How superspreading is fueling the pandemic — and how we can stop it

“On average, people with the coronavirus infect about two other people; most pass the virus to just one other person, or to no one else at all.

But some people go on to infect many more — often before they even get symptoms. Many of these transmission chains begin with superspreading events, where one person (usually in a crowded indoor space) passes the virus to dozens of others. Early contact tracing studies suggest these events have been a large driver of transmission around the world. By some estimates, 10 percent of people have been causing 80 percent of new infections.”

“To understand what might kick off a superspreading event, let’s review some basics about how this virus, SARS-CoV-2, spreads. Researchers have found that it often spreads through microscopic droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes — or even speaks — and another person breathes them in. These disease-containing droplets are a large part of the reasoning behind staying at least 6 feet away from people and wearing a mask in public.
But scientists are finding that the virus likely also spreads through even tinier, longer-lasting particles from breathing or speaking (or flushing a toilet) called aerosols. These are so small they can linger in the air after an infectious person has left — and may contain infectious virus particles for up to three hours. And they may be a key element to superspreading events: An infected person could seed a poorly ventilated indoor space with virus without even getting physically close to all the people they end up infecting.

Superspreading also appears to be more likely with SARS-CoV-2 because people typically have the highest level of the virus in their system (making them infectious) right before they develop symptoms. (This is very different from other severe coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, where people were most infectious seven to 10 days after they started feeling sick, when they were more likely to be in isolation or in medical care.) So thousands of people with active Covid-19 infections continue to go about their lives not knowing that they could be spreading the disease.”

“Some individuals seem to develop higher amounts of the virus in their system, upping their odds of transmitting it to others.

And given that the amount of virus in the body tends to shift over the duration of infection — rising until around the onset of symptoms, then declining — the chance that someone is a likely superspreader changes over time.”

George Floyd’s Horrifying Death Highlights Stark Racial Disparities in the Use of Police Force

“In a 2017 analysis of data from 20 states, researchers at Stanford University found that “white drivers are searched in 2.0% of stops, compared to 3.5% of stops for black motorists and 3.8% for Hispanic motorists.” After the researchers controlled for stop location, date and time, and driver age and gender, they calculated that “black and Hispanic drivers have approximately twice the odds of being searched relative to white drivers.” They were also twice as likely to be arrested. The study found that “black and Hispanic drivers are searched on the basis of less evidence than white drivers, suggestive of bias in search decisions.”

After surveying drivers in the Kansas City area in 2003 and 2004, Charles Epp and two other researchers at the University of Kansas classified police encounters based on the legal justification (or lack thereof) and the amount of discretion involved. They found that black drivers were no more likely than white drivers to report clear-cut “traffic safety stops” (e.g., for running a red light or stop sign, driving at night with headlights off, or exceeding the speed limit by seven or more miles an hour) but were nearly three times as likely to report seemingly pretextual “investigatory stops” (e.g., for an unilluminated license plate, driving too slowly, or no reason mentioned by the officer).

During investigatory stops, Epp and his colleagues reported, black drivers were five times as likely as white drivers to be searched. They were also more likely to be handcuffed and threatened with arrest, and more likely to describe the officer’s demeanor as rude, hostile, or insulting. Blacks perceived investigatory stops as less legitimate than traffic safety stops, while whites made no such distinction. The more stops black drivers had experienced, the less they trusted the police, an effect that was not apparent among white drivers.”

Do more guns facilitate more deaths? Video Sources.

Homicide Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Havard T.H.Chan School of Public Health. FIREARMS AND FAMILY VIOLENCE Arthur Kellermann, Sheryl Heron. 1999. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. Firearm possession and violent death: A critical review Wolfgang Stroebe. 2013. Aggression and Violent

Dozens of cities across the country are imposing curfews. Do they work?

“It is unclear whether ordering emergency curfews — that is, telling people they must stay at home and avoid public areas after a certain time in the evening, and increasing public police presence to enforce it — is effective in reducing unrest. Criminologists note there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of research on the matter. But some experts have raised concerns about the way curfews are likely to be enforced in communities of color and argue they could exacerbate the very dynamics that gave rise to the unrest in the first place: namely, that they will encourage confrontational policing at a time when people are demanding the opposite.”

““Curfews are an extremely blunt tool that should only be used sparingly and as a last result. They give police tremendous power to intervene in the lives of all citizens,” he said. “They pose a huge burden on people who work irregular hours, especially people of color in service professions who may need to travel through areas of social disturbance in order to get to and from work at night.””

