How California went from a coronavirus success story to a worrying new hot spot

“much of California let its guard down. While the state, and the Bay Area in particular, was among the first in the US to embrace a shelter-at-home order, parts of California have since relaxed or outright halted those measures, letting the coronavirus creep in bit by bit. Meanwhile, precautions against Covid-19 have been inconsistently adopted by the public and businesses — especially as some of the recommended practices, such as wearing a mask, have become politicized.

At the same time, the state has seen major outbreaks in nursing homes, in prisons, and among migrant workers — many of whom are deemed “essential” and are therefore forced to work — that have driven up coronavirus cases further, simultaneously planting seeds for broader community outbreaks.”

My patient caught Covid-19 twice. So long to herd immunity hopes?

““Wait. I can catch Covid twice?” my 50-year-old patient asked in disbelief. It was the beginning of July, and he had just tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, for a second time — three months after a previous infection.

While there’s still much we don’t understand about immunity to this new illness, a small but growing number of cases like his suggest the answer is yes.

Covid-19 may also be much worse the second time around. During his first infection, my patient experienced a mild cough and sore throat. His second infection, in contrast, was marked by a high fever, shortness of breath, and hypoxia, resulting in multiple trips to the hospital.

Recent reports and conversations with physician colleagues suggest my patient is not alone. Two patients in New Jersey, for instance, appear to have contracted Covid-19 a second time almost two months after fully recovering from their first infection. Daniel Griffin, a physician and researcher at Columbia University in New York, recently described a case of presumed reinfection on the This Week in Virology podcast.

It is possible, but unlikely, that my patient had a single infection that lasted three months. Some Covid-19 patients (now dubbed “long haulers”) do appear to suffer persistent infections and symptoms.

My patient, however, cleared his infection — he had two negative PCR tests after his first infection — and felt healthy for nearly six weeks.”

“repeat infections in a short period are a feature of many viruses, including other coronaviruses. So if some Covid-19 patients are getting reinfected after a second exposure, it would not be particularly unusual.”

“Herd immunity depends on the theory that our immune systems, once exposed to a pathogen, will collectively protect us as a community from reinfection and further spread.”

“Experts generally consider natural herd immunity a worst-case-scenario backup plan. It requires mass infection (and, in the case of Covid-19, massive loss of life because of the disease’s fatality rate) before protection takes hold.”

The PPP worked how it was supposed to. That’s the problem.

“The controversy surrounding the PPP, which supports businesses with 500 employees or fewer, has a lot to do with a disconnect between the program’s design and how Americans think about business. The real goal of the PPP was to keep American workers on payroll, not to simply keep small businesses going. And so the majority of the money was disbursed to businesses with more employees, rather than to tiny ones with small staffs. That’s why a program widely perceived as being meant to boost the United States’ most vulnerable small businesses ended up prioritizing businesses that aren’t actually that small.”

Leading Homeland Security Under a President Who Embraces ‘Hate-Filled’ Talk

“She said that as Hurricane Maria approached Puerto Rico and Duke argued for an emergency declaration before its landfall, Mick Mulvaney, then the president’s budget director, resisted.

“Quit being so emotional, Elaine, it’s not about the people; it’s about the money,” she said Mulvaney told her. Asked about the comment, Mulvaney said Friday: “I never made such a remark. My experience with the acting director was that she rarely got anything right at DHS. At least she’s consistent.””

Why it’s so damn hot in the Arctic right now

“A heat wave begins with high atmospheric pressure building up over an area. A downward-moving air column compresses the air that’s closer to the ground, holding it still and heating it up. That high pressure also forces clouds away and around the column, creating an unobstructed line of light between the ground and the sun.

Over a period of days and weeks, the ground absorbs sunlight, and with stagnant air, heat accumulates and temperatures rise. “There’s nothing coming in and nothing going out,” explained Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. “It’s kind of like an oven basically.”

That’s the general formula for heat waves around the world. But there are also several unique ingredients contributing to the Arctic one.

In northern latitudes during the summer, there is near-continuous sunlight — even at night. That allows heat to accumulate faster than in areas that experience sunsets and can cool off in the evening.

