SL 833

I’m a huge fan of summer school, which combines a traditional camp experience and academics for dealing with COVID issues, and I hope that it will continue. 

Will you greet someone with a kiss on the cheek or a hug ever again?

This afternoon, Ian is going to work at this local business that supports young adults with autism. 

Peloton is no corporate hero, from Helaine Olen.

Watching: Cobra Kai is a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Vikings

Reading: How To Be Human. Review in the Wall Street Journal

Cooking: After I get Steve to proofread this newsletter, I’m going to make this lentil salad for lunch.

Picture: Soviet art from February’s trip to MOMA.

31 thoughts on “SL 833

  1. I want to hear more about Cobra Kai & Pride & Prejudice. I haven’t been attracted to Cobra Kai, but you have intrigued me.

    Vikings was too gory/violent for me. But, I did enjoy Ragnorak on Netflix.


      1. Ragnorak live action, set in Norway, main character Magne. I quite enjoyed the actors, the scenery, the mythology. Really hope there are more seasons.


    1. Cobra Kai is what happens when the hero of an 80s flick grows up. Instead of being an underdog Ralph Macchio is now wealthy and very bougie. He owns a string of car dealerships and has perfect children in a perfect house with a perfect wife. His nemesis is the blond villain from the first movie, Johnny Lawrence, who is down on his luck. He lives in a motel and drinks Coors. After getting fired from a home repair job, he starts a karate studio. He’s still “bad ass,” but he is trying hard to combine honor with being “bad ass.” Macchio doesn’t trust him and treats him like shit.

      There’s also a great 80s soundtrack used for humor.


  2. We’ve watched the three seasons of Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive.

    I am not a racing fan, but it is superbly made. The documentary crews seem to be embedded in the racing teams. The camera work is stunning; they use in-car, on-helmet cameras, drones, and much more to capture the drama of the races. Plus, the races are pared down to the “interesting parts.” I recommend starting from the beginning, because it is not fiction. The drivers, pit crews, and managers are all under stress, which is interesting to watch. Sports journalists give viewers context to the sport.

    And for something completely different, Netflix’s Dancing with the Birds: It’s a nature documentary, 51 minutes on the mating habits of Birds of Paradise.


  3. And back to the regularly scheduled Covid programming (LOL)

    NZDF (NZ defence force) who are staffing quarantine facilities and need to be available for overseas deployment (usually emergency relief in the Pacific, but really, potentially anywhere) – and therefore have a much higher risk of exposure to Covid than ‘ordinary’ people.
    They have come out strongly saying that if serving personnel refuse to get vaccinated (without a very strong medical reason), they are highly likely to be discharged. [Someone who is medically unable to be vaccinated, is likely to be medically unfit for service on other grounds – so they’re not likely to have many]

    Serving personnel pretty much have to be available for overseas deployment – so if you’re not eligible because you haven’t been vaccinated, you are not fit for service. [I guess there might be a few completely NZ based roles – but you wouldn’t be able to mix safely with people who *had* been exposed to Covid – which would be a logistical nightmare]

    Currently 1.8% have refused vaccination – with most giving the reason that it is ‘untested’. [That’s a pretty low ‘stupid factor’ compared to other sectors of society, here]

    There is a comment from an ‘unidentified’ serving officer that this violates the Bill of Rights – but legal opinion seems to be that the Defence Act over-rides this (which makes sense, you can’t stop to legislate the right of your officer to send you into risky situations in the middle of a war!).

    Recruits will need to be vaccinated as part of enlistment.

    This is the first time anyone has said that *not* getting vaccinated will be a firing offence (good on the military for finally laying it on the line).


  4. Laura tweeted a link to this, which is about yet another NJ college requiring COVID vaccination:

    I believe the latest from Hometown U. (in Texas) is that they aren’t going to require students to be vaccinated for the fall. However, Hometown U. has been requiring weekly COVID swabbing for employees and students, so there are some pretty obvious levers available, especially since fully vaccinated people are now exempt from weekly testing. I don’t know if they are going to do it like this, but it would be easy to say, get vaccinated, or you have to keep doing weekly testing every week for 2021-2022. (Currently, students who are no-shows for their test appointments eventually lose some campus privileges, including campus WiFi access. I believe they may lose gym privileges, and there’s the possibility of suspension from Hometown U.)

