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America is giving up on the pandemic? (theatlantic.com)
514 points by jbegley 29 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 968 comments

All: if commenting, please be up to date on the site guidelines (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html) and be sure follow them. Start here:

Be kind. Don't be snarky. Have curious conversation; don't cross-examine. Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.

Don't use a thread like this to fulminate or flame. It helps no one. It adds toxic fumes. Regardless of how right you are or which color the fumes, that points in the direction we're trying to avoid in this community.

There are important and interesting issues here. It's fine to debate, but do it within the guidelines. You'll do a better job of making your substantive points that way too.

This is a stub comment to collect replies in one place, so that it can be collapsed and prevent too much offtopicness at the top of the thread.


Maybe the text in italics ("Be kind. Don't be snarky...") should be always shown above the HN comment box? It'd be nice to get the reminder every time we are starting to write something unkind or snarky...

Speaking as a frequent reddit user where various subreddits have added their versions of such an instruction, I think I've never really been reminded by them to behave a certain way.

Parts of the UI like that can really only be seen once: once the user has seen that it is just a warning that is always there, it becomes an uninteresting piece of clutter that is zoned over and never again influencing the user.

I think the current system works much better: a thoughtful and appropriate comment written by a human when deemed appropriate (or possibly copied, I don't know).

This reinforces the ideas when necessary, and by itself is already a push for humanity, while a robotic repeating reminder serves only rarely to reinforce good reactions.

Yes, I agree. It also reminds me there are folk looking out for and guiding the culture of the forum.

IIRC, Stack Overflow shows the link to the site guidelines when you have under a certain amount of rep. Something similar here might solve a lot of problems.

I don't think we should have to be constantly reminded to be kind and discuss in good faith. Maybe it is necessary for some, but I expect better of HN users than to need their hands held. The regulator of HN behavior should be the users themselves; that responsibility should not have to fall on the administrators.

Do the mods here ban users who have a track record of non-substantive + snarky/combative comments?

I feel like sites experience a downward spiral of intellectual entropy as time goes on if effort isn't put into maintaining a constructive culture.

Sounds like an excellent candidate for a browser extension or grease monkey script.

Why has a question mark been added to the title here?

IMO by HN's usual standards it makes it a worse title, not better.

I assume it's to present it as a debate for discussion rather than appear partisan? (Let me say here I'm British, live in the UK, don't really care for US politics, at that level at least.) But we have controversial titles all the time that are presented as fact (the author's opinion, the author's title) and yet discussed all the same.

If we need a '?' to have a discussion, then every submission needs a '?' suffixed.

We do that sometimes when a title is particularly contentious, to explicitly encode the contentiousness into the title. It tends to bring down title fever, and it seems to help discussion be more substantive.

The title is the dominant initial condition.


Sorry I’m not a native English speaker. What does do not cross examine here mean? I thought cross examination is good?

I suppose the dialogue in comments should be closer to two researchers thinking about a problem than lawyers cross-examining witnesses in court

Ooh okay I get it. Thanks.

Precisely. Your wording is reminiscent of an old thing pg wrote, which I love:

Comments should be written in the spirit of colleagues cooperating in good faith to figure out the truth about something, not politicians trying to ridicule and misrepresent the other side.


Simple, but an absolute gem.

I understand it to mean, do not pick at small faults in others arguments. Cross examination is good in a courtroom trial, but does detract from the flow of conversation.

Good for fact-finding, if answers are required, but bad for community-building.

Just wanted to say: This is the best, most thoughtfully worded mod guidance I’ve read anywhere on the web. Thank you!

What's wrong with cross-examination?

I think the gist is to avoid aggressively picking apart minor details, and instead discuss the main points. This is in line with another section of the guidelines:

Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

It’s a good idea in principle, the problem is that the devil is often in the detail and people can say things that seem broadly like a decent argument while slipping in details (whether intentionally or not) that completely reverse the meaning or make the meaning quite different.

This is why cross examination in needed in trials - of course everyone tries to make a plausible argument, so noticing the incongruities is important.

Assuming good faith and cross examining are not mutually exclusive.

Pointing out, or asking about, incongruities is fine. How one does it makes a difference, as does the intention with which one does it. If you want to call all of that cross-examination, that's fine, but in that case we're using the term differently. The main distinction the guidelines are trying to draw is the one between open exchange and destroying enemies.

That might actually be a better way of saying it then.

I think it’s clearer and more direct and has less of an implication of being overly deferential to bad arguments.

airstrike answered this nicely: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23451214.

In curious conversation, people want to know what the other person really thinks and what their experience has been like. In cross-examination, the goal is to defeat an enemy, so people are aggressive, try to make the other person seem as dumb or awful as they can, and generally seek to back them into a corner.

In one case the goal is to receive information from others' comments, in the other case it is to fire weapons into them. One can't do both at the same time. I think there are even physiological reasons for this: one is in a very different state when doing the one vs. doing the other.

Moreover, since curiosity evokes more curiosity and aggression evokes more aggression, the effects are systemic, meaning they apply to the site as a whole. We must choose which one we want, and we choose curiosity. https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

Cross-examination can be perceived as hostile, particularly if conducted as you might see in a court of law.

When you make a call for civility the people most likely to exercise increased self-restraint are those who would in any case tend to be more judicious in how they express themselves. Meanwhile those who spew racist hatred will not be deterred and moreover they will now face lesser pushback calling out their barbarism. Source: this thread.

I didn't make a call for civility. The specific words matter.

I haven't read this whole thread, but the parts that I saw definitely did not lack for pushback. The question is how best to push back. Denunciatory rhetoric doesn't work. Its purpose is to provide momentary relief to the denouncer, at the cost of damaging the container and evoking more, not less, hatred from the other side.

There are better mechanisms for pushing back against hatred: flagging, downvoting, responding within the site guidelines, and in egregious cases emailing hn@ycombinator.com.

Quoted from a letter from 1,000 health professionals on the virus and protests [0]

>However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators' ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders."

Why are many taking this position? One can recognize that the protests are risking an increase in virus transmission while still recognizing that it is a risk worth taking. Don't tell us there is no risk from these protests, but there is a risk from stay-at-home protests. The virus is not selective of political beliefs. It completely ruins the credibility of many health professionals. Almost no one's opinions will be swayed either way if they acknowledged that the protests do carry a real risk of transmission.

[0] https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/05/health/health-care-open-lette...

> However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission

That's a shining example of weasel speak. They don't explicitly say it's not risky - because that would be plain lying, it is obviously risky - but they are saying they are not condemning it as risky. Which most people would take as implying it's not actually risky - even though they are not saying that. They are saying that the protest is too important to take health considerations into account, but they are reluctant to speak plainly and tell people there's risk but they should be adult and choose to manage the risks themselves and maybe neglect small risk in order to achieve bigger thing. Because that's what they spent last several months - and in fact, many years before - trying to convince people there's no way they can be treated as adults and just given the information and left to manage the risks by themselves. Just in this case, our betters had decided the COVID risk is less important than protesting - so it's OK for us. But only in cases which are approved by our betters. If you want to protest something else - it's still risky as heck and there they can fully condemn.

Don’t forget public health officials outright lied and said masks don’t help reduce the spread of the disease, putatively to help conserve masks for medical personnel: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/opinion/coronavirus-face-...

> When news of a mysterious viral pneumonia linked to a market in Wuhan, China, reached the outside world in early January, one of my first reactions was to order a modest supply of masks. Just a few weeks later, there wasn’t a mask to be bought in stores, or online for a reasonable price — just widespread price gouging. Many health experts, no doubt motivated by the sensible and urgent aim of preserving the remaining masks for health care workers, started telling people that they didn’t need masks or that they wouldn’t know how to wear them.

When I first started doing volunteer health assessments and triage at our local homeless shelter, I inquired if facial hair was an issue with PPE. The organization's initial response was no.

I sent them a link to the CDC guidance[1] that includes this picture regarding facial hair styles that are ok[2].

I don't think the notice at the top of said article is helpful whatsoever saying that this isn't advice for covid-19. A proper fit and seal is important. The picture could also be considered somewhat offensive to some.

[1]: https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2017/11/02/noshave/

[2]: https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/files/2017/11/Facia...

It’s my understanding — which seems to be congruent with the pages you linked? — that facial hair is an impediment to medical-grade respirators that require a tight seal to be effective. With cloth/paper masks that aren’t intended to be PPE for medical workers, though, that’s not actually what we’re going for, though, right? What we’re trying to do is curtail the spread of droplets. Beards and mustaches really won’t materially affect the effectiveness in that case.

In your specific example of volunteer health assessments and triage at a homeless shelter, you probably need real honest-to-goodness PPE, and the organization’s advice was wrong. When I’m going down to the grocery store, though, a cloth mask should be sufficient — and my (admittedly short) beard is not going to keep my mask from blocking droplets from my mouth and nose, assuming it completely covers both of them.

It's an impediment with any mask which can form some kind of seal. A surgical mask will stick to your face when you breathe in, which indicates that it does form an imperfect seal.

If one's beard is creating even more space between the face and mask, it's of course going to make things worse.

Cloth masks aren't trying to form a seal. They have a few roles:

1) They capture a lot of droplets coming out of your mouth. Do you sneeze in your elbow or in someone's face? A face mask does better than an elbow, and for every breath (not just a sneeze). So does a beard for that matter; if your sneeze goes around through a beard, it's catching big droplets too.

2) You know the six-foot-guideline? They effectively increase that distance. A person talking, yelling, sneezing, etc. can carry droplets 15+ feet in a straight line. If we're both wearing masks (or face shields), it's not going in a straight line. Beards disrupt linear airflow too.

3) You can't touch your face.

They don't stop virus aerosol. That's where you need a proper seal.

I'm not actually sure facial hair makes any difference with a cloth mask. Surgical mask would be in between. And an N95 probably becomes a surgical.

What would someone find offensive about the picture?

I guess the toothbrush mustache is verboten.

Possibly the labels under each facial style.

Offensive or hilarious? I love the creativity behind naming each individual style. I don't think any of them are particularly offensive, are they? It's possible I'm missing some references, of course.

Some people have a hitler mustache phobia.

FWIW, I don’t think the majority of the officials intended to lie about this. It wasn’t anything that started this year or anything - they’ve had the same message about masks since as far back as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.


> But the CDC has recommended against mask use. I hypothesized that the CDC was intentionally lying to us, trying to trick us into not buying masks so there would be enough for health care workers.

> But that can’t be true, because the CDC and other experts came up with their no-masks policy years ago, long before there was any supply shortage. For example, during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, their website offered the following table:

> [table in link]

> And during the 2015 MERS epidemic, NPR said South Koreans were wrong to wear masks:

> “[ . . . ] Masks can be helpful for protecting health workers from a variety of infectious diseases, including MERS… But either type of mask is less likely to do much good for the average person on the street…Wearing a mask might make people feel better. After all, MERS has killed about a third of the people known to be infected. But there are no good studies looking at how well these masks prevent MERS transmission out in the community, says Geeta Sood, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University. “On the street or the subway, for MERS specifically, they’re probably not effective,” she says. One problem is that the masks are loose fitting, and a lot of tiny airborne particles can get in around the sides of the masks.”

> So if studies generally suggest masks are effective, and the CDC wasn’t deliberately lying to us, why are they recommending against mask use?

I think you’re right. I don’t understand the general tendency of assuming malice when a combination of uncertainty about the virus, poor supply chains, and not-very-good underlying data would do just as well.

It’s also unclear what “masks” meant in the initial phases. An N95 respirator? A surgical mask? A homemade cloth mask? Each of these has different uses and effects. I seriously doubt most people knew the difference in early March, I only had a vague notion. The surgeon general likely is thinking of respirators, because all MDs in hospitals get fitted for it. They know how hard it is to put it on and take it off safely, and know how critical it is for it to be a good tight fit. None of those things are going to be true for most people in early March 2020. If that’s your frame of reference, then it makes total sense that you’d recommend people not buy masks.

Everyone going out and buying N95s when they’re not particularly useful to most people unless in a close confined space is a bad thing. It doesn’t actually save many lives, but does make it harder for people who need it (docs/nurses in close confined spaces, particularly with patients on respirators that aerosolize the virus).

People wearing surgical or cloth masks may help some, probably mostly in enclosed spaces and mostly for exhalation rather than preventing you from inhaling a virus from someone else.

Even then, it’s my understanding that the data isn’t awesome here. Many of the papers I’ve seen are under fairly odd scenarios (for example an airplane, lots of the same air, recycled all over, for hours, where the paper showed positive mask benefit). We don’t have much for bandanas, or masks that were washed 3 weeks ago, or masks that are tighter, masks that are looser. I’d wager it helps, a little, especially indoors.

In other words, this shit is complicated, why assume lying when instead we could just say, “it’s complicated, they didn’t get it 100% right.”

I'd be much more OK with this explanation about how complicated it is and how hard it is to get it right if on any disagreement with the same experts one wouldn't get yelled at as "science denier" and accused in willing to murder millions of people by his stupidity. I mean I get it, there's a complex question whether masks help (depends on which mask, in which circumstance, how long is the contact, how skilled you are in wearing masks, etc.) But isn't that why we are paying the CDC guys - to have clear guidelines about such stuff?

OK, let's say CDC guys screwed up and got caught with their pants down (oh man did they...) and now we have no clear guidelines about it. Then come down from the ivory tower and tell us what you have and let us decide without politicians yelling at us and jerking it around - one day you are an idiot murderer because you're wearing mask, next day you're an idiot murderer because you don't. It just breeds contempt for the whole setup.

I completely agree that the rhetoric around “Science!” has gotten increasingly more toxic. I say this as a trained scientist, we really do at bad job of communicating. This is made worse by a media and a general public that isn’t used to thinking in scientific terms.

By that I mean we spend so much time as scientists living with and making decisions about which course of action to take in the context of uncertain data. Other fields obviously do too, but for a bench scientist, every day is is a constant tradeoff on which data you buy, what experiments will you run to confirm/exclude it, and what’s the downside of that decision. The best rarely speak in full certainty, they talk about probabilities.

Contrast to public messaging or journalism which is, “do this, not that.” This has led to people holding “science” as an identity, a talisman of righteousness. That’s not how science works, but people want to feel better by judging people so here we are.

I personally would have preferred a short, coherent statement on what we know for sure and what we don’t, how confident we are about the same, and to treat people as adults.

The problem with summing up a multi-dimensional tradeoff as simplistic negative advice is that it creates FUD that sticks with us indefinitely. Instead of acknowledging the goal we needed to work towards and getting everyone onto the same page, we end up arguing over a trivial issue as the nonsensical advice continue to echo. The biggest benefit to everyone wearing masks would be that we could finally stop talking about masks.

Remember spending a few weeks agonizing over how to ramp up ventilator production, rather than focusing on masks? And then finally coming around to masks could be useful, with everyone championing DIY cloth masks? We're four months into this thing and most everyone is still proudly wearing those ersatz face-rags, even spending effort to "improve" them as as fashion accessories. Meanwhile a proper N95 costs around $3 to produce and distribute - I thought we were supposed to be an industrialized society!

This isn't complicated at all, it's only been made to look so by governments and organizations caught with their pants down.

Not wearing a mask offers zero protection from an illness which is mainly transmitted through droplets and aerosols.

Wearing a mask offers some protection, ranging from little to very good depending on the type of mask. In the mean time we know that surgical masks offer pretty good protection in particular, but there were studies about SARS, MERS and influenza going back years showing that both FFP2/N95+ and surgical masks do help. We even have studies comparing incorrect, partly incorrect vs correct usage.

The conclusion is inescapable: even if people on average wear masks incorrectly and even if the masks they wear aren't even close to 95% effective, they reduce the rate of transmission. Why on Earth would you not want to reduce the rate of transmission even if by a few percent?

You are assuming that people’s behaviors are identical when wearing and not wearing masks.

This is what we do not know (still).

There are plenty of results in life science far more counterintuitive than the hypothesis, “people are less strict about social distancing when wearing masks.”

There are countries - including in the EU - which made masks mandatory or highly recommended them. If "we" do not know how people behave when wearing masks, we could simply ask them.

Although we don't strictly need to ask them, since the head of the Chinese CDC said more than a month ago that using masks is essential and that he doesn't understand why Europe doesn't do it. KCDC specialists said much of the same thing, although I don't know if they expressed concern at Europe's lax attitude toward masks.

And finally here's a couple of anecdotes:

* people in supermarkets seem a bit more careful now, since the masks have been introduced. But keeping 1.5-2m distance at all times is hard and this is certainly not always respected. That's the whole point of why one needs masks instead of relying on distancing - distancing doesn't always work, but having a mask on is pretty simple. And even if the wearer screws up, at least they don't easily infect the others.

* before the mandatory mask thing people generally got out of my way when they saw me with my mask on.

I think on balance you’re right masks probably don’t hurt, and this is a change from my initial views. I don’t think they’re quite as magical as people seem to think. For example if you wear glasses you’ll notice how easy it is to have them fog up with a mask that doesn’t fit well. Those are your droplets shooting vertically into the air. We don’t know how reused masks perform either esp. when they get dirty. Still, probably helps overall.

Where it does cause harm is early on if everyone gets N95s and the docs can’t get enough (which absolutely happened) then that actually kills more people (docs, nurses, and the people they would have saved).

The right message in retrospect should have been, “don’t go buy masks, save those for people who need the highest performance, but wear a cloth mask when indoors. Wash it frequently.” We screwed up, but it’s not malice and it is complicated.

