Monthly Archives: October 2020

brief risk rant

We took the kids trick-or-treating tonight, and my mind is just boggled that “experts” suggest this is not safe and suggest other obviously less safe alternatives, like *parties* in one’s backyard and other types of gatherings that feature extended contact with others.  I would say trick-or-treating was not even the most dangerous thing we did today.  I’d rank it third, after buying candy in the grocery store for other trick or treaters (We left it on our doorstep in bins for self-serve) and eating “out.”  We’ve been doing outdoor dining once a week, which I generally think is quite safe, but not as safe as trick-or-treating.

I’m just exhausted by the illogic of people relating to evaluating risk.  People have ALWAYS been terrible at evaluating risk – this is blindingly obvious when it comes to baby and child safety in particular – but it’s never had such a huge impact on so many lives.

At least the kids were cute.

justice and justices

What the Republicans did in not confirming Merrick Garland was egregious.  By comparison, rushing to confirm Amy Barrett Browning seems fair and reasonable.  The real sin was failing to confirm Merrick, not rushing to confirm Amy.  But – here we are.  The Democrats seem powerless to stop Browning’s confirmation.  I’m pretty opposed to screwing up our Democratic institutions, and packing the court definitely falls under that umbrella.  I’m so opposed, I’d be hesitant to even vote for Biden if he fails to state that he won’t pack the court.

And yet . . . adding two justices to the court would null out Trump’s pick that replaced Garland and add the Garland equivalent that should have been added to the bench.  Which seems fair.

Again, RBG could have averted all this.  So I kind of blame her.  But mostly I blame the Republicans for failing to confirm Merrick Garland.

Covid reflections

Ah, Covid.  Some thoughts:

1.) When things were first shut down last spring, I, and most people with a cerebral bent, asked, Won’t it just pop back up again?  Interestingly, and depressingly, this is exactly what is happening in Europe.  Apparently Bill Gates’s and everyone else’s wishful thinking is wrong, and this thing isn’t going away until we achieve herd immunity (by vaccine or infection).   This is depressing because most of the major countries in Western Europe have infection rates (as estimated by death count) comparable or higher than the US.

I started tracking European numbers more closely a few weeks ago, and the resurgence has been clear at least since at least mid-August, both in Europe and NYC.  Unfortunately, we’re now experiencing a surge in my county as well.  We are sitting ducks in the Seattle area, because due to Inslee’s over-cautious restrictions, we have no immunity of any kind.  (I estimate less than 6% of our county has been infected.)

2.) I am worried that if Biden is elected, he will attempt to impose national shutdowns.   The debate with Trump was embarrassing to watch, and Trump’s attack on Biden’s son was shameful, but I thought Trump won the most important part – the Covid discussion.  Trump has done many things wrong in managing Covid, but Biden didn’t bring up any of them.  He vaguely said he’s “listen to the science” but didn’t go into specifics.  He could have, for example, said he’d ensure domestic production of N95 masks so that every man, woman and child could go back to (nearly) normal life with appropriate PPE.

Furthermore, I think he is way too old to be president in the best of times, and particularly now.  It kind of made me a little ill when he paternalistically announced Harris’ nomination.  If she’s so great, why not step aside and let her actually run for president?  (You, too, Sanders and Warren – get out of the way of the younger generation.)  Harris is just so energetic, intelligent, vivacious and  . . . young.  She is a much better president for the Covid era than Biden.

3.)  I am continuing to follow along with what’s happening in Victoria, Australia.  For those not paying attention, they’ve been on some level of strict lockdown since this thing started.  Australia, with its secure borders and low population, actually has a prayer of kicking this thing.  But it is HARD.  With the crazy endless “don’t got more than 5 km from your house or you’ll be arrested” lockdown, they are STILL getting new cases.  They are, however, right to continue the lockdown.  Basically, you have two options – eliminate the virus, or live with it.  If you choose the latter option, you should, in my opinion, only take steps needed to protect the most vulnerable (nursing home residents and over 70s) and keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed.  If you choose the former, however, you have to completely eradicate it.  That means getting to zero community spread.  Victoria is now around 10 to 15 cases a day, but they are probably still a month out from zero, at least.  This is one case in which “open up to soon” actually means something – just a tiny number of cases can set off a huge outbreak that takes months to control.  That is why elimination is impractical for most countries.

4.) If you’re not trying to eliminate the virus, “opening up too soon” doesn’t mean much.  Basically, if your hospitals are overwhelmed, you opened up too soon.  That has only happened in a couple areas in the US, mostly New York City.  The root cause wasn’t “opening up too soon” but the stealth build of the virus before people realized it was around.

5.) I continue to think that the closure of schools is the biggest tragedy of this whole thing.  The impact on vulnerable students is impossible to predict, but it will undoubtedly be severe.  It’s shameful.  Here’s a WaPo editorial that summarizes my feelings on this.   Seattle’s big move has been to create a committee to examine equity in online learning.  Here’s a hint: it is not equitable in any way.

6.) Ireland brought its case count down to goose eggs, then opened up.  It’s hard to argue that they opened up “too soon.”  They have two major problems.  (1) An insecure border with Northern Ireland aka the UK which allows Covid to seap in from the UK, where elimination was never achieved.  In many regards, Ireland is quite similar to NZ, but NZ has secure borders.  Ireland has a group called the NPHET which is meant to recommend measures to contain Covid based on “science.”  The group recommended that the entire country go to “Level 5” which means no one can go more than 5 KM from their house.  Everything shuts down.  The government declined and went to Level 3 instead, which limits travel to work and school and says everyone must stay in their county.  (Irish counties are quite small.)   It is going to be interesting to see what direction they go in, as infections are rising quite rapidly, and I tend to agree with the NPHET that to really stop it, they’d need to do the full lockdown, but I agree with the government that this is not worth the economic impact.  However, that is the path that the US has taken, more or less, and it has seemed like Ireland was taking a more conservative approach.

7.) There has been all this discussion about Trump causing a vaccine to be released too soon.  Frankly, I’m not losing a lot of sleep over this possibility.  I’m much more concerned about (1) If we’re going to have a vaccine at all and (2) how effective it will be.  Are we getting a flu-style vaccine which will likely have fairly minimal impact?  Or are we getting a measles style vaccine which could return life to normal?  Well??  It doesn’t seem like anyone knows.