    There is the question of the $3 vouchers that Hometown U. has been handing out to students, which are spendable at a variety of local eateries, including the visiting boba truck and the visiting churro truck. I would personally encourage Hometown U. to hand out a lump sum gift card ($100?) to vaccinatinated students, as it’s totally worth it when you consider the cost of the testing program.

    We shall see how this goes.

    In other local COVID news, I have finally seen a local business that has taken down their mask required sign. I was at the dentist today, and their front door sign was gone. All the workers were masked, though. Texas dropped all statewide restrictions March 10, and it’s been interesting to see how little life has changed since then. Because Hometown U., HEB (our grocery chain) and the kids’ school requires masking, life is pretty much the same as before for us. I’m not saying that they need to drop the requirement now, but that life won’t be fully normal until they do. (It happens to be two weeks after my 2nd shot today.)

    Monica Gandhi (MD MPH) has been saying lately that it should be possible to drop restrictions once 40% vaccination rates are achieved and hospitalizations drop to 5 per 100k population. (A national average wouldn’t be good enough–it would need to be at that level more locally.)


    1. This is happening right now:

      “WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) today led 30 of their colleagues in sending a bicameral letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting information on how the agency determined its guidance for children aged two years and older to wear face masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

      From the text of the letter to the CDC:

      “The implementation of these recommendations has had serious consequences for some Americans. Multiple parents of young children have been removed from flights, and in some instances, permanently banned, from future travel on the airline they were flying due to their toddler’s refusal to wear a mask.”

      “The CDC’s mandate that children as young as 2-years-old must wear facemasks is among the most stringent face mask age requirements in the world. For example, in Switzerland, children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask. In the UK and France, children under the age of 11 are exempt. And in Italy, the exemption applies to children under the age of six. The significantly lower age requirement for mask wearing in the United States raises questions about the susceptibility of young children to COVID-19, the rate at which they transmit the disease, and their developmental ability to comply with mask requirements.”

      “Given evidence indicating the lower likelihood of young children to contract and spread COVID-19 as well as the significant, negative impact of the CDC’s mask guidelines on the lives of Americans with young children, we request that you respond to the following questions:

      “• Why did the CDC set the minimum age requirement for COVID-19 mask guidelines at two-years-old?
      • What specific scientific studies did the CDC base its recommendations on?
      • What childhood developmental milestones did the CDC take into consideration when setting the minimum age requirement at two-years-old?
      • What steps is the CDC taking to track the latest scientific studies on the contraction and transmission of COVID-19 among children and the effectiveness of masks in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by children?”

      I for one would love to know if any actual pediatricians were consulted when the CDC was formulating this guideline. It is a very curious fact that the US has chosen to go with 2+ for masking, which is virtually unique globally. It’s not clear at all how we arrived at that number.


  5. bj,

    This is for you:

    I’m not recommending it because I agree with it, but it’s a fairly concise collection of anti-COVID vaccine arguments. (The author “is a certified personal trainer, life coach and a certified nutrition coach.”)

    One thing I find interesting about this piece (which I got via a vaccine-skeptical online acquaintance) is how many of the points he makes are due misunderstandings created by CDC messaging foul-ups. The CDC and the US media really have contributed to the following beliefs: that COVID vaccines don’t stop transmission, that they only reduce symptoms, that if you get vaccinated you still need to mask and distance forever, that there are endless scary variants, that there’s always going to be another booster, etc.

    Another issue (which is not the CDC’s fault at all), is that there seems to be a lot of hostility from the Wellness Industrial Complex toward COVID vaccination. They love the idea of dealing with COVID via exercise, diet, sunshine, Vitamin D pills, zinc, etc., but hate the idea of people just getting the shots and being OK. I’ve described this before as COVID Pelagianism–some people think everybody ought to bootstrap their way out of COVID through sheer force of character.


  6. Our governor just announced that we are in a fourth wave. Case rates have been increasing since mid March and now hospitalizations are up too (as well as new virus variants). No new restrictions in our county, but my son’s sport competitions were canceled (it is a high contact sport). He tells me there’ll be weekly revaluations.