There was definitely no malice or intent to mislead by health authorities in this regard and the claim that there was has always struck me as a bizarre result of selective reporting.

You can go back a few months and the WHO went on record plenty of times regarding a couple of points

- Health workers really need good PPE and there is a shortage

- When infected people wear a mask, it reduces transmission

- The benefits of a non-infected person wearing a mask are not super well understood/studied and this topic doesn't really come up much because our main audience is healthcare professionals

So they said at one point, focus on getting the masks to health care workers, and then as mask supply increased they said the infected should wear them too, and now that cloth/paper masks are easy to obtain they say everyone should wear them.

It was always a question of supply and availability, there was no conspiracy.

If you looked beyond the headlines and looked at the context it was pretty clear.

The recommendation against masks was probably a knee-jerk reaction. Or maybe a bureaucratic "we know better than you" reaction

At the same time the amount of people that think that have the mask below the nose or just at the chin or mishandling it because it feels "uncomfortable" to them is astounding. I'm not sure but I believe an intubation is more uncomfortable (and yes these are predominantly people at risk ages)

This is so very, very annoying. I saw my parents-in-law yesterday, and both of them were wearing masks incorrectly.

It's just so pointless to go to the bother of getting a mask and then wear it in such a way that you get no benefits from it.

Who says it's lying? Modern Western world has never had a pandemic in the current globally connected world.

Recommendations try to take everything in to account.

It's easy now to say: just wear masks. But then, there was even a global shortage of masks for health professionals.

The UK did a study a few years ago on the most important threat. The #1 spot (on importance) was a pandemic and would have way more impact than the #2 threat. The report suggested various things, including e.g. masks, etc. The report was ignored.

In US there's been many warnings to subsidize a strategic PPE supply and production. This was ignored. Early on (COVID-19) a US mask producer asked officials to provide money to expand production. This was ignored.

It wasn't just easy to predict, it was predicted various times.

A comet will hit the earth is also easy to predict.

But we won't build something now against it because it's a long time ago.


The problem with falsehoods is that by making and perpetuating them, you are undermining your own credibility. Yes, there are some who will think that maybe it was better to be lied to, but most will remember the fact that they were lied to. And some of those will believe that they were lied to because their life was discounted.

The problem with lying is that your intent doesn’t matter, you still lied, and in a society that is built on gradations of trust, you’re trading against your own credibility every time you lie. You don’t get a discount on the price of your lie simply because you were acting in a paternalistic manner, in fact, Officers and employees of the government taking a paternalistic position makes their lie worse and increases the cost to their own credibility in the long run.

It's a trust problem more than anything else. If I trust the medical professionals, I may accept them lying for our own societal good.

However, lots of people don't trust (various types of) "authority". And for them, the lie is further proof of their prior lack of trust.

It's a hard problem, which has been made a lot worse by the politicising of masks, in particular.

My own prior is that Asian people have been wearing masks for many years, and I am inclined to believe that masks are (somewhat) useful. However, there's been so little research on mask-wearing by the general populace that I am deeply uncertain about those benefits.

I don't disagree, but I feel like you're understating it. The reason people don't trust "authority" is because they can't always tell when they're trustworthy, and the more disconnected from their "authority" figures they are, the less they are able to figure it out. So when public health officials, the same public health officials that told us to stay home, close our shops, give up our incomes and livelihoods and stability contradict themselves, they lose trust, and let's be honest, rightfully so.

It is one thing for us as laymen to discuss the efficacy of masks, staying at home, shutting down the economy, not partaking in the activities we used to enjoy and so on. It is an entirely different thing for a person in some kind of authority, like "public health", where your primary domain of expertise is communicable diseases to step out of their lane (which is communicable diseases) and say despite the supposedly high risk of death and bodily destruction that an apolitical virus with neither vices nor virtues nor policy positions can wreck, it is entirely okay to go out and protest something, but only if it is something that "we in authority" currently agree is worth protesting. This is, by the way, not long after the 9th Circuit said allowing Churches to reopen (even with limitations) would make the Constitution into a suicide pact.

People don't trust authority because authority doesn't want to stay in its own lane. Take Anthony Fauci, he has done a remarkable job staying out of the fray as much as possible and simply acting as an advisor to the President and to the people, and people trusted him even when they wanted to imagine their own politics on him. As a civil servant, absolute standout guy, and he's now considered one of the most trusted medical professionals in the country because he stays in his lane, meaning he allows his politics to take a backseat (not even the backseat, it's back in the trunk) to his job and Office (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases).

Forgive me, I went on a small rant, but to conclude, when you have lying in the first instance and not staying in your lane in the second, one of the effects is going to be a loss of credibility, and that's both just and understandable. Choices have consequences, and that includes lying, and that includes using your unelected Office for activist purposes. Even when you're right about something, up to and including the efficacy of masks, you've already lost credibility, and in the case of masks, you've already directly contradicted yourself. (I mean "you" as in public health officials recently, not you specifically my fellow HN).

We indeed live in an era where all things are binary.

But what is a thinking person supposed to think when the Surgeon General is saying don’t wear masks in a pandemic caused by airborne viri?

In urban (educated) zones likely to be hotbeds for outbreaks, could the state not do a little nuance and say “hospitals need the N95s and you need a bandana”

Everybody has got a bandana, but if I were to start walking into stores with one before sanctioned, someone would be calling 911. In the meantime, how many weeks go by at R 3...

Hopefully this doesn't come across as pedantic but airborne transmission of COVID-19 is rare. Not ruled out completely but not the main way it is spread. In the initial Chinese study of 75K they said there was zero airborne transmission, I think they've found some exceptions since but it's not a common thing.

The WHO actually has a definition for this, when the droplets carrying the disease are <5μm they spread further and drift around for longer and that's when they start calling it airborne instead of droplets, COVID-19 is not in this category.

It's still good to wear a mask, I've lost count of the number of times over the years that some excited extrovert straight up spit in my face because they were worked up about something. lol.


If your source that airborne transmission is rare is the WHO, then all you have is a worthless source.

Recently I've read an interview with Drosten (the German virologist which came up with one of the Coronavirus tests) say that they're starting to see airborne transmission as an important transmission factor, maybe not a strong as droplets but comparable. This is especially the case in poorly ventilated spaces.

Key words: starting to see. Using that now is 20/20 hindsight.

Well, at least in the west we're starting to see it now, but we're late to the party compared to Asian countries.

We already knew for instance that SARS is transmitted through aerosols. Then a new thing comes up which is related to the above and is basically named SARS-2 and we forget about the aerosols and instead think we should wash our hands a lot. Words can't express how stupid this is.

I don't suppose you have links to any pre-prints or papers (hell even blog posts I guess) around this?

I don't have much, but maybe this contains a hint on the effects of mask usage on the German death growthrate. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10157238440973015 (Masks about 25.4 - the effect should be visible around the middle of May)

After looking closely I found a small move into the wrong direction (maybe caused by something else?!??)

This is a pretty nice and very recent summary: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/06/02/scie...

There have been studies which have found that the virus can aerosolize, but it hasn't been established that infectious spread occurs this way. For example, it could be that viral concentrations in an aerosolized form aren't enough to cause an infection (or maybe they can get there, in prolonged close quarters, but by then you're being exposed multiple ways, so it doesn't matter or can't be determined). Either way it seems that the protocol for preventing transmission probably won't change much; the current protocols (including ubiquitous mask usage) have been enough for Korea, Taiwan etc. to control the spread.

It cannot be established without exposing healthy people to the virus, so it must be assumed.

I think it can change something: currently masks are seen as a necessary evil in stores and public transport. They could and should become ubiquitous.

As far as I have seen, currently people don't use masks for close contact talking situations (family, friends, work, chatting...).

With mask usage in Germany I see only negative trends in the growthrate of both case and death. I think to make them work something has to be changed.

There is a good chance that it now only works as a reverse placebo - it makes people feel confident and pushes them into more risky behaviour - most likely net negative.

Jena's claiming that they made a difference for them. We'll see what happens in Berlin and Munich after the protests...

> could the state not do a little nuance and say “hospitals need the N95s and you need a bandana”

No. Not in 2020. Not with the vast majority of the population. Nuance is dead.

Rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

There seems to be a trend to paint people as imbeciles who can't tie their own shoelaces without somebody standing over them, and then on investigation it turns out not to be true.

There was a story a while back about a couple who drank fish tank cleaner (containing chloroquine) after Trump touted chloroquine against the coronavirus. Come to find out the couple were not fans of Trump but were having marital difficulties, so now you've got to weigh the possibility that these two were stupid enough to drink poison against the possibility that the woman discovered a way to intentionally poison her husband and pin it on Trump:


More often than not, when you see someone doing something apparently colossally stupid, it's because you don't know the whole story rather than because they're actually that stupid. People understand nuance plenty when it's important to them.

Wait, you read a NY Post article with rumors about a married couple having marriage difficulties, and you believe you've uncovered the "whole story" that other people are somehow blind to but you can see?

Do you want the same story from a dozen different sources? This is actually a good example of the differences between partisan sources. The New York Post article says this:

> Mesa City police declined to comment on the investigation but told the paper that the probe was “normal protocol” for non-natural deaths and noted that the case has not been ruled a homicide “at this time.”

In left-leaning publications they omit "at this time" and make that the headline.

But the interesting thing about the story isn't the police determination. That hasn't been made yet, so it tells us nothing, and anyway the police would have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The whole point is using that excuse creates a lot of reasonable doubt even if it was completely intentional.

The value of the story is that it gives us some new evidence. The narrative that somebody recklessly drank fish tank cleaner after a Trump recommendation loses credibility when you learn that the person was anti-Trump and thereby not inclined to unthinkingly believe whatever he says, up to and including drinking something with a label on it that says poison. Meanwhile a plausible alternative explanation exists.

I can't speak for anyone but myself, however I now no faith in anything that the WHO, US surgeon general and to some limited extend the CDC and RKI say, because of the way they lied or hid the truth in the past.

I have much more faith in the KCDC for example and otherwise I want to see studies.

And anyway, people are unfairly accused of hoarding masks. It turns out that in the US, Australia, Germany (and probably other countries) China was buying up all the masks.

Who do you trust instead? Seriously asking, because dismissing somethig is always the easy part.

Regarding the masks, I went deepy down that rabbit hole in February and March. Most production happens in China. China didn't produce anything, needed what was there for themselves and had closed down a lot cities and ports and such. At the same time, demand increased by orders of magnitude around the world. hence the shortage. China didn't buy masks en mass from other countries, they didn't need to. A ,ot of fraud happened as soon as production resumed. No, people who, with a financial interest, tried to help sort out the shortage once the German government failed to do so, are sitting on tons of masks they bought in good faith for 5 - 10 times the normal price. Currently prces are down to roughly 2x the pre-Covid-19 prices. See the problem? People hoarding made the issue even worse.

Hordng mass during that period for retail sales or your own use, thus preventing PPE from getting to medical care professionals, is the deffinition of hoarding.

All of your mentioned institutions are publishing or using studies. Go look them up. But maybe accept that the people behind them know more about the subject than you do.

I did say I trust the KCDC, didn't I? And also the CDC and RKI can obviously do some good work, but they completely failed to set the story straight on masks and aerosol transmission while over-emphasizing the fomite transmission and hand washing. So at least on those topics they've lost credibility.

I don't know if China needed the masks, or if they needed to weld people in their apartments, but apparently they did that anyway. See for example the article "Billions of face masks sent to China during Australian bushfire crisis". This was happening around February.

Spiegel published an article in which a distributor of protection equipment got orders for months of inventory within a day from various Chinese customers. They also claimed that all the other distributors which they knew had a similar situation on their hands. In fact they got so many orders that they alerted the ministry of health about an upcoming bottleneck in procuring PPE.

Then there's the US: "U.S. exported millions in masks and ventilators ahead of the coronavirus crisis". $17.5 millions worth of masks exported during January and February.

And this is in addition to the hundreds of thousands in PPE they received as donations from all over the world.

The average Joe buying a 10 or 20 pack for himself & family is first of all not hoarding, as this is a very small quantity and secondly didn't cause the shortage.

One average Joe, no. Thousands of them? Yes, that's harding. And a problem. China got a lot donations, they also were the first to donate to Italy. The mask situation was a mess.

The proble I have is, that now people accuse every institute or offical body of lying. Because they got, in people's minds, the mask thing wrong. Why can't we just accept that even experts can be wrong? Starting to accuse others of lying is the first step towards conspiracy theories, IMHO, as it only leaves black and white. And what is it that the WHO and co. have to be right 100% right from the start and everybody else is just asking questions?

If we take Australia's case of billions of masks (let's say 2 billion, conservatively), and assume that each average Joe bought let's say 20, the actions of the Chinese government are equal to *one hundred million average Joes", not thousands of them. For one country.

It's mighty noble to donate to Italy after they confiscated all the inland mask production and bought tons of masks from everywhere else. And then they also pressured European politicians to prasise the communist party when receiving said donations.

Not every institute, just the WHO and to some limited extent a few others. Stop setting up this straw man, because that's clearly not the case for me and I listed some organizations which I do trust - because they've proven that they're competent.

Experts can be wrong, sure they can. But if their literal job is to protect us from such pandemic situations and they fuck up, they deserve some criticism.

If they persist in not recommending masks when already most countries are recommending them, like the WHO did until 1-2 weeks ago, they are uselessly incompetent and should be ignored.

I don't think _every post_ whining about the lies of the health authorities has a libertarian "fuck everyone else" subtext.

It seems to me that the original misinformation on this subject has caused a continued belief that masks are not helpful in reducing transmission. Initial public health recommendations cannot easily be walked back. Once the meme is sufficiently embedded, it's nearly impossible to dislodge.

How do you know it was a lie? What evidence do you have?

There seems a fairly trivial explanation: they were talking about the effectiveness of a mask in protecting you from what you breathe in, not the communal action of everyone wearing a mask to protect other people from what you breathe out.

Surgical masks offer some limited protection for the wearer (20-80 AFAIK according to some study). Respirators offer good to very good protection for the wearer.

For a long time I was under the impression that surgical masks don't really help the wearer. There are some studies showing comparable effects to an N95, but I was assuming incorrect N95 usage and I was incorrectly dismissing the benefit of even low double-digit protection.

The thing that convinced me to take a closer look was an interview with the German infection specialist Peter Walger, which said that:

* all masks protect the wearer to a certain degree

* medical grade surgical masks clearly offer partial protection. This was a grave error, which made personnel also in clinical practice not trust the masks and wear them for protection.

It doesn’t matter, the advice was for the whole population not to go buy masks.

That is simply not true and an awful accusation.

The last Sars or Coronavirus illnesses differed from this one, as in those cases asymptomatic people were not spreading the virus very much.

So the (reasonable) assumption was that people mostly know when they are contagious and stay at home.

In that scenario "community masks" (everything below FPP-2) don't matter much.

When researchers found that Covid-19 is different (and that has to do with the massively higher virus load in the throat, where former similar diseases built most of the virus load in the lungs), the stance changed.

That is a good thing! Learn new information, adapt your response.

What's fueling conspiracy theories now is that the messaging back then centered on "we need to preserve masks for the medical community", which was a smaller component of the motivation, sure, but got mostly conflated with the real argument. I think that is because it was much easier to explain to the public and to journalists.

In hindsight that was a mistake. But the conspiracy theories that health officials just flip-flopped for no reason is wrong, and it's damaging the fabric of society even more.

It is actually true. The surgeon general literally said:

"Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus"

Did you read my comment at all?

"which was a smaller component of the motivation, sure, but got mostly conflated with the real argument. I think that is because it was much easier to explain to the public and to journalists."

They still lied, which was the original point. Even if they lied for what they believed to be good reasons.

No, they didn't. They reasonably believed masks to be useless (at least compared to the burden of having everyone wear masks).

They simplified (and arguably over-simplified) the public communication.

Insisting that they lied is uncharitable at best, and a hallmark of all sorts of conspiracy theories right now.

When wearing mask in public you're not protecting yourself - that's ineffective - you're protecting others from your own cough/talking droplets - that's effective.

Exactly. Why do you think you disagree with me there?

The point is that when almost all contagious people stay at home, we don't need community masks. We only need them because contagious people are asymptomatic (that's new!), tehrefore don't know about their status and therefore go out in public.

Almost all contagious people never stay at home. Based on my experience, people with colds come to work and go about their business.

That is anecdata. Maybe valid for, say, January. Starting Febuary, that changed. Again anecdata, but In Germany you got up to 2 weeks of sick eave for potential COVID-19 symptoms without seeing a doctor.

I must be unlucky because my colleagues almost always come to work sneezing for a few days until (if!) they take sick days. This was right before the pandemic, when the situation was getting hot in China but not yet in Europe.

Exactly my point, before we were aware it is going to be the same in Europe. After, not so much.

> “we need to preserve masks for the medical community”

To be fair, I remember looking it up on the CDC website when this all started, and they explicitly stated any masks are not necessary (or useful) unless you are caring for a sick patient.

That's exactly what I wrote: the working assumption was that you wouldn't be contagious (because then you'd be staying at home yourself). That turned out to be wrong. Later.

Given that this assumption doesn't work with something as banal and common place as the flu... why would it apply to a new respiratory virus, especially since people were anyways coming down with colds and the flu and had no clue what they had.

"So the (reasonable) assumption was that people mostly know when they are contagious and stay at home."

