Editors’ Blog

“I Just Beat COVID”

For reasons which escape me, President declares, “I just beat COVID.”

Late Update: Several of you noted that the President must have meant he “just beat COVID” in the sense that he arrived back in the US just before COVID arrived in the country. He arrived back in the US on February 25th. So, narrowly speaking, even this isn’t true. But it was before the major confirmed outbreak started in March. So I think this must be what he meant: a) because it is the only non-absurd explanation (a hard standard for Trump), b) but more importantly because it’s the only explanation which makes the one statement have any logical connection to the one that preceded it. (Making nonsensical statements to own the libs …)

Losing the Mask War

It seems notable that President Trump seems to be failing in defining masks as a cardinal element of political identity. It’s a work in progress of course. We continue to hear reports of non-masking Trumpers shaming or calling out people wearing masks. But there seems to be the makings on some public consensus behind masking, at least at the level of political leaders, even normally reliable Trumpite types.

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Desperation Time
TPM Reader EC ponders the real meaning of Trump’s retaliatory executive order against Twitter:

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Where Things Stand: 100,000
This is your TPM late-morning briefing.

I check President Trump’s public schedule every single (week) day. Sometimes you notice trends.

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Larry Kramer, 1935-2020

I didn’t know Larry Kramer. So my memories of him are public ones and not unique to me. But one memory has and will always stand out for me. It was an evening live network TV interview. Perhaps it was Nightline or maybe it was some show on CNN. It was an interview via satellite hook-up rather than in-studio. It was at the earliest in the late 90s, probably in the first decade of this century. The key is that Kramer was already a relatively old man and it was after the point when HIV/AIDS had become, at least in the United States, a largely manageable chronic disease rather than a near-term death sentence.

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DOJ Detailed To Trump Campaign

DOJ spokesperson goes on Hannity’s Fox show to announce next phase of the bogus “unmasking” investigation.

The Constitution Doesn’t Require A Conscience

Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz with a new Medium piece on the psychopath in chief.

You Should Read This
***HOLD FOR CHINA GDP STORY***In this April 15, 2020 photo, people wear facemasks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus cleans as they ride an escalator at a shopping mall in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Take a moment to read this article in Science magazine about COVID19, aerosol transmission and masks. It’s not a study. It’s published as a “perspective”, more a review of the current science and an argument about the implications of the data. The upshot is a strong argument for universal mask wearing as long as COVID19 remain prevalent in the population and we have no vaccines or effective treatments. The more specific assertions are these.

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A Glimpse Of Normal

Joe Biden commemorates the 100,000 and counting American victims of COVID-19:

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Mask as Symbol

Conventional wisdom and the balance of the public health community seems to have come round decisively in favor of masks as a key way to reduce transmission of COVID during the pandemic. In an interview with CNN, Anthony Fauci said that he wears a mask “when I’m in the public for the reasons that I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that’s the kind of thing you should be doing.”

This is a good opportunity to revisit the mask as symbol, which is distinct from its immediate public health value but of course related to it.

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Where Things Stand: Not All Fall In Line Behind The Next Great Political Divide
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

If President Trump had his way, mask-wearing would play a crucial role in whatever us-versus-them narrative he attempts to spin for his reelection.

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What’s the Allure of Hydroxychloroquine?

There’s a growing body of clinical evidence that hydroxychloroquine (alone or with an accompanying antibiotic) not only has no therapeutic effect for COVID but can increase substantially the risk of death for those with advanced disease. President Trump has been pushing it for months, for reasons which are not altogether clear. What is weird and fascinating in its own right, however, is that what we might call hydroxy-mania seems to be a common feature of right-wing nationalism across the globe. The biggest example beside President Trump is his ally President Bolsonaro of Brazil, who similarly is presiding over an out-of-control epidemic with an extreme scarcity of testing.

But what could possibly be the connection between rightist-populist nationalism and this until-recently relatively obscure anti-malarial drug? Does the drug itself have some ideological valence? That can’t be the case.