    WA is up 30% for cases and hospitalizations, with 28% vaccinated (according to the NY Times — I find vax statistics vary a lot based on source). Maine is also showing a substantial increase in cases with 35% fully vaccinated.

    Everyone in my family now has one shot of the vaccine and we all have our second shots scheduled. I’m hopeful about the results we’re seeing from Israel and the US hot spots (MI, NY, NJ are all showing decreases) and the US clocked a decrease for the first time in a while. But, until I see stabilization here, I don’t see the vaccine meaning many changes for me. My kids are doing more, so I’m hoping masks work.


    1. bj said, “Our governor just announced that we are in a fourth wave.”

      Yeah, looks like it. Might be slowing down, but probably too early to say.

      Overall nationally, it looks like COVID is starting to get boxed in.

      I know that Monica Gandhi (MD MPH) thinks that 40% of population vaccinated with one dose may be a natural inflection point (with some level of disease-acquired immunity), and of course more and more US states are well over 40% now.

      “Everyone in my family now has one shot of the vaccine and we all have our second shots scheduled.”

      My sis in WA just got her first date scheduled. My husband says that he’s talked to a number of undergraduates who work at our college gym here in Texas, and they have gotten or are getting their second doses. (The campus vaccine set-up is incredibly fast and convenient and happens to be located in the same building as the gym.) My husband points out that one of the carrots in play is that fully vaccinated students are exempt from quarantine. My husband has talked to a lot of students over the past year who have wound up in quarantine multiple times, often without ever testing positive for COVID, so getting off that merry-go-round would be a huge perk. I’m now fully vaccinated, my husband and 16-year-old got their second shots this week, and my 18-year-old will get her second in about two weeks. That leaves the 8-year-old living in a state of nature…

      Our family plan is to let the 16-year-old go back to PE and for my husband and me to go out to eat in a week or two. Once our 18-year-old is fully vaccinated (4 weeks from now?), we’ll go out to dinner as a family of 5. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the 8-year-old, but I think we can have something like 80% of a normal life within a month. I’m finally getting a professional haircut (after 13+ months!) next week, but I can’t do it until I take some pictures for a friend who wants to see my COVID hair before I cut it off.

      One of the really interesting things about this spring is that our local school COVID cases seem to have been nuked. I was checking today, and the 8,000 kid suburban school district has two (2.0) total active COVID cases, with none of those being staff cases. The 15,000 kid city school system has 3 total COVID cases this week (not sure if any of them are staff). These districts had literally dozens of cases at a time in November/December, with one of the high schools sometimes hitting 40 cases at a time.

      COVID seems to have virtually disappeared from the schools with very, very few kids having been vaccinated.


  7. I loved the article about Greens Do Good and would love to hear more.

    The improvement of indoor plant grow lights has been impressive. I’ve been seeing friends really enjoying growing flowers and plants at home using the lights, in particular, a friend who doesn’t like to farm outside because of severe reactions to bug bites. I think there’s real potential for an artisan style business (well, and that’s ignoring the business potential of marijuana, which is becoming legal in more and more places — WA state apparently collected more taxes from marijuana than alcohol this year).


  8. Here’s a really smart, uplifting conversation between Vinay Prasad (MD MPH) and Monica Gandhi (MD MPH), mostly on COVID:

    Monica Gandhi suggests that once 40% of the population has been vaccinated and hospitalizations are down to 5 per 100k–all restrictions can and should be dropped.

    Gandhi has also been a strong school-reopening voice. She tweets here:


  9. I really do think we need to be talking about the conditions under which we loosen restrictions. But, I also think that the loosening needs to be provisional, meaning we have to continue looking at the data. Hospitalizations seem like a good metric to me, especially as vaccinations increase. Cases going up without health consequences can’t be the metric. Deaths are too lagging.

    Vaccinations seem to be generally available in WA now, which in WA needs to create a shift from the “wait your turn” messaging to “go get your vaccine.” Clinics at the university would be great, as an example. The current covid testing site on the campus of the university is right next to the gym (which is probably not open).


    1. bj said, “I really do think we need to be talking about the conditions under which we loosen restrictions.”