Too bad this pandemic overlapped with the flu season and with a period of time where many people had colds, thereby rendering the above assumption null and void.

In other words, the number of black lives that may be lost during these protests from the virus alone is worth sacrificing because #blacklivesmatter. Meanwhile, anti-lockdown protests, which were much smaller, are nothing but a bunch of wreckless people protesting to be able to get haircuts. Nothing to do with all the other losses and risks that myopic, upper middle class "experts" can't seem to comprehend. Unemployed black people also don't matter, I guess.

I mean, really. How can people not see the writing on the wall? All of this is political finagling. Black protestors are merely convenient instruments. The political opportunists pushing this bland disingenuous crap don't care about George Floyd in the least.

The CDC revised their risk estimates towards the end of last month.

"The fifth scenario is the CDC's "current best estimate about viral transmission and disease severity in the United States." In that scenario, the agency described its estimate that 0.4% of people who feel sick with Covid-19 will die.

For people age 65 and older, the CDC puts that number at 1.3%. For people 49 and under, the agency estimated that 0.05% of symptomatic people will die."


Those CDC numbers are really weird btw. 0.4% of symptomatic cases is like a 0.2-0.3% IFR.

0.3% of the New York City population has already died of corona-virus. So assuming everyone in New York was infected that gives us an IFR of .3%. But if a more realistic 20% of the population was infected then the IFR could be as high as 1.5%.

I tried going through all the most recent research and almost all of it came up with an IFR in the 0.5-1.2% range. And the few that had a lower rate were looking at anti-body tests in places with very low base rates.

Maybe the 20% of the population was more susceptible? It seems that the outbreak was concentrated in long-term care facilities, healthcare workers (who received a larger viral load than average), and the poor (who tend to have more pre-existing conditions). If the 20% is not randomly distributed the math can still work out.

The math could work out, but if that was true then that means if NYC got 5 times as many infections the number of fatalities would barely change.

I would find that hard to believe and I also doubt they would have enough data to validate that type of hypothesis. We're still guessing at the number of people infected, not to mention how old are they, what pre-existing conditions did they have, how do those pre-existing condition affect Covid-19 mortality in different age groups, what viral load did they receive, etc..

Fair points! You could probably make an estimate with a stratified approach but if 0.3% have already died there’s no wiggle room for additional deaths.

Influenza and pneumonia deaths by influenza season and age United States, 2008–2015: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/influenza-and-pn...

Sorry, I don't see the connection.

An interesting question is this: which 20% got it? A representative sample, or a localized group with unusual risk characteristics, like retirement homes or prisons?

Even if you do not die, you might have a very unpleasant experience with lasting consequences.

Perhaps a better way to frame it would be - 2% (?) of patients have serious life-changing consequences. Those under 49 tend to survive them.

The problem for me is we don't have any way at this time of knowing at an individual level what the consequences are likely to be. I might have no symptoms if I get sick but I may transmit it my son (type 1 diabetic) who might die. Or maybe he'd be fine and I might die, etc. There's just no way to gauge what one's reaction might be to getting the coronavirus.

A local, healthy 8 year old girl started having symptoms last week Thursday and died the following Tuesday.

I don't expect my family's lockdown to end before well into next year at the earliest. The odds are against dying or long term complications for younger people, but is going out to dinner, a bar, sporting or music event worth the risk? Not for me. Stay safe folks.

That's really unfortunate with that young girl.

So far it looks like these are the absolute exception, but it does sadly happen that young healthy people and kids too get seriously sick and sometimes even die.

The German pediatric association publishes some (incomplete) stats about the disease in children (https://dgpi.de/covid-19-survey-update-kw22/) and there were so far 159 hospitalizations, with 21 of those in intensive care. 140 kids were released, 1 died. ~9600 <19yos registered as sick with COVID.

Key word: Incomplete. As was Drostens study about the virus concentration in children. The German Fox News wannabe BILD tried to kill him for it. Incomplete studies and data is the norm right now. I am happy to not have to make decissions about life and death based on this. Someone has, so. And erring on the side of caution isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The DGPI data is not a study, but rather they collect data from children's clinics and it is incomplete in the sense that not all clinics deliver information to them. If anything there could be more hospitalizations and deaths, but that seems rather unlikely.

In any case I agree that the topic COVID and children is particularly sensitive and still blurry right now.

There’s the risk of death and injury, which is an interesting discussion, and then there’s the fear. With cases beginning to rise rapidly in multiple states again, I expect the latter to have a more dominant effect on our behavior

> serious life-changing consequences

This is a much more interesting data point.

Death tends to have very few ongoing life-altering consequences, and in and of itself has a very low R0.

The CDC estimate (IFR 0.26%, S-IFR 0.4%) is heavily criticized because it ignores, thus predates, the 3 largest and most reliable serosurveys which all indicate an IFR of ~1% (S-IFR ~1.54%, assuming 35% of cases are asymptomatic):

1.0% in Brazil based on 25,025 samples https://twitter.com/GidMK/status/1267670267624476672

1.14% in Spain based on 60,897 samples https://twitter.com/zorinaq/status/1265405628853305345

0.92% in NYC and 0.84% in New York State based on 15,101 samples https://twitter.com/GidMK/status/1267669314657611777

Also YYG, the guy who runs https://covid19-projections.com/ (a model that has consistently produced the most accurate forecasts) reported his model found that a ~1% IFR gave the best fit: https://mobile.twitter.com/youyanggu/status/1256051255253757...

Note: S-IFR is the fatality of symptomatic cases only. IFR is the fatality of all cases (asymptomatic and symptomatic)

The wider NY state has an IFR of 0.5%. The IFR should also be very sensitive to the demographics of the infection. Both the UK and NY State had a policy of sending recovering (but potentially contagious) older covid patients back to nursing homes and it would have exacerbated the mortality rate vs regions that did a better job at protecting the elderly.

I am also starting to hear some noise that there might be cross immunity between this virus and previous coronavirus. In a recent video Prof Raoult was suggesting it might explain the low infection rate of people under 20 [1]. I am not qualified to tell whether the theory has any leg but it may be that we underestimate the spread of the virus when looking at a specific antibody.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=734&v=zUbiYhknaK... (in french)

NY State does not have an IFR of 0.5%. You are probably quoting Cuomo's press briefing https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2020/04/23/governo... which claims 0.5% based on this math:

15740 deaths ÷ 2700000 infected = 0.58% (they round to 0.5%)

However they note that the official state death count (15740 deaths) «only indicates deaths that happened in a hospital or a nursing home, and does not include coronavirus-related deaths that occurred in a home, which means the official death count is likely higher than that official number»

The true number of deaths, including home deaths, is 20759 as of the date of Cuomo's press briefing, April 24 (source: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nytimes/covid-19-data/mast...)

Furthermore, all the figures quoted by Cuomo were provisional, mid-study. The serosurvey actually completed on April 28 and was published here: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.25.20113050v... The final figures as of this date were:

22777 deaths ÷ (19450000 state population × 14.0% infected) = IFR of 0.84%

It is important to take deaths as of April 28 in order to minimize right censoring.

«Both the UK and NY State had a policy of sending recovering patients to nursing home»

Spain and Brazil did not do this and still exhibit an IFR of 1% add per the serosurveys I referenced.

> Both the UK and NY State had a policy of sending recovering (but potentially contagious) older covid patients back to nursing homes and it would have exacerbated the mortality rate vs regions that did a better job at protecting the elderly.

Isn't the death rate the percentage of population that dies when all are infected? Then nothing can be "exacerbated" by that alone? It then just reflects the death rate which results from the people being infected, no matter the speed?

The rate quoted by the parent, I believe, is the number of deaths divided by the number of people estimated to be infected, by prorating an antibody test sampling to the wider population. So that doesn’t assume everyone got exposed to the virus, and assumes the sampling is a representative sample (but in NY it was sampled in grocery stores, which tells you nothing about infection rate in nursing homes that made up 40% of the deaths).

> the number of deaths divided by the number of people estimated to be infected, by prorating an antibody test sampling to the wider population. So that doesn’t assume everyone got exposed to the virus

To get the rate one can indeed calculate it with smaller representative sample, but that just doesn't imply that the vulnerable people would somehow never become infected if the epidemic continues, so the deaths of the old can't be avoided then. That the old die much more is a fact, and nothing that by itself "exacerbates" the rate.

Edit: I haven't seen any argument that estimated more than 20% of NY population that were supposedly infected were somehow specially skewed sample to hit only old people, and I'd argue that if the sample is that big it's quite improbable. If the argument is that the virus got faster in the nursing homes, one can also argue that all the old people outside of nursing homes skewed in the another direction by managing to initially not get the infection, but that as epidemic progresses they would indeed eventually become infected and suffer.

Edit2: "the virus is rather showing signs of going away" claim is very curious to me. I don't see it "going away" looking at all the statistics across the different parts of the world. I see only the slowdown of the spread, which corresponds to people generally changing their behavior to slow it down.

But that sample may not be representative of the demographics of the people who got infected. It is possible that a lot more people in care homes have been infected than the grocery store sample, because of the policy of sending covid patients there (and the fact that the staff must have physical contact with each of the patients every day and therefore it will spread within a care home may very quickly).

If it is the case, you don't expect the same death rate to scale up as the wider population continues to get infected (if it is still happening, the virus is rather showing signs of going away).

Only 21% of Covid19 deaths in New York State occurred in nursing homes. Recent source (few days old): https://www.kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/state-data-and-...

In the very article you link to the case of New York is mentioned by Bergstrom, specifically to critique that estimate, and point that New York disproves it.

I verified that claim:

We know that the antibody tests in NYC gave the estimate of "all infected" of 20% of all. But there were around 20K deaths, and NYC has 8.3M population. Also even if we expect that the spread will stop once the 70% of population is infected the result is: 100e3 * 0.7 / 8e6 = 0.87%

Still much more than 0.4%. That it's closer to 1% matches all the statistics of the countries of the world that did a lot of testing compared to the number of cases and deaths.

Back to the article:

Bergstrom in the article: "Given that these parameter sets underestimate fatality by a substantial margin compared to current scientific consensus, this is deeply problematic."

In the same article, even CDC disclaims that their numbers are predictions:

"The scenarios are intended to advance public health preparedness and planning. They are not predictions or estimates of the expected impact of COVID-19" the CDC says.

So it seems you intentionally misinterpret CDC, given that it's all in the very article you linked.

i’m 25 and this whole covid debacle and seeing how public health officials handle it has soured me on all “experts” for the rest of my life.

no wonder people don’t believe in global warming, these “experts” prioritize politics over everything

I'm older than you and I've lost alot of faith in 'experts' as well.

Today I read about several published studies that were retracted for unreliable data related to covid drugs.

I'm now just using all of these things as one data point to make a decision with. News, politicians, scientific publications, experts, data.

I've also lost faith in certain political parties which I was previously a member for their fanaticism and demonization of people who disagreed with their narrative and who still can't admit their thinking was flawed.

Wholeheartedly agree. I'm in my 30's with scientific education, but I will never take an "expert" opinion seriously after this.

Very sad to see science shoot itself in the foot in the name of dubious politics.

I’m too familiar with university advancement policies to not be skeptical of the actual expertise of the “experts”.

> no wonder people don’t believe in global warming, these “experts” prioritize politics over everything

I read this as a clear expression of your frustration. Completely reasonable given the situation.

Are you familiar with the YouTube channel "Smarter Every Day"? There's this three-part series that might offer a new perspective on the distrust and disillusionment you seem to be feeling:




In particular, the channel creator Destin Sandlin explores how YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are being used as a sort of vanguard in a meta-game to undermine our trust in the social institutions we rely on.

It's a pretty dystopian-sounding and bleak theme. However, Destin is really good at conveying a message of hope.

Use your Critical Mind, of course, but also realize that there's a personal cost to adopting absolutist views like `"experts" prioritize politics over everything.'

> to undermine our trust in the social institutions we rely on.

Is it YTs fault that the WHO was the absolutely dead last institution to recommend face mask usage on the planet? That even some countries that are having a very poor response have already recommended (or made mandatory in some circumstances) the use of masks?

That the WHO is accepting all manners of political interference from China?

Is it YTs fault that Lancet and NEJM published a completely fabricated article about HCQ usage at the point where this has become a contentious point? Sure, in the same week we have had other serious studies about it, but that one was, most likely, a fraud, that was rubber stamped by journals.

That, at a critical moment, researchers from a prestigious epidemiology centre have pulled some models they had on the shelves without enough second-guessing it and predicting very catastrophic results (which granted, there might have been unknown at the time reasons for it)

So yeah, I don't think it's solely the fault of Youtube and Facebook.

while interesting, i dont quite see how thats related.

public health experts during this whole crisis have been morally and intellectually bankrupt. misinformation on social media is a separate issue

I think the point is that usually, a layman would suspect the expert opinion after being exposed to another view broadcast on social media. Social media is the source and the moderator of our contrarian/critics information.

I got very skeptical reading the reaction to the antibody studies here. Also, the total hate for Sweden really depressed me. I've always held this place in high regard but I suppose it's still just more of the same.

The prevalence is too low for the antibody tests to be reliable. Every public health expert has reported that but people refuse to listen. Sweden has admitted their strategy is not working.

They have done nothing of the sort. Tegnell was quoted as saying he would do some things differently, but was explicit that avoiding lockdowns was not something he would change.


Sweden is mid-pack amongst european nations for death rate due to covid, and notably lower than the UK, Italy and France:


"Sweden has admitted their strategy is not working." No they did not say that. I suggest taking MSM news with a great pinch of salt.

i don’t think we’ll know what worked or didn’t for years from now. regardless of what even they say.

it could be we just delayed deaths that will happen eventually anyway while commuting economic seppuku

One ting everybod gnores right now regardign experts is, that this a novel virus. We don't have any prior exerience or knowledge about it. Wich means incomplete data and potentially wrong data from day one. Making decissions in such cirumstances is incredibly difficult, and I expect every expert to change his mind when the data changes.

Does that potential confuse people? Yes. Are experts always right? No. Are they still the best resource we have? Yes.

i’m talking about things like them lying saying masks don’t work because they didn’t have enough. the who took until june to admit they work

and now this whole thing about staying silent about the race riots because they support them even though they’re likely to cause a second wave

I mean, Sweden is fairing badly next to their neighbors, and horrendously compared to countries like Taiwan and South Korea (who also didn’t have lockdowns). I don’t think people hate the country so much as they’re assessing the relative failure of their approach.

Sweden failed to protect their own elderly, mainly because national authorities simply assumed that local authorities were ready to fight a pandemic, when they were in fact hopelessly underfunded and staffed by underpaid staff with no PPE and who were expected to do stay at home on their own initiative and without payment if they got sick.

The same happened in a few places here in Finland, and I am quite certain that if we'd let COVID-19 through retirement homes the way our dear neighbors did, we'd have a much higher death-rate.

The actual Swedish stragegy, i.e. a soft lock-down with strong recommendations and only minor restrictions in travelling and gatherings, could actually have worked. Unfortunately, we'll never know as they screwed the retirement home situation up as bad as they did.

Sweden did screw up the retirement home situation somewhat, but in terms of excess deaths all Nordic countries look identical. Finland, notably, doesn't even count covid deaths outside hospitals according to the THL, so comparing Swedish and Finnish covid stats is a bit silly.

The Swedish catastrophe is always another 2 weeks away, and secondary effects of a lockdown (like delaying non-critical medical procedures and not screening for cancer) are likely to be much more significant than anticipated. Let's not forget that lockdowns were a knee-jerk reaction enacted by scared politicians, not a carefully considered and data-backed policy.

> in terms of excess deaths all Nordic countries look identical Finland, notably, doesn't even count covid deaths outside hospitals according to the THL, so comparing Swedish and Finnish covid stats is a bit silly

Where did you get those numbers from? EUROMOMO doesn't include data from Iceland, but for the rest it's obvious that Sweden is an outlier in regards to the overall mortality rate: https://www.euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps/#z-scores-by-country

Denmark, Finland and Norway are below the normal mortality rates for 65+ since the lockdowns began. Sweden is clearly above. I assume there's not another epidemic over there that we've missed?

Again, I'm not saying the Swedish strategy is wrong, I'm just saying that the failure to protect the elderly has invalidated Sweden as a data point.

There has definitely been a bunch of deaths related to COVID-19 in Finnish retirement homes, but in terms of overall mortality rates for people 65+ it's quite obvious that it's not a big problem. Actual COVID-19 diagnoses are still reported by THL, including everyone who gets diagnosed by the public health system in Finland. Finland has unrelated, considerable, issues with care for the elderly, but that's a completely different topic. :)

> Let's not forget that lockdowns were a knee-jerk reaction enacted by scared politicians, not a carefully considered and data-backed policy.

Definitely. Lock-downs are last-resort measures taken when you've already failed to do what you should have done in the first place; extensive testing of travellers and contact tracing/quarantine of people who are sick. The other Nordic countries failed miserably in that regard.

Chart cumulative all cause deaths per seasonal influenza year (meaning week 40 to week 39) for each of the nordic countries. Correct prior years for population growth. Then take the average all cause mortality of the past 7 (or 10, whatever) years and compare that to this year's all cause mortality and you'll get a completely different result. Or just eyeball the all cause mortality of the previous couple of years: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EZlnYQCU0AA0jkv?format=png&name=...

It's so "obvious" that Sweden is an outlier that people don't bother to look at the data more seriously. Sweden didn't lock down ergo it must be a disaster, the data be damned.

