How The Center For Disease Control And Prevention Failed Us

From Alex Taborrok’s review of Scott Gottlieb’s new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why Covid-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.

“If there’s one overarching theme of “Uncontrolled Spread,” it’s that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed utterly. It’s now well known that the CDC didn’t follow standard operating procedures in its own labs, resulting in contamination and a complete botch of its original SARS-CoV-2 test. The agency’s failure put us weeks behind and took the South Korea option of suppressing the virus off the table. But the blunder was much deeper and more systematic than a botched test. The CDC never had a plan for widespread testing, which in any scenario could only be achieved by bringing in the big, private labs.

Instead of working with the commercial labs, the CDC went out of its way to impede them from developing and deploying their own tests. The CDC wouldn’t share its virus samples with commercial labs, slowing down test development. ‘The agency didn’t view it as a part of its mission to assist these labs.’ Dr. Gottlieb writes. As a result, ‘It would be weeks before commercial manufacturers could get access to the samples they needed, and they’d mostly have to go around the CDC. One large commercial lab would obtain samples from a subsidiary in South Korea.’

In the early months of the pandemic the CDC impeded private firms from developing their own tests and demanded that all testing be run through its labs even as its own test failed miserably and its own labs had no hope of scaling up to deal with the levels of testing needed. Moreover, the author notes, because its own labs couldn’t scale, the CDC played down the necessity of widespread testing and took ‘deliberate steps to enforce guidelines that would make sure it didn’t receive more samples than its single lab could handle.'”

The solution has to be a more decentralized public health apparatus, doesn’t it?

Sentence To Ponder

“. . . the former president has not only managed to squelch any dissent within his party but has persuaded most of the G.O.P. to make a gigantic bet: that the surest way to regain power is to embrace his pugilistic style, racial divisiveness and beyond-the-pale conspiracy theories rather than to court the suburban swing voters who cost the party the White House and who might be looking for substantive policies on the pandemic, the economy and other issues.”

Lisa Lerer in the New York Times.

The ‘Rona Reflex

Yesterday, I began my day with one of my favorite runs to PriestPoint Park and back. I went in the back door, meaning I climbed up 26th and then hung a right on the wide, paved connector road that drops down before dead ending into a single track trail on the park’s edge.

At least ten feet away, a young hipster (meaning he sported a beard) and his cute dog were walking up the 12-foot wide connector on the opposite shoulder of me. While exchanging silent “good morning” smiles, I couldn’t help but notice he edged off of the car-less road’s shoulder to create one or two more feet of distance between us.

Because he was youngish, seemingly healthy, not wearing a mask, and smiled at me, I doubt he was a grunt in the Mask Wars. And yet, even though everyone now knows the CDC guidelines—six feet away from one another when indoors while masked—I predict many will continue going a lot further given the ‘rona reflex which is the now deeply engrained idea that if some distance and masks and safety precautions are good, more are better.

I am not advocating for Texas Governor-like “Neanderthal thinking” about masks and mitigation. I’m advocating for proportionality. Specifically, a return to more relaxed interpersonal interactions as we chip away at the virus. Trusting that 12 feet is more than sufficient when outside.

If, in return, the Neanderthals are more patient with our neighbors for whom the reflex is deeply engrained, maybe the YouTube videos of people losing their minds while fighting the Mask War will abate and a post-‘pan peace will descend upon the land.

Weekend Required Reading

1. The US is building a bike trail that runs coast-to-coast across 12 states.*

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2. The pandemic is speeding up the mass disappearance of men from college. 

3. Europeans “get” station wagons in ways U.S. drivers do not. Could this begin to change that?

4. Trump Was the Swamp. Persuasively argued, but come on, no credit for pardoning Lil Wayne?

5. Biden Gave Trump’s Union Busters a Taste of Their Own Medicine. Elections have consequences.

6. Mina Kimes Eats All-22 Tape for Breakfast. Love me some Mina, but her brain and communication skills seem better suited to weightier subjects.

