Archive for April, 2021

Why aren’t more healthcare workers getting vaccinated?

April 30, 2021

Key number that I’d like to know: percentage of doctors who have gotten vaccinated (with which brand).
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Let’s start with a basic fact: Frontline healthcare workers (very broadly defined) — along with long-term care patients — were the top priority for initial (and continuing) covid vaccinations.

But, according to a recent KFF-Washington Post survey …

Despite their first-dibs on the vaccines, only a 52% slim majority of “frontline healthcare workers” have gotten vaccinated.

That’s hardly an inspiration for folks who are still unvaccinated so let’s drill down on the numbers.

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According to the KFF-WaPo survey, the combined vaccination rate for healthcare workers varies widely by it’s component parts.

Only about 40% of administrative and “patient care” healthcare workers have gotten vaccinated.

But, about 7 in 10 “diagnosis & treatment” professionals (think: doctors & nurses) have gotten vaccinated.

The latter is an important number since doctors and nurses (a) have had ready access to the vaccine (b) are most likely to be frequently and directly exposed to covid, and (c) should be the most “in the know” re: the vaccines efficacy & safety.

So, the pivotal question: Is 70% a high number that should inspire confidence or a hard ceiling on the percentage of the broad population’s likelihood of getting vaccinated?

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Anecdotally, whenever I bump into a doc, I ask if they’ve been vaccinated, which brand, what about their staffs”?

So far, in my very small sample, all docs have been vaccinated (Pfizer or Moderna), as have the clear majority of their staffs.

Among the vax-hesitant staffers, the resistance rationales: (1) current workplace protocols have, for a year, kept them from being infected so why fret now? (b) personal health considerations prevail (e.g. immune system disorders) and (c) “wait & see” uncertainties about the vaccines.

The latter is a bit worrisome…

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For what it’s worth …

I’d like to see the numbers broken down by “doctors only” and all other “prescribers & treaters”.

In fact, expecting the doc’s number to be closer to 100%, it (along with a parade of doc testimonials) should be center-stage in an marketing program to cut vax-hesitancy.

That would be more compelling than a showcase of politicos and celebrities.

Supply > demand, herd date slipping, stockpile growing …

April 30, 2021

Cases and deaths stubbornly sticky.
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America’s political polarization in 4 charts …

April 29, 2021

It’s no secret that American politics has become increasingly – and maybe, irreversibly – polarized.

Biden lays it all off on Trump … totally ignoring the role that he and Obama played.

Let’s look at some inconvenient facts and put them in perspective…

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Way back in 2014, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd observed:

Polarization is no longer just polluting the system — it’s paralyzing it.

The deepening divide between the right and the left has largely hollowed out the center of American politics.

Gone are the politicians who once occupied the large “middle” and the voters who once gravitated to them.

Todd’s observations were true then, and they’re true now.

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The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values.

Based on the latest Pew data (from 2017), here’s where we stand:

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What the chart means …

Democrats cluster to the left, Republicans cluster to the right.

Less than 10 percent in each party overlaps ideologically with the other side.

That’s where we are.

How did we get here?

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Herd date slipping as 1st shots continue to drop…

April 29, 2021

Cases and deaths stubbornly sticky.
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Did Team Biden blunder big on the J&J roll-out?

April 28, 2021

Obvious answer: yes … but it’s unlikely that the MSM will tag Biden with the loss.
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Let’s start with the basics:

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved and launched by the Trump administration.

The J&J vaccine was developed under the auspices of Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.

But, the J&J vaccine was approved by the Biden administration (on Feb. 27).

Now, let’s advance the story…

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In a mid-March statement, Biden said:

“You know, when we came into office (Jan. 20), we began working with the (manufacturing) team at J&J to accelerate and add capacity to their manufacturing and production efforts.

Got it? Team Biden was on the manufacturing case.

The outcome: In early April, 15 million doses of the J&J vaccine failed quality control and had to be tossed.

Workers at an Emergent Technologies plant in Baltimore manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines (for J&J and Astra Zeneca) accidentally conflated the ingredients several weeks ago, contaminating up to 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Source

Nice job, boys.