> in terms of overall mortality rates for people 65+ it's quite obvious that it's not a big problem

That's correct. The overal mortality of all Nordic countries is completely unexceptional. Politicians panicked because they believed that this disease would be very deadly (it isn't), kills healthy young people (it doesn't), spreads exponentially (it never has), and spreads through asymptomatic hosts (it doesn't).

I think Sweden’s strategy is on the bad end of the spectrum and Taiwan and South Korea’s on the great end. I don’t anticipate any more catastrophe for them than their relative peers in the bad response group, but they did do quite bad compared to liberal democracies in SE Asia. Taiwan has had 11 deaths and South Korea about 300. Sweden has about 4700.

South Korea uses exceptionally privacy invasive types of tracking and tracing, so their approach is better described as "police state" than as "liberal democracy"

This coronavirus hasn't made in a big impact anywhere in SE Asia, even though countries responded in very different ways. This suggests that the virus doesn't take hold for a different reason, e.g. pre-existing immunity.

South Korea is not a “police state.” All of the same info is collected by advertising companies and 3-letter agencies in the US.

> This suggests that the virus doesn't take hold for a different reason, e.g. pre-existing immunity.

No, it suggests the variety of their responses were on the effective side of things, while Sweden’s was not. Taiwan’s VP is an epidemiologist who has guided their response from day one and should be credited for that work.

Maybe people are so hostile about Sweden because people keep insisting they be graded on a curve, contrary to the real success stories.

So it's not bad because the US is doing it too? Or, maybe, the US doesn't respect the privacy of its residents either.

Taiwan started taking action before the first case had even been reported. And yes, they do deserve credit for that.

Sweden's response was also effective, given that the virus had already spread widely across Europe by the time the politicians woke up. There is some variation in the way cases/deaths are tracked between countries, but when you look at All Cause Mortality it's clear that Sweden is right in the middle of the pack, and they accomplished that without the massive externalities (both human and financial) of a lockdown. That's a success, but yes, Europe should have responded aggressively in Dec as Taiwan did.

Sweden cooperates with the US on all that surveillance, so you can’t really argue that they’re better relative to the US or South Korea. Arguably worse, because South Korea actually saved lives with it while Sweden got no pandemic-fighting benefit in return.

The South Korean and Swedish responses began at about the same time, so again, this seems like special pleading. South Korea has more direct exchange with China as well.

If your argument is that Europe overall hasn’t done a great job, and Sweden isn’t that far of a deviation from that performance, ok. But again, that’s not an accomplishment relative to the actually successful countries like Taiwan and South Korea. I don’t understand how having many times more deaths be considered “effective” relative to these countries? Again, they didn’t have any of the economic damage caused by lockdowns either.

Just learn to think for yourself by reading the classics and fundamentals. Read Karl Popper, study stats, read blogs like Andrew Gelman’s.

I do hope you look more closely at the record. “Experts” are not a uniform monolith. Some are competent. Some aren’t.

This isn't weasel speak at all. They're pretty clear that it's risky. They're just saying that they won't condemn protestors as taking frivolous risks the way anti-lockdown protestors or fun-seekers are. Police brutality, systemic racism, income inequality are all major public health risks in their own right.

I don't understand -- are keeping people out of work and isolated at home not public health risks? If non-Covid related factors are being considered in weighing against the risks of exposure they should all be considered, not only some of them, selectively.

I didn't hear any virologist claiming that isolation isn't a health risk.But it seems to take more time to have serious effects, COVID-19 on the other hand has the short term effect of overwhelming a health care system an causing thousands of deaths. And the lock-downs have never been planned to be permanent, were they?

Don't be obtuse. Of course all factors were considered. Keeping people out of offices and shops is not a public health risk. People becoming impoverished and losing health insurance is. That's why the federal government spent $2T protecting people's financial health to offset the damage. The bigger question is why health care access is tied to employment, but there's no way the current regime would consider dealing with that issue.

Also, you're comparing government policy with an academic opinion.

No. Unemployment is generally regarded as a public health risk, beyond the immediate insurance consequences. There will moreover be people who suffer long-term impacts that these short-term payments can only partially mitigate.

That seems like a good argument to expand unemployment benefits during a global pandemic, and I suspect most public health officials would agree.

A number of countries have implemented wage subsidy schemes, in which the government pays employers to keep employees on payroll even while there is no work for them to do due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Those schemes are in some ways better than unemployment benefits, in that they maintain the employer-employee relationship which increases the odds the job will still be there to go back to when the crisis is over.

UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coro...

Australia: https://www.ato.gov.au/general/jobkeeper-payment/

New Zealand: https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/other-type...

Ireland: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/unemploymen...

That makes sense. I intended to refer broadly to programs to compensate people due to lockdown-related reductions in income.

How does it work with workers in the food service industry where the workers are paid cash? Or maybe that’s not common outside the US

That's a unique US thing. In countries like New Zealand people in the service industry get the same minimum wage as anyone else ($18.90 per hour) and don't rely on tips, they're normal employees and go through the same normal tax system.

That's why there is the joke about people from overseas not knowing how to tip.

Seems to be a US thing. In Germany, every company can as for "Kurzarbeit", short-wok, or all or part of its employees. Which are on the payroll, thus properly registered, unless the company cheated. In whch case I wouldn't be surprsed of that company just closes shop and fires everyone.

It gets tricky for temps and contractors, so. If you are a temp, and employed by a third company lending you ut, that company can ask for Kurzarbeit. In agriculture and food processing, most of the work force are temps emplyed by sub-contractors. Thearetically, they are covered. In praxis, they are more often than not screwed. The sub-contractors sub-contractor is potentially ot evena german omany to begin with.

Shining light on this, is one of the few good things about Cocid-19, if you ask me.

Well, in Australia's case – the wage subsidy comes from the Australian Tax Office (ATO), which is our equivalent to the IRS. So if you haven't been withholding income tax from your employees, you can't get the subsidy for them (unless you confess your past tax evasion, which obviously you aren't going to do.)

But, paying employees cash only is much harder than it used to be. Many customers now only want to pay card. The tax office sees the card payments coming into your bank account, if you try to pay your employees cash it is easy for them to catch you. So, I think the number of workers actually hurt by that is relatively small.

COVID-19 has accelerated the transition from cash to card payment, because the health advice was to avoid cash payments (due to risk that cash may spread Coronavirus), and many businesses responded by refusing to accept cash entirely.

> So, I think the number of workers actually hurt by that is relatively small.

Guarantee you it is a huge number in Canada, and probably the U.S. as well. Tax fraud in food service, bars, and kitchens is the norm here in Ontario.

Unemployment is not the real problem there—people not having money is.

If the government would continue—and increase—the individual stimulus checks, it would matter much, much less how long the lockdown must continue. People would still be able to support themselves and keep themselves healthy.

The career damage from forced unemployment lasts longer than an unemployment check.

> Keeping people out of offices and shops is not a public health risk

Telling people to stay at home all the time does have a negative impact on many people's mental health. It can both exacerbate pre-existing mental illness, and in some cases even cause the new onset of mental illness.

> Of course all factors were considered.

That's not entirely accurate. Even Faucci answered, in response to Rand Paul, he was a virologist. Not a economist, etc.

There's been little public acknowledgement of increases in suicides, illness from delayed med treatments, economic fall out affecting deaths, etc.

Fauci doesn't set policy. The CDC doesn't set policy. Even the White House has limited authority. Policy was a mishmash set by governors and mayors with or without support from DC and based on recommendations from multiple health, public safety and economic advisors.

I'm not for or against Fauci. He did what he was asked to do. The problem was he was thrust to the front as The Expert. Again, not his fault. However, that did compromise our ability to have seats at the table for all the unintended consequences.

Actually that's a good point and damn scary: anti-lockdown protests are very risky, but these are supposed to be fine?

Not being in the US, I hadn't realized the incredible double-standard at play. The US seems to be almost completely paralyzed in trying to deal with this virus, various social dynamics that have been festering for decades are coming to light now.

Is that the job of health officials to determine? Whether a particular political cause is worth the risk?

"Andrew Sullivan calls our attention to epidemiologist Tara C. Smith, who moves with that curious herd of 'experts' suddenly not terribly concerned about social distancing when the protesters filling the streets are left-wing rather than right-wing. Writes Sullivan: 'The message to normies: going outside is killing grandma. The message to woke kids: never mind!'

"So which is it? Were people like Smith lying before about the danger of spreading the virus, in order to promote a political agenda? Or being honest about it but now willing to endanger countless lives, in order to promote a political agenda?

"Adding smug cluelessness to her dishonesty and/or recklessness, Smith also sniffs that the difference is that those who rallied to end the lockdown were merely 'protesting for their ability to get a haircut.'

"Yes, of course, haircuts. It had nothing to do with wanting to get back to work in order to support their families, salvage businesses it took a lifetime to build, avoid depleting their life savings, get their kids back in the classroom, etc. It was all about haircuts." [0]

I think that excerpt makes my point for me, so I won't belabor it. Unless you want to apply the obtuse label to yourself like you did to bmmayer1.

[0] https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/06/what-science-is-say...

To me, that seems like fairly precise language. They’re saying they do not believe the risk level is sufficiently high to condemn the gatherings. It doesn’t seem much different than saying grocery store visits are not condemned as risky, while music store visits are condemned as risky. The virus doesn’t care about what you’re shopping for either, it’s just that shopping for food is more important (by their estimation) than shopping for some vinyl.

That, and it's a healthy dose of pragmatism. If nobody is going to comply with your advice, you're doing more harm than good.

You can realistically tell people to shop for vinyl from the comfort of their couch, and they might do that.

Given the level of outrage, there were going to be large groups of protests across the country either way, but they were successfully convinced to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and spread out where they can. At least here, every time the mayor talks she urges people who went to protests to get tested.

Persuasion is still everything.

"They’re saying they do not believe the risk level is sufficiently high to condemn the gatherings."

But that's obviously nonsense, given that not all of the participants wear masks, distance cannot be kept, they stay at the same location for a longer time and some are chanting/yelling.

It it nonsense though? If that's true it sounds like there was no need for anyone to weigh in at all; it was evidently obvious that these protests must be condemned. Do you believe that's the case?

> That's a shining example of weasel speak. They don't explicitly say it's not risky - because that would be plain lying, it is obviously risky - but they are saying they are not condemning it as risky.

Another excerpt from the article state:

> "We created the letter in response to emerging narratives that seemed to malign demonstrations as risky for the public health because of Covid-19," according to the letter writers, many of whom are part of the University of Washington's Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Instead, we wanted to present a narrative that prioritizes opposition to racism as vital to the public health, including the epidemic response. We believe that the way forward is not to suppress protests in the name of public health but to respond to protesters demands in the name of public health, thereby addressing multiple public health crises."

They are not thinking about it in terms of supporting/opposing the protests. Rather the protests are a fact and you need to deal with them somehow. You can do that by either suppressing them or addressing their concerns. They do not want their concerns of COVID-19 to justify suppressing the protests, especially if addressing the protestor's concerns is a viable option.

> They are saying that the protest is too important to take health considerations into account, but they are reluctant to speak plainly and tell people there's risk but they should be adult and choose to manage the risks themselves and maybe neglect small risk in order to achieve bigger thing.

This seems almost exactly the sentiment they are addressing in the letter. COVID-19 is a public health concern, so is racial disparities that result in racial disparities in medical outcomes. Their concerns over COVID-19 transmission should not be taken as justification for suppressing the protests.

From the article,

> "Staying at home, social distancing, and public masking are effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19. To the extent possible, we support the application of these public health best practices during demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy," the letter says.

They are still giving the same advice they've been giving. The letter also states protest-specific COVID-19 harm mitigation strategies for protestors & police.

> Just in this case, our betters had decided the COVID risk is less important than protesting - so it's OK for us. But only in cases which are approved by our betters.

A more charitable interpretation is that some medical professionals do not believe that the risk of COVID-19 spread is a compelling reason for suppressing protests against racial inequality, especially when the risk of COVID-19 spread can be addressed by responding to the protestors concerns & therefore advancing public health by both mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and addressing the role racism plays in medical outcomes.

The letter is gobbledegook. Police brutality isn’t a “public health problem.” It’s a bad thing, and it may well be that reasonable people feel like protesting police brutality justifies taking the risk of increased COVID-19 transmission. (I certainly feel that way.) They’re deciding that “protesting police brutality is worth some excess deaths from COVID.” But the authors don’t want to own the fact that they’re making a value judgment. So instead they resort to literal newspeak to make it seem like they’re making a scientific judgment instead of a political one.

Their letter makes it clear they are taking about racism, not necessarily just in police brutality.

The letter to me reads as 100% political because it is suggesting that you can get rid of the protests by addressing their concerns. That option is available to you. Their motivation for writing the letter is largely to say "hey, you can stop the protests by addressing their concerns" and to point out that addressing their concerns in this case also advances what they consider to be a public health interest.

It is possible we had different interpretations of what they wrote, but this felt more like "1000 doctors make a poltiical statement about the protests" rather than "1000 doctors say in their scientific opinions that protests are justified."

> They’re deciding that “protesting police brutality is worth some excess deaths from COVID.”

Why are you putting your own characterization in quotation marks as if you're quoting someone else? Or did I miss something and this is a quote from the the health professionals in question?

According to what definition are you claiming that police brutality is not a public health problem?

Oxford Textbook of Public Health: https://m.oxfordmedicine.com/mobile/view/10.1093/med/9780199.... Do you see any sections on police brutality?

Not to mention, I have family in the field, I grew up with probably a dozen public health experts attending Thanksgiving dinner, and did my first internship at a public health company. At no point in hearing decades of shop talk did I ever hear police brutality being mentioned as a public health issue. Words have meaning dammit.

I've seen some indications that many people in the public health field feel that everything that affects morbidity and mortality is potentially within scope for them, including, for example, intentional actions like assault or murder.

A difficulty with this view, at least potentially, is that it seems to allow everything in the world (certainly almost every area of public policy) to be in scope for public health, because almost everything in the world has potential to affect morbidity and mortality. At one level this broad view seems obviously correct, but at another level it seems obviously crazy (or at least likely to bring the public health profession into conflict with everyone over weighing in on every kind of decision that anyone ever makes).

In the past there was a fight between some CDC researchers and Congress over something about handgun policy because the researchers were studying something about guns and violence that made some gun rights activists nervous that there would be an argument presented under the banner of public health to limit access to guns. I believe the conclusion was that they told CDC to stop studying this, which, again, seems to me to be susceptible of some mix of "there might be a lot of legitimate reasons to have this information" and "does the public health profession get to weigh in with claimed expertise on every issue?".

I think it's a legitimately thorny conceptual problem because if you think of health as something like "flourishing" or "people having success in living the way they want" or "eudaemonia" or something, almost every public policy question can be conceived of as a "health" question. (Or even, maybe, "minimizing all-cause mortality"?) But if someone says that the policy answer to each question is therefore obvious because a particular profession thinks it knows what would maximize things it thinks it knows how to measure, I imagine a lot of the public is going to say that this doesn't match up with its notion of what health is.

Edit: after writing this, I had this weird imagine of public health as like a superintelligent AI that's super-focused on one goal and doesn't understand, or doesn't care very much, that people might have other goals too. We think there's obviously something that's going to remain outside of the scope of the AI's interest, but since the AI is smarter than we are, it discovers a way that that thing is actually relevant to its interests according to its utility function, after all! (I realize people have also had this kind of concern about other institutions that are happy to define their scope of action more broadly over time, such as profit-maximizing corporations, or militaries. The corporation says "we need to figure out what actions will maximize profit" or the military says "we need to figure out what actions will maximize our capacity to win wars" and perhaps the scope and ambition of their actions are soon larger than anyone would have expected.) I feel like this analogy is actually weirdly apposite, at least for some audiences. :-)

Yeah, that is a really broad definition. That results in everything becoming everything. For example, everything has some kind of economic impact, so everything becomes economics. Or, everything can have some affect on the arts, so everything becomes arts. This kind of failure to make distinctions makes the scope of every field to encompass everything, which eliminates the very notion of separate fields of study.

Probably a more sensible approach is to say the medical field concerns itself with the operation of the human body, and how to correct malfunctioning operations.

Good points!

However, public health continues to actively distinguish itself from medicine (they're different degrees and different departments in universities, for example, and you can get both an MD and a DPH), so I don't think your proposed definition for medicine will satisfy public health experts as a definition of their field. Although county health departments are often led by someone who has both a medical and public health degree, many of the people working in them will have public health training but not medical training.

Even looking at classic public health activities like sanitation/environmental health and epidemiology, sanitation and epidemiology aren't really about the functioning of the human body! They're more about conditions under which the human body is more likely to experience some particular kinds of morbidity...

Even your definition of medicine might be unsatisfactory to some people in the medical field, for example because they think mental health is medicine, or because (to pick an amusing example from my health insurer's claim form) pregnancy is not a disorder or malfunction of the body, but it requires a lot of medical expertise to manage its outcomes well. Other examples could be pain management and anaesthesia (pain, for example during surgery, is not necessarily a malfunction of the body—typically you would like the body to make you aware when it's being cut!) and elective surgeries.

Should public health officials weigh in on all issues? Yes. In my home state, every bill before the legislature has a financial assessment tied t it, because most laws cost money. The same should be true for health: we should figure out if an issue is positive, negative, mixed or neutral on public health. It should be part of the deliberation process.

