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2:00PM Water Cooler 2/11/2021

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2:00PM Water Cooler 2/11/2021


By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another city bird — only in New York?


At reader request, I’ve added these daily charts from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching…. (A reader asked the source of the data: Johns Hopkins CSSE. DIVOC-91 does allow other data sets to be used, like Our World in Data and The Atlantic, and where they provide visualizations similar to those below, a cursory comparison shows that the shape of the curves is the same.)

Vaccination by region:

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Northeast up, others flattening or down. I’d hate to think that was a zero sum game of short supply. More on vaccination:

NEW ENGLAND: “Smaller Clinics in Mass. Say They Need More COVID-19 Vaccines” [NBC Boston]. “As Massachusetts races to vaccinate more people, local health departments are begging for more doses to give out in their communities. They say the state is shorting them on their vaccine orders due to supply and it is making the rollout go even slower. Sharon officials ordered 1,000 doses last week, but only got 100. This week, they are not getting any doses. ‘I’m very disappointed, because we’ve been told to prepare, and we have,’ said Karen Waitekus, the town’s public health administrator. ‘But we have no supply.’ Waitekus said she has a list of 2,500 residents who have pre-registered for the vaccine and are hopeful there will be another vaccine clinic in town. She is concerned many seniors over 75 do not want to travel to the mass vaccination sites, where thousands of appointments are available.” • Looks like misallocation rather than supply as such; we saw that North Carolina had the same problem yesterday. (And the seniors are making sense: It makes no sense to coop two people up in a car when neither are vaccinated, never mind the trouble of organizing the ride in the first place. At this point we pause to consider that modulo China, our rollout is the third best in the world, after Israel and the UK So, a global clusterf*ck!

NEW ENGLAND: “Can you cross state lines to get a COVID vaccine? These are the rules in New England” [USA Today]. “If you own a ski house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or a summer home on Maine’s Old Orchard Beach, but reside out of state, don’t try to get the COVID-19 vaccine there.” • Wait. How about the Hamptons? More: “That’s the message from several New England states when it comes to who can receive their limited vaccine supply right now. The answer is: residents only. But enforcement mechanisms are few, and no states cite any penalties in place for perceived violators. What’s being referred to as vaccine ‘tourism’ or ‘hunting,’ individuals across the country are seeking out the most optimal or fastest ways to receive the coronavirus vaccine – stalking pharmacies and clinics for leftover doses, or crossing state lines for a quicker result…. New England’s unique geographic proximity and its unsystematic patchwork of vaccine plans present the possibility that people may try to get vaccinated in a state where they don’t live full-time, or live at all.

PA: “Lack of targeted outreach, translated materials leaves Latino community behind as Pa. struggles with vaccine rollout” [Spotlight PA]. “In the weeks since Pennsylvania began its coronavirus vaccine rollout, the Wolf administration has stood by its localized, do-it-yourself system for finding and booking appointments, despite widespread frustration among residents. ‘The relationship that folks have with their provider or with their pharmacists is what was best suited to actually administer the vaccine,’ acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said in January. ‘And so we are allowing those providers and those pharmacists to be able to use their scheduling systems.’ But the state’s patchwork approach has left particularly at-risk residents and communities at a tremendous disadvantage. Older Pennsylvanians, who are supposed to be among the first in line to get the vaccine, are struggling with clunky and disjointed online sign-ups and phone numbers that get them nowhere, while those who are more tech-savvy jump ahead. And more than a month into the rollout, the Pennsylvania Health Department hasn’t done any targeted outreach on the vaccine to communities that don’t speak English, many of whom have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic…. ‘We need numbers where we can call people who speak our language to ask questions and to be able to get answers around the vaccine that understand what we’re saying,’ Claudia Garcia of Philadelphia, who cleans houses and provides in-home elder care, told Spotlight PA through a translator.” • Just the sort of person you’d want to vaccinate first!

PA: “In race for COVID-19 vaccinations, older residents in rural Pa. face tough obstacles” [SpotlightPA]. “[O]lder residents — who are supposed to be among the first in line — in rural areas face more obstacles. They live far away from major chain pharmacies like CVS and RiteAid, and may not have internet or a means of transportation. …. In Venango County in the northwest, Commissioner Albert Abramovic said he was worried about connecting residents who don’t have internet or cell phone service with appointments. About 21% of the county’s 50,000 residents are older than 65, according to Census data, and 22% of households don’t have internet access…. In Juniata County, 19% of the population is older than 65 and a quarter of households do not have internet access. Some older residents live alone, on old family farms, said Alice Gray, one of the county’s commissioners.”