Another factor this year was the lack of snow. With an unusually warm winter, less snow built up across parts of the Arctic, and with a warm spring, much of it melted away sooner than usual. “The snow is very reflective of the sunlight,” said Meier. “This year, the snow went away earlier, so then you have the bare ground that can absorb more solar energy.”

The warmer ground also dries out in the heat. With less moisture, there is less evaporation that can cool the surrounding air. “The drier ground and the air over the top of it makes it more susceptible to rapid warming when you have the right conditions like we’re seeing now,” Meier said.”

“One of the overarching trends behind the heat wave and the wildfires is climate change. Earth as a whole is warming up due to human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. But every place isn’t warming up at the same rate; the Arctic is warming at double the rate of the rest of the planet, which is why some of the earliest effects of climate change are felt in the region. The north pole also presents a window into the future for the rest of the world.

Those higher average temperatures mean extreme heat will become even more likely and more intense, exacerbating threats like forest fires as vegetation dries out. “The wildfires definitely come from the extreme heat and the dryness,” Meier said.

The loss of these ancient, slow-growing forests will release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that will take decades to reabsorb, further warming the planet. Warming in the Arctic is also thawing permafrost, which releases even more carbon into the atmosphere.

And while it’s summer in the Arctic right now, the region has also experienced heat waves in the winter. In fact, researchers have found that in general, winters are warming faster than summers. That’s part of the reason why the Arctic is now losing sea ice at its fastest rate in 1,500 years.”

“Antarctica is also warming up. Earlier this year, the continent broke two high-temperature records within a week.”

Trump’s racist references to the coronavirus are his latest effort to stoke xenophobia

“In a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this past weekend, President Donald Trump used the term “kung flu” to describe the coronavirus, one of several racist statements he made during a wide-ranging speech that touched on his administration’s handling of the pandemic.

“By the way, it’s a disease, without question, [that] has more names than any disease in history,” Trump said at the time. “I can name kung flu, I can name 19 different versions of names.”

Since then, Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has gone on to defend his use of the term. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been noncommittal: When asked how he and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, felt about Trump’s remarks, McConnell declined to say whether he was comfortable with the president’s rhetoric, instead suggesting that the question should be directed to Chao, who immigrated from Taiwan to the US as a child.

McEnany’s defense of Trump is the same flimsy one he’s been using ever since he began calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus:” She argued that such names simply associate the illness with its “place of origin,” an effort that even if conducted in good faith goes against World Health Organization guidelines that warn against promoting labels that could stigmatize an entire region.

“The president does not believe it’s offensive to note that the virus came from China,” McEnany said during a briefing on Monday.”

“Trump’s decision to lean into racist rhetoric — including terminology his own adviser, Kellyanne Conway, has condemned in the past — comes as Asian Americans continue to report hate incidents such as verbal abuse, physical assault, and property damage during the pandemic. As the coronavirus spread around the world, tropes that treat Asians as perpetual foreigners have also resurfaced, fueling racist and hostile anti-Asian sentiment.

Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that’s been tracking self-reported hostile anti-Asian incidents since late March, says it’s received more than 2,100 reports since the project began. Such incidents have included instances of employees getting shunned in the workplace, families being spat on at fast food restaurants, and children getting beaten up by their classmates. The group says it saw a surge in reports after Trump began using rhetoric like the “Chinese virus” and noted that many “anti-China” comments were frequently associated with verbal and physical assaults.

“A White male walked by me and said, ‘you f—king Chinese spread the Coronavirus to this country, you should all leave this country!’” one incident report read.

“A woman sitting at a bus stop was screaming at myself and other Asians that she saw walking,” read another. “She said that we were ‘dirty Chinese,’ that we were trying to take over the US.”

Researchers, too, emphasize that Trump’s rhetoric has mattered in the past: An NBC News report by Kimmy Yam points to a February study, which determined that Trump’s racist comments against Latino Americans “emboldened” others who held similar views to express them.

Trump’s continued use of racist statements about the coronavirus — ultimately trying to deflect blame by pointing out it is foreign-born — comes as he struggles to deal with the fallout of his own handling of the pandemic: Most recently he came under fire for saying he intends to slow down coronavirus testing because doing so would reveal the presence of fewer cases.

