Editors’ Blog

Consuming Fox News May Be Harmful to Your Health

A new study produced by business school profs at Columbia and University of Chicago suggests that viewing Fox News is strongly correlated with ignoring social distancing guidance during the first weeks of the COVID19 epidemic and is in fact driving that non-compliance.

The researchers looked at geospatial data derived from anonymized cell phone data and cable channel position by ZIP code around the country. They found that a 1% increase in Fox News viewership in a zip code reduced social distancing by 8.9%.

The study abstract follows …

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Where Things Stand: The Bootlicking Continues
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has clearly recovered from the utterly devastating blow  President Trump dealt his ego last month.

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A Test of Masks in Missouri

TPM Reader JM fills in some key details on that COVID-infected hair stylist in Springfield, Missouri and what could be an interesting test in the efficacy of masking …

I read your post about the hair salon in Springfield, MO. I live in Springfield and would like to clarify what happened and why I think it could end up being significant.

First, the details you gave weren’t quite right. An initial stylist turned up sick and exposed 84 clients and 7 coworkers. While she was sick and working, she also visited a Walmart, a gym (3 times – must not have felt too bad!), and a couple of other places. Then a coworker of hers turned up sick and exposed 56 clients. Together, they exposed 147 people associated just with their place of employment. Luckily, the salon did everything right, including collecting contact information for each client, which made the job of contract tracing much easier for the health department.

Why I think this episode is so important:

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Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Karens

The backlash to this Karen’ing moment was fierce.

Voting Like Your Life Depends On It

Republicans are opening a new front in their battle to force Americans to vote in person in November no matter the danger from COVID infection. The Republican National Committee and other Republican groups are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom who announced plans to send absentee ballots to all California voters and encouraged voters to cast their ballots by mail. The RNC lawsuit, which follows other suits in other states encouraging voting by mail, is part of a broader push for Thunderdome voting in which voters are forced to choose between their health and their franchise.

Brazil Becomes A COVID Hot House

Yesterday the United States placed restrictions on travel from Brazil, which is rapidly emerging as a top global COVID hotspot. The country has now the second highest case could in the world with 363,211 cases, second only to the United States and just ahead of Russia. But if you look at the testing numbers, the situation looks even more ominous.

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Annals of COVID Hair Salons

“This scenario is well within our capacity of our staff to contact trace and hopefully contain. But, I’m going to be honest with you. We can’t have many more of these,” says Clay Goddard, Springfield-Greene County Health Department director. This comes after two potential spreading incidents in the Springfield, the more noteworthy of which is a hairstylist who worked while sick with COVID and exposed as many as 84 clients. (The other person went to gym and various local stores over about a week.

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Hydroxychloroquine Isn’t a Joke It’s a Scandal

Hydroxychloroquine and President Trump’s obsession with it has been something of a running joke during the COVID19 Crisis, to the extent jokes are possible in such a dismal climate. But I want to flag your attention to this new study published in The Lancet, which has dire findings about the impact of hydroxychloroquine and the hydroxychloroquine in combination with the class of antibiotics the President has repeatedly endorsed. Here’s the study and here’s a write-up of the study in The Washington Post. Let me start with an arresting quote: “for those receiving hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic — the cocktail endorsed by Trump — there was a 45 percent increased risk of death … ”

That is, to state the obvious, a very bad number.

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Are We On a Permanent COVID Plateau?

We’re getting a mix of information about the state of the COVID epidemic in the United States – much of it contradictory. I wanted to take a few moments to pick apart these seemingly contradictory realities which are happening at the same time.

The first fact is that the initial experiments with easing the strictures on social and economic life have not generated the spikes in new cases that some predicted. Georgia is the clearest case of this. Neighboring Florida is another. We don’t know yet why this is the case. Perhaps we need to wait longer to see the impact. Perhaps continuing mitigation efforts are more effective than anticipated. Perhaps there are cultural, social, epidemiological or even climatic factors that make these states less susceptible to the kinds of outbreaks we saw in New York and other urban centers in the North. But we’ve seen enough data to say with some confidence that the worst predictions are not coming to pass, or at least not quickly.

But there’s another reality that is worth considering. COVID cases across the United States remain notably stable. We may be past the apex but the top looks something like a plateau.

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Where Things Stand: The Defiance Strategy
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Today, he’s forcing the city of Baltimore to host him, against officials’ will.

Yesterday he refused to wear a mask for most of his tour of a Michigan Ford plants and can’t seem to stop himself from publicly feuding with female officials in the state.