Case count by United States region:

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Still dropping nicely. Maybe in a couple of months we’ll be back to where we here in the summer of 2020. A thread on causes behind the declining case count:

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):

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I suppose we’ll have to be watching to see the results of the Super Spreader Bowl. And the variants.

Test positivity:

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The snow melted or was removed in the Northeast, I suppose.

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


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The South has flattened. Given that hospitalization is probably a more reliable indicator of trouble than case count, I certainly hope that’s the not first sign of B117. Hospitalization is discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

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The case fatality rate has markedly increased, albeit slowly. I don’t like that at all. Deaths plateau, and should really be starting to fall at some point. Maybe this time they won’t head back up again. It would be about time.

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CA: “No bathrooms. No seating. Endless lines. Struggling seniors face vaccine misery” [Los Angeles Times]. “The system set up by Los Angeles County seems, in many ways, to be a young person’s game: It can take social media skills, technology savvy, reliable transportation and even physical stamina to obtain one of the coveted shots. That leaves some of the county’s most vulnerable residents at a serious disadvantage.”


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord


“GOP senators signal they plan to acquit Trump despite visceral presentation by House Democrats” [CNN]. “While they were struck by the impeachment managers’ presentation, these Republicans said that the House Democrats did not prove Trump’s words led to the violent actions. They compared the January 6 riot to last summer’s racial justice protests and criticized how the trial is being handled.” • I have a lot of priors here, I confess, mostly having to do with how many times we’ve heard liberal Democrats cry “wolf”; my hermeneutic of suspicion being, in this case, an example of the genetic fallacy. That said, I’ve often remarked that “digital evidence is not evidence.” I wouldn’t accept a video presentation as dispostive unless every single inch of it was checked for provenance, something the Democrats did not give the Republicans a chance to do. (IIRC, the House impeachment resolution proffered no evidence whatever). Further, ugly though the seizure is, the ugliness in and of itself is no proof of Trump’s intent; the Republicans are correct. What the video seems to be saying, then, is “Convict Trump to remove such people from politics.” Na ga happen. Finally, and simplifying in a tribalist manner, if the Democrat case is that Repubicans are trying to kill them, then they’re asking Republicans to convict themselves. That seems unlikely. (It’s also not clear to me why, if the Capitol seizure is sedition because it interferes with the orderly process of government, or some such, the events in Minneapolis, where a police station was burned down, are not also seditious. Special pleading abounds. (I also very much wonder how many voters are silently saying to themselves that the only real problem is that the rioters didn’t go far enough, and over in their minds what a more strategic approach might look like. Of course, if barbed wire comes to define “our democracy,” that may never happen.

“Graphic Video of Capitol Attack Leaves Emotions Raw but May Not Change Votes” [New York Times]. • “Graphic, never-before-seen video….” It’s like pr0n, isn’t it? Scanning The Federalist Papers for “raw emotion” as grounds for impeachment. I haven’t come up with anything…

“Justice Department says an Oath Keepers leader waited for Trump’s direction before Capitol attack” [CNN]. “The Justice Department is now making clear that a leader among the Oath Keepers paramilitary group — who planned and led others in the US Capitol siege to attempt to stop the Biden presidency — believed she was responding to the call from then-President Donald Trump himself. ‘As the inauguration grew nearer, [Jessica] Watkins indicated that she was awaiting direction from President Trump,’ prosecutors wrote in a filing Thursday morning. This is the most direct language yet from federal prosecutors linking Trump’s requests for support in Washington, DC, to the most militant aspects of the insurrection.” • But the issue isn’t what the Oath Keepers leader believed; it’s Trump’s intent. (Parenthetically, I am not an expert in militant conservative factions, but I thought the Oath Keepers were both less politically wired and less cray cray than the Proud Boys.)

Biden Adminstration

Like clockwork:

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats.

