Authoritarianism Abroad

The US is having an uptick of COVID cases. Fauci says there’s currently no reason to call for boosters. The US isn’t done with draconian measures—not only is there talk of sending vaccine agents door to door, your text messages/private digital communications might soon be monitored for spreading misinformation about vaccines.

Other countries are staying strict on COVID: France will be using a vaccine passport system, Korea banned fast music in group fitness classes, and in Australia, police stopped shoppers to check their bags for “essential” purchases.

In other news:

  • David Wallace-Wells on what we knew all along: COVID isn’t a threat to kids, at Intelligencer
  • Masks don’t work as a source control for COVID — Megan Mansell has the data at Rational Ground
  • Should we even be masking kids? Vinay Prasad, MD, MPH at MedPage Today
  • J.D. Tuccille at Reason writes about some people’s surprising eagerness for perpetual lockdowns.

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U.S. Covid-19 Case Counts Have Doubled in Recent Weeks

New Covid-19 cases are on the rise in a number of states across the U.S., worrying health officials and epidemiologists as many Americans remain unvaccinated and the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads.

The U.S. is averaging more than 23,000 new cases a day, double the seven-day average of around 11,300 cases three weeks ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. On 17 of the past 18 days, the seven-day case average was higher than the 14-day average, also suggesting cases have been rising nationally.

The uptick follows a significant slowdown in Covid-19 metrics after a deadly winter surge, when newly reported cases peaked at around 240,000 cases a day in mid-January, and it comes as public-health officials push to reinvigorate the nation’s vaccination campaign and get shots to undecided or isolated Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all recent Covid-19 cases and deaths from the disease are among unvaccinated people.

Fauci says no immediate need for Covid booster for fully vaccinated Americans

Dr Anthony Fauci has said there is no immediate need for a Covid-19 booster for fully vaccinated Americans but remained open to the possibility in the future, as reports suggest that one major pharmaceutical company plans to lobby government officials to approve booster shots next week.

Pfizer announced last week that it had observed that its vaccine, while effective against the virus, had “a decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time”. The company suggested that as new variants continue to emerge a booster shot after six months “may be beneficial”.

Critics slam Biden administration’s reported plan to monitor vaccine misinformation in text messages

A recent report revealed the Biden administration has plans to work with tech companies and SMS carriers to monitor and combat misinformation, which was immediately met with skepticism and criticism by Republican lawmakers

On Monday, Politico reported plans from the Biden administration to battle misinformation in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“The White House has decided to hit back harder on misinformation and scare tactics after Republican lawmakers and conservative activists pledged to fight the administration’s stated plans to go ‘door-to-door’ to increase vaccination rates,” Politico wrote. “The pushback will include directly calling out social media platforms and conservative news shows that promote such tactics.”

McMaster directs health officials to prohibit door-to-door COVID vaccine efforts in SC

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday directed state health officials to prohibit any unsolicited door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination efforts, arguing that showing up unannounced at individuals’ homes and “pressuring” them to get inoculated was bad policy and could lead to “disastrous public safety consequences.”

“The prospect of government vaccination teams showing up unannounced or unrequested at the door of ‘targeted’ homeowners or on their property will further deteriorate the public’s trust and could lead to potentially disastrous public safety consequences,” McMaster wrote in a letter to state Department of Health and Environmental Control board Chairman Mark Elam.


The Kids Are Alright Why now is the time to rethink COVID safety protocols for children — and everyone else.

The kids are safe. They always have been.

It may sound strange, given a year of panic over school closures and reopenings, a year of masking toddlers and closing playgrounds and huddling in pandemic pods, that, according to the CDC, among children the mortality risk from COVID-19 is actually lower than from the flu. The risk of severe disease or hospitalization is about the same.

Masks are NOT source control

The COVID-19 conversation should have begun with minimum viable particle size under pressure, which for SARS-CoV-2-size particulates is .06 microns. This particle is under 0.3 microns, placing it firmly within the radically behaving particulate range. A single particle cluster can be composed of multiple virions and still fall well under that threshold. Furthermore, current research on aerosol behavior shows that particulates as large as 5 microns can remain aloft for extended periods. 83 COVID-19-size particles can fit in a single cluster and fall within the highest range. 

The conversational pivot should have then become about respiratory emission particle size ranges: Around 90% of exhaled particulates have been shown to fall under .3 microns.

But most importantly, SARS-Cov-2 is understood to be a low-minimum-infective dose pathogen.

