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Link Roundup, 6/20/2020

Link Roundup, 6/20/2020

It’s been a very busy week, requiring a long-form version of the roundup.

Stocks dipped again on Friday after one the strongest, fastest rallies in history. That rally has been fueled by the Fed’s decision to nationalize the equity markets in the same way be nationalized the mortgage industry over a decade ago. The Fed is now buying corporate bonds and stocks to prop up prices. The socialization of the stock market has fed a giant feeding frenzy of corporate debt and a bubble in stock prices, promising to worsen the reckoning on the horizon.

The Administration insists on hiding the identities of almost 75% of the recipients of PPP aid.

India’s fascist leader is trying to stir up a military conflict with China in the remote Galwan Valley.

AG Bill Barr claimed on Friday that the powerful Assistant AG for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, had stepped down. Berman, whose office is leading numerous investigations into Trump family members and friends, then clarified that he had not resigned, and would not be leaving until the Senate approved a replacement. Rep. Nadler is inviting Berman to testify to Congress next week.

Houston metro-area hospitals are running at 90% of their normal ICU capacity thanks to a recent surge of C19 cases. However, a fun fact helps explain this problem. The hospital system operates at roughly 80% of its normal capacity in the best of times. One of the reasons C19 has been so deadly in the US compared to places like Germany, is that we’ll overwhelm our capacity to cope with it with a minor surge in cases.

Houston hospital capacity dashboard published by SETRAC.

That minor surge is already building, as C19 cases in Texas metro areas moved into exponential growth last week and initial hospitalizations rose to record levels. New cases in Houston are up 61%. The rise in hospitalizations that lags behind the infection rate is pretty well built-in at this point, and looks certain to push Texas cities to use their surge capacity for ICUs. If case growth isn’t brought under control within about ten days, Texas will start to experience fatality rates similar to Italy and New York City back in March and April.

Texas’ state leaders continue to issue confusing, contradictory, and occasionally downright stupid C19 instructions as they scramble to avoid alienating the idiots in their political base.

As the StormTrumpers gather for their trailer park Nuremberg in Tulsa, the county hit a record for daily new C19 cases.

Oregon is landing on the list of states where C19 cases are growing fastest thanks in large part to the antics of one rural Pentecostal church. More than 200 new cases of C19 have been linked to services at Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church in Union County.

The NCAA is still planning to go ahead with college football this fall, with only modest accommodations for the pandemic.

As many schools welcome kids back for team workouts, the stupidity of this plan is becoming apparent. 13 students on the University of Texas football team have tested positive. 23 at Clemson. Students in the football program at UCLA, recognizing the nature of the business, are demanding a third-party health official be appointed to supervise football activities and protect players.

Players are right to be concerned. Though younger people are less likely to die from C19, researchers are documenting more and more cases of long-term, chronic illness among young patients with mild symptoms. Lung scarring, immune disorders, strokes and neurological impairment seem to be part of a complex of long-term impacts emerging from even milder cases. A disturbing number patients simply aren’t “recovering” by the conventional definition, suggesting that C19 may be a chronic, persistent condition more like Lyme Disease or herpes than the flu.

“Protestors” in San Francisco, suffering from an absence of Confederate monuments, tore down statues of Ulysses S. Grant and tagged a bust of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Cities like Portland and San Francisco should solve this problem by setting up a statue of Stonewall Jackson on an easy-topple hinge, so the kids can take selfies of themselves destroying something we don’t care about. Should probably put it next to the skate park.

Images from the activist promoting the spectacle.

Catherine Damen-Young and Julie Maxey host a podcast called The Counselors. They’re friends from my hometown who grew up in the same evangelical church where I was raised. On this week’s episode they shared their stories of coming out to family and friends. If I was any prouder of them, my heart would pop like a balloon. Happy Pride Month.

The Counselors: We Carpooled, Guys


  1. So I think it’s safe to say that TX, FL, and AZ have reached escape velocity in their exponential phase. What their idiot governors don’t understand is that, thanks to the incubation period, what you see in case numbers is always 2-4 weeks behind what is actually happening. They were loudly proclaiming that their Memorial Day openings didn’t affect them, not realizing the virus was merely incubating and spreading for the first few weeks. And the same is true now: as horrific as the numbers are starting to appear (TX just announced a jump to >5k new cases yesterday, and their positive testing rate has jumped from 5% to 9% of all tests), they only represent what happened 2-4 weeks ago, not where the disease is today. This means that even if the state were to go on lockdown right this minute, their peak won’t come for another 2-4 weeks. And this is where exponential growth becomes the scariest term in the English language.