Employment Situation: “06 February 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 750 K to 878 K (consensus 803 K), and the Department of Labor reported 793,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 856,500 (reported last week as 848,250) to 823,000”

Employment Situation: “Older Workers Accounted For All Net Employment Growth In Past 20 Years” [Econintersect]. “Total U.S. employment grew by 11,767,000, or 8.5%, in the 20 years ending in December 2020.[ 1] All that growth – 11,879,000, or 101% of the total – was due to increased employment of people age 60 and older. Meanwhile, the net employment change over the past two decades of people ages 16-59 was -112,000 (-1% of the total change), despite this younger group being 3.8 times as large as the older group in December 2000 and still 2.4 times as large in December 2020.” • Sounds like it’s time to make Social Security live up to its name, and decruft existing Medicare, while we’re at it.

Employment Situation: Until morale improves:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 65 Greed (previous close: 56 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 11 at 12:00pm. A ten point swing back to Green. Mr. Market is really having his mood swings between Neutral and Greed (not Fear). Odd.

Health Care

“Public policy and health in the Trump era” [The Lancet]. Single payer advocates Woolhandler and Himmelstein among the authors; worth the free log-in. “The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the USA, with more than 26 million diagnosed cases and over 450 000 deaths as of early February, 2021, about 40% of which could have been averted had the US death rate mirrored the weighted average of the other G7 nations.” • But everything’s going according to plan: “Life expectancy in the USA was average among high-income nations in 1980, by 1995, it was 2·2 years shorter than the average of other G7 countries, and by 2018, the gap had widened to 3·4 years. The extent of difference can also be quantified as the number of missing Americans—ie, the number of US residents who would still be alive if age-specific mortality rates in the USA had remained equal to the average of the other six G7 nations. By this measure, in 2018 alone, 461 000 Americans went missing, an annual figure that has been increasing since 1980 (figure 2, appendix pp 2–3).38 Most of the US mortality excess is among people younger than 65 years. If US death rates were equivalent to those of other G7 nations, two of five deaths before age 65 years would have been averted. To put this number in context, the number of missing Americans each year is more than the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the USA in all of 2020.” • And: “Many of the adverse health and social trends preceded and presaged President Trump’s election. His county-level vote share in 2016 was closely correlated with mortality trends. Counties in which more than 60% of people voted for Trump had higher life expectancy in 1980 than those counties in which more than 60% of people voted for Clinton. However, by 2014, the Trump counties lagged more than 2 years behind counties that had voted for Clinton.” • As I pointed out back in November, 2016, before “economic anxiety” became something for liberal Democrats snicker at.

“Predicting COVID-19 Outcomes in Emergency Department Patients” [JAMA]. “A new artificial intelligence algorithm uses chest x-ray severity scores and clinical variables collected during emergency department (ED) visits to predict whether patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will be intubated or will die. If further validated in larger studies with additional patient populations, the proof-of-concept model… could be used to appropriately triage ED patients before they become seriously ill with COVID-19.” • Triaged by an algo. Something to look forward to, I guess.

“CVS Looks to Simplify Vaccine Site for Federal Pharmacy Push” [Bloomberg]. “CVS Health Corp. has revamped its website where customers can book appointments to get Covid-19 shots, hoping to avoid the confusion and technical snafus that have bedeviled the early phases of the U.S. vaccine rollout. The nation’s largest pharmacy chain, with about 9,900 locations, added a feature Tuesday that displays a map of the U.S. highlighting the states where it’s offering vaccines. When a user clicks on a state, a window pops up showing who is eligible for immunization, which CVS stores are offering vaccines, whether appointments are available and when the data was last updated.” • Oh, great. A pop-up. Better tell all the elders whose grandchildren turned off pop-ups in their browsers to whitelist CVS! Seriously, is there something wrong with a simple list, where everything is visible, and that you can print out?

Groves of Academe

“‘Instagram-worthy’: Covid-19 predicted to change design of Australian universities” [Guardian]. “The report, commissioned by telecommunications company Optus and IT company Cisco, claims that universities are moving towards ‘campuses that are cheaper to build’ after the Covid-19 pandemic. While the report was not written by a university, or a university industry body, Optus said it is based on ‘responses from executives across 80% of Australian higher education and Tafe institutes.’” • I believe it. More: “Darren McKee, the chief operating officer of Murdoch University in Western Australia was quoted in the report saying: ‘The face-to-face mass lecture is all but dead.’ The report claims that creating a more ‘Instagram-worthy’ campus is a new priority of university design. ‘Fifty-four per cent of education leaders believe students will increasingly be looking for ‘Instagram-worthy’ experiences on campus,’ it said. ‘There is general agreement that these changes are driving institutions towards investment in digital … Creating Instagram-worthy moments.’ … Sixteen universities responded to the survey, including seven of the Group of Eight institutions, and four from the Australian Technology Network of universities – Curtin University, RMIT University, University of South Australia, and the University of Technology Sydney.” • And we wonder why university administrators can’t collectively mobilize to keep all their students safe in a pandemic.