“President Trump continues to utilize white supremacist and nationalist views as a means of scapegoating his failures for political gain,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, in a statement. “Unless we hold him accountable, the discrimination and harassment against Asian Americans will become deeply entrenched, cause unimaginable harm and suffering, and take decades to unwind.””

In praise of polarization

“Polarization can create the conditions for overdue reckonings, for broader coalitions. When the parties were mixed, and racially conservative whites were seen as the key swing vote, racial issues were suppressed in American politics. The passage of the Civil Rights Act is the exception that proves the rule: Civil rights laws had been blocked in Congress for decades, and the rupture required to unblock them broke the party system of that era. The polarization of the parties around race and ideology — a story I tell in detail in my book Why We’re Polarized — created an incentive for one party, at least, to prioritize issues of racial justice.

As the parties became more polarized around racial issues, it became much safer for Democratic politicians to embrace racial issues,” says Christopher Stout, a political scientist at Oregon State University and the author of Bringing Race Back In: Black Politicians, Deracialization, and Voting Behavior in the Age of Obama. “Even in 2008, there was a lot of hesitancy to talk about race. Think back to Obama and Jeremiah Wright. But as white working-class voters who were racially conservative left the Democratic Party, it created space for Democrats to talk about race and be rewarded for it rather than punished for it.

Joe Biden’s career reflects the arc of this change. As he has gotten in trouble for saying, when he entered Congress, in the 1970s, he worked often with conservative, segregationist Democrats. These weren’t just coalitions of expedience: He took positions on issues like crime and busing meant to mollify racially conservative white voters. But Biden changed alongside his party. By 2008, those Democrats were gone, and Biden was Obama’s vice president, in an administration that cemented the Democratic Party’s identity as the party of a multiethnic America.”

“Identity politics is often tossed around as a slur, an epithet. A politics of identity is said to be exclusionary, pitting Americans against each other, denying them the common ground of shared experience. This is oft-made criticism of “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan, by those who prefer “all lives matter.” But we are seeing the rebuttal to that argument in the political reality of this moment, where 91 percent of Democrats — and 92 percent of white Democrats — express support for Black Lives Matter (as do 40 percent of Republicans). A politics of identity can be inclusionary, building bridges across experiences that would otherwise remain siloed.”

“Identity is never singular. We have many identities, some of them linked together, some of them sitting in tension. The story of modern political polarization is identities fusing together: Black, Jewish, liberal, atheist, urbanite — Democrat. White, evangelical, rural, conservative, hunter — Republican. Identity fusion creates stronger bonds of solidarity between those who share identities, and can create more conflict with those who become the out-group. It is both inclusionary and exclusionary. But for groups who’ve long been marginalized, who haven’t had the power to force their concerns and their experiences to the forefront of national politics, it can be transformative.
There is no action without reaction, of course. The promise of change that thrills some Americans unnerves others. Trump is president because Obama was president. We will not suddenly find agreement on America’s oldest divides, easy redemption for our oldest sins. And our political system is designed to reflect consensus, not resolve conflict. This is why, in part, polarization is so feared: It breeds government paralysis, wanton obstruction, dangerous brinksmanship.

Even so, we should prefer the difficulties of political conflict to the injustice of suppression. Police brutality is as old as America, but it has been rare for either of our major political parties to take it seriously, much less make it — and racial inequality more broadly — central to their agendas. Change at the level America needs may not be likely, but it would be impossible if neither party was willing to fight for it. That one is beginning to do so now is the product of relentless organizing, activism, and courage among Black Americans, but it is also the product of polarization, sorting, and identity politics.”

How police unions became so powerful — and how they can be tamed

“Police unions in general have become the most vocal interest group opposing criminal justice reforms and especially reforms to police discipline and use of force. Historically, they have, unlike most unions, been profoundly conservative institutions that uphold a particular white ethnic, “law and order”-focused variant of right-wing politics. They have been among Donald Trump’s most fervent allies; Kroll spoke at a Trump rally in 2018, and the International Union of Police Associations has already endorsed Trump for reelection.

The foregrounding of police unions’ role in the warping of American law enforcement has also prompted some difficult conversations on the left. The presence of a segment of a union movement that’s unapologetically right-wing and hostile to Black communities has tested the limits of solidarity from more left-wing unionists.