    To truly understand how bad unchecked exponential growth in an epidemic can be, let’s take NYC. The first location to be completely locked down was New Rochelle, a suburb of NYC. That happened on March 12, when NYC itself only had 154 cases (cumulative; newly reported cases were ~60 that day). That was the start of the quarantine initiation. On March 22nd, Cuomo issued the shelter-in-place order which completed the quarantine process resulting in a citywide lockdown. On that day, NYC reported ~3k new cases. The peak in NYC occurred around Apr 8 (actually more of a plateau around that week) with daily cases of ~6k.

    IOW, case numbers doubled *after* the lockdown was in place, then stayed there for 7-10 days before gradually coming down. For Texas, it’s even worse than that. Texas is already at >5k and they haven’t started *any* quarantine procedures. IOW, they’re not on the March 22nd timeline, they’re on the March 11 timeline. From March 12 to March 22, the daily case rate in NYC exploded from 60 to >3,000.

    For all the adoration that’s been given Cuomo for his handling of the Covid crisis, people brush aside his first, and biggest mistake: delaying the issuance of a shelter-in-place order by 5 days (DeBlasio was asking for it on March 17, and Cuomo refused until March 22). That delay of just 5 days, compared to e.g. the Bay Area which issued a shelter-in-place order 1 week earlier in their outbreak timeline, is the reason NYC became the disaster it was, while NorCal avoided the same fate (at least until now).

    When you’re talking exponential growth, days — even hours — matter in the timeline. Without quarantine, NYC went from 60 cases / day to 3,000 in 10 days. An additional day would likely have doubled the final peak to 12k and completely overwhelmed their health system leading to staggering mortality rates. TX / FL / AZ are now at 4-5k / day and they haven’t even started their quarantine again. Forget 1 week. With exponential growth, Houston may overrun their ICUs in just a few days, and *then* deal with double the cases whenever the new quarantine starts. Starting from a base of 5k cases/day, exponential growth for 2-4 weeks (assuming that’s how long it takes for these governors to come to their senses) can easily hit 10-20k/cases a day, at which point, it’s not ICUs that will be overrun, but morgues and cemeteries.

    I hate to sound alarmist, but I know you have a lot of readers in Houston, Chris, and for those people, I’d say… really consider what precautions you can take to protect you and your family, upto and including temporarily leaving the area. There’s a very good chance we’re about to see an entire city / state become infected, and that’s a best-case scenario based on *if* Abbott issues a lockdown order in the next couple of days. Please, please stay safe.

  2. Thanks for these updates, Chris. It’s truly interesting times to live in.

    Re: Red states deciding to immolate themselves with Covid in order to keep tattoo parlors open. It recalls those politicians in the so-called Third World who refuse polio vaccinations or AIDS treatments because they think it’s a giant Western conspiracy. We used to shake our heads about those so-called uneducated or corrupt leaders having such loony and obviously deadly ideas. Now they’re the ones shaking their heads and wondering the same about us Americans.

    Re: Texas specifically. NYC actually did not run out of ICU beds. Thanks to politicians and health officials who took Covid seriously, facilities were expanded massively (such as the Javits center being converted to a several thousand bed hospital, and Cuomo basically begging for medical professionals to help, while doing everything in his power to secure more ventilators). Sure, a lot of it was makeshift stuff and not 100% equal to real hospital facilities, but those facilities and extensive coordination of triage across multiple hospital systems throughout the city and state, facilitated by a responsive government, meant that the cases never overflowed NYC’s capacity. I have friends in the medical profession in NYC and they estimated that they were maybe 1 week away from hitting their limits before, thankfully, the cases started to decline.

    What that means is that, when a city or state overruns its bed capacity, the mortality rates will be much higher than NYC. Given that in Texas, no politician is lifting a finger to expand hospital capacity or secure ventilators, or supplies, or personnel, or any of the other things that NY’s politicians did, when they hit their existing capacity limits, they will hit it hard. And since they’re also not trying to reduce the cases, they are very likely to hit and then blow right past those limits in a big way. Right now, it’s a race between TX, FL, and AZ to see who hits those limits first.

    The only silver lining for those states, as macabre as it sounds, is that ICU care may not be all that useful anyway. My friends on the frontlines in NYC and New Orleans were estimating that if you needed to be transferred to the ICU, your chance of dying was around 80% regardless of what they did. Hopefully, with a few more months of experience, perhaps the success rates are higher now, but this is truly a disease that is beyond the flu, with new short/medium/long-term effects being documented every day. And TX, FL, and AZ are about to give us a lot of data on the natural history of this disease, untouched by medical help…

    1. Let’s suspend reality for a moment and believe the election will be fair. TX and AZ are not in play, but FLA is a swing state, and critical for the Dem’s to take to beat the tyrant.

      When people start dying in hospital hallways, or at home, who do you think it will be? Some rich white guy with all kinds of cash and influence, or some black guy who pushes a mop? And who does that black guy vote for?

