Are the covid lights going on in the States?

An important rule in politics is that you adopt the best policies and slogans of your opponent only after you have destroyed that opponent. Till that moment you pretend he is the devil, but afterwards you re-label his best ideas and call them your own. A great Australian example is how John Howard in 1995 ran on a ‘never ever GST’ platform, and then introduced it himself in 2000.

Are we now seeing the same happen in the US when it comes to covid? Are the Democrats adopting Trump’s attitude to the virus now that he is no longer around and temporarily muzzled in the media as well? It would be the best news on the covid-mania front in months. Where the US leads on this, many will follow. Consider the signs.

The biggest sign is from the biggest state, California, where its Democratic governor has just lifted all stay at home orders and is allowing restaurants to open, despite very low vaccination and high case numbers. The Democratic New York Governor has similarly stopped talking doom and gloom and is demanding re-opening despite rising active case numbers.

Montana’s governor has done away with nearly all Covid restrictions and has now joined Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and South Dakota that abandoned covid-mania months ago or even managed to avoid it almost entirely in the case of South Dakota.

In smaller steps, Massachusets’ governor Charles Baker, is opening up restaurants and businesses; Washington, D.C. is going to allow indoor dining; Maryland’s governor said schools will reopen no later than March 1;  Michigan is going to allow indoor dining on February 1; Chicago’s mayor is announcing an immediate opening of restaurants and bars, and threatening teaching unions to resume teaching.

The mainstream media is also showing a dramatic shift in tone. The New York Times ran a long piece on the cost to children from lockdowns and school closures; National Radio claimed the peak of covid was over, and the Washington Post is starting to talk about T-cells and natural immunity as if they are important things people should discuss rather than fringe theories by holocaust covid-deniers.

One suspects all this is Joe Biden at his best: a consensus figure who worked out a long time ago that the lockdowns were a nonsense but had no political alternative than ride the line that Trump was an evil idiot and that he hence could not possibly be right about covid-mania. Now that Trump has been silenced, at least temporarily, Biden and the Democrats can take his most sensible ideas (as they have also done on such issues as defense spending in the EU, btw) and claim them as theirs. By signing high-profile but largely symbolic low-impact orders related to covid (on vaccine production and such, again copying Trumps’ playbook of commanding private companies) he can claim the ‘tough on covid’ mantra while on the substance doing the opposite.

Most tellingly perhaps, Biden said on Fox news (yes, formerly the media home of Trump) that “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

Note that ‘nothing we can do’ includes both vaccinations and lockdowns! Imagine if candidate Joe Biden had said the same words before the elections. How the covid-maniacs would have howled, but interestingly they are remarkably silent in the US now. As is normal in many wars, once one is clearly lost and found out to be entirely inappropriate in the first place, its generals quickly develop amnesia and find some new target to distract us with. The howling hangers-on find something else to howl about.

Let’s hope the signs are right and that we’re not looking at another false dawn as we’ve had last summer in this saga. If it is a new dawn deliberately brought to us by the new POTUS, then well played, Joe! And what a delicious irony for Trump. I was never a Trump fan but you’d almost feel sorry for the guy that his most sane insight should be the one related to his downfall and then usurped by his opponent. There is a Greek play in that.

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30 Responses to Are the covid lights going on in the States?

  1. KT2 says:

    Hi Paul.

    Evictions and utility cutoffs are covid comorbidities

    Public health says that we’re all in the same swimming pool. Neoliberal choice theory says that if some of us want to piss in the pool, we can just create a “pissing” and a “no pissing” end.

    And that the answer to the yellowing of both ends is to make the pool longer, and that the market opportunity is to charge people who want to swim in the no pissing end to use the toilets and fine them if they can’t afford the charge.

    Because here’s the kicker: although covid mostly kills poor, racialized and otherwise marginalized people, it doesn’t do so exclusively. Even people who can afford high quality care and thus recover face unknown, long-term health consequences.

    Keeping rentiers’ income streams intact by allowing evictions made us all sicker, put us all at risk. Even the landlords.

    Treating system problems as a matter of personal choice is like telling people to recycle harder to avert the climate emergency.