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Then in mid-April, reacting to 8 reported cases of blood-clotting (out of about 8 million shots administered), Team Biden’s med-science regulators “paused“ the distribution and administration of the J&J vaccine “in an abundance of caution”.

As Paul A. Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told the Washington Post:

If I hear the phrase ‘abundance of caution’ one more time, I’m going to jump out of my window.

After 2 weeks of review, Biden’s crack med-science team got out their calculators and concluded that, perhaps, they were panicking over an apparent one-in-a-million occurrence.

Maybe, there was the proverbial “no there there”.

So, they lifted the J&J  vaccine halt.

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No harm, no foul, right?

WRONG!

As Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, put it politely:

In the short to medium term, at least, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has taken a reputational hit.

J&J has had major production problems at its Baltimore plant and (given the risk-induced halt)  people (might be) more hesitant to take it. Source

Or, as another med-science pundit put it more bluntly: Team Biden “all but gutted the enthusiasm for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.”

So, how bad is the “reputational hit”? The slide in enthusiasm?

According to a Washington Post poll, only 28% of unvaccinated adults now think that the J&J vaccine is “very” or “somewhat” safe.

Performing a common sense test, WaPo reframed the question and  found that 3 out of 4 unvaccinated adults would be unwilling to take the J&J

Common Sense Test: Raise your hand if you’d line up for a vaccine that you thought was somewhat safe.

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Now, that’s a problem … a big problem.

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What if?

Imagine that Team Trump had:

  • approved the J&J vaccine
  • supervised production of the vaccine
  • encountered production quality issues
  • dumped 15 million contaminated doses
  • halted administration of the vaccine due to health risks
  • lifted the ban (as daily 1st shots started dropping like a rock)

All of which combined to make 75% of unvaccinated people unwilling to take the vaccine.

I’m going to go out on a limb on this one and guess that the media would be publicizing this situation differently if Team Trump owned it.

But, it’s Biden, so …

What do you think?

VAX: First shots continuing to drop … stockpile growing

April 28, 2021

Slowing demand (aka vax hesitancy)? J&J pause?
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April 27: COVID Dashboard

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The best review of the Oscars…

April 27, 2021

Bill Maher has been on a recent roll on HBO:

A couple of weeks ago, he opined:

After a year of Covid-19, I had hoped for a little Hollywood escapism.

But, judging by this year’s best-picture nominees, you couldn’t have a worse time at the movies if there was an active shooter in the theater.

More specifically, Maher gave a synopsis of the nominee movies, starting with “Nomadland,” which took home the award for best picture:

It’s about a woman who winds up living in her van after her husband dies of cancer.

And, the rest of the litter:

  • In ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’: The FBI kills the leader of the Black Panthers
  • In ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’: The FBI kills the leader of the Black Panthers again.
  • In ‘Promising Young Woman’: Carey Mulligan tries to avenge a murderous rapist, but he ends up killing her too.
  • In ‘The Sound Of Metal’:  A musician goes deaf.
  • In ‘The Father’: An octogenarian descendsinto dementia.
  • Minari’ is the story of dirt-poor Korean immigrants in Arkansas who put all their food in a barn, but then grandma has a stroke and burns it down. Now enjoy the show!”

As opinionator Bill McGurn of the WSJ sums it up this way:

For years conservatives have bemoaned Hollywood’s influence on American norms and mores.

Sunday night’s awards show ought to allay any such fears.

Far from showcasing the movie industry’s mighty influence on American life, the 93rd Academy Awards confirmed that our movie industry no longer even knows how to entertain.

So, rather than catching-up with this year’s Oscar nominees, I guess I’ll just keep watching “Burn Notice” reruns on Amazon Prime.

April 27: COVID Dashboard

April 27, 2021

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Is Trump blowing his “vaccine legacy”?

April 26, 2021

That’s a question that Politico is asking after chatting with former Trump aides
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For openers…

Polls consistently report that so-called “vaccine hesitancy” is highest among Republicans and Blacks.

I’m a bit baffled about the GOP numbers since practically all of my Republican friends have been vaccinated … the couple who haven’t been vaxed have very legitimate medical reasons (e.g. immune system disorders).

For now, I’ll put my personal sample aside (as I always advised students to do), and stipulate that a large number of Republicans are vax-hesitant.