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Woman Who Called Cops on Black Birder Fired

Franklin Templeton funds has now fired the woman at the center of that unleashed dog, police call viral video.

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Consuming Fox News May Be Harmful to Your Health

A new study produced by business school profs at Columbia and University of Chicago suggests that viewing Fox News is strongly correlated with ignoring social distancing guidance during the first weeks of the COVID19 epidemic and is in fact driving that non-compliance.

The researchers looked at geospatial data derived from anonymized cell phone data and cable channel position by ZIP code around the country. They found that a 1% increase in Fox News viewership in a zip code reduced social distancing by 8.9%.

The study abstract follows …

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Where Things Stand: The Bootlicking Continues
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has clearly recovered from the utterly devastating blow  President Trump dealt his ego last month.

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A Test of Masks in Missouri

TPM Reader JM fills in some key details on that COVID-infected hair stylist in Springfield, Missouri and what could be an interesting test in the efficacy of masking …

I read your post about the hair salon in Springfield, MO. I live in Springfield and would like to clarify what happened and why I think it could end up being significant.

First, the details you gave weren’t quite right. An initial stylist turned up sick and exposed 84 clients and 7 coworkers. While she was sick and working, she also visited a Walmart, a gym (3 times – must not have felt too bad!), and a couple of other places. Then a coworker of hers turned up sick and exposed 56 clients. Together, they exposed 147 people associated just with their place of employment. Luckily, the salon did everything right, including collecting contact information for each client, which made the job of contract tracing much easier for the health department.

Why I think this episode is so important:

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Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Karens

The backlash to this Karen’ing moment was fierce.

Voting Like Your Life Depends On It

Republicans are opening a new front in their battle to force Americans to vote in person in November no matter the danger from COVID infection. The Republican National Committee and other Republican groups are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom who announced plans to send absentee ballots to all California voters and encouraged voters to cast their ballots by mail. The RNC lawsuit, which follows other suits in other states encouraging voting by mail, is part of a broader push for Thunderdome voting in which voters are forced to choose between their health and their franchise.

Brazil Becomes A COVID Hot House

Yesterday the United States placed restrictions on travel from Brazil, which is rapidly emerging as a top global COVID hotspot. The country has now the second highest case could in the world with 363,211 cases, second only to the United States and just ahead of Russia. But if you look at the testing numbers, the situation looks even more ominous.

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Annals of COVID Hair Salons

“This scenario is well within our capacity of our staff to contact trace and hopefully contain. But, I’m going to be honest with you. We can’t have many more of these,” says Clay Goddard, Springfield-Greene County Health Department director. This comes after two potential spreading incidents in the Springfield, the more noteworthy of which is a hairstylist who worked while sick with COVID and exposed as many as 84 clients. (The other person went to gym and various local stores over about a week.

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Hydroxychloroquine Isn’t a Joke It’s a Scandal

Hydroxychloroquine and President Trump’s obsession with it has been something of a running joke during the COVID19 Crisis, to the extent jokes are possible in such a dismal climate. But I want to flag your attention to this new study published in The Lancet, which has dire findings about the impact of hydroxychloroquine and the hydroxychloroquine in combination with the class of antibiotics the President has repeatedly endorsed. Here’s the study and here’s a write-up of the study in The Washington Post. Let me start with an arresting quote: “for those receiving hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic — the cocktail endorsed by Trump — there was a 45 percent increased risk of death … ”

That is, to state the obvious, a very bad number.

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Are We On a Permanent COVID Plateau?

We’re getting a mix of information about the state of the COVID epidemic in the United States – much of it contradictory. I wanted to take a few moments to pick apart these seemingly contradictory realities which are happening at the same time.