      I think we have to be prepared for the late fall 2021/winter/early spring 2022 being kind of bad again. I believe Youyang Gu had a chart (before he got out of the game in March) that (correctly) predicted a bump in April and then a really good summer, followed by a winter surge.

      If vaccination rates peter out this summer, I think there should be a fall vaccination campaign with a focus on prepping for the winter. That may go over better if people have been given a break over the summer.

      There’s also the question of the ever-growing mountain of Astrazeneca that the US is sitting on…

      “Hospitalizations seem like a good metric to me, especially as vaccinations increase. Cases going up without health consequences can’t be the metric.”


      “Vaccinations seem to be generally available in WA now, which in WA needs to create a shift from the “wait your turn” messaging to “go get your vaccine.””

      I have the radio on almost all the time when I’m driving (switching between three different stations) and while we had a huge number of repetitive wear-your-mask-and-socially-distance-and-get-a-shot-when-it’s-your-turn CDC ads on the radio probably in Feb/March, we never got get-your-shot ads. And Texas has been open for 16+ since March 29…I don’t get it–somebody has really dropped the ball here–in fact, multiple entities have dropped the ball. I have literally never heard a PSA saying, “Hey, Texans, everybody 16 and up is now eligible for free COVID vaccination now. Please check your local health department website and get an appointment today. This week, Shipley’s Donuts is sponsoring a free donut or kolache to everybody who gets a shot.” It’s honestly really weird that nobody (not the feds, not the state) is doing that.

      People talk a lot about vaccine hesitancy–but there are so many obvious things that aren’t being done. I’d also like to see a push happening via people’s primary care doctors this summer and fall. It shouldn’t be possible to have contact with a medical office this year without being asked if you’d like a COVID shot. I also think it should be raining freebies, and any even that draws large crowds should offer shots beforehand.


  10. Why the heck isn’t the US doing more for India right now?

    “Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) on Saturday evening called on the Biden Administration to release its supply of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to countries experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections.”

    “”We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.S. stockpile, a stockpile which we’re not using and which we’ve already opened to combat COVID-19 in Mexico and Canada,” Kirshnamoorthi said.”

    “The U.S. agreed in March to send 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Mexico and Canada.”

    “State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday that the U.S. wouldn’t lift an export ban on vaccine raw materials as India has requested, according to The Hindu.”

    “Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health called for the administration to release vaccine doses in an op-ed for The Washington Post on Saturday.
    “Given declining rates of vaccination among Americans, they seem unlikely to ever see domestic use. We should lend them to India now,” he wrote.”


    1. There are many other countries also facing Covid emergencies. If the US is to send vaccines elsewhere, the floodgates will open. Other countries face emergencies:

      India is a vaccine producer. It itself instituted a ban on exporting Covid vaccines a couple of months ago.

      Of course, Europe banned exporting Astra-Zeneca vaccines as well.

      India has also stopped the export of oxygen tankers to Bangladesh.

      It has also banned the export of Remdesivir:

      Note that the Covax facility, for underdeveloped nations, is having a hard time–one of their main suppliers is in India:

      Large countries such as Indonesia and Brazil have so far received about one in 10 of the Oxford/AstraZeneca doses they were expecting by May, while Bangladesh, Mexico, Myanmar and Pakistan are among those that have not received any doses of the vaccine through the programme so far.


    2. There are a number of barriers to releasing vaccines (Vanity Fair wrote that the US agreed not to release the vaccines contractually). But, I do agree that we should be talking about releasing tha AZ & J&J vaccines if we’re not using them.

      Certainly other countries experiencing emergencies should get the vaccines too (Mexico, for example, where COVID hot spots will certainly be a significant risk the US), Canada, potentially, South America, India, South Africa all come to mind. A reason to prioritize India (though we need to attend to Mexico & Canada) is that India has a pretty well established system for distributing the vaccines and less vaccine hesitancy than some places (I don’t know what the situation is, say, in Brazil).

      And, the main reason we have to help has nothing to do with altruism — India’s surge makes the world unsafe.

      As India is probably the biggest emergency right now, messaging “India is not sharing” isn’t a reason not to step in. Note also that India will probably be the source of the vaccine for most developing countries eventually — since it has the most established producers.