      I seem to remember in a distant past a presidency being decided on something like 80 votes in Florida. This is just another successful move by the fascists to secure the regime.

    2. @WX Wall: Looks like AZ will be the first to achieve that sordid distinction. They’re nearly scraping the bottom of the barrel on ICU beds (less than 300 available as of rn: as is.

      Which makes it the perfect time for Trump to come down and hold a student rally in Phoenix; because of course he is.

      On a more somber note, a recent interview by disease expert Michael Osterholm from Minnesota relayed a chilling theory. Our utter failure to contain COVID-19 may well have forfeited any lull that could’ve come before a 2nd or 3rd wave. We could be looking at having to endure a relentless siege from this pandemic for goodness knows how long and with who knows how many hundreds of thousands of lives lost as a result.

      1. Those Arizona numbers are scary not just because of the absolute number of spare ICU beds, but the percentage of beds already occupied by covid patients.

        The Texas tracker that Chris linked to shows 1966 beds used, and of them, Covid patients accounting for 519. 519/1966 = 26% of ICU beds being used for Covid.

        In contrast, Arizona’s equivalent numbers are 546/1405 = 39%.

        This is important, because upto a point, doctors can adjust ICU bed usage, e.g. by cancelling elective cases, transferring people out a day earlier than they might have, etc. But only to a point: there are still heart attacks, car accidents, etc. that need to be treated. My best, somewhat educated guess, is that 50% is the minimum number of ICU beds needed for emergent, non-Covid patients. You can’t cut further without significant endangering people’s lives. But the truth is, we don’t really know what that number truly is, because we’ve never faced a situation in the modern era where we’ve had to prepare for our health system to be overrun. The only times we’ve come close is during natural disasters and attacks like 9/11, but those were always temporary and cleared within weeks. For short durations like that, we can open up a lot of spare capacity. But that’s a lot different than needing spare capacity for months. How long can you delay cancer treatment, or heart bypasses? I guess we’re about to find out. Either way, the percentages mean Texas has more wiggle room than Arizona.

    3. “red states deciding to immolate themselves with Covid in order to keep tattoo parlors open. It recalls those politicians in the so-called Third World who refuse polio vaccinations or AIDS treatments because they think it’s a giant Western conspiracy. We used to shake our heads about those so-called uneducated or corrupt leaders having such loony and obviously deadly ideas. Now they’re the ones shaking their heads and wondering the same about us Americans.”

      Stupid and bad people always exist; smart and good people always exist. Stupid but good people and smart but bad people too.

      All that changes outcomes is how much power the system gives the stupid or the bad. Republicans have been steadfastly tearing down all systemic filters against malevolence and dumbfuckery for years, and Democrats have been too busy trying to regulate away the symptoms to focus on barricading the system.

      This is why I say we, collectively as a nation, are only receiving the outcome we chose. It’s not a stroke of bad fate that the US accounts for 1/4 of COVID’s impact, it’s our decision. And people can individually be like “Well I tried preventing things from happening!” but they not only didn’t prevent the specific failures from happening, they prevented creating a system that could learn from the failures and adapt for the next one, so they’re responsible too. The US will have a lot of COVID-19 like total systemic shocks over the next twenty years, probably without much breathing room between.

      Now all that’s left is taking account of who in your life and what parts of your livelihood and lifestyle you want to save, and focusing in like an eagle’s eye on supporting those communities at expense of all others; and, having the humility and ability to grieve effectively of letting go the things that end up not surviving, which could be as little as your neighborhood coffee shops and as much as, well, democratic systems based on the premise of individual agency as a whole.

      But nobody is going to save either the big things or the small things by following every anti-immigrant executive order 45 practically addressed directly to the Supreme Court to shut down. That route will get you infected by COVID-19. The only way you’re going to save the neighborhood coffee shop and democracy as a system of governance is by sewing masks for your loved ones and pouring your savings from not driving anywhere into businesses, food banks, and charities operating within 50 miles of your domecile. In the end the fate of the world hinges on your relationship with your neighbors.

      The rest of the nation, not to mention the world, will have to save itself.

  3. Well the “trailer park Nuremberg” in Tulsa was a disaster for Trump – I expect he will be furious, probably at Brad Pascale – here is an image from The Guardian of him looking over the crows as it was waiting to enter the arena:

    I give him a week at most, but who knows with this crazy campaign Trump is running, and he has a self inflicted problem of nobody really wanting to work for him – especially if the campaign manager job is seen as taking the blame for everything then losing big time at the end – which must at least be in the back of the mind of any sane person. Thus, Brad will get canned and probably a more insane clown will take over – maybe Jared? Or Trump will become his own campaign manager (i.e. there will be nobody in the role at all).