    The parochial gains to the minute class of landlords came at the expense of mass-scale, social costs – human lives, human misery, widespread infection, and traumas and waste that will drag us down for decades to come.

    A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates the number of US covid deaths that could have been prevented with a coherent, effective eviction moratorium and a ban on utility cutoffs: 164,000.

    https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w28394/w28394.pdf

    https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/26/no-wise-kings/#wealth-health

    Keeping up the ‘no panic’ too I see, Paul says: “uss rather than fringe theories by holocaust covid-deniers.”.

    I like it with no strikethru. It shows your bounded awareness is almost unbounded.

    Bigger hole, bigger more wild language.

  2. Michael Baker says:

    Paul, the material difference isn’t between Biden and Trump, it’s between both of them and Johnson in the UK. Biden has mollified the left less by his actions than by his rhetoric. His ‘plan’ consisted mainly of nudging the vaccine rollout, wheeling out Fauci and not tweeting belligerently every 5 minutes against the public health establishment.

    At the same time as pragmatism is setting in in the US though, something else is brewing in opposition with your assertion about more balanced media coverage. I’m noticing a big escalation in media attention and alarmism around covid variants, which given its timing and volume, and regardless of its scientific merits, smacks to me of an attempt by mainstream media and public health professionals to keep the covid story in front of the public and maintain an elevated level of fear. The thought of a world where covid isn’t at the centre of people’s consciousnesses every living minute must surely be deeply depressing for many of them.

    • paul frijters says:

      Hi Michael,

      thanks. I only came across a few pieces so happy to be told more about the balance of US media. And agreed, one should expect the beast to try to hang on to its prey using whatever new scare can be brought into the frey. That was predicted many months ago.

    • paul walter says:

      Pragmatism.

      My money is on the horse named cynicism.

  3. Christopher Hood says:

    Saying ‘nothing we can do about COVID will change the trajectory in the short term’ is not saying ‘we can do nothing about COVID in the short term to change the trajectory’.
    Biden says the latter; you assert he says the former.
    Vaccinations are to be boosted on a demanding scale, as Biden intends. (No, a single Trump day reaching a million a day, procured by several preceding days of much diminished vaccination, doesn’t mean that a target of 100 million in 100 days is easy.)
    Distancing measures are being supported and extended where the Federal government can act.
    This isn’t your suggestion that ” ‘nothing we can do’ includes both vaccinations and lockdowns”!

  4. Christopher Hood says:

    I meant, of course, that Biden is saying ‘nothing we can do about COVID will change the trajectory in the short term’ while you assert he is saying ‘we can do nothing about COVID in the short term to change the trajectory’.
    Biden is ramping up vaccination and moving to extend distancing protections. He clearly intends to act. He clearly considers action to be called for and likely to improve the situation…even if action won’t change the trajectory in the short term.

    • paul frijters says:

      sure, I dont see the contradiction between what you say and the post. But I will again emphasise the enormity of the admission that nothing, hence also not lockdowns or accelerated vaccination programs, is going to make a difference in the time-frame of whole months. I recall the many claims made in Europe and the US that lockdowns would have dramatic effects within weeks if not days, or that vaccinations would mean the near instantaneous end to the virus. Indeed, since a one-shot dose of the pfizer vaccine supposedly gives peak protection after about 10 days, you’d surely expect an increased vaccine rollout to help well within a single month.

      So there is a significant dialing down of the idea that governments can do all that much to prevent covid deaths, which brings the damage of what their policies actually do more into focus. That is a move in the right direction. Later and less than I would like, but by now we have to rejoice small steps towards sanity. Let’s hope its not another false dawn and that covid-mania does not manage to regain its total grip.

      • Conrad says:

        All Biden is saying is the obvious. Perhaps some governments that have delusion leaders and people that want a post-reality world like Boris in the UK think lockdowns work quickly (or at least wish they did) but many don’t (perhaps the BS is worse in Europe). It seems pretty obvious that once you lock down people, everyone in the houses they are locked in with gets infected. They then show signs two weeks later etc. (we have discussed this here before).