Trump hasn’t been visible pitching the “get vaxed” message to his supporters.

As one pundit observes: “We have the odd spectacle of Joe Biden creating a massive PR campaign for the vaccines Trump helped develop, while Trump himself refuses to get in front for his own success. It’s a lost opportunity (for Trump and the Republican party).”

So, why might Trump be staying on the sidelines?

(more…)

April 26: COVID Dashboard

April 26, 2021

Herd immunity date slips as daily shots’ rate (total and 1st shots) declines
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Shocker: 37% say they’re buying less Coke…

April 23, 2021

That’s what happens when you go woke and eye-poke 1/3 of your customers.
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Coca-Cola was one of the companies that publicly condemned Georgia’s new election integrity law.

Now, according to a new Rasmussen survey “the Atlanta-based soft drink bottler may pay a price for getting involved in that controversy”.

Specifically, Rasmussen found that:

  • 37% of American adults say that the company’s stand against the new Georgia law makes them less likely to purchase Coca-Cola products.
  • 25% say they are more likely to buy Coke.
  • 30% say the company’s political stance doesn’t make much difference.

Netting it out, 12% of Coke’s customer base says that it’ll be buying less Coke.

Maybe the woke 25% really will ditch their  water bottles and start slurping more sugar-filled Coke to offset any lost sales to now hacked-off (former) Coke guzzlers.

I’m betting the under on that one.

April 23: COVID Dashboard

April 23, 2021

Vaccination Rate Dropping (Total & 1st Shots)
Herd Immunity Date Slipping into June
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Bueller Effect: Vax side effects will increase … guaranteed.

April 22, 2021

Biden plan laden with unintended consequences.
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On Wednesday, without acknowledging the accomplishments of the Trump administration, President Biden took a victory lap since the U.S. is blowing past the 200 million shots mark.

For the record, note that 192 million of the doses are Pfizer and Moderna – approved and launched by the Trump administration.  Only about 8 million are J&J — spurred by Operation Warp Speed, but approved, launched and stutter-stepped by the Biden administration.

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After patting himself on the back, Biden announced a new plan to boast vaccination interest among the still-to-be-vaccinated population:

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In a nutshell, companies large & small will be incentivized (i.e. “pressured”) to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated  … and paid time off to recover from any vaccination after effects.

Sounds reasonable until you ask: “Any likely unintended consequences?”

About 80% of vax recipients report minor after effects such as fatigue, headache and muscle pain that usually dissipate after a good night’s sleep.  Source

When pressed, only about 10% to 15% of vax recipients say that their side effects that were “significantly noticeable,” Source

My hunch: The prevalence of claimed  “significantly noticeable” vax after effects will sky-rocket when vax recipients are offered the prospects of a couple days of paid vacation (twice if the get Pfizer or Moderna shots)

It’s human nature … it’s Freakanomics (aka Behavioral Economics) … it’s the law of unintended consequences … it’s the Bueller Effect

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The possible ultimate irony: The likely spike in vacation-incentivized claims of “significantly noticeable” after effects may end up inducing a higher level of vaccine hesitancy among people who are already fearful of side effects. 

I guess that Biden hasn’t read Freakonomics

April 21: COVID Dashboard

April 22, 2021

Heads-up: 1st shots decreasing as a percentage of total daily shots … so, herd immunity date slipping into June.

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Studies: Fauci’s endorsement hardens net vaccine hesitancy…

April 21, 2021

Time to put him out to pasture?
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Dr. Fauci — the nation’s foremost political-scientist — continues to be ubiquitous on TV, pitching that getting vaccinated is a “no brainer” and that, to paraphrase, all Republicans are morons.

Loyal readers know that I’m not a big fan of Dr. Anthony Fauci —  Biden’s chief political-scientist — who is always certain (but often wrong), occasionally evidence-based (except when the data goes against him), straight-shooting (depending on the political winds).

For full chapter, verse and sources re: Fauci’s many mis-steps, see

Here are a couple of more logs to throw on my Fauci fire.

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I’ve been doing a doing a deep dive into vaccine hesitancy — why some people are reluctant to take the Covid vaccines — and how the resistance might be softened.

Note: For the moment, I’ll skip over the thornier question: Should the resistance be softened? I’ll have more on that subject in future posts.

