Mask Logic

“I think it’s the evidence-based thing to do,’’ —Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, ending Florida’s COVID-19 emergency.

While states like Florida are relying on the spread of vaccines (and new evidence from the CDC showing over 100 million Americans have now had COVID), some states are declaring the pandemic over—while others continue to extend some or all of the mandates. One mandate that looks to linger: masks for kids in schools and people taking public transportation. And, in case you missed it, the CDC took input from teacher’s unions before issuing their school reopening guidelines. In international news, Australia has closed its borders to its own citizens as a response to the COVID outbreak in India.

In other news:

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown pokes fun at D.C.’s contradictory COVID guidelines over at Reason.
  • Kevin Drum asks us to consider why so many American companies didn’t plan for the pandemic to end over at Jabber Woking.
  • “How did The Atlantic fail so badly?” a look back at 2020 doom and gloom by Jon Miltimore at the Foundation for Economic Education.
  • Take a closer look at whether mask mandates worked with Norbert Michel & Doug Badger writing for The Daily Signal.

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COVID News

DeSantis signs bill banning ‘vaccine passports,’ order canceling local COVID rules

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article251123044.html

Declaring Florida’s COVID-19 emergency over, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed an executive order invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders and signed a bill into law that bars businesses, schools and government entities across Florida from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

“I think it’s the evidence-based thing to do,’’ DeSantis said at St. Petersburg restaurant where he signed the bill with House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson at this side. “I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data you don’t believe in the science….We are no longer in the state of emergency.”

The provision regulating so-called “vaccine passports” is tucked into, SB 2006, a bill intended to update the state’s emergency powers in the face of a future public health emergency. The new law is effective July 1, but DeSantis also on Monday said he would sign an executive order invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders that are still in place after July 1 and suspend immediately any orders related to COVID-19 now.

Miss. Gov. Reeves lifts all COVID-19 restrictions except masks in schools

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On Friday, Governor Tate Reeves signed Executive Order 1551. The new executive order repeals all prior orders. All indoor and outdoor venue capacity restrictions have been lifted (including for K-12 events).  

The order will go into effect at 5:00 PM on April 30th, 2021.  

“Getting our kids back in school last August was one of the most important decision of the pandemic and keeping them in the classroom is one of my top priorities,” Governor Tate Reeves said. “Even so – our class of 2021 has not been afforded a normal senior year. I want every one of them to attend their graduation and I want everyone in their family to be able to join them!”

TSA extends mask requirement for planes, other public transportation in U.S. until September

https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2021/04/30/transportation-mask-mandate/

The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it has extended through Sept. 13 its orders requiring people to wear masks in transportation settings, including at airports, on commercial aircraft, and on buses and trains.

TSA officials said the extension of the mask requirement is consistent with updated policies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The TSA requirement had been set to expire May 11.

“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, a senior TSA official, said in a statement. “About half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic.”

Powerful teachers union influenced CDC on school reopenings, emails show

https://nypost.com/2021/05/01/teachers-union-collaborated-with-cdc-on-school-reopening-emails/

The American Federation of Teachers lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on, and even suggested language for, the federal agency’s school-reopening guidance released in February.

The powerful teachers union’s full-court press preceded the federal agency putting the brakes on a full re-opening of in-person classrooms, emails between top CDC, AFT and White House officials show.

The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and provided to The Post.

The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors and union officials — with Biden brass being looped in at the White House — in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.

Commentary/Analysis

D.C. Weddings Only Permitted If No One Stands or Dances

Continued coronavirus restrictions aren’t commensurate to risk. With the COVID-19 vaccine now widely available in the U.S., nearly any adult who wants to protect himself can, while anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated is making a choice to face heightened risk. And despite slowing vaccination rates, we’re still seeing encouraging signs. For instance, “Los Angeles County public health authorities on Sunday reported no new deaths related to COVID-19,” the Los Angeles Times notes, and the single-day infection rate in New York state dropped below 1.5 percent on Saturday. Overall, “42 states and D.C. report[ed] lower caseloads for the past two weeks,” The Washington Post reported last Friday.

Yet some authorities continue to impose strict rules on not just public spaces but private events, too.

Take Washington, D.C., which announced last week that “with the increased vaccination of DC residents and essential workers, and continued cooperation with the District’s public health measures and guidance, several restrictions may be further loosened this spring.” Yet the District’s rules remain weird and seemingly arbitrary.

The Great Reopening Will Generate a Million Identical Stories

There are certain topics that generate an almost infinite number of news articles that are essentially identical except for the single detail of who the main character is. The pandemic is an example: you can write a piece about how it affected the theater business; and the restaurant business; and the trucking industry; and Joe’s Dry Cleaning—and they will all be basically the same: their customers went away and this caused them big problems. Racism works the same way: you can write a thousand stories about a thousand different industries and they’re essentially all identical. The details will differ, but it will turn out that racism is responsible for the underrepresentation of Black/Hispanic/Female/etc. people in that industry.