Zeitgeist Watch

“The Great Super Bowl Rings Heist” [ESPN]. “What is undeniable is that Murphy has been locked up in Bristol County jail for a long time. He doesn’t mind it much, he says, mostly because he sees it as an ‘occupational hazard.’ His routine is static: morning workout, chores, his soap opera from 2 to 3 — ‘I’ve been watching ‘General Hospital’ for 35 years’ — and law library time at night. Most evenings, ‘Star Trek’ is on the prison TVs (Murphy likes ‘Voyager’), and on Saturdays he is able to listen to three hours of ‘House of Hair,’ Dee Snider’s hair metal music show. It reminds him of going to see bands like Poison and Kiss in the 1980s.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

“Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017” [JAMA]. From the Abstract: “Between 1959 and 2016, US life expectancy increased from 69.9 years to 78.9 years but declined for 3 consecutive years after 2014. The recent decrease in US life expectancy culminated a period of increasing cause-specific mortality among adults aged 25 to 64 years that began in the 1990s, ultimately producing an increase in all-cause mortality that began in 2010.” • Obama, good job. More: “During 2010-2017, midlife all-cause mortality rates increased from 328.5 deaths/100 000 to 348.2 deaths/100 000. By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups, caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases. The largest relative increases in midlife mortality rates occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%). The increase in midlife mortality during 2010-2017 was associated with an estimated 33 307 excess US deaths, 32.8% of which occurred in 4 Ohio Valley states.” • “Across all racial groups.” Handy map:

To be fair, these Americans are unlikely to be woke, and so the results of this grand natural experiment are to be expected, and may even be salutary. From the Virginia Commonwealth University press release on the study: “‘The notion that U.S. death rates are increasing for working-age adults is particularly disturbing because it is not happening like this in other countries,” [ Steven Woolf, M.D., director emeritus of the VCU Center on Society and Health] said. ‘This is a distinctly American phenomenon.’” • Musical interlude….

“Covid-19 vaccination rates follow the money in states with the biggest wealth gaps, analysis shows” [STAT]. “Connecticut has the most glaring disparity in vaccination rates between its richest and poorest communities — a difference of 65% — according to a STAT analysis of local-level vaccine data in 10 states with the biggest wealth gaps. Four other states — California, Florida, New Jersey, and Mississippi — also have vaccinated a significantly higher proportion of people in the wealthiest 10% of counties… The findings back up, with hard data, anecdotal reports from around the country that wealthy people have been able to gain access to vaccines ahead of low-income people…. But the analysis also reveals that some states appear to be distributing vaccines more equitably than others. Among states with the greatest wealth gaps, Texas, Tennessee, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Illinois did not show a significant county-level income divide in vaccination rates.

Class Warfare

Makes me wonder what the equivalent would be in North Houston. I just don’t know:

Everything’s going according to plan, but faster this time:

Same as under Obama, how odd:

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News of the Wired

“John Keats is brought back to life 200 years after his death: Scientists are recreating the famous poet’s voice, face and clothing in CGI, in the very room in Rome where he died” [Daily Mail]. “The Victoria and Albert Museum were involved in the clothing selection – it had to match Keats working class background and the final outfits were ‘contentious’ While the clothing was contentious, the accent was the most difficult part of the project, Michel said, as they had to capture his famous London voice. He had been said by critics to be of the ‘cockney school’ with ‘low diction’ and that he made use of ‘inelegant rhymes’ – think thorns with fawns. So to get his voice correct they turned to Dr Ranjen Sen of the University of Sheffield – a linguistic historian, who said Keats accent would have had distinctive features. Keats would have emphasised the final ‘t’ in words like fat, cat, sat and mat that would sound ‘put on’ or exaggerated to modern ears, said Sen…. The virtual reading of Big Star will start at 17:00 GMT on February 23, 2021 and will run until just after midnight to ‘give him his full extra day the tombstone promised’.” • Bright Star, ffs (“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art,” lovely). Was Andrea Mitchell consulting on this project?

Oy, the “The O. Sea” is the “OC”:

Sid The Cat Lawyer files a motion:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (LL):

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LL writes: “Danish Flag poppy and a few Bee friends.”

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