        Given this, the time course of getting and using the vaccines, that Biden can’t force states in the US to do much anyway, that the states can’t or at least are unwilling to restrict travel from one to another (unlike Aus), and that the US is a fairly unruly place in terms of people creating externalities on each other, all Biden is doing is pointing out reality — that there is no plausible scenario for a quick reduction in the US. I imagine if Trump hadn’t waged a disinformation war on everything, he could have said the same thing — that there isn’t that much that could have been done in the US by the president alone, and that some of the things he did do, like his Warp Speed program were a very good idea.

        • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

          Just remember the UK is only now putting people whop arrive from O/S into quarantine for 14 or is it 10 days.
          As i have constantly said previously they and the euro countries had claytons lockdown.
          Sweden of course had an informal lockdown which some people think was trying to achieve herd immunity.
          That was complete and utter rubbish from start to finish.

          I should add to talk about California and not mention a possible recall election is somewhat mystifying unless the person does not know what they are writing about.

  5. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    It was the 1996 election and he ran on the GST in 1998 and won despite getting the lowest vote ever for a winning coalition.

    Gee I wonder what would have occurred if lockdowns never happened in the USA. More people getting covid, more people dying from it, hospitals unable to cope and staff completely over-worked which would have meant more people dying as a consequence. In other words what is occurring now only much much worse and we stil have much to learn.

    It is really amazing how stupid some people can get without ever realisng it.

    • Re what would have occurred if lockdowns never happened in the USA. we will never know but my money would be on , it made no difference. Least apart from making some feel, important etc.

      • Conrad says:

        It clearly made a big difference in the first wave in NY.

        I’m also surprised you’d back yourself for money-on predictions given some of your previous predictions like Covid being done and dusted in the UK.

  6. ianl says:

    Slightly off-topic. Comes from Judith Curry’s website January 2021 list of interesting publications:

    https://nymag.com/intelligencer/amp/article/coronavirus-lab-escape-theory.html

    Some of these articles are quite scary, especially those on Baric’s US virology lab.

  7. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:
  8. A view from France says:

    It would probably be interesting for you to compare with the evolution of the situation in France during the last days. Although case and death rate (currently around 20/25k cases, 300 deaths / day) did not significantly go up since November, the government and the media were insisting for at least 10 days that a lockdown was unavoidable and impending. The main reason given was the oncoming spread of the British and other variants. During the last week, however, the government started to temperate these claims, and even the director of the Technical-scientific committee (a committee of experts counseling the government) declared that they are careful to all aspects of people’s health, not only to Covid. Quite unexpectedly, on Friday night PM Castex declared that lockdown could still be avoided, and announced some marginal measures, such as the closure of large shopping malls and the ban of travels outside EU. Meanwhile, newspapers and other media had started to abundantly write about the psychological problems connected with lockdowns and other measures, stressing in particular those touching the youth, interviewing psychologists and specialists in education, etc. Moreover, such hashtags as #jenemereconfineraipas (‘I will not lockdown again’) or #désobéissancecivile (‘civil disobedience’) had jumped up in the social media, and the images of anti-lockdown riots had come from the Netherlands, Lebanon and other countries. My interpretation is that we are now at a key moment in the pandemic: public opinion has become aware that it will not be a matter of few months, or even years, and that even vaccines are not the miracle they were announced to be. This awareness combined with the objective financial and psychological instability many people endure make lockdowns less and less obvious to be accepted by the population. To the point that some medical experts (not only among the so-called “rassuristes”, ‘reassure-ists’) have started claiming that they cannot be a long-term solution, or turn towards more global propositions (e.g. a worldwide policy on vaccine production and distribution). The government is probably very aware of that, but clearly needs an exit strategy in order not to have to admit that their policy so far was short-term and, in fine, a failure. (Apart from the fact that France did not shut up schools since September, something that must be stressed). Of course, a lockdown is still possible, and even probable, in the next days, but it could very well be the last one. I think we are clearly in a moment when a new paradigm may clearly emerge, even if the situation is still uncertain and doctors claiming “we need a lockdown” every day are still very present in the media. Hopefully, France will serve as an example for other countries, at least in Europe.

    • very interesting, thanks! I havent really followed the situation in France but I have always hoped they’d be among the first to protest hard against the nonsense of lockdowns.