As long as police forces exist, police unions will exist in some form as well, even if just as political pressure groups. It is therefore natural to think that reforming police unions in some way must be part of the broader agenda of changing policing in America. They are among the biggest stakeholders in the way the system works now; without addressing their power, other reforms may never get off the ground.”

“Most police union experts I spoke with, though, fell in the middle: They believe that police unions can be usefully reformed without being abolished.

There are a number of possible models for this kind of reform. The organization Campaign Zero, co-founded by activists DeRay Mckesson and Samuel Sinyangwe, has been a leader in pushing for police union contract transparency; much of the research above relies on contracts they’ve surfaced publicly.

They recommend a bevy of contract changes, most of which involve removing provisions included in many union contracts or state laws known as Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights (LEOBRs), which provide similar protections to police officers as contracts do but are implemented as state legislation instead. Problematic provisions in contracts and LEOBRs include mandates that delay interrogations of officers (as Rushin highlighted), the ability to appeal to an arbitrator partially chosen by the police union, and bans on investigating misconduct that happened more than 100 days in the past.

Rushin has proposed allowing the public to observe collective bargaining between the police and state governments. That way, the public can exert pressure on city leaders not to yield to police union demands about discipline. A 2017 Reuters investigation found that in a number of cities, such as San Antonio, city leaders have given police unions concessions as an explicit trade-off for not offering high pay or limiting pay cuts. “If that trade-off is publicly visible, that our failure to compensate is causing cities to give significant concessions on discipline,” Rushin notes, then public pressure might force the city to increase police salaries rather than reducing accountability.”

“Suppose that a FedEx deliveryperson pushed you onto the sidewalk, causing a head injury when you fell. The deliveryperson would be liable in a civil suit, and so would FedEx. But it’s different with government. Qualified immunity generally protects police officers and other public employees from lawsuits; meanwhile, a principle called “vicarious liability” protects police departments and city governments from such lawsuits. Fisk argues that Congress should reverse Monell and allow governments to be held liable for police officers’ misconduct.

The most dramatic reform, short of outright abolishing collective bargaining rights for police unions, is one that Harvard’s Sachs suggested sympathy toward and the Boston Globe has editorialized in favor of: limiting police unions to simply bargaining on wages and hours, not on discipline. This change is already the law in Massachusetts. (Fisk argues this would go too far. “There’s two sides to the contract; why are we focused only on what unions are asking for rather than focusing on what cities are asking for?” she says.)

Reforming police unions is hardly the only important task in efforts to reform the police generally. But there is an emerging consensus that something significant has to change in these organizations. If not, they will remain unaccountable lobbies that frustrate even mild efforts to reform police departments and save the lives of unarmed civilians.”

Trump is rescuing Maine lobstermen from himself, and blaming Obama

“The Maine lobster industry, which has been battered for years as a result of the Trump administration’s trade war with China, got some good news Wednesday. The president unexpectedly announced that the lobster industry will be eligible for bailout funds that had previously only been given to farmers and ranchers.

Trump being Trump, he portrayed this not as what it is — a course correction aimed to belatedly limit the collateral damage of his own policy ideas — but rather as an effort to rescue coastal Maine from the depredations of the Obama administration which he claimed “destroyed the lobster and fishing industry in Maine.””

“Maine fishing actually prospered a great deal during the Obama years. It was a generally rough period for the Maine economy, especially inland, due to both the overall weakness in the American labor market and a specific structural decline in demand for paper. But the lobster industry did very well thanks to a combination of what seems to be an increase in lobster catches induced by climate change and strong demand from Asia.”

“The origins of this week’s lobster policy announcement lie in taxes that Trump initially imposed years ago on goods imported from China. Those higher taxes did not generate the policy concessions Trump was looking for, so they led to higher and more wide-ranging taxes on Chinese imports over the years.

China retaliated against these moves by reducing imports of a range of American-made products, largely agricultural, which created a political problem for Trump because rural voters are one of his important constituents. The tariffs also raised consumer prices in the United States by something like $57 billion per year, according to the conservative American Action Forum. But Trump never expressed much concern about the impact on consumer prices, insisting (falsely) that the economic cost of the taxes fell entirely on Chinese producers.”