Thanksgiving Will Go On – EOH 11/20/20

Though it has no official authority to cancel Thanksgiving, the CDC is urging Americans not to travel home for Thanksgiving this year, in the name of the public health and safety of course. As politicians and other bureaucrats issue new rules, it’s likely many Americans will celebrate the holidays with or without their approval.

In other news:

  • In New York, several sheriffs publicly announced they will not enforce Governor Cuomo’s limits on social gatherings.
  • A massive Danish study on mask usage found no statistically significant difference in coronavirus infection rates between mask-wearers and non-mask-wearers. 
  • AIER put together an excellent series of graphs summarizing the costs of the lockdown on mental health, the economy, unemployment, education, healthcare, and crime.
  • Berlin police used water cannons to disperse anti-lockdown demonstrators.

Interested in becoming knowledgeable on COVID? Become a premium member. Our premium members get special access to our personal data dashboards and analysis.

Want to support our work? Visit our Substack page and leave us a tip.

On Rational Ground for our premium members, our data analyses will always be available to you. Interested in becoming a COVID expert? Become a premium member.

Additionally, we just released an update on how COVID-19 is playing out on university campuses.

COVID News

C.D.C. Urges Americans to Avoid Thanksgiving Travel

As the United States struggles with surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday urged Americans not to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday and to consider canceling plans to spend time with relatives outside their households.

The new guidance states clearly that “the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” and that gathering with friends and even family members who do not live with you increases the chances of becoming infected with Covid-19 or the flu or transmitting the virus.

Some N.Y. sheriffs refuse to enforce Cuomo’s limit on Thanksgiving gatherings

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/some-new-york-sheriffs-say-they-ll-refuse-enforce-gov-n1248051

After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that indoor gatherings at private residences must be limited to 10 people, a handful of sheriffs across the state have said they won’t enforce the order.

The holiday season — including Thanksgiving next week — dangerously coincides with a resurgence of Covid-19 cases throughout the state, a dire situation that Cuomo said Monday can be alleviated through the “smart behavior of New Yorkers” and by local governments’ enforcing Covid-19 restrictions.

However, in recent days, sheriffs in some upstate counties have come out against the order, saying they won’t use police resources to enforce the 10-person cap on Thanksgiving gatherings at private residences.

“Who and how many people you invite [into] your home is your business,” Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino wrote in a viral Facebook post Sunday, adding that he’ll leave it up to the people in his county to make the right decisions on their own and that entering homes to “see how many Turkey or Tofu eaters are present” isn’t a priority for his office.

“The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office will NOT be enforcing it against our County residents,” he wrote.

Commentary/Analysis

The Human Studies Cited by the CDC’s Recent Scientific Brief do not Support Community Masking

On November 10, the CDC published a Scientific Brief arguing the efficacy of cloth masks to control the spread of COVID. The brief was divided into three parts: source control (exhaling), personal protection (inhaling), and mask studies. Megan Mansell at RationalGround addressed the first two parts.  Here, I’ll address the mask studies.

The mask study section of the brief opens by citing an anecdotal study where two mask-wearing COVID-infected hair stylists saw 139 clients (an estimated 136 wore masks), and none of the 67 clients who agreed to be tested were found to be COVID-positive. To even entertain the thought of using such an anecdote to argue for masking hundreds of millions of people is bizarre–more so after seeing that the study offered no details about the physical environment where the hair styling took place.  

Moreover, no statistics regarding general hair stylist-to-client transmission rates or even estimations of such rates are discussed, leaving the unanswered question: what do researchers believe would have been the expected transmission rate without masks? Finally, more than half of the exposed clients were not tested for COVID, and 35 of those were not even contacted. This leaves open the possibility that there were infections, but the infected people chose not to respond to health officials. All in all, it is an interesting occurrence but not worthy of influencing the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

When Trump Was Right and Many Democrats Wrong

Some things are true even though President Trump says them.

Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.

Yet America is shutting schools — New York City announced Wednesday that it was closing schools in the nation’s largest school district — even as it allows businesses like restaurants and bars to operate. What are our priorities?

“I have taught at the same low-income school for the last 25 years, and, truly, I can attest that remote schooling is failing our children,” said LaShondra Taylor, an English teacher in Broward County, Fla.

Some students don’t have a computer or don’t have Wi-Fi, Taylor said. Kids regularly miss classes because they have to babysit, or run errands, or earn money for their struggling families.”

Research

Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearer

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817

Abstract:

Background:

Observational evidence suggests that mask wearing mitigates transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is uncertain if this observed association arises through protection of uninfected wearers (protective effect), via reduced transmission from infected mask wearers (source control), or both.

Objective:

To assess whether recommending surgical mask use outside the home reduces wearers’ risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection in a setting where masks were uncommon and not among recommended public health measures.

Design:

Randomized controlled trial (DANMASK-19 [Danish Study to Assess Face Masks for the Protection Against COVID-19 Infection]). (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04337541)

Setting:

Denmark, April and May 2020.

Participants:

Adults spending more than 3 hours per day outside the home without occupational mask use.

Intervention:

Encouragement to follow social distancing measures for coronavirus disease 2019, plus either no mask recommendation or a recommendation to wear a mask when outside the home among other persons together with a supply of 50 surgical masks and instructions for proper use.

Measurements:

The primary outcome was SARS-CoV-2 infection in the mask wearer at 1 month by antibody testing, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or hospital diagnosis. The secondary outcome was PCR positivity for other respiratory viruses.

Results:

A total of 3030 participants were randomly assigned to the recommendation to wear masks, and 2994 were assigned to control; 4862 completed the study. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 occurred in 42 participants recommended masks (1.8%) and 53 control participants (2.1%). The between-group difference was −0.3 percentage point (95% CI, −1.2 to 0.4 percentage point; P = 0.38) (odds ratio, 0.82 [CI, 0.54 to 1.23]; P = 0.33). Multiple imputation accounting for loss to follow-up yielded similar results. Although the difference observed was not statistically significant, the 95% CIs are compatible with a 46% reduction to a 23% increase in infection.

Limitation:

Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.

Conclusion:

The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use. The data were compatible with lesser degrees of self-protection.

Charts and Graphics

Cost of Lockdowns: A Preliminary Report

Mental Health

The Economy
Unemployment
Education
Healthcare
Crime
Food and Hospitality

International News

Berlin Police Disperse Anti-Lockdown Protesters With Water Cannons

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/11/18/936184870/berlin-police-disperse-anti-lockdown-protesters-with-water-cannons

Police in Berlin used water cannons Wednesday to disperse thousands of protesters who refused to wear masks and keep their distance from one another as required by pandemic regulations.

Protesters had gathered at the city’s landmark Brandenburg Gate as German lawmakers debated a bill that will provide the legal underpinning for the government to issue social distancing rules, require masks in public and close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

After repeated warnings to leave the area, police fired water cannons while officers in riot gear moved through the crowd to carry away protesters who refused to leave.

Most Germans support their country’s coronavirus restrictions, which include a federal lockdown that will last through the end of November, but a vocal minority has staged regular rallies around the country arguing the measures are unconstitutional.