22. Biweekly Update: Is the U.S. a Third-World Nation?

(7/22/20) The provocative title is impelled by comparing the U.S. response to Covid-19 to other countries around the world. Within the U.S. certain populous states dominate this malady. And it traces back to the level of bad counties exemplified by what’s going on in California.

[Please also see Daily Rumblings – II for contemporary and interesting news]

I have had a good run with this blog with about 4,000 visitors and nearly 15,000 views, but hardly anything remotely approaching a podium. My original mission was to provide the best forecasting tool for cases (prevalence), new cases (incidence) and most particularly deaths and that has been reasonably achieved, but I can’t keep up with the now many refined models run by large teams. However, there is still enough mystery and misunderstanding of reported data and news, with perhaps a dash of alternative facts thrown in to further cloud reality and make me want to keep my voice alive.

However, I’m departing from my sober and dispassionate delivery for two reasons, one is I probably bored quite a few people and two my tongue is totally mangled by biting it so often. So, from now on, with a much less bloodied tongue firmly planted in cheek and perhaps fortified with a little bourbon, I’m allowing a little snarkiness to override some of my better sense!

Let me first apologize that I may not be able to access as much data as before. Unfortunately, the Administration doesn’t think the decades of experience of scientists, medical experts and statisticians at the CDC is sufficient to handle all the data coming in from the states and has now decreed that the Administration will handle it from here on it. As far as I can tell the state boards are now being instructed to send all data to Jared Kushner so he can put it on his iPad and do his magic before making it available to the public. (Damn that’s good bourbon!)

International

Some countries learn their lessons and some don’t. While the world was in shock when Covid-19 blind-sided the early hot spots in Europe, we now look at how well they have recovered. The plots below are for the hottest of the hot spots, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium (we save the U.K. for shortly). This is how to take control of a pandemic that is ravaging the population and economy. The exponential growth of the epidemic is quite obvious and occurs in a matter of days. These nations got a grip on things and saw a peak in the death rate within a month of the initial outbreak. Outstandingly, they maintained their grip and drove the death rate right into the ground. No premature social easing. No lame political statements about revving up the economy.

Death rate plots for the major European pandemic countries showing how effectively they purged the problem. The Gaussian dotted line is to help visualize the recovery and shows the asymmetry to the rise and fall of the death rate. The spikes for some countries are one-time readjustments to the data.

Elsewhere around the world things are different particularly for less wealthy nations. You can see in the Figures below that Iran is backtracking and Brazil doesn’t seem to care and their death rates are now out of control. There are many other bad performers but I don’t have time to plot them all. These two countries exemplify what is bad. Sadly, Iran looked at first to be one of the good performers. The President and their Health Minister are now saying that upwards of 25-50% of the population may be(come) infected. The failure to lock down is due to not wanting to further damage their already feeble sanction-restricted economy. As for Brazil, if President Bolsonario, two Ministers, and a half dozen other high-ranking officials getting Covid-19 doesn’t spur any action, there is just no hope.

Death rate plots for two countries that are doing little to stem the epidemic.

Now let’s look at the U.S. and U.K. as they were the last of the first wave of nations to acknowledge the problem and consequently were hit hard. The U.K. was even later than the U.S. to enact any action and it took Boris Johnson to catch Covid-19 and almost die to ring a bell. Now the U.K is doing better than the U.S. The U.S. death rate is now rising again, in keeping with the leadership character of a third-world nation.

Death rate plots for the U.S. and U.K. who were the last modern countries to acknowledge the seriousness of Covid-19.

So how is the world doing? Pretty bad as you can see from the worldwide death rate plot below, which continues to go up due to the inability of third-world nations to cope and to …… the U.S, which has the highest total deaths in the world and second highest death rate among nations. The sorry fact is that the U.S. is the only modern country behaving like a third-world nation. Why do we say that? Look at the table below for deaths per week per capita. Only Brazil exceeds us. The U.S. accounts for 25% of all world deaths despite having only 4% of world population.

