Getting Schooled – EOH 9/25

Hysteria, whether about COVID or another political issue, requires society to either ignore or twist the evidence on the ground and detach from reality. For COVID, public health experts or the media would rather promote hysterical viewpoints and the worst-case scenario than acknowledge complexity or differing viewpoints. “COVID sins” has now merged with cancel culture to create a hot mess of vitriol and toxicity online and offline. Take a clear cut example of schools. Evidence on the ground is clear and obvious from all around the world, yet this does not match up with the argument made by mass hysterical psychosis. Therefore, the evidence is ignored and all dissent is punished. School districts all around the US have reopened with in-person learning and Armageddon didn’t arrive. The “new normal” learning approach resulted in more COVID infections than the old normal in-person approach did. You won’t see any retractions from the data-ignorant journalists. You won’t see hysterical public experts apologize or correct the record. It was never about the data or evidence on the ground anyways. That is not the goal or the point. 

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For our premium members, here is some of our work at  Rational Ground. The first is a set of data analyses on different states and the second is an email template you can send to a school or a university to try to steer them away from COVID hysteria. 


Latest College Campus Covid Statistics Show No Death, Nearly Zero Hospitalizations

Media reporting continues to exaggerate and ignore the reality on the ground at  universities. 

College students continue to test positive for COVID-19, but there’s been zero death and just two hospitalizations due to the virus, according to research done by author Andrew Bostom, who also provides references for each university mentioned in his post. The University of Wisconsin reported on September 16 that a student had been hospitalized, adding “students and staff are not required to report if they have been hospitalized.” The other hospitalization, according to Bostom’s research, was at San Diego State. San Diego County epidemiologist Dr. Eric McDonald said the students “who are getting COVID are in the group that actually [recovers] very well. “So they are tolerating this well. The issue is we don’t want them spreading it to others,” he added. Meanwhile, CNN spent today publishing doom and gloom headlines about COVID on college campuses.  “Many schools ultimately decided to welcome students back, informing their communities that new safety precautions are in place, and Covid tests remain at the ready,” CNN reported. “But the safety measures weren’t enough — there are now more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 among students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities nationwide,” according to a CNN tally from earlier this month. Nowhere in CNN’s report is it indicated that there are two known COVID-related hospitalizations and zero deaths.

The Moral Case for Reopening Schools—Without Masks

A sober and well-argued case for reopening ALL schools. 

If you’re a public-minded student or teacher committed to reducing the death toll from Covid-19, what is the morally correct way to behave? According to the epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, you should do just about the opposite of what’s being preached by college presidents, teachers’ unions, political leaders, and the scientific and media establishment. Unless you’re elderly or particularly vulnerable, you shouldn’t be wearing a mask all day, or shaming others for going unmasked. You should be careful not to endanger the vulnerable, but otherwise you should be exposing yourself to the virus in order to promote herd immunity. Gupta, 55, wants to teach her classes at Oxford in person, without a mask, and she is appalled at her colleagues’ reluctance to go back to the classroom. “It’s such a disservice to this generation of students,” she says. “Teachers and students who are vulnerable should have the option to go online, but for the rest of us this virus is no bigger than other risks we take in daily life. It’s not rational, and certainly not communitarian, to avoid being infected with a pathogen that carries such a low risk to you when there’s a high benefit to the community by helping to create herd immunity.” Gupta’s strategy is heresy to the public-health establishment, but it seems to be paying off in Sweden, and her research team at Oxford has a far better track record on Covid-19 than the scientists whose work inspired the widespread lockdowns and mask mandates in the first place. In March, when Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College London terrified politicians and the public with its projections of Covid deaths—more than 500,000 in Britain and 2 million in the United States—Gupta’s team warned that this scenario was based on dubious assumptions about the virus’s spread and lethality. 

Feared coronavirus outbreaks in schools yet to arrive, early data show

The data clearly shows that schools are safe, but will people believe the data or the media. 

Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities. This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they charter the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year. “Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. This does not mean the risk of contracting the coronavirus is zero. Poor and inconsistent reporting in many parts of the country means that experts do not yet have a full view of the situation, and most schools have been open for only a few weeks. It’s also unclear how closely the incidence of the coronavirus in schools is tied to policies in schools such as mandatory mask-wearing. Most of the nation’s largest districts opened with fully remote teaching, so the data are largely from smaller communities. And the pandemic may grow worse as flu season and winter approaches. But the fact that large swaths of the country opened for in-person school while others did not offers the more cautious districts a chance to observe how things have gone elsewhere in charting their next steps. On Wednesday, researchers at Brown University, working with school administrators, released their first set of data from a new National COVID-19 School Response Data Dashboard, created to track coronavirus cases. It found low levels of infection among students and teachers. Tracking infections over a two-week period beginning Aug. 31, it found that 0.23 percent of students had a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus. Among teachers, it was 0.49 percent. Looking only at confirmed cases, the rates were even lower: 0.078 percent for students and 0.15 percent for teachers.

Fourth-Largest U.S. School District to Allow Students Back in Classrooms

At least one school district sees the light. 

Miami-Dade County, Fla., one of the largest school districts in the U.S., will reopen classrooms to students next month. Students in Miami-Dade County, the fourth-largest district in the United States and the biggest school system in Florida, will be able to choose to return to their classrooms next month under a plan approved by the school board on Tuesday after a marathon two-day meeting. Students would attend classes five days a week, but families who prefer virtual learning could stick with that option. About half of the district’s families chose remote learning when selecting an option this summer. The reopening would make Miami-Dade, with 350,000 students, by far the largest district in the country to have students in their classrooms full-time. New York City, the nation’s biggest district, already began restarting in-person instruction on Monday, but with students only attending part-time. Students in Los Angeles and Chicago, the second and third-largest systems, are attending classes remotely. Miami-Dade students in prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, and students with special needs, would return on Oct. 14. Everyone else would be back by Oct. 21. The superintendent, Alberto M. Carvalho, had proposed phasing in students starting on Sept. 30, but board members said they needed more assurances that schools had enough personal protective equipment and contingency policies in place to handle in-person instruction. “I don’t feel that we’re ready,” Lubby Navarro, one of the board members, said. Mr. Carvalho said that district administrators have tried to think of every possible scenario, but “we’re not going to be perfect.”

“But we cannot allow, as they often say, the good to be the enemy of the perfect,” he added.

Boulder County targets CU’s COVID surge with ban on gatherings, stay-at-home order for 36 properties

Meanwhile CU Boulder because of poor planning is having a very bad week. 

Public health leaders stepped up measures to combat the COVID-19 surge at the University of Colorado on Thursday, barring all gatherings of college-aged people in Boulder and placing three dozen specific properties — largely Greek houses — under a stay-at-home order. The new public health order came a day after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment listed the CU Boulder community as the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the state since the pandemic began. Outbreaks among college-aged Coloradans have been driving an increase in coronavirus cases in the state, though hospitalizations so far have remained stable as younger people are less at risk for severe complications. Cases now are rising across all age groups, though. Health officials in Denver on Thursday also announced new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 among college students, requiring universities to screen students, faculty, staff, vendors and other guests daily and bar anyone experiencing symptoms. In Boulder County, there have been 1,392 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases among CU Boulder students aged 18 to 22 since the fall semester began on Aug. 24, representing 78% of all new coronavirus infections countywide during that time period. “We must take stronger action to stop the spread of this virus in our community,” Boulder County Public Health director Jeff Zayach said. “We have researched the actions we can take that would be effective while minimizing burden on those who have not been the source of increased transmission. We believe this strategy can achieve both goals.”

Advice on Airborne Virus Transmission Vanishes From C.D.C. Website

No, this is not an episode of South Park. 