Take your gun example: people should know that if they support the status quo gun laws how many people will die, or what the impact of a new lw is. That doesn’t mean the CDC regulates guns, but it does mean they should have a voice in the conversation.

Courts struck down a law in Florida in 2017 preventing Pediatricians from talking to parents about gun safety.

In my country, what counts as a 'public health' matter is essentially arbitrary. Or at least seems that way to me.

For example, smoking, sunblock usage, sugary drinks, STDs, binge drinking and falls by elderly people are widely seen as public health issues.

Safety nets on trampolines, malnutrition, illegal drugs, suicide, bad diets and road traffic accidents are sometimes seen as public health issues.

Skiing, rugby, workplace fall prevention, migrants using unseaworthy boats and violence between drug dealers are almost never seen as public health issues.

If there's a clear dividing line, I can't see what it is :)

Out of curiosity, were guns or poor maternal outcomes for black women discussed as public health issues? The former has long been thought of as a public health problem but it is rarely discussed due to politics. The latter has been a problem for decades but only acknowledged recently. I recognize you have some expertise here, but I don’t think there is a finite set of issues that can fall under ‘public health’.

I’ve never heard of guns spoken of as a public health issue by public health experts, as opposed to politicians. This is among a fairly uniformly left-leaning bunch of people. The worse maternal outcomes for black women is something I’ve heard discussed, because maternal health is a central focus of public health (it happens to be my dad’s area of expertise). Maternal mortality for black mothers is a problem everywhere in the world. Most developed countries don’t have enough black people to have rigorous data on this. Some that do, like France, don’t track these statistics by race as a matter of formal policy. But the UK has about the same maternal mortality rate for black women, (40 per 100k) as the US (37 per 100k). The gap between black and white is actually bigger in the UK (5x) than the US (3x). Nobody does a good job with maternal care for black women, and nobody really knows what the problem is.

By the way, I have no public health expertise myself; just recounting as a lay person what I’ve heard public health experts talk about as a proxy for the metes and bounds of the field.

Yes. But the Feds won’t allow government funded research into gun violence. For black moms the issue is wrapped up in obstetrics in the US which basically has refused to use checklists, crash carts etc... I am not sure if this has changed but there was no national standard protocol in the US. It varied by state! This has been widely reported on if you do a few google searches. Lastly there’s also a lack of access to prenatal care.

I wouldn’t expect that textbook to list all examples of public health issues, nor would I expect you to overhear discussion about all examples.

It really just makes it undeniable how political the official advice and accompanying commentary is. The slew of new rules put in place for BLM protests are incredibly dubious, from both a legal and safety perspective. It’s not up to the government to decide what speech or cause for assembly is important, and health officials should not have their risk assessments swayed by political considerations.

What new rules specifically? And what rules were not in place for the armed all-white protests in Michigan, for instance?

For example, countries permitting residents to "gather in groups of 12", or "protest in groups of up to 100".

For example, https://cchealth.org/press-releases/2020/0602-Businesses-Reo...

Why create specialized rules for protests that allow an order of magnitude more people to gather than those allowed in a "close cohort" gathering?

Because 12 people is not a threat of you are a politician

All such advice/regulations is weighing the benefit of imposing the restriction vs. the cost of imposing such restriction.

And, importantly, all this is not in the context of individual risk, but population risk. The distinction is tricky but important, and one that trips most people up. For any single individual, the personal risk from COVID19 tends to be small, often seemingly vanishingly small. However, since we don't have immunity, it will affect everyone and even a small individual risk multiplied by (almost) everyone is a large impact on the population in terms of overall deaths.

Anyway, how many political protests have you attended in the last 10 years? How many social gatherings?

For me, it is easily 1:100, if not more. Thus, the aggregate transmission risk from protests is much smaller, therefore we can be more permissive of them. And it is the aggregate risk that policymakers care about.

On the other hand, political protest is considered a very, very fundamental right of our democracies, restricting it something to be done only with the greatest reluctance.

The freedom to practice religion is also a very fundamental right of our democracies, yet it is still illegal in many places due to the lockdown such as California.

Yes, the frequency that people attend protests is on average much less, but the number of other people that one is exposed to is much greater hence why "larger gathering venues at a pace consistent with public health and safety, such as nightclubs, concert venues, and live audience sports" (which are often outdoors as well) are in the very final phase of California's reopening plan. If policy makers agree that protests have a low aggregate risk, why would they place things like concerts or sports events which happen mostly on the weekends in the final phase when there are now protests happening every day?

I do agree that political protest is a very fundamental right and rarely ever be restricted, but many who share your opinion were against the anti-lockdown protests which is contradictory if one believes BLM protests should not be restricted because they are political protest. People protesting the lockdown is also democracy in action, even if one believes the reason for protest is not as important. The democratic right to protest is not dependant on how important the issue is seen to be.

The lockdown policies inevitable have political component, because they are made by politicians and will be evaluated in a political framework. And for a politician it is always practical to err on the CYA side - one extra day of lockdown costs the politician very little, as the costs of it are not born by them personally and are largely very hard to quantify, they are distributed among the population and spread among many consequences, small and large. However, if the politician raises the lockdown prematurely, the blame - in a very quantifiable and ready-for-election-ad form of raising case numbers - would be directed personally at the politician. If the political power of those who suffer from the lockdown is not large enough and organized enough to exert significant pressure, the smart politician would extend the lockdown until there's no conceivable risk to be blamed if anything happens. Virus research, vaccine research, etc., is science, but decisions on what to do with it is always political. And thus those who want to influence it obviously make a political action.

With the current protest, the political situation changes. Opposing these protests is a political suicide. If you can't oppose them, the only way is to have some contrived argument where you are for lockdowns (because see above) but also for protests.

> health officials should not have their risk assessments swayed by political considerations.

You can publish raw information about risk - which is complex and uncertain, and step back, but then you will have little influence on political decisions that follow it. Or you can recommend a policy - and by that inevitably contaminate the scientific assessment with political stance and become invested in certain policy. I'd much like the former, but vast majority of the policy in the US lately completely rejects the idea that the population can be trusted with full information and making its own decisions about it.

The ruling paradigm is that the government should limit people's choices for their own good, and push them into actions that it thinks are beneficial for them. And most people expect that from politicians and blame those politicians which didn't limit their choices enough and allowed them to make choices which ultimately brought bad consequences. So, the politicians and people that want the political action to happen play the game that the public wants to be played.

> The lockdown policies inevitable have political component, because they are made by politicians and will be evaluated in a political framework

This is true for the policies, but absolutely not true for advice from public health officials. Globally the policies made in response to this pandemic have been justified almost entirely by appeals to the authority of health officials. The supposed basis of these policies was that those officials were providing expert and politically neutral advice on risk management. Having the expert health and safety advice show a readily apparent political motivation undermines all of it.



Please stop posting unsubstantive and/or flamebait comments to HN.


Actually I do, why?

> That's a shining example of weasel speak. They don't explicitly say it's not risky - because that would be plain lying, it is obviously risky - but they are saying they are not condemning it as risky.

Perhaps it’s not so much weasel words as a carefully coded “caveat emptor”

A weasel in a cravat is still a weasel.

Observation: “weasel words” gets used a lot in HN comments as a cop out. I wish that phrase could be banned from this site because it is intellectually lazy. Commenters love to discredit articles and other commenters using that phrase rather than engaging in the actual effort to retort with facts. It’s the kind of broken culture that’s been turning HN into the same kind of cesspool that happened with slashdot.

The commenter seemed to have explained why they see the phrasing as "weasel words":

>They don't explicitly say it's not risky - because that would be plain lying, it is obviously risky - but they are saying they are not condemning it as risky. Which most people would take as implying it's not actually risky - even though they are not saying that. They are saying that the protest is too important to take health considerations into account, but they are reluctant to speak plainly and tell people there's risk but they should be adult and choose to manage the risks themselves and maybe neglect small risk in order to achieve bigger thing.

Is there anything about that explanation which is unsatisfactory? It's not as if they simply condemned the statement to be weasel words without any explanation as to why they see it as such.

They're being flagrantly irresponsible. If nothing else, messaging and public trust are key parts of any epidemic response. Right now, a conservative might look at this letter and come away with the impression that this is a case of quarantine for thee but not for me. An opinion that wouldn't be unjustified: can you imagine them doing the same thing to provide cover for abortion protests? The right to religious gatherings? It burns goodwill and trust, making significant public health interventions harder both now and in the future.

The reason, of course, is that ignoring the potential for disease transmission in these protests is necessary to stay in the good graces of woke circles.

> ...this is a case of quarantine for thee but not for me.

I think you have this backwards?

And I'd note that this is just an open letter signed by those willing. Perhaps a left-leaning subset.

But yes my first thought when I see this kind of thing is how people have been criticizing religious gatherings.

Edit: oh I see how it can be viewed the other direction, where "thee" is the right and "me" is the left.

Or maybe there are just bigger problems than the virus right now.

Your comment is a case in point: the takeaway the general public will have from this letter is that the virus doesn't really matter, and you should feel free to disregard it if you can come up with a vaguely plausible reason why your particular circumstances mean you should be exempt from caring about it.

Which we kind of were at anyway, but now public health figures have given their signoff on that interpretation.

The virus doesn’t seem to matter for police forces either, spraying tear gas as salutation and forcing anyone at reach to burst out as much body fluid as they possibly can.

TBH from the outside it seems that whatever the death count is it never really mattered to a majority of people in the US.

The CDC already failed us. Public health figures have been wrong repeatedly at the local, state, and national level.

I understand people's frustration with them, and I understand why people don't care about their "signoffs" on what we're allowed to do, especially when the guidelines are completely nonsensical like in California.

Where are the free clinics? Where are the free tests? Where is the free quarantine hotel room? None of that, instead we just get chided for being stupid and uncooperative by leaders. This is completely unacceptable, they failed us, not the other way around.

And the police might actually kill me today, unlike the virus.

Like the immediate livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans?

the virus doesnt care, it's going to infect as many as possible. One thing is for certain, if there isn't a huge jump in infections then there will never be a lockdown in response to a pandemic ever again.

That's what some people have been saying since February, yes.

Not only conservatives...

It is a straw-man but I think the woke circle isn't that different from religion for some proponents. Different dogmata, same zeal.

And while I don't like people being too sensitive that you refrain from stating anything substantial in public without PR support, this statement is particularly bad.

The lockdown protesters make clear that experts don't decide about their freedoms. This statement just provides evidence for the validity of their point in my opinion.

Where'd they "tell us there is no risk from these protests"? The letter you linked explicitly advises us to "prepare for an increased number of infections in the days following a protest [and] provide increased access to testing and care for people in the affected communities, especially when they or their family members put themselves at risk by attending protests."

They just seem to think protesting America's rampant institutionalized police brutality is more worthy than protesting the lockdowns themselves, and I can't say I disagree, but even if I did I wouldn't be able to say they're being inconsistent, because they aren't. They just haven't stuck their heads in the sand of relativism.

> They just seem to think protesting America's rampant institutionalized police brutality is more worthy than protesting the lockdowns themselves

That can’t possibly be a valid scientific opinion on the basis of public health data — until recently the virus was killing more people per day than the police kill in an entire year.

It’s a political opinion and this was a political letter.

From now on, when public health experts give advice, we must all wonder if it is based on science, or if it is just political messaging which has no more claim to truth than any other political messaging. That’s dangerous ground to be on if you want science to be taken seriously by the public.

It is important to keep in mind that this is not about protesting just police brutality: police brutality is just one part of systemic inequality affecting POCs, especially black people, in the US.

With that in mind, it is important to put an understanding of public health data in context with systemic racism, and why the data looks like it how it does.

For instance, black Americans are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic itself. Protesting that “Black Lives Matter” during a pandemic that takes black lives seems self-defeating to me.

It's unjust that black people are more affected by Covid!

What are we going to do!?

Gather in large groups while screaming in close proximity to each other!

We've heard a lot from black people over the past week or two (and much longer, if you cared to listen) about what typical American policing is like for them. It's not good.

It's perfectly valid to see those issues as important but still not worth the risk of spreading COVID-19, but by boiling this down to a contest of how many people each Bad Thing killed in X amount of time, you miss a lot of the nuances in both issues and really preclude any reasonable, rational, productive discussion about the nature of the tradeoffs that are being made.

If you want to ignore all those things and walk away convinced that it's a political stunt, nobody can stop you.

I happen to agree: several hundred, or even several thousand more people dying as a result of COVID 19 is a worthwhile trade off for the progress and change these protests are enabling. If that’s your opinion, own it. But that’s a political opinion, not a scientific one. Scientists have no business trying to clothe that political value judgment in the garb of expert analysis.

The problem the public health sector has worked itself into is that it dismissed any attempts to analyze “trade offs” when we were talking about economic trade offs. So now they have to pretend like we’re not talking about trade offs at all. Hence the completely non-sensical premise that protests are okay because police brutality is a public health problem.

I don't really think this letter is trying to be anything other than an articulation of a value judgment made by people with a certain perspective that gives visibility not just into the effects of COVID-19, but other public health issues that disproportionately affect black people.

I'm also not super convinced that "the public health sector" was never receptive to questions about economic tradeoffs. We have a dysfunctional federal government and the same in many local jurisdictions, but where I live the local public health institutions have been working hand in glove with state and local governments to open as quickly as possible while staying abreast of the disease's spread.

There is no tradeoff in NZ or Australia. They eliminated the virus. We didn't so will have to continue shutting things down.

Scientists are no more qualified at discussing the trade-offs of economics and racial justice and policing than anyone else. By attempting to do so they politicize science and thereby reduce public trust in science.

My problem with their letter is that they made a judgment about these trade-offs and attempted to portray it as a scientific one, when it really wasn't. Based on the data alone, there is no way to reach their conclusion.

> White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19. Black people are twice as likely to be killed by police compared to white people, but the effects of racism are far more pervasive. Black people suffer from dramatic health disparities in life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, chronic medical conditions, and outcomes from acute illnesses like myocardial infarction and sepsis. Biological determinants are insufficient to explain these disparities. They result from long-standing systems of oppression and bias which have subjected people of color to discrimination in the healthcare setting, decreased access to medical care and healthy food, unsafe working conditions, mass incarceration, exposure to pollution and noise, and the toxic effects of stress. Black people are also more likely to develop COVID-19. Black people with COVID-19 are diagnosed later in the disease course and have a higher rate of hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, and death. COVID-19 among Black patients is yet another lethal manifestation of white supremacy. In addressing demonstrations against white supremacy, our first statement must be one of unwavering support for those who would dismantle, uproot, or reform racist institutions.

Is that all BS, then? No, I don't think so.

I wouldn't call it a "scientific conclusion", but the point that black people have poor health outcomes relative to other demographics has a lot of merit and honestly who else should be making it but medical professionals and scientists?

> I wouldn't call it a "scientific conclusion"

That's my point. If it's not scientific, then scientists should not have presented it as such.

Well, a point I've made elsewhere in this thread (possibly not here) is that I don't think they did claim it's an objectively truthful conclusion.

I can reason about moving a heavy object from my car to my house using the general knowledge that dropped objects fall downward and often break when they hit the ground; I don't need to whip out the graph paper and prove it.

A protest is a political stunt. That seems to be an essential part of what it means to have a protest.

And at risk of being too on topic and reading the article, the issue is that the gloom-and-doom arguments that a lockdown is necessary and correct have been well and truly rejected by the activist wings of politics, and implicitly by a large portion of the commenting-class of journalists. And business. And possibly the public at large. They clearly don't agree.


We usually try to keep it a bit more civil here.

I don’t have a particularly strong opinion here either way, but I think it’s worth pointing out that all medical advice is (or at least should be) sensitive to the broader context of a person’s life. Consider: is it safe to take morphine? If I’m a healthy 20-something looking for escape, absolutely not. On the other hand, if I’m an 85 year old hospice patient, anything harm morphine causes is vastly outweighed by the good it does.

It doesn’t seem an irresponsible or unprecedented extension of that principle to say that if your country is rocked by civil unrest, dealing with that is more important than preventing the spread of disease.

> is it safe to take morphine

it is safe for me if you take morphine; it is not safe for me if you spread an airborne pathogen. see the difference?

Worthy isnt the number of deaths involved, its the amount of justice it might achieve in response to.

Protesting the lockdown is not a just cause.

Saying "Well now anything doctors say is political!" does not show good intent or faith, but someone looking for a gotcha statement so they can say "See, they were political actors all along!"

Who decides? Reasonable people can believe that protesting orders that shut down people’s’ livelihoods is a just cause. Publix health officials sure as hell shouldn’t be making those judgment calls.

Public health officials can presumably take a non-political stance for lockdowns. This it seems to me that even given a neutral stance on BLM issues, there can be a non-political basis for discriminating between the value of the goals of the two different protest movements.

The entire point of protesting is people saying they believe something is unjust.

You can't decide what other people think is unjust. You would be negating the entire point of protests.

I think the quarantine of the healthy was unjust. You're going to tell me I can't protest against it?

Actually that's the point of opinion, you get to decide what you think of other people's causes.

Nobody said you cant protest to your heart's content, you can protest over anything. It's just calling out one of those protests is a mite's buzz of a complaint to a lion's roar of shame for the treatment of black people by America.

If anything, this simply lets regular people peek behind the curtain - it's mostly politics all the way down.

Science is a minor concern within a sphere of human influence.

When mathematicians of all people, reject prizes for making undeniable progress in their field [0], you can only imagine what happens in all the other fields that are inextricably tied to politics (economics anyone?)