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Welcome a New Member of Our Team

Today we’re excited to announce that we’re adding a new member to our team. Zoë Richards will be joining TPM next week as a Newswriter in our New York (for now virtual) office. Welcome, Zoe. And many thanks to all our members for your support.

Hedge Fund Chief Says It’s Time to Go For Herd Immunity
on July 9, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

One of the most remarkable dimensions of the COVID19 Crisis is the way the most garish or clownish versions of class division and privilege are pushed so aggressively to the fore. As we’ve discussed earlier, billionaires are eager to get back to work or rather eager to get you back to work. No less remarkable, they’re eager to talk to reporters or go on TV and make their argument. Now we have hedge fund chief Ricky Sandler, CEO of Eminence Capital, who has announced that America needs to get behind herd immunity. On a CNBC appearance yesterday he lamented “how the politicians and the media and the academic community and the scientific community have taken hold of this debate,” and announced it’s time to push on to herd immunity.

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We Need Your Support

A month ago we introduced the TPM Journalism Fund, a way to support TPM above and beyond the cost of your membership to allow us to add new reporters and investigative capacity. During the COVID19 Crisis it’s also a way to help us manage the severe downturn that is forcing retrenchments, layoffs and shutterings of whole news organizations across the USA. (Here’s detail on how it works.) Despite a 40% drop in advertising revenues we are doing none of those things. That is entirely because of you and your memberships and support. Operating remotely from apartments across New York City and Washington, DC our team continues to bring you the kind of smart and incisive independent journalism TPM has been known for for just shy of 20 years. So if and only if the COVID19 Crisis has left you financially able to do so please consider contributing to the TPM Journalism Fund.

If you’re not already a subscriber, now is a great time to subscribe. If you are a subscriber and you are able to do so, please upgrade (TPM Ad Free – it’s really great). And if and only if you are financially able to do so please consider contributing to the TPM Journalism Fund. (More here on the details and what the money goes toward.)

Thank. We welcome your feedback and we appreciate your support.

Unpacking The Mask Debate

As we discussed yesterday, the issue of mask wearing has become both politically charged in the US partisan political climate and a matter or real controversy among public health experts. There have also been hints, inferences from different countries’ mitigation strategies and some initial studies suggesting that mask wearing is not only effective but possibly more effective than even some advocates of their use anticipated.

Let me try to walk through some of the ins and outs of this debate.

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A Reopening Model

Imperial College London has a new report out looking at the COVID19 outlook in the United States and broken down by states. The main focus is on reopening and increased mobility and how this affects transmission rates. They are also clear that they don’t account for other behavioral modifications like mask wearing. So their predictions should be considered “pessimistic”.

Where Things Stand: Preemptive Plans To Memorialize Our Dead

We shouldn’t have to plan how to mourn this much loss.

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Wear Your Damn Mask

Very early in the crisis I was working on a post about masks before the US made its big shift in favor of masking. This was partly based on my own observations but I was also reading the commentary of the Turkish-American sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. The story seemed to be one of American but also really Western complacency and arrogance. The general wisdom seemed to be: ‘yes, they wear masks in Asia. It’s a good system of social signaling, demonstrating that you take the epidemic seriously. And certainly there’s no harm but masks don’t actually work.’

Then we decided masking does work.

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Where Things Stand: Raging Against His Own Machine
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

President Trump and many of his top officials all vote-by-mail.

But as we reported earlier this month, there’s a reason you would never know that.

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COVID Miscellany #3
A view of people enjoying the weather at Domino Park in Brooklyn during the coronavirus pandemic on May 16, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 308,000 lives with over 4.6 million infections reported. City limiting access in parts of Central Park, Hudson River Park and others to prevent crowds. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto)

Let me run through a few miscellaneous news items and updates from the COVID19 Crisis.

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Flynn Case Takes Another Twist

Mike Flynn is trying to get the judge removed from his case, among other new developments in what is shaping up as a major test of the judiciary’s ability not to get coopted in Trump’s politicization of the Barr Justice Department.

Where Things Stand: Desperate Appeasement
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

The World Health Organization just unanimously agreed it would conduct a “comprehensive evaluation” of its own response to the coronavirus pandemic that’s rocked the globe. The Associated Press reported that the vote was taken after a resolution was brought forward by European Union members and African nations. But you’d be remiss to assume that Trump’s latest Twitter tangent and funding threats didn’t have something to do with this decision.