Just days after publishing significant new guidance on airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday withdrew the advice, saying only that it had been “posted in error” on the agency’s website. The rapid reversal prompted consternation among scientists and again called into question the credibility of the world’s premier health agency, even as President Trump and his senior health officials have sought to undermine C.D.C. scientists. The president faces an election whose outcome may turn on public perception of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The turnabout arrived as the number of virus-related deaths in the United States approached the 200,000 mark. Tens of thousands of new infections are reported every day, and experts fear a resurgence as cooler weather approaches and people spend more time indoors. The new document for the first time had acknowledged that the virus spreads mainly by air, a declaration with urgent implications for how people protect themselves indoors and how ventilation should be engineered in schools, offices, hospitals and other public buildings. Experts with knowledge of the incident said on Monday that the latest reversal appeared to be a genuine mistake in the agency’s scientific review process, rather than the result of political meddling. Officials said the agency would soon publish revised guidance. “We are reviewing our process and tightening criteria for review of all guidance and updates before they are posted to the C.D.C. website,” said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the agency. Still, the reversal prompted rebukes from even the C.D.C.’s staunchest supporters. “It’s not something that instills a lot of confidence, right?” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University. “It doesn’t help at all.” 

The Public-Shaming Pandemic

There has also been an outbreak of public shaming as a result of the pandemic. 

On February 18th, Nga Nguyen, an Instagram influencer who likes travel and couture, flew from London—her “base”—to Milan, where she attended Gucci’s spring show. The fashion house picked up the bill for the flight and the hotel. Nga, who is twenty-eight, explained to me, “I have a very good relationship with all the brands, whether as a long-term client or just as a friend.” She was joined in Milan by her sister, Nhung, who is a year younger and lives in Hanoi, where she manages a luxury hotel that their family owns. A week after the Gucci event, the sisters took the Eurostar to Paris, for the Saint Laurent show; they then went to London, where they stayed at Nga’s house. On March 1st, Nhung flew back to Vietnam and Nga made a short business trip to Germany, where she also took a relative to a doctor’s appointment. In the examination room, Nga coughed slightly. “The doctor looked up and suggested a coronavirus test,” she recalled. “I thought he was joking.” The doctor swabbed a mucus sample from Nga’s nose, and told her to go to the relative’s house and wait. She remembers feeling fine, but that evening she developed a fever, and her cough worsened. Two days later, she had pneumonia, and her coronavirus test was positive. A runner who can normally cover four miles in half an hour, she could barely walk. On March 12th, emergency workers took Nga to the hospital. She remained there for more than a week, then returned to her relative’s house, where she eventually made a full recovery. Now back in London, she feels “very grateful for the care” that she received in Germany. When Nhung arrived in Hanoi, she passed through an airport checkpoint, and had no fever. But she began coughing that night. Four days later, she became Hanoi’s first confirmed covid-19 patient. She spent two weeks in isolation at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, then went home to quarantine. She, too, has recovered and is thankful to the doctors who treated her. The sisters’ experience differed in one crucial way. European Union nations have strong privacy protections, and no one besides Nga’s family and a few friends knew that she had covid-19. Nhung’s case became public knowledge. 


UK to test vaccines on volunteers deliberately infected with Covid-19

Yet, zero COVID is still the strategy for lockdown zealots. 