Death rate plot for the world showing new global outbreaks.
Table showing per capita death rates for countries around the world.

Domestically

We have reported before on the domestic situation in Daily Rumblings – II and those commentaries are still current and worth reading. That will save me a lot of effort re-stating them. So instead I’d like to keep to the theme of those governments (nations or states) that are or are not serious. Again, it seems that those populations that were heavily hit (and I mean >10x the per capita death rate per day than CA has yet to see) have found religion and have mostly suppressed the epidemic in their states. Below are the results for the much-publicized cases of NY and NJ, representing the two highest per capita death tolls in the world among major populations. But the same story applies to all of New England, which was almost as heavily hit. They answered the challenge.

Death rate plots for the states of NY and NJ that are showing fortitude in recovering from the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks.

However, there are over 40 states for which cases and/or hospitalizations are increasing. We have all read about Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, just to name some of the more populous states. The death rates for most of these states look like Brazil above in having avoided most of the early outbreak, but now realizing they are not immune to the virus and were caught flatfooted. Crazy that with so much evidence from other states and countries how can these politicians think there must be something different about their populations and that they didn’t need to act. And flatfooted they remain. CA is an exception in having stemmed the early tide of outbreaks, but then relaxed too soon and when it became necessary to tighten up again, the population just doesn’t care. So, CA reached a peak started to decline and is now surging again. Beginning to look like Iran! Louisiana also looked to have gotten the outbreak under control, but is now facing a new surge. The death rate Figures are below.

Death rate plots for LA and CA, two of many states that are relapsing into new outbreaks.

Southern California

I only follow Los Angeles and Orange County, but they are a microcosm of what is going on in CA. The hospitalization and death rates for LA and OC are plotted in the Figures below.

(Left) Hospitalizations and (Right) death rates for Los Angeles county
(Left) Hospitalizations and (Right) death rates for Orange county.

The obvious trend is a steep increase in hospitalizations particularly for OC over the last few weeks. This is matched by an increase in death rate generally lagging a week or two from the number of hospitalized patients. If you go back two weeks ago below in Daily Rumblings – II, I predicted these new death rate surges in LA and OC based on the surge in hospitalizations. Hopefully things will change particularly since I have noticed that people in OC have gone from asking whether you know anyone who has had Covid-19 to probably everyone knowing at least a half dozen infected people and soon it will be knowing people who have died. Hopefully that will be a wake-up call. Of course, it might be too late by then.

8 thoughts on “22. Biweekly Update: Is the U.S. a Third-World Nation?”

  1. Trying to politicize the trajectories of the pandemic is quite unscientific at best, and disingenuous in the absolute. It is easy to cherry-pick certain time periods and point fingers at certain political figures.

    Let’s not forget what happened in the NY and NJ tragedies earlier on. Along with Michigan and some other liberal states. Back then it was the more conservative states that were doing much better, and major “conservative” counties such as Orange County, CA were doing quite well also, while more “liberal” ones like LA County were far worse off.

    It is true, with the exception of liberal CA and a handful of other liberal states, that the situation has somewhat flip-flopped of late. But my point is that a fair and balanced, apolitical assessment requires examination of the entirety of the situation, not just some selected portion of it that happens to fit one’s political narrative.

    Regardless of one’s political leanings, here is an observation that, due to its nearly complete absence, seems to get overlooked just about everywhere by the media as a whole. There seems to have been a near-complete failure at all levels of govt (at least at the federal and state levels) to better educate and motivate the public to follow CDC guidelines. Yes, the Presidential Coronavirus Task Force has been on TV on and off over the past 4 – 5 months, and many governors have had their own televised press conferences regularly. They have all exhorted the viewers to follow the CDC guidelines.