Here's a depressing quote from Perelman's wiki: "It is not people who break ethical standards who are regarded as aliens. It is people like me who are isolated."


Am I missing a double negative? Even if protesting police brutality has negative value, surely protesting lockdowns has even less than that. It would even be valid to say, "Protest anything you want except lockdowns" (assuming the speaker believes the virus is the greatest threat).

Policy prescriptions are always political. Science is a method of creating accurate predictions. It's a valuable tool to inform your decisions, but it fundamentally cannot tell you what you should do. Deciding which outcome is most desirable is a value judgement that has no scientific answer.

On average the police kill ~80 unarmed people each year, of any race [1]. By comparison, 40 million people are unemployed as a result of the pandemic and lockdown. Certainly, the impact of someone unjustly killed is vastly larger than that of someone laid off or furloughed. But is it 500,000 times greater? These are different issues. They aren't equivalent, but they're comparable at least. Pointing out the inconsistency here isn't "sticking one's head in the sand of relativism."

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/polic...

They are not only protesting the killing of unarmed black people, but all aspects of the structural bias of American police and the justice system against blacks. These biases affect much more than the extreme cases of the killing of unarmed black people.

There is _far_ more harm in unjust policing than is counted in deaths per year.

And far more harm than just one year's worth. We've seen 400 years of structural anti-black racism here, with no end in sight. The USA has had more than 240 years to fix that. If people are finding the timing of the current protest inconvenient, well, they've had their whole lives to fix the problem. They shouldn't blame the protesters for their own lack of action.

I'll note that in 1964, people were calling civil rights protests "unwise and untimely". [1] Somehow it's never the right moment for justice. Anybody suggesting an indefinite delay should be aware that their arguments are indistinguishable from those of people for whom "later" actually means "never". If people really want to end these protests now, instead of arguing for delay they should quickly enact deep structural changes.


I'm not sure how much "structural" racism actually exists in the US at this point. There are no doubt pockets and they should be rooted out.

Personal racism exists and will probably never go away. It would be nice if it did.

I do think people get profiled and hassled because other people who look like that have done XXX and cops see a possible pattern. This isn't fair to innocent people at all but I suspect this has been what is happening rather than anything "structural".

I learned this firsthand like 20 years ago when I grew long hair and a beard John Lennon style for maybe 8 months. I was very quickly pulled over, hassled and searched (very rudely I might add) on made up charges by a rural cop. This did open my eyes to maybe a small part of what black America goes through in dealing with cops. I cut my hair back to military style, shaved, and it was back to letting me off with a warning and have a nice day.

I feel like this kind of thing is a good part of antagonism but I don't see it as "structural". More many cops (including minority cops as far as that goes) not liking certain types of people. They need to serve the community imo and it would be better for everyone.

I think the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper incident from a few weeks ago was the most important 'teachable moment' that we've had in years. I am somewhat disappointed that it was overshadowed by protests against police brutality, because I thought it was a very 'teachable moment' that illustrated the type of racism that still exists behind a facade of tolerance.

Police abuse is sort of a separate issue relating to training and accountability. While it is very definitely fueled by racism and classism, I feel like it is an issue that affects all races, albeit blacks more because of long standing economic and cultural issues. The 'warrior cop' mentality affects us all, and is something that has been slowly improving in many large cities.

"Personal racism" is tough. Racism is a broad term for many things. If my neighbor plays their stereo too loud and they're white, I might call them 'white trash' in private conversation, and depending on their race I might adopt a different epithet. That isn't to say I would deny them opportunity or hate them because of their race, just that their race is a convenient attachment point for my general dislike of them. Now I'm not saying that is good or excusable, but I think it is a different thing than denying someone rights or opportunities because of their color, or making assumptions about them based on their background.

When people of color don't feel safe to walk the streets of their own neighborhood because a Karen can report them as suspicious and the authorities take that seriously and escalate the situation, there very definitely is systemic, structural racism at play. If this were just happening to blacks who appeared 'urban' you might have a point, but it affects even well dressed black people and there are countless stories backing that up. Hell, ten years ago an aquaintence was profiled because her dark Italian skin made her appear Mexican to some stupid AZ cops.

I am a long haired white guy who has also been bald, so I get what you're saying. For years I could guarantee I would have the last open seat on a plane next to me, I'm assuming because of the way I look. That doesn't negate the experiences of people of color, it just adds another facet to the way people can prejudge you. If anything, it should illustrate how bad things could be if you weren't white.

> structural racism

I think "structural racism" is one of the biggest branding failures of the whole movement.

To begin with, it uses the word "racism" to refer to something unintentional, when it normally implies intentionality. That needlessly makes people defensive. So then they want to deny that it's happening rather than admit there is a problem, which is the first step to solving it. Before even step one you've already lost.

Then the definition comes out as something like, structures that produce a racial disparity. But before controlling for confounders that's just everything. There are a slew of factors that correlate with race -- income, culture, in some cases biology (e.g. for Vitamin D). If lower income people get worse outcomes then all else equal, black people will get worse outcomes as a result of lower incomes. Which implies a poverty problem in those cases rather than a racism problem, which means you need anti-poverty solutions.

If you try to insist on a racism frame there, all you're doing is making enemies out of lower income white people who might've been your allies against the actual root cause which affects them too. And you make it all too easy for opponents to reveal the confounders and show that the "racism" isn't there, even though the problem is still there, because the problem wasn't "racism" (as it's commonly understood) to begin with.

It's easier to actually solve the problems if you stop having to constantly fight with people over calling it that.

If you think one single word is all that lies in the way, feel free to pick a different one and start using it. But once you actually do the anti-racist work, you'll find that isn't really the problem. It's that white people generally become irrational and defensive whenever race comes up. See DiAngelo's "White Fragility" for more on this. Her 2011 academic paper on this is here: https://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/viewFile/249/116

A pretty clear example is what happened with the phrase "Black Lives Matter". It doesn't involve the R word. And yet, it sends a lot of white people into a rage. Literally, as here, where the menacing white man is shouting: “Black Lives Matter? Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10223827665665524&se...

And it's not just that guy. For many, there is no acceptable way to point our racial injustice. The only acceptable level of protest is one so quiet that it is entirely unseen, unheard. MLK addressed this in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" if you want to read more.

> It's that white people generally become irrational and defensive whenever race comes up.

It's more that white people become defensive when you accuse them of racism. Which, when racism means intentionally hating black people, you can understand -- they know whether or not they hate black people and then you're accusing them of something they know isn't true.

Having to explain that it means something else in this context is just handicapping yourself from the start for no reason. Call it structural injustice or something.

> A pretty clear example is what happened with the phrase "Black Lives Matter". It doesn't involve the R word. And yet, it sends a lot of white people into a rage.

In this case the phrase is the name of a group. Now the group is holding mass protests after everyone has been told to stay home because of a virus pandemic. There is a non-frivolous argument that doing that right now could end up killing a lot of people. That has the potential to piss people off completely regardless of what is being protested.

You can certainly find examples of people saying nasty things against the lockdown protesters and trivializing their concerns -- and that even had a reason to be happening specifically now and not a year ago or a year from now. (King's "later is never" doesn't really apply to a temporary public health issue which can't be used as an indefinite excuse.)

But the phrase itself was kind of an own-goal to begin with. The best way to hear the trouble is to compare it to "Blue Lives Matter" -- the tone deaf response that raises the question, compared to what? The original has the same problem, you just don't hear it when it's your team.

The phrase taken literally states something so uncontroversial that it carries the implication it has to be relative to something else in order to mean anything. So people hear "Black Lives Matter More Than ___" and are invited to fill in the blank with something important to them and then get upset.

It was also just waiting for opponents to claim the middle and respond with All Lives Matter, which makes you sound like jerks because they're being inclusive and you're implicitly saying you only care about black people.

Good messaging is hard.

> For many, there is no acceptable way to point our racial injustice.

It seems to me that calling it "racial injustice" rather than "injustice" is not adding anything useful. If there is an injustice not related to race, should we ignore it? Does the racial injustice have some uniqueness to it that requires it to be addressed separately and using some unusual methods not suitable to ordinary injustice?

When you look at something like police brutality, it disproportionately affects black people. But what does a solution have to do with race? If we address police brutality in general, does that not solve the problem? Does that not make it easier to build a larger coalition?

More than twice as many white people are shot by police as black people. This is proportionally not as many. But what does that mean? You bring that proportion of white people in, the ones suffering the same as you, and now your coalition is three times as large. But you have to set your sights on the injustice and not just the "racial" injustice.

> It seems to me that calling it "racial injustice" rather than "injustice" is not adding anything useful.

Yes, it seems that way to a lot of white people, especially ones who haven't studied the topic. But there are deep historical roots here, and white bias is a major cause of the problem. Continuing to erase that means the problems will continue to remain unsolved.

If you'd like to learn more, I'd suggest Kendi's How to be an Anti-Racist. For the historical roots, Kendi's history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning is fascinating, too. To understand the white pattern of reaction and erasure here, DiAngelo's, White Fragility is a good resource (as is her 2011 paper by the same name).

If you think you can solve these problems via focus on just a generic injustice, feel free to take a swing at it. But I don't think white armchair critique of anti-racist activists is helpful. And I haven't for some years: https://www.facebook.com/williamp/posts/10105565800812373

"Structural racism" is not a branding failure, it's an academic term that has been used for a long time and it only takes a minute or so to explain to anybody willing to listen. People don't become defensive because of the word "racism", people become defensive when they're told that behavior that used to be okay is no longer okay, and that they have to change. People don't like being told they're wrong no matter which words you use.

Your poverty example strikes me as disingenuous because poverty for black people is considerably worse than poverty for white people, even when you control for the big confounders, precisely because of racism. Which means that anti-poverty measures can be a great thing but they will not by themselves be sufficient to level the playing field.

It's funny how it's always --other-- people who are getting defensive, who will refuse to listen, who are lost before the arguments have even been expressed. You're fighting on behalf of a demographic that doesn't exist: people who aren't racist but are unwilling to listen for 2 minutes to an explanation of systemic racism. I bet you just dislike the concept of systemic racism yourself and you're using hypothetical alienation of ignorant poor white people as a cover.

It is pretty clear that you and the parent's author aren't using the same definition of "systemic".

It is very difficult to devise reasonable plans of action when the core terms in the dispute are ill-defined. There also seems to be a current of thought that any attempt to clarify or analyze the situation is an attempt to diminish the grievances. This anti-intellectualism coupled with the chaos and violence of a mob is frightening.

Instead of expecting every commenter to live up to your standard of evidence - lest the entire movement be labelled an anti-intellectual mob - why don't you go get educated yourself?

Here's a movie, Thirteenth, which VERY CLEARLY defines and examines structural racism in the criminal justice system in the US, and how it evolved directly from the systems of slavery and its sequel, Jim Crow.


This analysis and conversation has been building for literally decades. It's like showing up for the fifth week of an algebraic geometry class and calling it 'anti-intellectual' because you can't be bothered to pick up Euclid...

I did not say either interpretation of "systemic" was wrong, just that they were not identical. Both interpretations can be used to have meaningful discussions but only if it is clear which definition is being used first.

And thanks for proving my point that some people view any attempt to analyze the situation as an attempt to diminish the grievances.

I said nothing about 'diminishing grievances.' I was responding to a) calling the protestors an anti-intellectual violent mob, and b) an apparent ignorance of the basic terms of the discussion. Again, go educate yourself.

Why did you assume that my comments about the violent mob was in reference to peaceful protestors? I was clearly talking about the looters and vandals that have used the legitimate protests to shield their activities. Is it that hard to discern the meaning of "violent mob"?

Your willingness to jump yet again to the conclusion that I was attempting to dismiss legitimate grievances is frustrating and again an example of the behavior I was trying to call out.

Examine your defensiveness. Where's it coming from? Why are you angrily splitting hairs over phrasing and putting words in my mouth, instead of engaging with my core point: that you should actually put in a bit of effort and go learn about this stuff?

Angrily? Defensive?

When I pointed out that "systemic racism" means different things to different people and that lack of agreement on that point made it difficult to have a meaningful discussion, you told me to "Go educate myself" and proceeded to lecture me about my ignorance regarding the criminal justice system.

How did you determine I was ignorant about anything? I happen to agree that our criminal justice system has some deep problems, so you just attacked a potential ally.

It seems to me that you jumped to the unwarranted conclusion that I had challenged some assertion about "system racism'. But by doing so you illustrated my point that it was difficult to have a discussion when terms are so ill-defined and that it was even more difficult to do so when people assumed that any attempt to clarify and understand the meaning behind the words was some attempt to minimize or diminish the grievances.

Your reaction was exactly the behavior that I was pointing out as making it difficult to discuss these issues.

You are upset that I am "splitting hairs over phrasing" and that is an example of what I would call "anti-intellectualism". The meaning of words is supremely important if we are to find common ground and be able to work rationally towards addressing the legitimate grievances being expressed in the protests.

"That doesn't negate the experiences of people of color, it just adds another facet to the way people can prejudge you. If anything, it should illustrate how bad things could be if you weren't white."

Yep that was exactly my point and why I related the story. I learned that people really are profiled and harassed based on their looks or certain assumptions about them. It really does happen.

> It really does happen.

But not in any structured way, but rather in random human behavior that we might never be able to correct, right?

Maybe I'm not understanding the term "structural". To me the word indicates institutions officially set up to behave in a racial manner, i.e segregation. Obviously we don't have much or any of that anymore. But I agree racism and profiling (which I think of as a separate issue... note, I do think it's an "issue") exist. I just balk at the use of the term "structural". Structural is rounding up Muslims in Western China. Structural is passing a law that says if you are black you can't come in. We don't do structural anymore. Which isn't to say we don't have racism or racial problems or classism or profiling or injustice, obviously we do.

Unlike the average San Francisco resident I've actually spent a lot of time around blacks and black communities so this isn't theoretical one dimensional abstract signaling of the type that is unfortunately too common lately.

The issue is deep and not nearly as simple as one sided "structural racism social injustice". A lot of it comes down to culture and how people feel about proper behavior. Along with contempt for cultures that don't have the same values. And willingness to engage in violent behavior.

But I don't deny black Americans have a rough time with the police and I do think we should do something about that. Maybe that is what is meant by "structural" in which case I agree, no argument.

I'm not sure what to do about people not liking each others culture though. I expect the bigots are the ones missing out, but I don't know if we can legal that problem away.

Something doesn't have to be encoded in law to be structural. If a cop racially profiles a black man and harasses him and his boss doesn't discipline him, that's structural. The structure has failed to provide the right outcome.

Those are examples of individual racism. You cannot make a law that erases individual racism. You can make one that erases structural. If a department of cops are individually racist and therefore have the effect of profiling people regularly, there is simply no law that can prevent that.

I don't agree. "Structural" indicates a structure or framework (in this case the legal system) independent of individual actors.

A cop and his boss acting badly may be systemic. It isn't structural.

Would you be content with replacing "structural racism" with "systemic racism" in that case?

I don't think "structural" can usefully include only things that explicitly say, "Hey, we're racists, and here's the racist thing we're doing." That became taboo during the 1960s, so all but a white fringe stopped. But the attitudes and policy choices didn't magical end when people stopped being honest about their goals. They just became hidden. See the Southern Strategy, and especially Lee Atwater's quote here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy#Evolution_(1...

I don't disagree with your point on racism existing.

I personally believe profiling is not the same as racism, both have clear definitions. Both also sweep up innocent people and lump them in with miscreants who "look like that" so it's not something to go to the mat over. I basically agree.

What I don't agree with is your over the top rhetoric.

"We've seen 400 years of structural anti-black racism here, with no end in sight. The USA has had more than 240 years to fix that."

This disregards John Brown, the civil war, the civil rights act, affirmative action and a multitude of programs policies and attempts to bring justice and some measure of equality of opportunity to the minority. It also ignores the widespread support of the current protests and paints America with an overly broad brush of racism. In short, it does exactly what racists are accused of doing. I realize you likely read this kind of thing in a book. That doesn't make it any better nor more fair or accurate.

When you say "structural" and attempt to equate profiling with slavery or segregation, both of which were structural in an attempt to imply we are exactly the same place legally and in terms of opportunity, and how the system treats minorities when we manifestly are not, it's offensive, inaccurate and it raise hackles.

I really didn't want to get deep into this, and I'm not debating, but I think this point needs to be raised because there is entirely too much hot and shallow speech about lately and it detracts from the core point.

That's a different definition to what is commonly accepted.

Structural racism is often called systematic or institutional racism[0]. It doesn't have to be deliberate, but instead is something that perpetuates reduced status of a racial minority by the way laws or institutions are structured.

A commonly used example is the difference in laws and sentencing between crack and powered cocaine. The 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act created a mandatory minimum sentence on 5 years for 5 grams of crack cocaine, but the same Act made the 5 year minimum sentence apply to 500g of powered cocaine[1].

This doesn't appear to have been deliberately racist, and instead it was mostly in response to media hype about crack. But it had the result of meaning blacks were much more likely to be sentenced to prison for minor drug offences.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutional_racism

[1] https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/crack-vrs-po...

I understand you have your personal suspicions. I used to have similar thoughts. But please understand a) this is a well-studied topic, and b) a major component of America's endemic racism is white minimization, deflection, and denial, something made possible by pervasive white ignorance.

