Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
Mask as Symbol

Conventional wisdom and the balance of the public health community seems to have come round decisively in favor of masks as a key way to reduce transmission of COVID during the pandemic. In an interview with CNN, Anthony Fauci said that he wears a mask “when I’m in the public for the reasons that I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that’s the kind of thing you should be doing.”

This is a good opportunity to revisit the mask as symbol, which is distinct from its immediate public health value but of course related to it.

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What’s the Allure of Hydroxychloroquine?

There’s a growing body of clinical evidence that hydroxychloroquine (alone or with an accompanying antibiotic) not only has no therapeutic effect for COVID but can increase substantially the risk of death for those with advanced disease. President Trump has been pushing it for months, for reasons which are not altogether clear. What is weird and fascinating in its own right, however, is that what we might call hydroxy-mania seems to be a common feature of right-wing nationalism across the globe. The biggest example beside President Trump is his ally President Bolsonaro of Brazil, who similarly is presiding over an out-of-control epidemic with an extreme scarcity of testing.

But what could possibly be the connection between rightist-populist nationalism and this until-recently relatively obscure anti-malarial drug? Does the drug itself have some ideological valence? That can’t be the case.

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Woman Who Called Cops on Black Birder Fired

Franklin Templeton funds has now fired the woman at the center of that unleashed dog, police call viral video.

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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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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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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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