    So, why are so many people STILL not following the guidelines? This primarily includes the mask-averse, non-social distancing, unwashed hands crowd, primarily. Well, who in their right mind thinks that a politician’s news conference is going to win the hearts and minds of these scofflaws? Most of us remember the well-done TV and periodical public service campaigns to wear seat belts, stop smoking, prevent forest fires (Smokey the Bear), and others.

    But, where are the PSA’s showing covid-19 victims suffering and dying, like the people suffering from smoking-induced throat cancer, or pictures of devastated burned-down forests, or badly mauled non-seat belt wearing traffic accident victims? Those successful campaigns relied on the creativity and cleverness of bastions like Hollywood to generate convincing PSA’s that really worked. People changed their deadly habits as a result. We need that capability and strategy aimed now to the coronavirus scofflaws. The creators should be able to make it seem uncool to be ignoring the CDC guidelines, especially among the millennial’s and other younger age groups

    Here in CA, home of Hollywood, and a liberal governor with connections to it, and with the 5th largest economy in the world if it were a nation, where are those PSA’s? Who actually watches, or even listens to, a rather boring and uninspiring governor drone on about the virus and whose only hat trick is forcefully closing businesses and public spaces? Certainly not the millennial’s. This is an utter failure at the state level to demonstrate any type of ingenuity at all to change hearts and minds.

    Now, to maintain political neutrality, we can’t put all the “blame” at the foot of the CA governor, despite the vast creative tools at his disposal. The federal government seems to be asleep in this department as well. Of course, as Ronald Reagan once said, “government is the problem, not the solution” (or words to that effect). I think he was right. Perhaps We, the People, will need to take responsibility to launch public service coronavirus campaigns of our own.

    1. Glenn – Thank you for your well-considered thoughts. No one wants to bring politics into the fight against Covid-19. Unfortunately, politics has inserted itself. I started my blog back in March when things were just beginning to break to provide data-driven modeling for forecasting purposes and to provide lucid (at least attempting) to distill grossly, but non-political, misunderstandings of what was going on. That lasted through the first wave of the epidemic when all initially hard-hit nations and states got a grip on things and drove it down to much lower levels. That I applauded. It is what is happening now that gravely concerns me. Yes, the early states can be labeled as liberal and they were even ridiculed as such by certain factions rather than eliciting empathy and offers to help. But these early states were also blindsided and took decisive action to beat down the disease and continue to maintain that discipline. That cannot be said of the states currently undergoing major outbreaks and doing little to suppress it. Now those states, with the exception of CA, do tend to take their direction from DC. Whether that is a political statement is certainly debatable. But it cannot be denied and mustn’t be if we are to get to the root cause of the problem and do the right thing to save lives.

      Now I believe disagreeing with the Administration is also not political, nor is showing a little bit of sarcasm to keep the readers amused. I am a registered Republican, but I am not going to just blindly follow that herd. I am appalled that decisions from the Administration are never made with regard to what is best for the people. We need to take a stand against that.

      It’s nice to say the responsibility lies with the people, but that is a pretty fragmented advocacy. Perhaps if leaders and celebrities used their voices more, we could see change. (I’ve written that if only the Kardashian’s made wearing masks a fashion statement, we could save a lot more lives!) It is happening with BLM, but that is a slow process and I am afraid the eradication of Covid-19 will also be.

      1. Jack, Glad to have this discussion. We come from the same “place” politically it would seem. And perhaps like yourself, I am rather stunned by the poor behavior of so many Americans with respect to following CDC guidelines. Yet, my approach is to avoid peering at the pandemic through any lenses whatsoever, be it political, socioeconomic, racial, regional, or any other factor. Each such lens filters out the wavelengths of the others and thus can yield nothing but overly simplistic “explanations” for the situation at hand.