I came across the COVID States Project Report #36: Evaluation of COVID-19 vaccine communication strategies.

Note: The 50-state COVID-19 project is “a multi-university group of researchers with expertise in computational social science, network science, public opinion polling, epidemiology, public health, communication, and political science.”

Here’s what caught my eye in the report

The researchers queried study participants on whether public endorsements (i.e. televised vaccinations or public service messaging) by an array of personalities would make the subjects more or less likely to get vaccinated.

For example, predictably, an endorsement by Trump made Democrats less likely to get vaccinated and an endorsement by Obama (or Biden) made Republicans less likely.

Less predictably, a vaccine endorsement by Dr. Fauci resulted in only small reductions in vaccine resistance among Democrats, but increased and  strengthened vaccine resistance among Republicans.

According to the researchers, the Fauci finding “contrasts with unspecified scientists and respondents’ personal physicians, whose endorsement reduce vaccine resistance across the board.”

So, the researchers conclude that Fauci has taken on a partisan association that has substantially reduced his credibility and effectiveness as a messenger.

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That finding brought to mind an interview with Frank Luntz who presented some focus group video footage re: vaccine hesitancy among Republicans.

Disclosure: The interview was on Fox; Luntz leans right but usually exhibits anti-Trump tendencies.

The headline from the focus group:

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Click to view a worthwhile 1-minute video clip that brings the comments to life:

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Luntz’s conclusion: Fauci — “who keeps changing his mind and moving the goalposts” — has no credibility whatsoever among Republicans … if you want reluctant people to get vaccinated, the message must be delivered by their personal physicians.

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Bottom line:

Both the impartial 50 States Project and the Luntz focus group reach the same fundamental conclusions:

>  If you want to overcome vaccine hesitancy

>  And, if Republicans are, in fact, the problem (i.e. more reluctant to get vaccinated than Democrats)

> Then one of the last people you want pitching the merits of getting vaccinated is Fauci

> Especially if he’s dishing inflammatory, condescending messages like “Getting vaccinated is a no-brainer”.

To summarize more bluntly: Yes – it’s time to put Fauci out to pasture.

Amen.

April 20: COVID Dashboard

April 21, 2021

Heads-up: 1st shots decreasing as a percentage of total daily shots … so, herd immunity date slipping into June.

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Pfizer & Moderna distance themselves from J&J…

April 20, 2021

Ask  yourself: Why is that?
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Last week, the WSJ published a report that may foreshadow vaccine developments over the next couple of months.

Well-publicized, distribution of  the J&J vaccine was suspended in the U.S. due to  a handful of blood-clotting cases.  The Feds review board was expected to lift the suspension last Friday, but pushed the decision off by at least a week.

Fauci & Friends asserted that the J&J vaccine is safe, that the suspension was just an “an abundance of caution” and that the delayed decision was no big deal.

Less well-publicized: According to the WSJ’s “exclusive report”, J&J (and AstraZenaca)approached Pfizer and Moderna “to join forces to investigate the safety issues and communicate vaccine benefits and risks”.

But, Pfizer and Moderna rebuffed the invitation, confiding to WSJ reporters that “their vaccines appeared safe” and that “the safety of the Pfizer and Moderna shots could be tarnished by association”.

Hmmm.

The “experts” and the media keep down-playing (or completely ignoring) a basic fact: There are two very different vaccine modalities in play: Pfizer & Moderna are single strand mRNA vaccines; J&J and AstraZeneca are double strand “viral-vector DNA” vaccines.

Both types penetrate a body’s cells, but only the viral-vector DNA vaccines are “nuclei-invasive”, meaning that they penetrate cells’ nuclei.

For more details, see: J&J vaccine is halted … so what?

Fauci & Friends say not to worry … asserting that the vaccines’ DNA strands are rendered harmless before they are injected and, thus, are incapable of causing long-term health consequences.

My most “in-the-know” medical-science friends tell me (off the record, of course): “Not so fast”.

They point out that “messing with DNA is inherently dicey” and, since the vaccines are “novel”, that  there is no concrete evidence — either pro or con — regarding the long-term health risks of viral-vector DNA vaccines.

Note: Ebola vaccines are viral-vectors, but even they are too recent to dismiss long-term risks.