* thanks DDTM

How To Accelerate Herd Immunity

Two docs, Zeynep Tufekci and 

“While we know that the single dose can protect against disease, we don’t yet know how long this immune protection will last, and at what level. However, there is no rule that says that vaccines must be boosted within weeks of each other. For measles, the booster dose is given years after the first dose. If the booster dose could be given six months or a year after the first dose, while maintaining high efficacy before the second dose, that would allow twice as many people to get vaccinated between now and later next year, accelerating herd immunity — greatly helping end the crisis phase of the pandemic in the United States.”

The Billionaires Are Winning

From Farhad Manjoo’s, “Even in a Pandemic, the Billionaires Are Winning”. The title should begin, “Especially in a Pandemic”.

Manjoo turns to Chuck Collins, a scholar of inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, to tell the sordid story.

“In previous recessions. . . billionaires were hit along with the rest of us; it took almost three years for Forbes’s 400 richest people to recover losses incurred in 2008’s Great Recession.

But in the coronavirus recession of 2020, most billionaires have not lost their shirts. Instead, they’ve put on bejeweled overcoats and gloves made of spun gold — that is, they’ve gotten richer than ever before.

On Tuesday, as the stock market soared to a record, Collins was watching the billionaires cross a depressing threshold: $1 trillion.

That is the amount of new wealth American billionaires have amassed since March, at the start of the devastating lockdowns that state and local governments imposed to curb the pandemic.

On March 18, according to a report Collins and his colleagues published last week, America’s 614 billionaires were worth a combined $2.95 trillion. When the markets closed on Tuesday, there were 650 billionaires and their combined wealth was now close to $4 trillion. In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, American billionaires’ wealth grew by a third.”

Meanwhile, as the rise in homelessness and strained food banks illustrate, ordinary people are losing.

We All Have Fears

The Rev. Melanie Wallschlaeger, Director for Evangelical Mission for the Southwestern Washington Synod.

“We all have fears of some kind. We can also have these fears in our lives as congregations. . . . We can have fears about the future, fear that our congregation will die, or not be relevant. Do we fear what our congregations might look like if they become more welcoming to our neighbors? Do we fear what our congregations will look like after the pandemic? Do we fear what our congregations might look like if others come and join us and help make decisions, and bring their gifts?

When we think about our congregational ministry, when we think about worship, will an openness to gifts of diversity in our congregations change what I feel is most precious? Will it mean we sing songs I don’t know or like? Does it mean I will lose what I know and hold most dear or value? Will I lose my place of privilege if we welcome others? Am I afraid of the future at this moment because it’s largely unknown?”

My sense of our congregation is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Major props to Wallschlaeger for asking the exact right questions.

Related. Last night on NextDoor (please remind me, why am I still a member?) someone reported on a Black Lives Matter protest. Since NextDoor has no journalistic standards, a certain hysteria quickly set in. Some of the numerous commenters said they regularly check the online County police scanner to learn what bad things are happening before leaving their home.

Let that sink in.

One of two things is true. A mostly unfounded epidemic of fear has descended upon the land or I’m dangerously naive of the many risks to life and limb.

We’re Too Optimistic?

That’s AC Shilton’s sense in “Why You’re Probably Not So Great At Risk Assessment”.

Shilton closes this way:

“Our brains may sometimes be too optimistic. While that isn’t always bad (going through life thinking constantly about every bad thing that could happen isn’t healthy either), in a situation like this, your brain could expose you to unnecessary risk.”

AC Shilton’s bio* says she’s a two time Ironman finisher and a chicken farmer, so what’s not to like, but I think she gets this wrong. Most people’s challenge lies in the parenthetical note—constantly thinking about worse case scenarios.

Where’s that essay?

Coronavirus deserves attention and we should beat it back through proven mitigation strategies. But I’m not going to fool myself. I’m four months closer to dying than pre-pandemic. Could be skin cancer. Could be someone texting while driving who takes Blanca and me out this afternoon, could be heart disease, could be a tree during tomorrow’s run in Priest Point Park.

I use sunscreen, I wear a mask when inside or unable to maintain proper distance, I eat healthily and exercise regularly, I use seatbelts; but I’m not going to fool myself. I am going to die. The humble blog will be no more. Guessing whether ‘rona or one of the other myriad possibilities is gonna get me, it ain’t even close.

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