        The use of those lenses tends to be accompanied by the user’s agenda. People on either side of the political divide, for example, can make a “case” for why their opponents are to “blame” for the tragic impacts of the pandemic. For instance, those on the right could make the true statistical argument that 10 of the top 11 states with the highest covid-19 death rates per 100,000 people, through July 29th, are solidly “blue” states. Their numbers range from NJ at the top with 178 per100,000 to Maryland with 57 per 100,000. Contrast that with the bottom 20 states, where all but 5 are “red” states, ranging from Hawaii (one of the 5 “blue” states) at 2 per 100,000, to Texas at 20 per 100,000. For comparison sake, CA is at 22 per 100,000.

        But I only provide these statistics to further make my point that peering through a lens merely serves as a means to an end, be it political or otherwise. Such “analyses” often use accurate and valid statistics in misleading and/or incomplete ways. From the above, I could conclude that liberals are to “blame” for the vast majority of covid-19 deaths.

        Of course, as in the case of my analysis, there is always the “rest of the story” as radio host Paul Harvey famously broadcast for many years. Fair and balanced analyses seem to be short supply these days, especially where politics tends to be injected.

        The analysis that you had provided in #22 seemed to be describing the “other” side of the story, the inverse of mine above. We can always make statistics work to further a particular agenda or narrative. In an ideal world, there would be a “court” where bloggers, journalists, and any others who publish opinion pieces must pass through first, to ensure that the “rest of the story” gets its fair hearing.

        A fair analysis of the current virus situation must look deeper than just the national or state level, down to the county level, and even at times the local level. For example, here in OC, it is in the cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana where the current outbreak is heavily concentrated. One could be disingenuous and say that they are the more “liberal” cities in the county (true), and blame the liberals once again, but one could ascribe it more likely to socioeconomic factors, since those cities’ residents tend to be at the lower end of the pay scale. As such, there are likely more multi-generational households, “essential” workers in cramped working conditions, and the like. Nothing to do with our governor or our president.

        There are also health factors most likely at play. Lower socioeconomic status in the inner cities, as well as in regions like the deep south, tend to have more comorbidity, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc., and thus have a greater risk of death from the virus. Death rates are reportedly higher among Hispanics and African Americans, as compared to whites and Asians. This could fairly be attributed to some combination of socioeconomic, racial, and regional factors. Once again, neither governors nor the President control these factors and thus cannot be “blamed” for these disparate outcomes.

        One could also blame the anarchists in the liberal cities for spreading the virus, or the conservative protesters before them demonstrating against government overreach and the resulting extended shut downs. A fair and balanced analysis would point fingers at both.

        There is also the matter of President Trump not wearing a mask until recently, and thus being “blamed” by the Left for all the people refusing to wear masks in public. Yet, it seems that it is most often the Millennial’s, and other youth who are the most averse to wearing masks and social distancing and disproportionately spreading the virus. But, they tend to be more liberal leaning and decidedly LEAST influenced by Trump. What I hear most often from them is that DR. FAUCI originally said that masks don’t help! (True statement).

        What we have here is what I believe to be the biggest single factor of all in the unwillingness of too many Americans to follow the CDC guidelines: The inconsistent messaging from the “experts”. Now, there are highly legitimate experts such as Dr. Fauci, who, like everyone on the planet, was initially flummoxed by the unfamiliar novelty of the coronavirus. He later reversed course and told everyone to wear masks, as we know. But those who are mask-averse always point out what Dr. Fauci originally said, and when confronted by the fact that he knows more about preventing virus transmission now, they just say that the experts don’t know what they are talking about.

        These same people then point to YouTube or Facebook videos they have seen where “experts” describe how masks are like trying to stop mosquitoes from coming through a chain link fence. Or that they build up too much carbon dioxide inside the mask which is toxic, or it’s really the new 5G cell tower transmissions killing people, not a virus at all. Believe me, the mask averse are conjuring up more excuses and conspiracy theories than can possibly be imagined. And, added to that, is their overinflated sense of entitlement, and commensurate belief that it is their “right” to not wear a mask. I hear that from people on both sides of the political divide, from the liberal “snowflakes” to the conservative libertarians and everyone in between.