      • Vaccination rates per hundred citizens ,last time I looked, were about 50 per hundred for Israel, about 10 per hundred for the UK and less than 2 per hundred for France.

        • A view from France says:

          It was 2.37 on January 31. It is low, and French health authorities could certainly have handled it better at the end of December. That said, however, all EU countries are experiencing delivery problems, and likely the effect of the initial slowness France displayed will be canceled before vaccines can have any significant effect.

    • Conrad says:

      It’s unsurprising governments are changing their minds — presumably many assume that once vaccines turn up, people will have less to complain about (especially healthcare workers and the people that have the most reason to complain), and places like France will get them quickly. Two months of Winter have also gone, so one might expect infection rates to stabilise even without massive intervention (hence allowing more time for vaccination).

      I find the French death and infection rates are appalling, especially given the population is somewhat younger and healthier than other Euroland countries, and the hospital system is one of the best in the world. I’m also not surprised by the infection rates given various cultural differences to places that have kept them down (touching , ignoring rules, housing quality etc.) and I imagine these things are very hard to deal with compared to other places where they don’t have these things going on.

    • Michael Baker says:

      Southeast Asia is another example of where governments are starting to give up on lockdowns despite an escalation in infections. The reason may be that hardly anyone is getting really sick or dying and this is allowing governments to pay more attention to the length of the food-lines.

      For example, Vietnam has an overall case fatality rate of 1.9% (0.000036% population mortality rate). In Cambodia, the official CFR and PMR is zero. In Thailand (case fatality rate = 0.4%, populaton mortality rate 0.00011%) the government locked down everything for the second time at the beginning of January because of two separate mass outbreaks – one in a fish market and the other originating in a gambling den in an eastern province. A month went by during which the authorities started doing a lot of testing with the result that the official number of new infections didn’t fall during the lockdown but stayed roughly the same. But hardly anyone was dying – just three or four seniors with pre-existing conditions. So now the government has thrown in the towel and started opening everything up again.

      The extremely low death rates from covid in these countries suggests that if governments had focussed on mortality from the very beginning instead of infections, they could have run pretty much close to normal from the get-go.

      • conrad says:

        Once white people learn to wear clean masks, don’t have groups of people running around spreading (and protesting) having to wear masks, obey various less onerous government rules that are staggered sensibly etc., I imagine that would be much a better comparison.

        In terms of mortality and not just infections, apart from Paul’s suggestion that some groups simply have better baseline immunity than others, one obvious reason people are doing better in places like SE Asia is that they simply have better diets and so half the population is not at risk due to being overweight. Even if you eyeball the Euro data, you can see places like the Netherlands which has a high infection rate has done well on mortality compared to some other places like the UK and Spain, presumably because the population is less fat and more fit (a comorbidity). I thank bicycles and public infrastructure.

        • Michael Baker says:

          I totally agree with you regarding obesity and other factors that influence differential outcomes. And that really is the point. If governments in SE Asia had paid attention to what was relevant in their own data instead of locking down their populations, they could have tailored some good individual solutions that balanced all interests. The data has been screaming at them for many months and they ignored it. Instead, they continued to bombard people with negative imaging to maintain the state of fear. I imagine that SE Asia is not the only region where this has happened.

  9. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:
  10. murph the surf says:

    Could you try the link again Not Trampis?
    Clicking on it only brings up an error message.

  11. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    done

    HERE

  12. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    whoopsy I need those blue pills
    HERE

  13. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    try again
    HERE

  14. murph the surf says:

    How is South Dakota faring?
    https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#compare-trends_totaldeathsper100k
    And looks like the UK is contemplating more stringent hotel based quarantine measures for arrivals .
    SAGE told the politicians such quarantine should be mandatory, various fudges look likely.

    • Conrad Perry says:

      Those figures are interesting in themselves because the NY city death rate is over 300 per 100K. Given it seems unlikely that everyone in NY city has had covid, this puts the death rate well within the bounds of what the CDC estimated ages ago for the US population (around .5% if I remember correctly) and clearly cuts out any lower bound estimates which those figures already over.

  15. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    statschat on the new vaccines

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