Why some labs work on making viruses deadlier — and why they should stop

“The scientists who do this kind of research argue that we can better anticipate deadly diseases by making diseases deadlier in the lab. But many people at the time and since have become increasingly convinced that the potential research benefits — which look limited — just don’t outweigh the risks of kicking off the next deadly pandemic ourselves.”

Trump says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine

“On Monday afternoon, President Trump told the press that he’s taking a drug called hydroxychloroquine as a preventative to ward off the coronavirus — a practice for which there is no evidence and that could, in theory, have negative side effects as serious as hallucinations and heart failure.
“I take it,” Trump said. “So far, I seem to be okay.”

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that a non-randomized study from a French lab, publicized in March, initially suggested could be used as a treatment in fighting the coronavirus. In March, Trump frequently touted the drug, calling it “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” But further studies have concluded that it is not effective in many cases and should not be routinely used to treat patients.

Trump seems to be taking it not as a treatment for Covid-19 — he’s apparently tested negative — but as a preventive measure to protect himself from contracting it. There’s no medical evidence supporting the idea that this would work, and the risk of potential psychiatric and cardiac side effects, which are serious, would likely strongly outweigh any (hypothetical) benefits.

Nevertheless, Trump claims to be taking the drug anyway.”

“On the one hand, if Trump — a notorious liar — is telling the truth about taking the drug, it’s certainly newsworthy that the president is taking a dangerous medication for no good reason. It would not only speak to his judgment and fitness for office but also suggest a risk to his health and mental competence.

On the other hand, Trump may be trying to goad the media into getting bogged down in an issue that’s less important than the actual outbreak and Trump’s failed response to it. At the press conference, he told reporters, “I was just waiting for your eyes to light up when I said this, when I announced this,” indicating he’s perfectly aware that he’s starting a controversy.”

Bernie Sanders’s new favorite Medicare-for-all study, explained

“Medicare-for-all could potentially save money, if provider payment rates are kept low and there isn’t an explosion in medical demand. It should save lives, based on what we know about what happens with mortality rates once people get insurance.

But it would be wise not to take the numbers too literally. There is a lot of guesswork in projecting what Medicare-for-all would cost and the effect it would have”

A new study finds increasing the minimum wage reduces suicides

“The newest of the papers, authored by John Kaufman, Leslie Salas-Hernández, Kelli Komro, and Melvin Livingston in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, examined monthly data across the US from 1990 to 2015 and estimated that a $1 increase in the minimum wage led to a 3.4 to 5.9 percent decline in suicides among adults with a high school education or less. The authors also estimated that over the 26-year period, a $1 increase in each state’s minimum wage could have prevented 27,550 suicide deaths, or about 1,059 per year.

The paper has created a bit of a stir. But it’s just one of four studies in the past couple of years to find an association between higher minimum wages and lower death rates (specifically suicides).

If these findings hold up in subsequent research, they provide a new, persuasive rationale for raising the minimum wage.”

Even in Impeachment-Crazed D.C., It’s Always a Good Time To Borrow and Spend!

“”In a 2012 paper, economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff define a “debt overhang” as a situation in which the debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 90 percent for five or more consecutive years. After looking at 26 debt overhangs in 22 advanced economies since 1800, they conclude that “on average, debt levels above 90 percent are associated with growth that is 1.2 percent lower than in other periods (2.3 percent versus 3.5 percent).” These overhangs last a long time—in their sample, the average lasted 23 years—creating a cumulative loss in economic growth that’s “nearly a quarter below that predicted by the trend in lower-debt periods.”

That work has been validated by left-wing economists associated with the University of Massachusetts, who were critiquing an earlier version of Rinehart and Rogoff’s work that had mistakenly found that debt overhangs reduced growth below zero. The critics conclude that “the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public-debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent.””

We crossed that Rubicon back in 2010″

“You don’t have to believe there’s something magical about a 90 percent threshold to grok the idea that unpayable government debt has a negative effect on growth. The people who comprise markets recognize that a day of reckoning will eventually come and government will do some combination of raising taxes, reducing services, or inflating currency. None of those outcomes, and especially the unpredictability they promise, is good for economic growth. Which helps explain why the CBO predicts that average annual growth between 2019 and 2029 will be 1.9 percent. That figure compares to 3.2 percent average annual growth between 1950 and 2018.”