        How do we overcome the incredible amount of misinformation and get peoples’ hearts and minds aligned with the latest expert medical advice? Well, the medical profession would first need to be highly consistent in its messaging. But there are far too many “experts” with medical degrees espousing contrarian viewpoints that the mask averse will latch onto. So, not much hope on that front. And forget about politicians agreeing on a common front, especially when for them medical considerations are only part of their equation and economic concerns play just as important, and legitimate, a role in their decisions.

        This leads me back to the assertion in my previous post. It is up to ALL of us to find ways to make it UNCOOL to be seen out in public without masks and not social distancing. As such, beyond the political, socioeconomic, racial, regional, medical, and informational inconsistency factors involved, we have an overarching CULTURAL factor that appears to be holding us back from licking the virus.

      2. Glenn – You have swayed me to control my frustrations better but I respectfully believe that political self-interests are mostly accountable for the death toll in the U.S.

        Yes, the liberal northeast got hammered, but not because of any liberal policies. I’m not here to bash people, but Trump made some costly errors early on. When he announced the travel ban from Europe he misstated the conditions and set off a mad stampede by Americans desperate to return (https://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/experts-criticize-federal-covid-19-response-inadequate-part-72046162). What he neglected to say is that there were conditions on returning that would have made it a more orderly process. Instead major crowds formed with people jammed shoulder to shoulder for many hours, involving hundreds of thousands of people. No testing, no thermometers, just a free-for-all. JFK received 60,000 passengers per day from Europe for weeks and that severely accelerated the outbreak in the northeast. Then these states clearly buckled down. Cuomo could have shaved a couple of days in his response, but he did take decisive action. The virus genetic signature was Europe. Now over 90% of infections across the U.S. originated from NY by way of Europe (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/07/us/new-york-city-coronavirus-outbreak.html). A careless statement may be responsible for 100,000 American deaths. Of course we cannot say this for sure, but we cannot dismiss it either.

        The swing of outbreaks to red states, however, I believe can be traced to political agenda. The governors, in lock step with the Administration, refused to act. Here’s also a shocker; Pew Research reported this: Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are about twice as likely as Republicans and Republican leaners to say that masks should be worn always (63% vs. 29%). Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say that masks should rarely or never be worn (23% vs. 4%). So, your statement about “stunned by the poor behavior of so many Americans…” well that is largely driven by our leaders and political persuasion and you can see how influential political leaders can be in a bad way.

        I totally agree with your thesis that it is easy to be selective with the facts and maybe I do have a bias, which I will work harder to neutralize. (You’re probably thinking that now!) But the only way I can be selective is to be hiding liberal faults. Then again I have been merciless about CA response, the irresponsible behavior of liberal youths, and the overall disregard by us sun-baked pleasure seekers. I try to report data and facts without any leanings and draw some conclusions and also let my readers draw their own.

        As far as your thought example that because Anaheim and Santa Ana have higher prevalence and deaths and are liberal that therefore liberals are more careless in their behavior is of course confusing causality and correlation. But I know you know this and are just stating rightly so that data can be misinterpreted. And you cite a number of other examples that you know very well are not causal. As an ethical scientist, I don’t believe I succumb to this mind set.

        There is also deliberate misuse of statements taken out of context. You cited one about Fauci saying not to use masks. He didn’t say that they don’t help. What he actually said was “Right now in the United States people should not be walking around with masks … You should think of healthcare providers who are needing them and the people who are ill.” That was March 8 when the death toll in the U.S. was 17, yes 17. Further to Fauci, he sticks his neck out knowing that knowledge about the virus is meager and acknowledging viewpoints will change with new information.

        I was really going to keep this short so I will end here. Glenn, we cannot hide behind these theoretical and contrarian attitudes. We have a real problem and from my perspective a lot of blame falls on the Administration, and dare I say Republicans (my party), and I feel a responsibility to call them out on it. But I certainly don’t gloat, instead I am very saddened and desperate to see better decisions made. If we don’t hold our leaders accountable who are entrusted to do responsible things it will continue to cost tens of thousands of American lives. Diversionary arguments to the contrary only cloud the picture.