As an example, you might read Loewen's "Sundown Towns". He covers the Nadir, the post-reconstruction period that includes events like the Tulsa Massacre. He demonstrates pretty convincingly that white-led ethnic cleansing was widespread across the US. Through a variety of historical records, including extensive use of census data, he demonstrates that in town after town, all across the country, white people violently drove out any black people and then used violence to keep them out. And then they quietly erased that history, despite keeping otherwise extensive historical records.

Was any of this covered in my high school or college education? No. That's even though it demonstrably took place in towns all around where I grew up. That a lot of suburban growth was driven by racism. That wealth distribution was driven by racism. That made it easy for me to think that racism was this thing that happened long ago or far away. When instead I grew up soaking in its structural effects.

> I cut my hair back to military style, shaved, and it was back to letting me off with a warning and have a nice day.

You said this experience opened your eyes, yet you say structural racism doesn't exist. That was literally structural racism. Do you not agree? This is called white privilege; a black person can't change their skin color, but you can cut your hair.

> I'm not sure how much "structural" racism actually exists in the US at this point. There are no doubt pockets and they should be rooted out.

Well if you're "not sure", they why are you posting your own narrative without becoming sure? It's like if I said, "I'm not sure how cars work, but here's a theory that sounds good to me: it involves lasers and hamster wheels, and so I will now believe it."

This is the one of the biggest issues in America, would you consider attempting to GET sure about it?

Perhaps you should ask for clarity. Here, I'll go:

Structural [institutional] racism never left the US. That's what millions of people are protesting right now. It's not some vague notion.

Here are a few off the top of my head:

- Drug laws that target blacks (crack sentences are 10x longer than cocaine)

- Wealth accumulation that holds back black families (not getting loans means not getting houses means not passing wealth down to children; the GI bill that rejected nearly all black applicants and was primarily responsible for middle-class Boomer wealth accumulation)

- Education (poorer zip codes get less funding and end up less educated and poorer, a vicious cycle)

- Job applications (black sounding names get rejected more frequently)

- The vast sentencing disparity between whites and blacks committing the same crimes (blacks are guilty till innocent, and shot for being black in the wrong place or misdemeanours (jogging, selling loose cigarettes), whites are "good kids" who don't deserve to have their lives ruined by a felony rape)

All are structural, institutional racism that are alive and well today.

Do you think I am way off base, or do you reject what I'm describing as factually incorrect or politically motivated? Or anything other than examples of structural racism. I personally don't know anyone who believes structural racism doesn't exist so I'm in a totally different world here...

>We've seen 400 years of structural anti-black racism here, with no end in sight.

The idea that 400 years of structural racism can be proven seems highly doubtful to me. Do you really have 400 years worth of evidence of literal outright racism? How can we hope to inspire change with rhetoric like this? This is the equivalent of simply screaming louder to get a point across. Highly ineffective unless annoying them into submission is your goal.

>The idea that 400 years of structural racism can be proven seems highly doubtful to me.

We had slavery in America from 1619 until 1865. Jim Crow and segregation for 100 years after that. The Civil Rights Act, and related laws, eliminated much of the legal basis for institutional racism. But as we all know, that didn't eliminate racism. Safe to say, there's plenty of racism left in this country. Especially in institutions like the police. That's 401 years.

ETA: That's focusing purely on the black population. If you count what was directed against the native populations, you can go back even further.

Same for coronavirus and for economic hardship.

Who do you think the economic hardship of coronavirus affects the most?


If these were random accidents, you might just have a point, but they are neither random, nor accidental in the cases in question.

Where are you getting 80 from? The link says 1,043 in the past year. Did you mean 80 per month?

1,000+ includes all people killed by police, most of them armed. You need to filter for unarmed killings. Hover over "weapon" and click unarmed. It's 350 from 2015 to the present.

The time I was arrested at a protest, I was charged with carrying a sharpened stick (aka, protest sign). I didn't even have that, though... It was a lie in the report.

The police regularly distort their reporting. There is no centralized collecting of police violence statistics, in large part because they have organized against the collection of those statistics. The 1,000+ number will be far less subject to manipulation.

Here's some additional reporting. The 2014 Tampa Bay Times project to track police violence found 827 people shot in a year. In Florida alone. They spent a huge amount of effort on the reporting because the statistics were sometimes not collected and usually not trustworthy where they were.


They said 80 unarmed, meaning the rest of the 1043 were armed.

another ~140 were armed with "toy weapons", such as the infamous shooting of Tamir Rice. But it's unclear whether that should go into the category of "unarmed" since this is still a threat perceived by police. Here is an image of Rice's toy gun: https://www.cleveland.com/resizer/CbjnPy-8-HkfIl1ApQ431f_Dlh...

Weirdly, hundreds of people were wandering around state capitols with much more dangerous looking weapons, and no cop shot them on site. It's almost like going by "perceived threat" (as determined after the fact by cops) is a giant hole that allows racial bias free reign.

In Rice's case, police were responding to reports of shots fired in the vicinity. By comparison, the protestors in Michigan (presumably this is what you were referring to) were attending a planned protest in a state with legal open carry.

While it's fair to say that bias was a factor in Rice's shooting, and I'd agree, pointing to open carry protests as evidence of this may not be the most effective line of argument. Especially since armed Black demonstrators carried out their own demonstrations not long afterward: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/07/michigan-law...

You've made me challenge my preconceptions. Thanks for your reasonable and researched response.

They were not responding to "reports of shots fired."

Police were responding to:

> "There's a guy in here with a pistol," the man tells a police dispatcher during the call. "It's probably fake, but he's like, pointing it at everybody."

referring to legal open carry, California changed the gun laws after the Back Panthers did the same back in the 60s.

The problem with systematic racism is the "percieved threat" part. When I have that racisit bias, I obviously will percieve a black person more as a threat than a white one. I may not even be aware of it, and facing ones own biases is a hard thing even more so for such serious things as racism and police brutality. When this bias is combined with the kind of training US police is getting, it a given to end up where the US ended up.

The only nice thing is, it also shows where to sart to remedy theissues. Once the police and the poluation accepted to see the issues.

Racial bias is absolutely disgusting. Nothing about the color of a person's skin or their family lineage could ever give indication of the actions they're likely to take. Culture on the other hand, which by definition includes behavior, can be a pretty good indicator. Either way, the room for error grows as the time taken to make a judgement decreases and unfortunately in the situations police find themselves in they have very little time for consideration.

Why should they shift that risk onto the public? Why are they lauded as heroes when they err on the side of killing innocents? Why shouldn't they be the ones to die instead of the people they've miscategorized as threats? Why are their lives worth more?

The problem is that police often determine people’s ‘culture’ by the color of their skin.

Is there a better way to determine it before making verbal contact?

I don’t know, but determining it by the color of someone’s skin is clearly racism by anyone’s definition.

right. I was just wondering if there are actually other options available. I don't think there are.

Seems like one option would be to discard the notion that we should attempt to categorize someone’s ‘culture’ without speaking to them, especially if you are assessing whether or not to use violence against them.

That just sounds like racism with extra steps.

>Where'd they "tell us there is no risk from these protests"?

In this quotation: "we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission". "As risky" seems like a very specific choice of words because they could have said "we do not condemn these gatherings because of the risk" but did not.

Similar to how a judge might say "I condemn you to death" is designating the sentence of death to a subject, "condemning a gathering as risky" is designating the attribute of risk to a gathering. They do not condemn the gathering as risky, so they consciously decide to not designate or apply the attribute of risk to the gathering.

Of course, it could have simply been a mistake to word the sentence in this way, but "as risky" does not seem like the obvious choice of words, "because of the risk" does.

And yes, they do later go on to say to prepare for an increased number of infections and do recognize that protestors can and likely will spread the disease, but that just goes to show that the statement is contradicting itself. They are specifically being inconsistent in the earlier mentioned sentence.

It's certainly not how I'd word it, but if you read the whole letter they clearly and unambiguously acknowledge and restate the risk. That's the beginning and end of it for me.

>>However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission

This post is pretty double speaky because these doctors can't quite come out and say stay home because the virus is still here and dangerous. So they say things which are self contradictory and therefore ultimately meaningless but allow themselves to signal their support for the cause.

It's what happens when your institutions become explicitly partisan.


1.) I don't agree with taking such "both sides" a view of equating the two: BLM protests are about protesting police brutality, religious congregations are not. Quarantine protests are underplaying the dangers of coronavirus: people participating in BLM protests, by and large, have no misconceptions of coronavirus. Whether or not you prioritize this above or below police brutality is of course something you place on your own moral scale, but trying to equate the two like this is super disingenuous.

Additionally, what are you even going to do? Use the violence of the state to tell people not to protest against the use of violence conducted by the state?

2.) Lower income minorities are the ones who are often afraid to call the police, due to the widespread racial bias in policing across the US. Do not speak for them if they themselves have very low confidence in the police: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/09/29/the-racial-confid...

3.) It's not racist to criticize the Chinese government. It is, however, racist to misattribute the actions of the CPC to the actions of "the Chinese", which happens far too often.

4.) I don't even understand this point. You can't easily pick and choose what people are deciding to protest about: there is nobody at the top saying "we should protest about BLM and not the Chinese government." And especially don't conflate property destruction with what these protests stand for.

> 1.) I don't agree with taking such "both sides" a view of equating the two: BLM protests are about protesting police brutality, religious congregations are not

It isn't a matter of equating the perceived importance of the gatherings. It is a matter of the government not being content neutral in its actions. If the government is going to restrict public (and private!) gatherings for public health reasons, the restrictions can't be selective based on the speech content of the gatherings.

See part 2:

> Additionally, what are you even going to do? Use the violence of the state to tell people not to protest against the use of violence conducted by the state?

Obviously the answer is to not criminalize the gatherings at all.

Sadly there are many such irregularities in today’s socially acceptable right think. A lot of logic is being replaced by emotion.


> Especially when his opinions are factually unfounded and result the gross misuse of public resources.

Factually unfounded? It is pretty clear that opportunists and provacateurs have used the legitimate protests as a shield for their illegal activities.

Protection of property and safety of citizens is "gross misuse of public resources"? Do you think the people living above the stores being vandalized and lit on fire would agree with you?

> Absolutely no one was giving a free pass to looters.

I call shenanigans on this one. The mainstream press has downplayed the looting and violence very consistently conflating criticism of the illegal activities as criticism of the legitimate protests efforts. And there is a vocal minority of voices actually legitimizing the violent activities as an appropriate and necessary extension of the peaceful protests.

You're wrong on every single point. Yes, opportunists took advantage, but the right-wing media echoed by top Republicans is the protest were terroristic at their core and there was zero acknowledgement of the legitimate concerns of the vast majority of demonstrators. Looting got tons of coverage. It was plastered all over cable news and got a heavy response from local governments. The misuse of public resources I refer is the attacks on protestors who were not looting. Most egregiously in Washington DC acting on orders from the White House.

The analysis is quite simple: basic cynicism.

Experts are incentivized to maximize results corresponding to their field /in isolation/ - with little or no trade-offs considered. This preserves their reputation, and allows them to recommend within the bounds of their knowledge.

If an expert recommends religious institutions continue to hold only remote meetings, they are not going to suffer any consequences, both directly and as a response. Anger over such a decision will usually be directed to the politicians, instead.

If an expert recommends these protests be halted due to risk, they themselves will likely be affected, and charged with racism and bigotry, likely - in our current environment - leading to total destruction of both professional and personal lives.

The calculus is quite simple, and absolutely dangerous.

Thank you for stating this. I’ve spent a nontrivial amount of time recently on self analysis. To wit: am I racist because I find the doublespeak regarding quarantine/protests to be entirely illogical. Asking these questions on social media is a genuine reputation risk.

but reality doesn't care. when people start falling sick, and the curve steepens while the cries of "why weren't we warned!" become loud and clear what's going to be these "experts" answer then? Surely they've thought that far ahead. right?

Or maybe the lockdowns were a massive over reaction and this is a subtle acknowledgment.

Regardless which way the cookie crumbles, the damage to their reputations is done. Neither outcome is good, though one is obviously far more desirable in the short term: the one with less resulting death. Though, if they have lost credibility the next time this rolls 'round...

Their statements make sense if you realize that public health experts have not been speaking to the American people the way scientists would speak to an informed audience. They were being political because they didn't think the people could handle nuance.

They oversimplified the explanation of the science and pushed for lockdowns at all costs with no exceptions. Now, by admitting there are exceptions, they reveal that they were not being straight with us all along.

"pushed for lockdowns at all costs with no exceptions."

I have never seen anyone say there should be no exceptions. They have always said essential things must continue. (although with different ideas of "essential")

There something more going on. In the past 3 months the following narratives have been pushed by the MSM:

1 - Trump is a racist for suggesting that borders should exist

2 - Trump is liable all covid deaths for not closing the borders fast enough

3 - The state/police are great for enforcing stay-at-home orders and social distancing

4 - We need thousands or millions to assemble in the streets to fight police

This is the type of schizophrenic messaging that happens during societal collapse.

Can I see sources for the four claims? I'm not sure what your idea of MSM is (some use it as an alias for "media that I don't agree with"), but for point #2 there's an article for vox that seems to contradict your claim. https://www.vox.com/2020/1/23/21078325/wuhan-china-coronavir...

> This is the type of schizophrenic messaging that happens during societal collapse.

Maybe it happens as a matter of social change or economic stress? What evidence is there that "societal collapse" (or what that even means?) has anything to do with these headlines?

It’s the epitome of hypocrisy. How could anyone take them seriously now that they’ve shown to be complete frauds? Is it any wonder that half the country doesn’t trust the government lockdowns?

“Stay inside”, “don’t gather in groups”, “cancel your wedding”, “wear a mask during sex”, but oh hey, it’s OK to go downtown and riot, burn down buildings, and throw bricks at the police.

No one will take you seriously as a new user with the name "throwmehaweh". If you actually believe the things in your post, I recommend you use your actual account to state your beliefs. Your description of the protests as going downtown to riot is the type of misrepresentation we expect from children, not adults.

The account someone posts something from has nothing to do with the validity of their argument.

Sure, I don't disagree with that, but when the name is a "throwaway", it is a new account, and its only posts are half explanations of simplifications or just outright lies on highly divisive topics, I have no issue connecting the dots.

HN has many accounts with "throwaway" or something similar in the name that have been in use for years now. You can't conclude anything from such a name.

Which parts are outright lies? The now flagged and dead post said this:

“Stay inside”, “don’t gather in groups”, “cancel your wedding”, “wear a mask during sex”, but oh hey, it’s OK to go downtown and riot, burn down buildings, and throw bricks at the police.

These things are all true of the UK. As someone with a family member in the UK I can assure you they had to cancel their wedding, they were limited to an hour of outside time per day, they were told not to gather in groups and notoriously the government just told people if they live apart - even if they're in a relationship - they're not merely required to wear masks but cannot meet at all.

As for the riots:


"A Virginia police chief fought back tears during a press conference as he described how rioters set fire to a home with a child inside and then prevented firefighters from responding as quickly as they could have"

It's a pathetic show from the HN userbase that the post is flagged and dead. Do the people here have any idea how many hundreds of millions of people are thinking exactly the same thing right now?

The public health community's credibility is now zero or lower. Only the most naive in society will ever believe them again. Every time we think they can't fail worse, they do. Their models are always wrong and the most influential was filled with basic C programming errors. They can't decide if masks work. They lauded China at the same time as complaining internally they weren't being given any data. They demanded a massive programme of ventilator production and then none were needed. They demanded censorship of "misinformation" even when that misinformation came from Nobel Prize winners and turned out to be correct. They've published an openly fraudulent paper on a possible treatment championed by Trump that led to trials being suspended, whilst simultaneously tweeting about how much they hate Trump. They demanded the economy be destroyed and the world placed under a totalitarian police state. Virtually all of them protect each other and refuse to criticise each other's work even when it's clearly wrong, and now the final salt in the wound: they decide that protesting against racism is healthy, but protesting against their decisions is not.

Never again.

The second half of your post is so dishonest and childish as to not require a response; you have proven exactly what I said. Everything you mentioned is either amusingly out of context or simply trying to describe events as they did not happen. I urge you to get help, but if you cannot do so then I encourage you to follow your own advice and not follow quarantining rules in the future.

Amen. I will never ever trust an expert's opinion again, and I know many others who are equally disgusted.

This is a sad day for science and these experts should be ashamed.

I second this sentiment. I would even take it a step further and say that "throwaway" accounts are a good thing, it allows a poster to give a less-than-politically-correct take on a topic and actually encourages candid conversation.

>but oh hey, it’s OK to go downtown and riot, burn down buildings, and throw bricks at the police.

This is not a good faith depiction of what the protesters are doing.

Why are they taking this position. Simple, it cost them nothing to do so all the while letting them claim they understand. This is nothing more than #hashtag politics. A do nothing stance because no risk is taken

So yes of course there is risk. However as with anything political no honest discussion is permitted. This is why people calling out the violence and looting are being hushed or intimidated because politicians don't want to talk about that side of the issue. The same politicians who have been building up the police state in blue cities for generations.

There is much more risk in not taking that stance in the current environment.

Right. It’s not the job of public health officials to make judgments about what risks are worthwhile. If we can protest with acceptable levels of risk, we should’ve been able to keep more of the economy operational with acceptable levels of risk. The advice shouldn’t differ because public health officials think social justice is more important than the economy.

Also in the letter

> Prepare for an increased number of infections in the days following a protest. Provide increased access to testing and care for people in the affected communities, especially when they or their family members put themselves at risk by attending protests.