London is to host the world’s first Covid-19 human challenge trials — in which healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with coronavirus to assess the effectiveness of experimental vaccines. The UK government-funded studies are expected to begin in January at a secure quarantine facility in east London, according to several people involved in the project, which will be announced next week. The researchers, who did not want to comment publicly ahead of the launch, said the trials would play a vital role in narrowing the large field of promising Covid-19 vaccines likely to move into clinical testing early next year. Volunteers will be inoculated with a vaccine and a month or so later receive a “challenge” dose of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, under controlled conditions. About 2,000 potential volunteers have signed up for challenge studies in the UK through the US-based advocacy group 1Day Sooner, which campaigns for Covid-19 infection trials and has enlisted 37,000 people worldwide. Traditional clinical trials need tens of thousands of participants and researchers would struggle to attract enough for multiple vaccine studies. Challenge trials have a long history dating back to 1796, when the vaccine pioneer Edward Jenner inoculated eight-year-old James Phipps with live cowpox virus. More recently, they have been instrumental in developing vaccines and treatments for typhoid, cholera and malaria and in understanding how the immune system responds to flu and other viruses. 1Day Sooner is launching a UK campaign this week with a petition to parliament asking for public funding of a biocontainment facility with enough capacity to quarantine 100 to 200 participants. A 24-bed quarantine clinic in Whitechapel, London, has been earmarked for the initial trials. It is run by hVivo, a spinout from Queen Mary University of London that was bought this year by Open Orphan, a Dublin-based pharmaceutical research organization. Imperial College London is the project’s academic leader.

Charts and Graphics

Unique COVID-19 Cases, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois kept students on campus and had a minimal outbreak despite massive amounts of  testing.

UK COVID-19 Case Heatmap

A clever way to visualize COVID-19 cases in the UK.  Red is the period when most cases were reported and the blue period is the before and after. 

Daily New Deaths in Argentina

COVID-19 deaths in Argentina are rising. Much like Peru, Argentina enacted strict quarantine measures and lockdowns. 

Germany – Lockdown Came Late

Lockdowns are a lagging indicator and didn’t break the growth curve. 

International News

Despite early, strict quarantine measures, Peru has worst COVID-19 death rate in the world

Media: Ignore and chant, “Lockdowns work!”

Katerin Facundo Livia lives in Lomas de Carabayllo on the northern outskirts of Lima with her mom, brother and 2-year-old son. When the coronavirus first hit Peru in mid-March no one left the house, remaining in quarantine. But after three weeks Livia’s family had burned through their savings on basic supplies and Livia was forced to break quarantine. At 24 years old, she felt she had the responsibility to leave the house and bring food home, while insisting the rest of the family stay inside because she would be the most resistant to the virus. Her family managed on what she brought home until late July, when her mom got a sore throat and fever. The test results came back positive. She had COVID-19. “I was afraid of going out and bringing the virus home,” Livia said. “It hit me like a bucket of cold water because I said, in what moment did my mom get infected? I must also be infected.” Peru is now the country with the most severe coronavirus outbreak in the world by most key metrics, despite having declared what came to be one of the strictest and longest quarantines in the world on March 15, when military and police flooded the streets to enforce stay-at-home orders. At one point, strict stay-at-home orders were enforced by gender, with men and women allowed to leave the house only on alternating days of the week. A 10 p.m. curfew and all-day Sunday quarantine remain in effect in most of Peru. But despite drastic early measures that were applauded by international health organizations and kept infection rates low early in the pandemic, Peru now has more COVID-19 deaths per capita than any other country in the world, with almost 30,000 total deaths in a total population of about 33 million, double the rate of the United States and Brazil. In August, Peru surpassed both Brazil and the United States in total COVID-19 cases per capita and in confirmed deaths per capita. Peru now has one of the world’s highest infection rates, with more cumulative cases per capita than any country besides Qatar, Bahrain, Aruba, Panama, Chile and Kuwait.