        Glad we’re not in a discussion about federal forces in Portland!

  2. Jack, I respectfully disagree with the gist of your assertion that politics is at the core of the covid-19 death toll in America. Politics is a reaction, not a cause. It is necessary to remove the lens of politics to enable a full analysis of the much broader and scientifically supportable spectrum of causal factors. That is my main point.

    Yes, I agree that the liberal northeastern states were blindsided by the virus. But, that is not the fault of political self-interests either. Our apolitical epidemiologists and related medical experts were caught off guard by the novelty of this coronavirus and the lack of information from China. Banning Chinese and then certain European travelers from entering the US was an unpopular but necessary move. The only politics involved in that was when certain prominent Democrats called the travel ban “xenophobic” and “fearmongering”. Even the WHO was opposed to the ban! I shudder to think what could have been if one of those Democrats had been in charge and allowed more Chinese and European people to pour in. It was bad enough, as you asserted, that we had to allow the repatriation of our own citizens from those places. But once again, there was no politics in that repatriation process, just typical governmental bureaucratic bungling aided by insufficient scientific knowledge of the virus’s behavior. The partisan criticism of that bungling was the only political part. How ironic was it that we had liberals criticizing government inefficiency?!

    Statistics do not support the notion of political self-interests at the heart of the death toll either. It they did, one would find rather unambiguous signals in the data. But a broad analysis finds mostly contradictions and much ambiguity instead. More on that later. Unfortunately, it is always tempting to cherry pick the data to fit a narrative in support of one’s political agenda. That Pew Research poll that you cited is a good example. Let’s examine just a few key unanswered questions:

    – Did the poll provide a way to correlate one’s opinion about mask wearing with that person’s actual behavior? After all, many would say they don’t think a mask is necessary, but would still wear one in public anyway, albeit begrudgingly. And, conversely, those saying that masks SHOULD be worn don’t necessarily wear them.
    – Did the poll break down the responses into age groups? Was it entirely random, or perhaps skewed toward certain age groups? Did it factor in the notion that older respondents are less likely to be venturing out into the public arena than much younger respondents? Thus the older respondents’ opinions about their own mask-wearing practices would be less meaningful, since they stay at home more and thus have less chance of spreading or catching the virus than the younger set. It is the younger ones mixing it up in the bars, parties, and the like who are spreading and catching the virus more readily. They just tend to get less sick than their elders. I’ll bet that a large cohort of the young, regardless of political persuasion, responded that masks should not be worn. I would also bet that this younger crew skewed more toward the liberal side of the political divide.
    – did the poll ask about wearing the mask at half mast (not covering the nose)? You see a lot of that. I’ll bet that many respondents who said that masks should be worn, wear them with nose exposed and spread the virus nasally. Who knows? Certainly not Pew!

    The point is, the Pew poll does not appear to establish actual mask-wearing practice, and by dividing it purely along a political spectrum, is artificial, likely misleading, and rather meaningless in the end. Its obvious narrative was that Republicans are mostly bad and Democrats are mostly good. So I must reject that aspect of your argument as nothing more than… political self-interest (castigating fellow Republicans).

    Back to what I alluded to a couple of paragraphs ago. Statistics and data. So many contradictions that simply cannot explain viral spread and subsequent death rates in political self-interest terms. let’s look at this at the state and county levels just a bit to see what I mean:

    Take the latest 14-day covid-19 case trends. We are hearing how the Sunbelt and west coast are in such bad shape lately. A CNN article today said this, about Georgia:

    “Georgia reports more than 4,000 new Covid-19 cases
    From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher

    The Georgia Department of Public Health reported at least 4,045 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to approximately 182,286 cases.