It could be that a few blood-clotting cases may be isolated flukes (less than a 1 in a million occurrence), or they may be proverbial canaries-in-coal mines.

Keep an eye on this one.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

April 20: COVID Dashboard

April 20, 2021

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Update: Was the MLB’s decision dumb?

April 19, 2021

As the late great sportscaster Harry Carey would say:
“HOLY COW”

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Let’s connect a few dots today…

MLB’s political demographics split pretty evenly among Democrats, Republicans and folks who are independent (or politically disinterested).

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Source: XM Institute

About the 1/3 of the fan base is Republican…

Morning Consult pollsters report that MLB’s net favorability among Republicans has plummeted after the decision to move the All-Star game from Atlanta.

MLB’s net favorability among Republicans dropped by a whopping 36 percentage points … from from 48% to 12%.

The direction of the drop is predictable … the magnitude of the drop is HUGE … dropping MLB’s net favorability below football and hockey.

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Post-MLB All-Star decision, Dems’ net MLB favorability is 41% …. that compares to the 26% for independents and, as cited above, 12% for Republicans:

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Morning Consult didn’t publish the specific historical numbers numbers for Democrats, but hinted that it was essentially unchanged.

Assuming that the pre-post numbers are unchanged for the independents, then…

MLB’s net favorability across its full fan base dropped by about 1/3 …. from 38% before the All-Star decision to 26% after.

And, there’s a likelihood that MLB’s fan base will re-mix … more woke millennials rushing the turnstiles to virtue-signal for a couple of hours at high-priced, slow-paced games … fewer old, loyal white guys who (used to) savor the game’s history and seek a momentary escape from political craziness.

I’m betting against woke millennials saving baseball.

Based on my small sampling, they may have a betting and fantasy league interest in MLB, but that only requires post-game stats and highlight reels.

Don’t count on wokesters buoy attendance or surge TV ratings.

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April 19: COVID Dashboard

April 19, 2021

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COVID: How safe (or risky) to resume activities?

April 16, 2021

Here are my Covid 5-Ps of risk assessment
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Like most people who have been vaccinated, I’ve been recalibrating my Covid risk tolerance: What activities can I safely reactivate? What venues can I visit? What mix of people to beware?

Nudged by a New York Times article headlined What Can You Do Once You’re Vaccinated?, I’ve distilled down to my personal 5-Ps of Covid risk (or safety):

1. PREVALENCE

  • Community contagion?
  • Herd immunization?

2. PLACE (Venue)

  • Outdoors or indoors?
  • Ventilation? Shields?
  • Cleanliness? Sanitation?

3. PASTIME (Activity)

  • Intensity: Sweat? Spray?
  • Duration: Brief? Prolonged?

4. PEOPLE (Crowd)

  • Density: How many? How packed?
  • Familiarity: F&F? Strangers?
  • Behaviors: Known? Apparent?

5. PRECAUTIONS (Personal)

  • Healthy?
  • Vaccinated?
  • Masked?

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Some common sense hints

  1. Watch local case & vaccination rates
  2. Don’t frequent likely hot spots.
  3. Avoid crowds of strangers
  4. Don’t linger – keep moving
  5. Enjoy the outdoors
  6. Exercise at home.
  7. Distance from close talkers
  8. Wear a mask (just in case)

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a medical professional or scientist — just a curious, self-interested guy.  So, don’t take anything that I say or write as medical advice. Get that from your doctor!

Perhaps the most important SCOTUS ruling ever…

April 15, 2021

Rather than ruling on the merits of the Texas election complaint, the esteemed Justices ran for the hills … and may have diminished the future political independence and relevance of the court itself.
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Yesterday, it was reported that Pelosi’s Congress has started drafting a law to pack the Supreme Court with 4 new (liberal) justices.

How did we get to this point … and what are the implications?

Flashback to a couple of weeks after the 2020 presidential election.

The Supreme Court “docketed” a complaint filed by the State of Texas (and a long-list of other complainants) that claimed voting irregularities in a handful of of states (details below).

I assumed that “docketed” meant that they would hear the evidence and rule on the case’s merits.

Silly me.