    Tuesday in Arizona is going to be interesting. I’m sure they are going full out to build the crown, but Arizona is currently #1 in America for COVID-19 growth – and it isn’t even close – as of typing this, here is your top 10 7-day growth numbers by state:

    1: Arizona 7.1%
    2: South Carolina 5.1%
    3: Florida 4.5%
    4: Arkansas 4.3%
    5: Texas 4.2%
    6: Utah 3.8%
    7: Oklahoma 3.6%
    8: Nevada 3.5%
    9: Idaho 3.5%
    10: Missouri 3.3%

    Anybody not noticing that there is a bit of a “red state” tint to this list should cross of “Detective” in their list of potential careers, and maybe look up the translation of Covidiotas (good one Joseph).

    Arizona is growing at about twice the rate of Oklahoma, and I strongly suspect that the risk of infection kept the numbers low on Saturday – and the venue for Arizona is the Dream City Church in greater Phoenix. The numbers for Mariposa County ( hardly recommend it currently as an entertainment destination (I used to take my young family nearby for Spring Break back in the day and loved the place).

    BTW, the Church had no idea it was going to be used for a “trailer park Nuremberg” – the facility was rented by “Turning Point Action” for a “student event”. Could it be that even trying to rent a place by “Donald J. Trump for President” is running into push back from the local communities?

    BTW here are the lowest growing 10 states (inc. DC):

    42: Michigan 0.6%
    43: Vermont 0.5%
    44: Pennsylvania 0.5%
    45: Illinois 0.5%
    46: District of Columbia 0.4%
    47: New York 0.2%
    48: Massachusetts 0.2%
    49: Connecticut 0.2%
    50: New Jersey 0.2%
    51: Rhode Island 0.2%

    Again, it doesn’t take a Detective to notice some similarities in the political make-up of these states.

    1. “I expect he will be furious, probably at Brad Pascale”

      If 45 fires Brad Parscale, that will be a significant victory for those hoping 45 fails to get re-elected.

      Parscale is one of the few 45 enablers who really knows what he’s doing and mostly does it very effectively. He’s one of the few 45 enablers that people consistently underestimate, which is funny because people keep arguing that we’re underestimating the political skills and 4D chessplay of 45 and his other enablers, but they rarely grant Parscale the same qualities. It’s ironic.

      Parscale knows that there’s no winning ‘strategy’ for a campaign, so he packs and cracks demographics down to the smallest possible direct messaging and then A/B tests the shit out of them, rolls with what works regardless of WHY or HOW it works, and pounds it in. It’s super effective and most of the political class and their watchers don’t recognize it for the same reason advertising agencies are really struggling to remain relevant in these modern days of Internet advertising: because old school campaigners believe that there’s supposed to be A (singular) Brand (cohesive) that Brings (consumer-to-retail) People (a target audience) In (call-to-action). It assumes an active recipient who intends to go do something.

      It’s exactly, fractally, the opposite. Internet advertising is a feed (plural) of campaigns (regardless of internal contradictions) that target (retail-to-consumer) networks (subset collections of data-derived adjacent nodes) to accept (press the final button to send the purchase, follow the ‘brand’, vote for or choose not to vote, or whatever). It assumes a passive recipient who won’t choose or doesn’t have the technological knowhow to opt out.

      Getting rid of Parscale would be great for getting 45 out of office.

  4. Much of the U.S. is a failed state. I have said it before. By any definition, numerous states qualify as such. Kentucky is down to 200 polls, from 3700. I thought was a typo. The same thing will be applied in any states with governors and apparatus run by the fascists. Those that cling to this fantasy of a “fair” election are doing all the worst kind of disservice.

    Yes Covid is spiking, as predicted by everybody. And it will continue, because the states that have reopened will stay reopened. I read what desantis said tonight. Utterly irrelevant. He is not going to reimpose significant closures, because no one will listen.

    1% dead when this is all over is still my number.

    1. Oh, and the UK, the one that got battered with a ton of deaths per capita? Yeah, that one.
      It was announced that they are doing away with the 2m social distancing rule because the hospitality industry is in ruins and can’t be profitable because of that rule.

      This is inevitable all over, especially if a vaccine (if one is possible) takes even a normal time to be developed and distributed.

  5. “…suggesting that C19 may be a chronic, persistent condition more like Lyme Disease or herpes than the flu.”

    That’s one of the scariest aspects of this. This is also why you what to avoid infection for as long as possible. The more that the scientists and doctors know about this virus and what it does, the better your prospects for treatment.

  6. A propos several of the comments in this post, I want to alert you to a Spanish word that has been coined here in Costa Rica: Covidiotas. It translates quite easily into English, but if you can’t quite figure it out, here’s a sample sentence: Trump and his followers are Covidiots.

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