    Georgia DPH also reported at least 30 new deaths. Approximately 3,671 people have died from the virus in the state since the beginning of the pandemic, Georgia DPH said.

    There were at least 339 new Covid-19 related hospitalizations recorded, according to Georgia DPH.”

    Sounds really bad, right? Do you see an agenda here? Yep, those red states sure are filled with bad leaders and bad people! That is clearly what CNN was angling at. But, let’s look at the rest of the story. Let’s compare Georgia’s latest 14-day new case trend to those of some other notable states:

    Georgia: +4.37%
    Connecticut: +141% (no, I did not leave out a decimal point)
    New jersey: +71%
    Rhode island: +61.7%
    Mass. +8.37%
    California +2.65%
    New York MINUS (-)5.76%
    Florida MINUS (-)7.89%
    Arizona MINUS (-)17.1%
    Texas MINUS (-)17.9%

    Huh? Here we all thought that the red-state Sunbelt, filled with all those deplorable Republican cowboys and yahoos, was going down the tubes, while the liberal northeast, which learned its lesson early on, was doing so great. Well, NY yes, but what about CT, NJ, RI, and MA? And those cowboys in TX, did they all suddenly become Democrats?

    Now, let’s turn to some cumulative statistics, instead of just focusing on the past 14 days. Here are the overall deaths per 100,000 so far, through July 29th, for those same states:

    Georgia: 33
    Connecticut: 124
    New jersey: 178
    Rhode island: 95
    Mass. 124
    California 22
    New York 168
    Florida 28
    Arizona 47
    Texas 20

    So, even against this measure, Georgia, and indeed ALL of the red states listed, have fared far better than the blue states listed, except for CA. So, let’s take a dive into CA statistics, and compare just a few notable counties based on LA Times data for their latest 14-day new case rates per 100,000:

    LA 378.6
    Marin 356.1
    OC 260.4
    San Diego 207.1

    Oh dear! Liberal LA and very liberal Marin counties have much higher rates than more Republican Orange County and San Diego county. How can that be? We though the Pew poll would mean than places with more Republicans would be worse off because they don’t think masks should be worn. What’s going on here?

    Hopefully, if you can get past my sarcasm, it should be obvious that political leanings don’t necessarily correlate with covid-19 case rates or death rates. Clearly, other factors are involved. Ones that correlate better with the data and where causality can be established as well.

    I have made it a hobby of sorts to actually talk with (at a sufficient distance) or communicate with online, well over 100 mask averse people, of all ages. The feedback I have received is REAL, ground-level information, not just some theoretical claptrap. Here are some of the top reasons cited for not wearing a mask (or wearing it at half mast);

    – Dr. Fauci said we shouldn’t wear masks before he said we should, so why should we believe him now? (I am not taking sides here, so please don’t shoot the messenger).
    – Masks cause a build-up of carbon dioxide which can harm one’s lungs. (Again, not my opinion).
    – Masks don’t prevent the droplets and aerosols from escaping. They just come out the sides of the mask anyway and can still infect others nearby. (once again, please recognize that this is not my opinion!)
    – Why should I wear one? The cops aren’t going to come and arrest me.
    – I didn’t know I was supposed to wear one.
    – I forgot to bring my mask.
    – It is too hard to breathe through it. (evidently even while just sitting)
    – Government overreach and tyranny
    – Go to Hell (or similar words).
    – I didn’t know that my wearing a mask is supposed to protect others, and since I’m young, I can’t get sick from the virus, so I don’t need one to protect myself.
    – Inconsistent govt regulations, so why should we believe them?
    – That person over there isn’t wearing one, so why should I?
    – Masks are too uncomfortable.
    – I look like a dork when wearing a mask.
    – Stopping the virus through the mask is like trying to stop mosquitoes from coming through a chain link fence.

    Roughly 60% of the responses were from people under about 35. Only about 10% came from those older than about 55. But that’s because compliance was higher among the more mature, and much lower among the under-35 crowd.