The first fact is that the initial experiments with easing the strictures on social and economic life have not generated the spikes in new cases that some predicted. Georgia is the clearest case of this. Neighboring Florida is another. We don’t know yet why this is the case. Perhaps we need to wait longer to see the impact. Perhaps continuing mitigation efforts are more effective than anticipated. Perhaps there are cultural, social, epidemiological or even climatic factors that make these states less susceptible to the kinds of outbreaks we saw in New York and other urban centers in the North. But we’ve seen enough data to say with some confidence that the worst predictions are not coming to pass, or at least not quickly.

But there’s another reality that is worth considering. COVID cases across the United States remain notably stable. We may be past the apex but the top looks something like a plateau.

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Where Things Stand: The Defiance Strategy
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Today, he’s forcing the city of Baltimore to host him, against officials’ will.

Yesterday he refused to wear a mask for most of his tour of a Michigan Ford plants and can’t seem to stop himself from publicly feuding with female officials in the state.

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Welcome a New Member of Our Team

Today we’re excited to announce that we’re adding a new member to our team. Zoë Richards will be joining TPM next week as a Newswriter in our New York (for now virtual) office. Welcome, Zoe. And many thanks to all our members for your support.

Hedge Fund Chief Says It’s Time to Go For Herd Immunity
on July 9, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

One of the most remarkable dimensions of the COVID19 Crisis is the way the most garish or clownish versions of class division and privilege are pushed so aggressively to the fore. As we’ve discussed earlier, billionaires are eager to get back to work or rather eager to get you back to work. No less remarkable, they’re eager to talk to reporters or go on TV and make their argument. Now we have hedge fund chief Ricky Sandler, CEO of Eminence Capital, who has announced that America needs to get behind herd immunity. On a CNBC appearance yesterday he lamented “how the politicians and the media and the academic community and the scientific community have taken hold of this debate,” and announced it’s time to push on to herd immunity.

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We Need Your Support

A month ago we introduced the TPM Journalism Fund, a way to support TPM above and beyond the cost of your membership to allow us to add new reporters and investigative capacity. During the COVID19 Crisis it’s also a way to help us manage the severe downturn that is forcing retrenchments, layoffs and shutterings of whole news organizations across the USA. (Here’s detail on how it works.) Despite a 40% drop in advertising revenues we are doing none of those things. That is entirely because of you and your memberships and support. Operating remotely from apartments across New York City and Washington, DC our team continues to bring you the kind of smart and incisive independent journalism TPM has been known for for just shy of 20 years. So if and only if the COVID19 Crisis has left you financially able to do so please consider contributing to the TPM Journalism Fund.

If you’re not already a subscriber, now is a great time to subscribe. If you are a subscriber and you are able to do so, please upgrade (TPM Ad Free – it’s really great). And if and only if you are financially able to do so please consider contributing to the TPM Journalism Fund. (More here on the details and what the money goes toward.)

Thank. We welcome your feedback and we appreciate your support.

Unpacking The Mask Debate

As we discussed yesterday, the issue of mask wearing has become both politically charged in the US partisan political climate and a matter or real controversy among public health experts. There have also been hints, inferences from different countries’ mitigation strategies and some initial studies suggesting that mask wearing is not only effective but possibly more effective than even some advocates of their use anticipated.

Let me try to walk through some of the ins and outs of this debate.

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A Reopening Model

Imperial College London has a new report out looking at the COVID19 outlook in the United States and broken down by states. The main focus is on reopening and increased mobility and how this affects transmission rates. They are also clear that they don’t account for other behavioral modifications like mask wearing. So their predictions should be considered “pessimistic”.

Where Things Stand: Preemptive Plans To Memorialize Our Dead

We shouldn’t have to plan how to mourn this much loss.

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Wear Your Damn Mask

Very early in the crisis I was working on a post about masks before the US made its big shift in favor of masking. This was partly based on my own observations but I was also reading the commentary of the Turkish-American sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. The story seemed to be one of American but also really Western complacency and arrogance. The general wisdom seemed to be: ‘yes, they wear masks in Asia. It’s a good system of social signaling, demonstrating that you take the epidemic seriously. And certainly there’s no harm but masks don’t actually work.’

Then we decided masking does work.

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