Recognizing that they would be caught between a rock and a hard place, the SCOTUS channeled Sgt. Shultz claim (“I hear nothing, I see nothing”) to stay out of the election dispute.

For the record, here’s the first part of the official SCOTUS statement:

ORDER IN PENDING CASE (155, ORIG.) TEXAS V. PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL.

The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution.

Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.

All other pending motions are dismissed as moot.

The key point: This isn’t a ruling on the merits of the case, i.e. whether there was election irregularities, fraud and rigging … or not.

The Court just decided to rule on procedural technicalities and leave the merits of the case open for all of us to decide.

That leaves about half the country thinking that the election was clean as a whistle … and, half suspicious of the election’s processes and results.

The obvious result: high tension and animosity.

Given its importance, let’s parse the court’s statement….

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April 15: COVID Dashboard

April 15, 2021

Daily New Deaths metric drops below 750
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J&J vaccine halted … so what?

April 14, 2021

Here’s what you need to know.
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The J&J vaccine a “viral vector DNA” vaccine that is very different than the Pfizer and Moderna “messenger RNA vaccines” … and their long-term effects may be different.

Below is a very detailed analysis of the differences and their implications.

The J&J blood-clotting issue is a near-immediate injection side-effect that is very rare … less than a 1 in million occurrence … less likely than getting struck by lightning.

Statistically-speaking, the blood-clotting occurrence rate is so low that it raises questions as to why the vaccine has been halted.

Up until yesterday, most “experts” were saying “Take whichever vaccine is available to you first.”

Yesterday, Dr. Fauci and the other political-scientists were lock-stepping an “abundance of caution” message.  It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves, especially since…

For the record: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved by the Trump administration; J&J was developed under the auspices of Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, but the J&J vaccine was approved by the Biden administration.
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MUST READ: Here is a detailed recap of how the vaccines work and how they compare.  It’s long, but well worth the reading time.

The topline:

The 3 currently relevant brands (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J) are “well tolerated” (i.e. they exhibit few or no side effects) and provide high levels of protection …  with near total protection against hospitalization or death.

In clinal trials, Pfizer & Moderna scored higher in overall protection (roughly 95% against symptomatic infections) than the J&J vaccine (72%) in the U.S.

Most experts consider the difference in effectiveness rates to be more a function of when and where the clinical trials were done than the relative effectiveness of the vaccines.

Specifically, the J&J trial was done in a more “hostile” Covid environment: a higher prevalence of Covid and emergence of new Covid strains (especially the South African variant).

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Regarding the variants…

“Laboratory studies and clinical-trial data suggest that all of the Covid  vaccines will provide significant protection (i.e. greater than 50% effectiveness) against emerging strains of the Covid virus.”  Source

It’s highly likely that an additional shot — either a booster or a reformulation — will eventually be required for all brands and types of vaccines to combat the variant strains.

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It’s uncertain how effective the vaccines are preventing asymptomatic infections or how long the vaccines provide immunity against serious symptoms.

But, the consensus seems to be that there is very high protection against asymptomatic infections … and that the immunities last for at least several months, maybe longer.

That said, annual shots seem to be likely.

Again, the most compelling immediate effectiveness result to consider: all brands claim near total protection against hospitalization and death with unlikely side effects.

My take: Call it a push on effectiveness.

Convenience

The J&J vaccine is easier to distribute since it requires less demanding refrigeration.

So, once production is ramped up, it will probably be more ubiquitous in rural areas and in low volume vaccination outlets (e.g. doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics and smaller pharmacies).

As well publicized, Pfizer & Moderna are currently administered in 2 doses with the 2nd dose following 3 or 4 weeks after the 1st.

The J&J vaccine only requires a single dose, making it a good fit for, say, high volume mass vaccination sites and for people who want the convenience of one & done (e.g. workers who are schedule constrained or people with limited access to distribution sites).

The Pfizer & Moderna vaccines are likely to be concentrated in, say, public health department vaccination clinics, targeted to high vulnerability populations.

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That’s probably all that you really need to know, but if you’re interested in the comparative science of the vaccines, keep reading…

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How will we know when we’re near-normal again?

April 13, 2021

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
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Now that the country is getting vaccinated at a rapid clip, everybody is asking the same question: When can we resume “normal” life again?

