip code. But it is not integrated with availability from those centers. So the hapless parent then gets to work a web browser and telephone for several hours trying to find an available test slot. This is nearly impossible because every other parent whose child had a symptom is also trying to do this.

I’m wondering now why we didn’t start the school year in June, at which point the coronavirus was mostly burned out here in Massachusetts (restaurants reopened then, for example) and set things up with outdoor classes under shade structures and a break from November through February, the prime cold/flu season.

(How am I doing? After consuming more Sudafed than a meth lab, my congestion is mostly resolved.)


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More than 5,000 scientists to whom Joe Biden won’t be listening…

“Biden Vows to Lock Down Country to Curb the Coronavirus if Scientists Say It Is Needed” (Slate):

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would not hesitate to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order if scientists said it was necessary. In his first interview since officially becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, Biden was asked about what he would do if, as some are warning, there is a surge of COVID-19 infections in January alongside the regular flu season. “I would shut it down,” Biden told ABC’s David Muir in a joint interview with Sen. Kamala Harris. “I would listen to the scientists.”

Welcome news for Science Karens across the nation, certainly. By working through the Harris-Biden administration, the nerds can decide which Americans can leave their houses, who can work, who can learn, etc. Where can Joe Biden and President Harris find a list of scientists who should not be listened to? The signers of the Great Barrington Declaration:

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.

The true crazy talk:

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.

Who are the non-scientists behind this unscientific approach to COVID-19?

  • Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring of infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.
  • Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.
  • Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations.


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