Argentina economy plunges record 19.1% in second quarter on pandemic impact


Argentina’s economy contracted a record 19.1% in the second quarter versus the same period a year earlier as the coronavirus pandemic crippled production and demand, though was slightly better than analyst forecasts. The steep fall, deeper than a 16.3% drop during Argentina’s major 2002 crisis, came as the South American country imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March to stem the virus. The country has over 640,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and nearly 13,500 deaths. Argentina, a major grains producer, has been in recession since 2018 and is just emerging from default on its sovereign debt, with investors again growing concerned about prospects for its economic recovery and dwindling foreign currency reserves. The government imposed the lockdown on March 20, and while it has been eased it remains in place until at least Oct. 11, with Argentina still at its peak in terms of daily case numbers. The country recorded over 400 deaths in 24 hours on Monday. “The key is the lockdown, which restricted supply and was a blow to demand, which pummeled economic activity in the second quarter of 2020,” said consultancy Ecolatina. A Reuters poll of 14 local and foreign analysts ahead of the data had forecast a 19.9% average contraction for the April-June period and a median estimate of a 19.6% drop. The Q2 fall was deeper than neighbor Brazil, though better than hard-hit Peru. “The strong isolation restrictions imposed from the second half of March and that lasted until August had a significant economic cost for the entire country,” said economist Natalia Motyl of consultancy Libertad y Progreso.

Coronavirus cabinet concludes: Full lockdown beginning Friday

Israel embraces a second lockdown. We will see how long they last. My money is on a shorter second lockdown with a stronger backlash.

The country is heading back into a complete lockdown which is to begin Friday and is likely to last until at least the end of the holidays. After eight hours of deliberations, the coronavirus cabinet made its recommendations, which were brought to the full cabinet for a late-night vote. The lockdown is expected to be more stringent than the one in March, and should include shuttering synagogues, reducing the number of people who can protest, closing all nonessential businesses and markets, reducing public transportation routes and allowing citizens to gather only within their nuclear families. Protesters are expected to be allowed to demonstrate and worshipers to pray in groups of up to 20 people within one kilometer of their homes. Synagogues are expected to open only on Yom Kippur for small groups of worshipers. A decision on halting flights departing Ben-Gurion Airport as early as Friday was not finalized by press time. The decision comes on the day that almost 7,000 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in a 24-hour period – unprecedented numbers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed for the total closure during the coronavirus cabinet meeting Wednesday, despite opposition by the Finance Ministry and some other senior officials. They said that a total lockdown was not needed. The closure will cost an estimated NIS 35 billion ($10b.) if the lockdown lasts three weeks. “The situation is bad; we’re seeing a steep increase in morbidity rates,” Netanyahu said via a video message during a break from the coronavirus cabinet meeting. “We need to reach decisions, hard decisions. But as prime minister, I’m obligated to protect your lives, and everyone must understand that this is a life-threatening situation.

In India, engineers and MBAs are turning to manual labor to survive the economic crash

Dreams of economic progress for millions of people disappeared in a single quarter. 

On a recent muggy afternoon in southern India, Earappa Bawge hacked at the ground with a pickax, his white shirt pasted to his back. Each dull thud reminded him of how far his hopes had fallen. Just months ago, the 27-year-old engineer was poring over project files in an air-conditioned room at a factory hundreds of miles away. The job was a ticket out of rural poverty for Bawge’s entire family, who had sacrificed for years so he could complete his studies. Now he was back in the village where he was born, propelled by a wave of economic destruction rolling across India during the pandemic. To survive, Bawge began digging ditches under a public works program. Alongside him were a former bank employee, a veterinarian and three MBA students. At the end of the day, each received $3.70. “If I don’t work, we don’t get to eat,” said Bawge, flicking beads of sweat from his brow. “Hunger trumps any aspiration.” As India’s economy reels in the aftermath of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, a rural employment program has emerged as a lifeline for some of the tens of millions left jobless. The government program — which aims to guarantee 100 days of unskilled work in rural areas — was intended to combat poverty and reduce the volatility of agricultural wages. Now it is a potent symbol of how the middle-class dreams of millions of Indians are unraveling. The program is serving as a last resort for university graduates as well as former white-collar workers who find themselves with no other safety net. More than 17 million new entrants applied to access the program from April through mid-September. Nearly 60 million households participated during that time — higher than the total for all of last year and the most in the program’s 14-year history.

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