The verbiage from the political-scientists and pundits ranges from ‘pretty soon’ to ‘probably never’.

Thanks guys.

Is herd immunity within reach or asymptotically impossible because of ”vaccine hesitancy”?

How many covid survivors now have “natural immunity”?

How long does natural or vaccine immunity last? Weeks? Month? Years?

Case counts spike then drop like a rock … with “scientific” explanations mimicking financial analysts’ head-scratching rationales for why the market went up (or down) each day.

My advice from the get-go has been — in the words of Nate Silver — to ignore the noise and focus on the signal … the covid-related death count.

Back in Jan.-Feb. 2020, Dr. Fauci was saying:

This not a major threat for the people of the United States, and this is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about.

I bought in to Fauci’s read of the situation, but said that I’d start worrying when daily covid deaths surpassed those of a a bad flu year.

The were about 80,000 flu-related fatalities in worst recent flu year.  Source

Spread across the entire year, that works out to about 250 deaths per day; spread across the usual 4 month flu season, that’s about 750 deaths per day.

Of course, we blew past those numbers … and stayed at sky-high levels for most of the past year.

Now, we’re coming back down … with enough people vaccinated or naturally immune that the trend and levels are likely to stick.

So, my advice: Take case counts with a grain of salt, be encouraged by vaccination rates and stay focused on the averaged number of daily new deaths (DNDs).

Based on the flu benchmark, when the weekly average of DNDs drops below 750, we’re probably near-normal … when it drops below 250, then giddyup … we’re there!

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For more detail. see:  MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?

MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned a COVID-19 corner?

April 13, 2021

Stay focused on the number of Daily New Deaths!
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This is a relevant excerpt from a long ago prior post (May 2020)
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Why have I centered on Daily New Deaths (DND)  as my key metric?

First,  saving lives is our paramount objective, right?  If yes, it should be our focus metric.

Second, I think that most other metrics that are being bandied about are quite problematic.

Counting deaths — while a bit macabre — is a more reliable process than counting, say, the number of infected people.

Sure, I’d like to know the number of people infected with COVID-19.

But, unless everybody — or at lest a large statistical sample — is tested, the number of confirmed cases is subject to lots of statistical issues.

Most notably, who is being tested and who isn’t? What about the asymptomatic “hidden carriers”? What are the criteria for confirming a COVID infection? What about false positives (and false negatives)? How to standardize the reporting processes across states? How to keep governmental units from fudging the numbers?

Importantly, if testing increases, then confirmed cases goes up.

Is that an indication of more virus spread or just a reflection of more testing?

I sure can’t tell.

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Again, counting fatalities is probably the most reliable metric.

Fatalities are discrete events – so they’re countable.

Still, even deaths may have some counting imperfections.

For example, many non-hospitalized people die and are buried without autopsies.  Some may be uncounted COVID victims.

On the other hand, some people may die and be diagnosed with COVID infections. That doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID killed them.  That’s especially true with COVID since it’s  most deadly for people with other health problems.

And, as we stated above, the definition of COVID deaths has changed:

COVID-related” means “COVID present”, not necessarily “COVID caused” … and that, along the way, “present” was redefined from “confirmed” to “presumed”

Further, COVID deaths are a function of two drivers: the incidence of the virus … and, the nature, level and timing of therapeutic healthcare.

Said differently, more effective therapeutic healthcare will dampen the death toll.

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Bottom line:  “Daily New Deaths” is the number we should be watching.

If it shows a consistent downward trend, then we’ll know we’ve turned the corner.

If it stays stable (at a high level) or turns upward, we’ll know that we’re in deep yogurt.

 

April 13: COVID Dashboard

April 13, 2021

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WSJ: The Future of U.S. Higher Education…

April 9, 2021

A Few Star Universities, Many Affiliated Satellites
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Consider how the U.S. hospital system is evolving … independent hospitals are affiliating with “name brands” (e.g. Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins) … or are joining “integrated delivery networks” (e.g. HCA, CommonSpirit, Universal, Ascension, Tenet).

That model is analogous to a “re-imagining” of higher education in a WSJ op-ed by Daniel Pipes, founder of an organization called Campus Watch.