We are now entering the same phase of the end-of-lockdown pandemic story. Guess what? It turns out that practically every industry cut back on production because their customers stopped buying stuff. And only now, for reasons that remain puzzling, are they realizing that the pandemic wasn’t a permanent condition and they need to ramp up production. Why didn’t they figure this out a few months ago when vaccines became widely available? Beats me. My unconsidered view is that it’s because they’re idiots, but I suppose there’s more to it.

Today Is the 1-Year Anniversary of the Worst Pandemic Headline of 2020

https://fee.org/articles/today-is-the-1-year-anniversary-of-the-worst-pandemic-headline-of-2020/

It’s a headline that certainly grabs your attention.

“Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice,” read the title of an April 29, 2020 article in The Atlantic.

Written by staff writer Amanda Mull, the story suggested Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reverse course on the state’s shutdown and lift restrictions on businesses was an experiment to see “how many people need to lose their lives to shore up the economy.”

The decision, readers were told, was reckless and deadly.

“Public-health officials broadly agree that reopening businesses—especially those that require close physical contact—in places where the virus has already spread will kill people,” Mull wrote.

With COVID-19 Advice, CDC Too Often Ignores Science

How reliable are government declarations that mask mandates prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

Our recent experience with researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has left us less than confident that the public should trust the CDC’s published research, much less any pronouncements based on that research.

Our problem involves a paper that the CDC published in November. The paper studies mask mandates in Kansas because, in July, Gov. Laura Kelly issued an optional mask mandate. Counties could decide whether to enforce the mandate or opt out.

Many counties did opt out, but the larger metropolitan areas did not. Overall, 24 counties implemented a mask mandate and 81 opted out.

The CDC paper argues that the mandates were a success. In particular, the paper claims that “the increasing trend in COVID-19 incidence reversed” in the Kansas counties with mask mandates.

We noticed, however, that this conclusion is incorrect. As our paper shows, the trend did not reverse in those counties. Moreover, the growth in reported case incidence (and mortality) was, overall, virtually indistinguishable in counties with and without mask mandates.

Research

Immunity after SARS-CoV-2 infections

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41590-021-00923-3

T cell responses probably play important roles in the control of SARS-CoV-2 infection, but they have been relatively understudied. Data now suggest that the majority of infected individuals develop robust and long-lasting T cell immunity, which has implications for the durability of immunity and future vaccine approaches.

SARS-CoV-2 infections result in highly heterogeneous clinical outcomes, ranging from the absence of any symptoms to severe disease and death. Given the fitness of this virus in humans thus far and its likely persistence in this reservoir, it is important to understand the quality and durability of immune memory that is elicited by infection. Although several studies have reported that individuals develop robust SARS-CoV-2-specific memory T cell responses following natural infection1,2,3,4,5, whether these responses correlate with clinical or immunologic outcomes has remained unclear. In the current issue of Nature Immunology, Zuo et al.6 characterize the durability and diversity of memory T cell responses established after asymptomatic or mild COVID-19.

The authors studied T cell responses six months after infection in 100 individuals (median age 41 years) who had relatively mild infections (56 people) or asymptomatic infections (44 people). To enumerate T cells that recognized SARS-CoV-2, cells from previously infected individuals were first stimulated with peptides from SARS-CoV-2 proteins to elicit a cytokine response. SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells were then counted on the basis of secretion of the proinflammatory cytokine interferon (IFN)-γ in an ELISpot (enzyme-linked immune absorbent spot) assay. Nearly all donors had a SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cell response in this assay. However, the magnitude of the responses was highly variable within the cohort, and a correlate of the response was the presence of symptoms early in the infection. People with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections had IFN-γ-producing T cell responses of significantly higher magnitude at six months post-infection as compared to those with asymptomatic infection. Although individuals with severe disease were not included in this study, another recent report did not find significant differences in the magnitude of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses between participants who were hospitalized and those who were not hospitalized5. Importantly, IFN-γ-producing T cell responses did not correlate with the age of the subjects within the cohort. Together with a separate report that found that T cell responses in patients with COVID-19 increased with age7, the data are reassuring that robust T cell responses can be elicited by SARS-CoV-2 infection regardless of one’s age.

Charts and Graphics

International News

Australia Tells Its Citizens in India Amid Covid Crisis: Don’t Come Home

SYDNEY, Australia — Before the coronavirus pandemic surged, Drisya Dilin dropped her daughter off with her parents in India, expecting to bring her to Australia a month later. That was more than a year ago.

Now, any attempt to get the 5-year-old to Australia, where she is a permanent resident, brings a threat of jail time or large fines.

She’s one of about 8,000 Australians affected by an unprecedented travel ban that began on Monday, prompted by India’s record-breaking Covid outbreak. It is believed to be the first time that Australia has made it a criminal offense for its own citizens and permanent residents to enter the country.

“I never expected this to happen,” said Ms. Dilin, a hospital administrator who has tried several times to repatriate her daughter to Australia, including on a charter flight this month that was canceled.

“She is missing us badly,” she said of her daughter. “She’s still counting days, thinking she is coming.”

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