Climbing the Pandemic Failures Chart: Research on Masking Kids

Last week, a study in JAMA Pediatrics created consternation. The study took 45 kids (ages 6 to 17) and asked them to wear a mask. It measured rates of CO2 inside the mask. The rates were high, and inversely related to age: the youngest kids appeared to have the highest CO2 concentration.

Criticism came immediately. One thoughtful observer pointed out that as children draw breath in, only a tiny fraction is from inside the mask (where it may be at a higher CO2 level). The rest of the air is pulled through the mask, and the CO2 will be diluted with room air in the lungs. There were many more objections raised (some legitimate), and the usual calls for retraction.

Do People Want Their Pre-Pandemic Freedom Back?

When it comes to insanely restrictive (and, arguably, ineffective) pandemic measures, critics tend to point the finger at public officials and their appetite for power. But government functionaries may be no more of a danger to post-COVID freedom than some of our neighbors. Recent polling suggests that many among us not only approve of the lockdowns of the past year and foresee public health restrictions continuing into the indefinite future, but they also want the world to remain constrained by efforts to prevent illness—or maybe just constrained, and never mind the reason.

“Public willingness to sacrifice for the common good in a time of crisis has surprised ministers,” The Economist noted last week. “But the pandemic has also revealed John Bull’s authoritarian streak.” The magazine went on to report on the results of polling conducted along with Ipsos MORI that found a surprising degree of support among Britons not just for the lockdowns of the past year, but for maintaining restrictions sold as efforts to head off the spread of COVID-19.


Distinctive features of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells predict recovery from severe COVID-19


Although T cells are likely players in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) immunity, little is known about the phenotypic features of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells associated with recovery from severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We analyze T cells from 34 individuals with COVID-19 with severity ranging from mild (outpatient) to critical, culminating in death. Relative to individuals who succumbed, individuals who recovered from severe COVID-19 harbor elevated and increasing numbers of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells capable of homeostatic proliferation. In contrast, fatal COVID-19 cases display elevated numbers of SARS-CoV-2-specific regulatory T cells and a time-dependent escalation in activated bystander CXCR4+ T cells, as assessed by longitudinal sampling. Together with the demonstration of increased proportions of inflammatory CXCR4+ T cells in the lungs of individuals with severe COVID-19, these results support a model where lung-homing T cells activated through bystander effects contribute to immunopathology, whereas a robust, non-suppressive SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell response limits pathogenesis and promotes recovery from severe COVID-19.

Charts and Graphics

International News

Mandatory vaccination, Covid-19 pass and access to PCR tests: the main points from Macron’s address

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a televised address on Monday night as the Delta variant of Covid-19 surges in the country. He announced further measures to slow the spread of the more infectious variant and outlined plans to make vaccination compulsory for health workers.

French President Emmanuel Macron began his address by speaking about a surge in infections of the Covid-19 Delta variant in mainland France and its overseas territories, and urged French citizens to get vaccinated.

“If we do not act today, the number of cases will continue to increase,” he said. 

Macron explained that the government was striving to achieve a 100 percent vaccination rate across the country. 

Vaccination will become mandatory for all health workers. Macron urged them to be inoculated by September 15, after which they could face potential sanctions or fines. Vaccination is a “matter of individual responsibility […] but also a matter of our freedom”, the president added.

France’s health minister Olivier Véran said that non-vaccinated health workers won’t receive a salary nor be allowed to work after September 15. 

He announced that a vaccination campaign for high school, secondary school and primary school students will begin when school starts again in September.

No more ‘Gangnam Style’: S.Korea’s COVID rules demand slower workout music in gyms

SEOUL, July 12 (Reuters) – Plenty of gym-goers rely on a good tune to get themselves through that workout, but in South Korea their musical options have just reduced significantly under new COVID-19 rules.

To the standard restrictions such as social distancing and travel curbs, South Korea has added a requirement that gyms do not play music with higher than 120 beats per minute (bpm) during group exercises such as aerobics and spinning.

Outrage as police are spotted ‘checking Kmart customers’ shopping bags to make sure they’re buying essential items during Sydney’s lockdown’ – but cops say there’s more to the story

Police were reportedly spotted checking customers’ bags outside a Kmart store in locked-down south-west Sydney to make sure they’re only buying essential items, but cops say this wasn’t the reason for their visit.

A local Facebook page shared a photo of officers standing at the entrance of the department store in Casula on Friday afternoon and urged residents to remain home.

‘Heads up the police are at the entrance checking bags and questioning the reason for essential travel,’ the caption to the post said.



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