EDITORS' BLOG
As We Were Discussing …
Prime Membership Required

A brief follow up to yesterday’s post about the possibility of widespread immunity or resistance to COVID among those who have never been exposed to it. Carl Bergstrom – who is a professor at the University of Washington and a good Twitter follow for COVID – has an important caution or caveat on this hypothesis. If it’s true that say 50% of people started with COVID immunity, then that means that it’s dramatically more infectious than we thought.

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Where Things Stand: Early Speculation On Harris Senate Replacement
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Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) appointment as Joe Biden’s running mate represents a wealth of necessary firsts for our nation and is the culmination of months of political maneuvering from both Biden and Harris’ teams and the Democratic Party as a whole.

But why float in the breeze for a few hours after months of speculation when we can dive into a plethora of “what’s next?” inquiries. That is the media’s job after all.

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Joe Picks Kamala
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I wanted to share a few thoughts on the Kamala Harris pick.

My first thought is that as with much else about Biden it is – for this moment – a thoroughly conventional pick. She compensates for Biden’s relative lack of demographic match for the coalition that he leads. Biden is old, male and white. Harris is young (at least as presidenting goes), female and black. She also has a recent immigrant background from South Asia. Joe needs a lot of compensating and she provides a lot. Critically, she has run and won three statewide races in the largest state in the union, in addition to running a major presidential primary campaign. So few surprises.

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Jefferson and Hemings In the Light of History
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Last week we did our second Inside briefing since we came back from our COVID briefing hiatus. I spoke to Annette Gordon-Reed, one of the country’s preeminent Jefferson scholars and the author of two books about the Jefferson-Hemings family and the historical controversies surrounding it. Gordon-Reed is a professor at Harvard Law School and has a joint appointment in the History Department. Her 1997 book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy was the first major scholarly work to take the existence of Jefferson’s mixed race family seriously. It came out only about a year before the matter was settled conclusively by DNA evidence. Before then it wasn’t universally rejected by historians but was treated as either unknowable or unlikely, an ancient calumny that played little part in the Jefferson biographical tradition. I was eager to discuss this until-recently hidden or denied part of America’s past with Gordon-Reed and get her perspective on how we should see Jefferson in this era of iconoclasm that has accelerated in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

We’re publishing the discussion in its entirety for members. Watch after the jump.

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Understanding What We Don’t Know About COVID
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I’ve mentioned a number of times that we really don’t know the precise mix of factors that are making some states and countries disasters and allowing others to keep it in check. A critical component in all cases is where communities and governments are taking mitigation and containment seriously. But in New York, are we just doing a great job or is the initial outbreak – in which at least 20% of the city population was apparently infected – giving us some extra ability to keep case rates down?

New York City isn’t close to herd immunity by traditional definitions. But ‘herd immunity’ isn’t a binary thing – you don’t have it and then suddenly you do. It’s more like a friction that builds up incrementally in the process of community spread as more people cease to be capable of being vectors because they have immunity to the disease. The more people become infected the more friction there is until at one point the virus can’t effectually reproduce itself and fizzles out.

Clearly this factor is helping New York keep cases very low. But how much – whether it is a minor assist or a major factor – we don’t know.

That’s where a very interesting article from David Wallace-Wells comes in.

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Where Things Stand: This Could Get Really Dark
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It appears President Trump is attempting to take his war against immigrants to a new level, and he’s using COVID-19 as an excuse to do it.

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More On Schools
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Since it’s what I know most about and it’s the largest school district in the country, I’ve been focusing a lot on the school reopening issue in New York City. I want to encourage you to let me know what is happening in your communities whether you’re a parent, a teacher or just a concerned observer. I found this letter from a New York City school principal very enlightening. This person corrects some misunderstandings I had about the level of flexibility the city Department of Education is giving individual schools. They also make an interesting and compelling point about why many educators are eager to have at least some in-person instruction at the beginning of the year.

Here’s TPM Reader ANON … (and remember, let me know what is happening in your community.)

At last, a topic I can claim some expertise on, since I’m the principal of an NYC public school (you can google it and me, but I’d rather remain anonymous, since the DoE is know for retaliating against publicly critical statements, and a few are coming).

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More Than 200,000

It’s been months – ghastly months – since we made excess mortality data a central aspect of our coverage of the COVID Crisis. To review, this is epidemiologists’ and population statisticians’ way of looking at the total number of fatalities for all causes across society and comparing it to baseline trends in recent years. Josh Kovensky is back with a new report based on CDC-collected data which shows that the US has seen more than 200,000 fatalities normal so far this year.

Where Things Stand: VP Watch
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The former VP has kept us waiting for some time. We’re expecting to know sometime this week who his vice president will be.

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Some Thoughts on Schools
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We’re in line for a rash of morality tales emerging out of school re-openings around the country. That high school in Georgia that had the viral photo of kids crowded into a hallway between classes has now reported at least 9 new cases – students and teachers – and is at least temporarily moving to remote instruction.

These stories also provide new evidence of how little emerging science is figuring into decisions on the school reopening question. North Paulding High School is moving to remote instruction today and tomorrow during which time the facility will be closed for cleaning and disinfection. The problem is that most of what we’ve learned over the last eight months tells us that this sort of cleaning addresses what is likely only a minor or even trivial source of infection. COVID virus can persist on surfaces for significant periods of time, at least in laboratory settings. But surfaces contaminated hours or days earlier appear to account for very little disease transmission.

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Ep. 132: The Tortoise and the Harris
Ep. 132: The Tortoise and the Harris
Josh, Kate, and David talk about Joe Biden’s lengthy process to settle on the ultimately most predictable — though historic — vice presidential choice....
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