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Looking at the Real Data on Lockdowns and Not-So-Lockdowns

If you’re trying to make sense of the ‘re-opening’ debate, here’s one resource that is worth looking at: Google’s COVID-19 Mobility Reports. This is just a slice of the oceans of data Google has at its corporate fingertips. Mainly it’s from geo-tracking data tied to your cellphones. In another conversation we can discuss the pros and cons of Google having access to this data and access to it as its own property. For now, it’s a valuable and fascinating resource for government officials and public health planners because it uses anonymized cellphone tracking data to produce very reliable and granular data on social and economic activity. As I said, Google has always had this and related data and it’s one of their core business assets. But they’ve made an edition of it available for the COVID19 Crisis.

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Where Things Stand: This Should Change The Narrative
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

But it probably won’t.

I wrote last week about my fascination with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s months-long crusade to use the media to pressure the secretary of state to run for Senate in Kansas. McConnell views Mike Pompeo as the ideal candidate: He has enough establishment support to unite the party in the key state that’s about to dive into a messy GOP primary over the open seat, where a top contender is polarizing, even in Republican circles.

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Trump’s Plan to Keep Stealing All the Money

I’ve seen, you’ve seen the flurry of articles over recent days about President Trump firing Inspectors General across the administration, with more firings to come. The story has provided another illustration of how supporters of good government and the rule of law struggle to explain the gravity of this corruption because they get tangled up in the verbiage of bureaucracy and process.

These IG firings are the latest part of Trump’s quest to make sure the law doesn’t apply to himself and his friends. He’s firing the overseers so he and his top associates can keep stealing government money and not get caught. It’s that simple. The fact that it might be illegal or be against norms – who cares!!!!???? The State Department Inspector had started investigating Mike Pompeo because he and his wife were making a government employee be his butler. It’s admittedly smalltime for Trump level corruption. But again, people shouldn’t get lost in this language. Trump is firing overseers to help steal more government money.

It’s stupid not to make this crystal clear.

Lockdowns and Reopenings Aren’t Just What They Seem
A view of people enjoying the weather at Domino Park in Brooklyn during the coronavirus pandemic on May 16, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 308,000 lives with over 4.6 million infections reported. City limiting access in parts of Central Park, Hudson River Park and others to prevent crowds. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto)

Throughout the COVID19 Crisis Sweden has been held out as the counterexample to policies pursued throughout Europe and North America: no lockdowns, accept a high death toll and push on to herd immunity. The picture has been mixed. Sweden has a dramatically higher death toll than neighboring Scandinavian countries to which it is geographically proximate and demographically similar. But it has still fared better than hard-hit countries like Italy, France and the United Kingdom, which eventually pushed hard lockdowns to stem the spread of COVID.

But the real story is buried down at the end of this recent article in the Times.

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A Zoom Funeral

I ‘attended’ my first Zoom funeral this week.

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A Note From New Zealand

TPM Reader CE checks in from New Zealand …

Just read your latest and was astounded to see that Slovenia has declared an end to their Covid epidemic. I’m not sure what sort of epidemeologists are advising their government, but at least from an animal health point of view I would never call that an “end” or “eradication”. They’re certainly in the elimination phase, but…

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Thinking about Risk and Reopening

One thing to consider when thinking about risk and infectious disease is the difference between individual and societal risk. Certain activities may have a very low level of risk across society. But are they possible sources of infection? Yes. Could they happen to you? Yes. Unlikely. But yes.

One thing that has been clear for a few weeks is that many of the big outbreaks outside of major cities have been in meat packing plants. That is probably in part because meat packing plants are some of the relatively few kinds of factories or workplaces that have remained open at full capacity. But it’s also in the nature of the plants themselves. (That’s likely why Amazon warehouses, which have been hit as well, haven’t been hit as badly as the meat packing plants.) People are bunched up together. There’s little regard for worker safety and quality of life. They’re natural places for spread.

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Where Things Stand: We’re Still Footing The Bill
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Just a reminder: President Trump is still profiting off the presidency.

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Soldiering On Through The Pandemic

A TPM member checks in from the retail sector. It’s tough out there. We all know that. But this story (name withheld because of the details about the member’s workplace) offers a measured snapshot of the difficult choices employees and managers in essential businesses have been facing for weeks. The member’s evenness, lack of anger or rancor, and perseverance in the face of the daily challenges the pandemic presents are admirable.

Hi you guys, I am a member and wanted to offer, if no one else has, some insight on what it is like working in a grocery store right now.

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