      1. India has almost 1.4 billion people. Pragmatically, I’m not certain that a gift of a few million doses of vaccine would be enough to make a difference, in comparison to India’s own production.

        The Biden administration has promised help:

        Horne added that the United States would send raw materials required for India to manufacture the Covishield vaccine, as well as therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and protective equipment.

        “The U.S. Development Finance Corporation is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, enabling BioE to ramp up to produce at least 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022,” Horne wrote, adding that the U.S. would also send a team of public health advisors from the Center for Disease Control and USAID to India.

        Note there are no figures on how much will be supplied. If I understand the web page for the USDFC, this would be a low-interest development investment, not charity.

        A key bottleneck is apparently in adjuvants:

        Note, as well, that it takes weeks or months to produce a vaccine from raw materials, so any materials sent will not counter the current surge.


      2. Cranberry,

        Sorry, I missed your post on the Biden administration’s decisions and accidentally duplicated your post.

        I see from my reading that the Indian government has months of boneheaded moves leading up to this:

        They did stuff like claim victory over COVID in January of this year (and later) and prioritize exporting Indian vaccine abroad this spring over vaccinating Indians.

        I have the awful suspicion that the Indian request for raw materials for vaccines (as opposed to…vaccines) may come from the same place as the push to export vaccines instead of using them in India–personal self-aggrandizement and putting national image over national well-being. Narcissism and self-delusion on the part of major Indian leaders may make it genuinely hard to help India effectively.

        Some more points:

        –There are other items other than vaccine that can be useful (there are a lot of ongoing issues with oxygen).
        –There are specific hot spots, so any gift or loan of vaccine can go to hard-hit areas and be especially helpful.
        –It’s likely that the US is also going to have a hard time getting through our stocks of Johnson & Johnson, given the stigma in the US now.
        –We’re getting close to the point where half of all new world COVID cases are happening in India.


        I believe Canada has gotten up to 24.5% vaccinated with 1st doses, which is better than the EU. We’ve loaned them and Mexico some Astrazeneca already. And of course they have a lot of vaccine ordered.


  11. I don’t know what the situation is with vaccine promotion in Texas, but in WA, I do believe there’s been a significant message of wait your turn, don’t cut in line, other people are more vulnerable, vaccines are scarce and as that stops being true, the messaging needs to change.

    I see reluctance to do so because I think the powers that be have been very focused on equitable distribution. But, when a rich Seattle getting their vax isn’t the bar to a poor ag worker getting their vax because other factors than supply are more important, the messaging/process needs to change.


    1. bj said, “I don’t know what the situation is with vaccine promotion in Texas, but in WA, I do believe there’s been a significant message of wait your turn, don’t cut in line, other people are more vulnerable, vaccines are scarce and as that stops being true, the messaging needs to change.”

      I have concerns that early on, that message may have actually contributed to vaccine hesitancy among some health care workers, nursing home workers, first responders, etc.


      1. Same story, I think, with a few more details:

        The U.S. has yet to finalize where the AstraZeneca doses will go, Zients said. Neighbors Mexico and Canada have asked the Biden administration to share more doses, while dozens of other countries are looking to access supplies of the vaccine.

        “We’re in the planning process at this point in time,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, when asked where the doses would go.

        So the flood gates for requests have opened. Looking at the interactive map from WHO, there are many countries with pressing emergencies right now. We’ve entered the age of vaccine diplomacy.


  12. I see that our suburban school district (8k kids) has only 2 kids with active COVID right now–no staff. The city school (15k kids) reports zero cases right now.

    In our county, new cases are at about 8 per 100k and hospitalizations are right around 5 per 100k. Hometown U. cases seem to be trending down and positivity is around 0.5%.

    *whistles happy tune*

    I think there may be a bit of a surge as we leave springtime and start having real summer heat, but it’s nice!


  13. Laura tweeted: “At some colleges, ice cream-type trucks sell weed to students. What if those trucks gave out vaccines? What if those trucks went to cities and small towns to deliver vaccines to those communities?”

    I have actually seen a photo of an event somewhere where there was a free-dope-with-shot event.


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