The sentence "we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission" is a bit ambiguous, maybe on purpose. The idea is that they won't use the risk of COVID-19 transmission as a argument to disapprove of the gatherings.

They cannot say the gatherings are safe, because they aren't, but they also want to support them. That's how you get such an ambiguous message. I would have preferred a clearer stance as well like "We, as health professionals, recognize the risks, however, blah blah blah. You can minimize these risks by doing blah blah blah".

A clearer stance would help, but I feel like there's a fundamental problem with taking any stance. For public health authorities to affirmatively endorse political causes severely compromises their authority as neutral arbiters.

It is not "public health authorities". It is not a message from the government or any organization in a position of power. Instead, it is an open letter from health professionals.

They express themselves both as medical experts and as human beings, so having a political stance is no problem, as long as they make it clear which part of them is speaking. I think it is not clear enough in their letter, but in my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with their message.

They're not expressing their support for the protests as a personal or political question separate from their medical expertise. The letter says that "white supremacy is a lethal public health issue", racism is "the paramount public health problem", and the protests are "vital to the national public health". This is beyond simply not making it clear enough; they're deliberately invoking their medical expertise as a source of authority for their political judgments.

The problem is not that they took a political stance. If a group of doctors wants to come out in support of Flat Earth, so be it. The problem is they potentially compromise the health of the public at the expense of their political message. Again, nothing was stopping them from acknowledging there is a risk, but that it is worth it.

This is not just the US, I just realised that in Germany, Munich, there were some "rednecks" and weird people protesting the Corona measures. So they closed down a 100 acres area where Oktoberfest takes place for a 1000 person protest (that's how much they were allowed). Now I live in that area and on that weekend we were stopped by the police while going shopping, and they were stopping everyone to make sure you're not going to the demo. They had more security forces there than people at the protests. These protests are mostly stupid and fringe, and I am really grateful to be living in a country like Germany (not a german) that from my point of view handled the situation quite well as you don't have many reasons to protest the Corona measures here.

Now, this weekend they had a protest here to support the ones in the US, and we just had 25000 people in a smaller place to show their solidarity. How is that going to help people's trust in the decisions taken by authorities, it just makes everything political.

At least in Munich, the latest protests are around a time everything is opening up again anyways.

The anti-lockdown protest happened, more or less, during the hight of the lockdown. So totally different circumstances.

The one where police stopped us from going grocery shopping was exactly one week before, so it's not that far back. It's still not allowed to have mass protests, no matter the cause.

You mentioned to be stopped by police and to be told to not go to the demo. Theydidn't stop you from going shopping, at least you didn't say so earlier. Seems to be two different things.

All assemblies have to be registered upfront, regardless of COVID-19. SO if the assembly isn't permited, police will break it up. Happened more than once in the last weeks, didn't it? So I doubt your last point.

They closed down a ridiculously big area and were stopping people. I had no issue with that, but there were also other people not planning to go to the demo that were quite upset and were arguing with the police. Thing is that in the end this is just double standards, for some cases where you have some weirdos that were well under their 1000 limit, you stop to question residents and block streets for the entire Theresienwiese area, and for the other demo which was officially registered for something like 250-500 people and 25000 join, all is good.

> This letter is signed by 1,288 public health professionals, infectious diseases professionals, and community stakeholders.

Would love a breakdown of this. "Community stakeholders" is meaningless. The letter reads like something you'd see on change.org.

That's a good idea, so they can be utterly discredited and assigned the proportional blame for the ensuing deaths.

Political statements like that can really hurt their credibility as public health officials, especially if increased transmission from protests causes them to call for another lockdown. Either say large, outdoor gatherings like this are risky or they aren't (or maybe they're just slightly risky). Don't get into "protesting these things is ok, protesting these isn't."

Exactly. If all of these civilians where smashed together in Trump rallies or concerts or sporting events, would they have the same petition circulating?

They're taking that position because if they don't, people will call them racist.

In other words, they're putting politics above science and should be discredited in kind.

fake scientific consensus that fits political consensus...

huh who could have known this was a partisan issue not about health

There's been a lot of talk in the last few years about "believing in science" pushed by politicians. However, there is a long history of science being "adjusted" to fit political agendas.

Just one example:


Public health is concerned with the health of the public -- which includes health issues induced by stress, poor nutrition, pollution, etc. (Ever notice how African Americans' life expectancy is much lower than that of white Americans? Public health experts have. They study it.) So, in this case, they're calculating that making strides against inequality will be worth the cost of more COVID-19 cases.

there are no calculations being done. They believe in the cause therefore it is justified. They dont believe in the cause of the other side (freedom of movement/commerce) and therefore dont believe they are justified.

They are pretending to base it on science, when it is just another political opinion.

"there are no calculations being done"

Calculations on what, exactly? There are calculations done on how police brutality and systemtic racism contribute to decreased quality of life for black americans. It's considered widely acknowledged within the healthcare industry that black americans have statistically significant health disparities compared to other races, and that additionally it is statistically known that the covid19 shut down primarily affect the service industry, which hits people of color disproportionately towards white people (as people of color are less likely to have jobs that can be worked from home).

Conceivably, you could do some sort of analysis on how much systemic racism has an impact on black lives as a measure of year of life lost, etc.

But you'd also have to do the same for the 3 months they've taken from everyone else due to lockdowns.

Until they do that sort of thing, its politics not a social science.

I mean, the idea is also that the 3 month lockdowns themselves have hard numbers behind them. From what I understand economists have themselves already modeled out the effect of covid-19 without a lockdown and found a lockdown is still more economically beneficial.

Do you have a source for those models? I'd be interested in seeing that.

People denying this transparent shift to accomodate political advocacy are lying or intentionally blind to it.

What is the model they use to make this calculations?

That is absolutely not the case. Furthermore there is nothing wrong with inequality, the only way we could all be equal is if we were all the same person. Even then we would exist in different physical space and thereby find different opportunities. Consider how mentally sick a person would have to be to think they have the right or even the ability to weigh the value of someone else's life against the value of someone else's inequality.

There is sometimes nothing wrong with inequality, and other times a lot wrong with it.

In my country, the church protested that holy gatherings won't spread COVID because it is graced by god. What these scientists are doing is on an equivalent level of medieval stupidity. It's really sad to read this , and even more sad to see the media reproducing it without criticism.

Outbreaks in mass gatherings are responsible for entire epidemics in italy, spain and germany. I can only imagine what will happen in a month, when racial minorities start accusing each other for the scale of the second epidemic.

   Don't tell us there is no risk from these protests, but there is a risk from stay-at-home protests.
I don't think that is what they actually said, though agree it could have been articulated better.

It doesn't say they're not risky, just that they don't condemn them as risky (i.e., for being risky). At least, that's how I read it.

Kinda disgusting how personal beliefs can influence professionals, no?

Why? Would you prefer that because someone is "professional" they discard all their personal ethics?

> Why? Would you prefer that because someone is "professional" they discard all their personal ethics?

it's never black-and-white like that.

if my professional doctor's personal ethics includes clauses that motivate him to seek non-standard and unproven treatments, yes, i'd prefer they discard those.

I would prefer it if employees at Planned Parenthood didn't have personal ethical clauses that caused them to purposely give incorrect data and wrong phone numbers to women seeking abortions because their personal ethics sway them to do so.

If I were a very famous politician that had polarizing views on something, i'd prefer if my taxi driver remained a professional rather than kicking my ass out of the car because their personal ethics required that they do that to someone that they view as a political enemy.

I'd prefer prisoners be fed , even if it's against the personal ethics of the food service workers to feed and take care of felony rapists.

There are a lot of professions that require professionals to have a certain level of detachment from 'pedestrians'. It's not at all uncommon.

Absolutely. It's not possible for _anyone_ to have an infinite perspective, nor one even close to wide enough that I would trust them to make my decisions for me. If you're a professional it is your _duty_ to ignore your personal beliefs. Otherwise you'd end up with doctors refusing to treat people they disagree with, lawyers refusing to defend people they disagree with and so on. This opens the gate to emotional and psychological manipulation wide, and given the rise of social media and this modern lemming mentality I see so commonly that would be an absolute disaster.

That is the very definition of professional.

So then, if I am a “professional” software developer, and my employer asks me to put a secret back-door in some code to be shipped to consumers... I should say nothing, because I’m a “professional?”

Or what if I’m doing renovations, and someone asks me to make something I know to be unsafe. I point that out, but they insist... Again, do I just do what they ask because, “professional?”

I suspect you are conflating “professional” with “mercenary.” To me, being a professional means approaching my work with a sense of ethics.

In fact, I suggest to you that saying nothing in these cases is also injecting ethics into my work, only it is my personal investment in “The Status Quo.”

You can’t escape ethics, you can only support the existing structure by pretending you are above petty “ethics” and “politics.”

What you certainly don't do, if you're doing renovations, is sign off on something that you know to be unsafe because the people who built it are fighting systemic racism.

I believe it's important to note that public healthcare itself has disproportionately worse outcomes for black people. To indicate that being a black person is a health risk in the country and supporting movements to resolve this is, from what I understand, pretty in line with what a professional healthcare personnel would be advocating for.

I was responding to the question of “professionalism” being somehow devoid of ethics, and therefore medical professionals should not take ethics into account when making decisions.

I would interpret your remark as suggesting, “Professionalism involves ethics, but there is an interpretation of those ethics that suggests these particular people should have made a different choice in this stuation.”

I could agree or disagree with your conclusion, but I can certainly support the form of your argument as sound: Professionals should have ethics, so let’s talk about what those ethics should be, and how to apply them to this situation.


It’s the same conversation as, “Should professional work for a social media business that amplifies and spreads falsehoods, violent rhetoric, &c.”

If someone were to say, “A professional just writes code, the effect of that code on society is not their business,” I think that’s flat-out wrong. Not taking a stand on the matter is taking a stand, but lying to yourself about not taking a stand.

On the other hand, people can and do regularly have discussions about whether there is a “greater good” served by allowing people to communicate and decide for themselves whether George Soros is behind Black Lives Matter, or whether the Coronavirus was actually hatched by Bill Gates in an attempt to use a vaccine to inject people with microchips.

I have opinions about the ethics of that too, but I can appreciate that there are people who are also trying to apply ethics to such decisions, even if they are ethics I disagree with or flat-out abhor.

If their personal ethics cause them to produce statements which are contradictory and may cause less rational people to engage in hazardous behavior (such as not wearing a mask or attempting to distance themselves from others at a protest), then yes. Otherwise, no.

Yup, public health institutions disgraced themselves in the beginning of the crisis[1], but it turns out this isn't just an unfortunate case of institutional rot: it apparently runs deep, throughout the individuals involved in the field. I'm a big supporter of the role experts play in a functioning society, but public health experts are yet another group setting their credibility on fire to provide momentary warmth to a political objective.

[1] many of them have done so for years, for anyone paying attention

This utterly ridiculous doublethink statement is a big present for real racists. Because it is blatantly racist and elitist.

Because this is an election year, so get back into place, and either support the engineered chaos or stay at home while it happens. /s <- unnecesary but these days there is so little critical thought and reading skills that you never know

> It completely ruins the credibility of many health professionals.

Not just the credibility of health professionals, but all professionals.

The big thing will be climate change. This will be brought up to say that technical professionals giving their advice are just partisan hacks who don’t care about the economy and people’s livelihoods, but do care about their virtue signaling.

Crazy conspiracy theory incoming... What if the Illuminati or whoever runs society just figured out the fastest way to get tons of young people infected to speed up the herd immunity process??

There’s a lot of risk for these protests but I do feel like protesting for some issue other than ‘end the lockdown’ is more justifiable than just protesting the lockdown itself. Even if it were an anti-abortion protest, for example — something I am ideologically opposed to — I wouldn’t stand in the way of a group that wanted to do that.

The lockdown will be directly responsible for an estimated death of 40 million people globally due to famine, hunger, job losses and lots of other directly related issues. Is 40M people not good enough to protest against the lockdown itself?


> The virus is not selective of political beliefs

I'm not really this much of a hack, so forgive me, because what you are saying is true in the most literal sense.

But if you believe in capitalism, a political system, the virus will treat you better if you're rich -- a beneficiary of that system. It's not as reductive as better health care. As a rich person, you can easily stay at home without working, infinitely. The federal government's most effective anti-COVID intervention was actually saving the markets, it's the one promise the government delivered. And the biggest parts of that story are (1) that our society is oriented to protect capitalists, so of course there will be an effective and fast intervention nowadays that protects equities, like a five trillion dollar equities buying scheme, and (2) you can go ahead and sell your stocks to the government now, essentially, and live off this largess. You can go on ordering shit from Amazon and working from home for Facebook. You can shelter in place pretty much indefinitely.

We're not even talking millionaires, we're talking about middle class people, programmers, health officials, pretty much everyone on this forum working for more than the 75th percentile income.

This point of view doesn't even require the bullshit of categorizing your preferred kind of protestor. The reopen people, the peaceful protestor, even the looters all share a common political belief - let me illuminate it for you. None of those teenagers looting Best Buy have trusts, they don't have savings or anything that goes "up" and lets them or their parents stay home when the government props up the stock market. It's not as reductive as simply being poor (i.e. being on the wrong side of the system), or even being bored or angry. It's in opposition to the system.

Imagine 18-78 years of "fuck you, you have to choose to die for money or die from homelessness and starvation" every single day. It's not just the pandemic times, though that exacerbates it immensely, for millions of people. It's like being born directly into jail. You'd go blow up a Best Buy too! You'd show up at the state capitol threatening people with guns!

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lost the Democratic primary, to the relief of basically every venture capitalist I know. But a series of idiosyncratic votes, as should be obvious to everyone, isn't the end-all be-all refutation to socialist politics, even temporarily.

And just because you don't hear political leaders or even ordinary people taking the leap and asking, "Well is there a point to looting a modern art store?" doesn't mean that there isn't a point. It might be political suicide, send along the down votes, but I can sympathize with people who are mad as hell about not being given the resources to shelter at home as comfortably as rich people do while simultaneously being told to shut the fuck up about it. The only solution to that is straightforward socialism, which lost in the primary but did not lose in the hearts and minds of millions of people. It means allowing stocks to drop, IPOs to dry up, tech workers get laid off, and people being paid to stay at home long past July and not work -- all ideas verbatim rejected by Republicans, venture capitalists and seemingly most on this forum.

Socialist politics are stronger than ever. That health care officials may sympathize with those politics -- that it's a very specific capitalist system we have that is culpable for brutalizing minorities and failing to protect many people from a pandemic -- isn't surprising; they're smart people who have a very special perspective on what suffering really means. They, like many peaceful protestors, want to show solidarity with losers of the capitalism system without appealing to violence or coercion in the pursuit of an abstract goal like declining infection rates or whatever.

Systemic inequality is a component of the clinical presentation of the covid-19 pandemic in the United States. Black Americans have been dying from the disease at twice the rate, as a group, than the population in general. In my home state, half of the reported cases are among Native American communities.

Limited access to healthcare is not a theoretical challenge. The link between historical injustice manifests every day in the pandemic crisis. And the nature of this virus - rapid, asymptomatic contagion - means that any vulnerable population can be a source of ongoing infection in the general population.

Never has the bond in our common good been more clear.

So sure, there are political positions to be taken in how best to move forward, but the virus doesn't care.

> Limited access to healthcare is not a theoretical challenge. The link between historical injustice manifests every day in the pandemic crisis. And the nature of this virus - rapid, asymptomatic contagion - means that any vulnerable population can be a source of ongoing infection in the general population.

Why are we assuming it's systemic access to healthcare and not say Vitamin D deficiency? Healthcare access is worst in Africa and yet their numbers and outcomes are exponentially better. So what are the differences between African communities in the US and the ones in Africa?

It just seems so politically American to assume that it must be evil systemic racism anytime a population does not do as well as white people, and yet not a peep is uttered when white people are lapped by another population.

Ideologies do not reward the search for truth, they punish it.

> Don't tell us there is no risk from these protests, but there is a risk from stay-at-home protests.

The difference is the stay-at-home protesters overwhelmingly didn't wear masks [1] and the BLM protesters are overwhelmingly wearing masks [2]. Hong Kong has proven it's possible to have massive protests while wearing masks and not being vectors of infection. [3]

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/0...

[2] https://www.foxnews.com/politics/protesters-aim-to-bring-one...

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/21/world/asia/coronavirus-ho...

I've watched dozens of videos from the protests, and while some people are wearing masks, many do not, and of those that do, many routinely remove them - e.g. to chant, or wear them only on part of the face, or even move them to the neck or forehead for extended times. A lot of them frequently readjust them with their hands - without washing the hands of course, which kinda defeats the whole purpose. Regular masks aren't super-efficient at long-time mass close contact anyway - they are lowering risk when you are walking on the street passing another person, with contact time measuring in seconds, but I don't think they would provide significant defense when staying in close contact for hours, especially while moving around, running, chanting, etc. Even less goes for homemade cloth masks, which many are wearing, which provide even less protection than surgical ones.

Then why were laws put into place to shut down everything if it's okay to participate in large-scale group activities as long as you're wearing a mask? And more importantly, why were Americans being told specifically not to wear masks during the opening months of the pandemic?

It's worth noting that Hong Kong has very few coronavirus cases, and most/all the current known cases are from travelers who are being closely monitored.

The risk there is much thus lower than places that have already have tens of thousands of cases, although it also depends on how long the protests continue and whether an outbreak can be caught early through testing.

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