    The diversity of the excuses paints a picture that cannot be explained by partisan political self-interests. Only a very few responses have anything at all to do with Republican vs. Democrat philosophies. So, once again, the Pew poll, with its singular focus on party membership, appears meaningless.

    If we really want to lick this virus (other than via vaccine or better treatments), we as a society are going to have to address the reasons I cited above for people not wearing masks. The govt can help with the education aspects. But ordinary citizens will need to take a lead role. Over-reliance on government to solve the problem has, and will not, work. We will need to put much more social pressure on the scofflaws. When in a store, for example, we need to speak up when someone is not wearing a mask (or not wearing it properly). These people need to feel the heat of public shaming. And, store clerks will need to be trained, empowered, and encouraged to refuse service to the mask-less. Where are the signs that say “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service”?

    This needs to be a grassroots effort. We need to make mask-wearing (and social distancing) in public spaces the path of least resistance. Then, and only then, will the mask averse adjust their behavior and decide that it is just easier to wear a mask than to be constantly bombarded with reminders and epithets from those around them..

    1. I’m posting the latter of your two latest comments. I know you are trying to make a point of being able to make anything look like a trend, but these examples are getting extreme and bordering on deception rather than enlightenment and certainly not representative of my approach to analyses. We have a different belief system and I doubt we’ll change each other. It was a good exchange and I enjoyed it Glenn, but time to wind this down. Now to respond to some of your assertions.

      I disagree that I am picking sides, ergo I have also been slamming liberal Californians, youth everywhere, etc. I analyze trends and there are certain trends that are political. It doesn’t explain everything, but it explains a lot. Maybe we have a different definition of politics because you say “politics is a reaction, not a cause” and I believe the opposite. You also say bureaucratic bungling is not politics; true it is incompetence, but sometimes (in this case) it is borne out of political self-interest (e.g., erasing anything Obama did such as setting up pandemic preparation plans and then blaming him for not doing it). Also, I am not defending the liberal press. In fact, I started this blog because of the misreporting of data and info and sins of omission (e.g., protester infections) and I have taken them to task many times.

      I don’t agree that people shouldn’t depend on their government and leaders; if so, then why have them. Also, I don’t believe you can rely on people to take personal responsibility. Never happened in the history of mankind even during wartime. The distribution of human behavior is not something we can change, but we can tilt it in one direction or the other depending on our leaders. The actions of the government and our leaders are most visible to people, not all the subtle trends you report that are not even causal. I think we need to focus on what is clearest and has the best chance to exert positive change.

      Regarding misleading guidelines, evolving guidelines based on progressively better information should not be confusing or conflicting; just follow the latest guidelines. Not saying CDC and WHO haven’t waffled. But what is really confusing is when federal and state governments directly contradict and even defy these guidelines. Then there are the cult-like nut cases that purposely distort the truth to support their opinion, e.g., dredging up old statements out of context to make their points. Can’t fix them, can’t argue with them. Then there are the social media disinformation campaigns, which worry me because it exemplifies this rising tide of dishonesty coming from many directions that is sowing more confusion than ever.

    2. Here is news today to compare to some of your data:

      …the Harvard group says that “at the red level, jurisdictions have reached a tipping point for uncontrolled spread and will require the use of stay-at-home orders and/or advisories to mitigate the disease.” Right now, that would mean 13 of the Trump task force’s 21 red-zone states returning to lockdown: Florida (with a staggering 48.1 new daily cases per 100,000 people), Louisiana (46.2), Mississippi (43.5), Alabama (39.1), Arizona (36.6), Tennessee (34.1), Georgia (33.8), Nevada (33.0), South Carolina (30.1), Texas (27.9), Idaho (27.5), Arkansas (26.4) and Oklahoma (25.6). https://www.yahoo.com/news/these-are-the-13-states-that-need-to-lock-down-now-according-to-harvard-coronavirus-experts-162201179.html

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