Mr. Pipes predicts that “top schools will flourish while the rest wither and are reborn as affiliates.”

Here’s the essence of Mr. Pipe’s rationale:

The taxi system was unreliable, expensive and unpleasant, so along came Uber and overturned it.

Higher education, even more antiquated than taxis, was due for a comparable shock.

Covid provided it.

More specifically, this is what Mr. Pipes envisions:

Covid has forced a massive reliance on Zoom instruction has finally proved the internet’s potential to disrupt the dominant, archaic model.

 

In-person attendance will return, but institutions will scamper to find new procedures [and ways to add value

 

MOOCs (“massive open online courses,”) – which have generally languished — will take off and finally fulfill their potential.

 

The appearance of such huge courses at a moment when lesser institutions are failing will result in a few star universities flourishing while the rest starve and die.

 

Imagine a reduction from some 5,300 U.S. colleges and universities to 50, each with its renowned outlook, specialties and strengths.

 

Thousands of existing campuses will become shared satellite facilities for those 50 that flourish.

Legions of (local) teaching assistants and graders who meet in person with students, will give education the personal touch and community grounding essential to its mission.

So, what happens at the “flourishing 50” campuses (and their faculties)?

My take:

> They continue to fulfill their research missions.

> They train the next generation of scholar-teachers

> They offer advanced content courses that require in-person teaching by subject matter experts.

> They operate as “content farms”, providing proprietary online courses

> The provide quality control over the “satellites” to protect the school’s standing and brand image.

For sure, the next couple of years will be interesting.

In-person advanced seminars with star professors will continue as ever,

Tuition will come crashing down as economies of scale come into play, truly opening education to all and ending the student-loan crisis.

April 9: COVID Dashboard

April 9, 2021

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Boycott baseball (and Coke)?

April 8, 2021

WSJ: It’s a necessary “intervention”.
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Had to know that this one was coming.

A WSJ op-ed, says ”Yes, Boycott baseball”:

Though he’s been absent from this column for weeks, it’s time to put Donald Trump back in play.

He’s right: Boycott baseball — and the rest of the progressives’ new corporate cancel-culture all-star team, including Patagonia, H&M, Uber, Tripadvisor, Levi’s, Blue Apron, Nordstrom and SoFi.

Why boycott them?

Because their CEOs are treating their customers like compliant saps.

Most of commercial life today revolves around one idea—promoting a company’s “brand.”

The left sees that they can generate 500 hostile social-media posts against a corporate brand over some made-up woke offense.

No dopes, CEOs who have bet their careers on millions in marketing costs, fear that their brands are  about to be destroyed by groupthink millennials who all at once will stop drinking Coke or refuse to stream baseball on MLB.TV.

Corporate cowardice is worse than ever.

I suspect the left’s professional activists are as taken aback as anyone at how the middle-aged liberals running big companies and cultural institutions swooned for wokeness. Why so easy?

The logical conclusion:

It’s time for  conservatives to organize commercial boycotts …

… to keep pandering CEOs from cavalierly dismissing half of their brand base …

…  and to save once-rational liberals from destroying themselves and pulling the rest of us down in the woke vortex.

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My take:

Baseball has been losing fans by the droves for a decade or more.

From a marketing perspective, politics aside,  I don’t understand why MLB was so quick to give an eye-poke to its mostly white, mostly male, mostly working-class fan base.

I guess that MLB thinks that woke millennials will stem the attendance and TV-viewing slide and flock to America’s slow-paced pastime.

Recent research has indicated the obvious: highlight reels are “in” and couch-watching long, commercial-heavy games is “out”.

So, I’m betting the under on woke millennials saving baseball.

And, I’m betting the over on pissed off fans ditching the high-priced seats and and ungluing from their TV sets.

We’ll see…

April 8: COVID Dashboard

April 8, 2021

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Trump: “Enough vaccine for all Americans by April”

April 7, 2021

Dateline: September 18, 2020
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Ballyhooed headline yesterday:

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To paraphrase the Biden-gushing media: “Yes, Biden has saved the country.”

Big problem with the narrative, though.

A more appropriate headline might have read: “Fortunately, Joe didn’t f-k this one up.”

See Obama: “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f–k things up.”

Why?

Well, it turns out that April was Operation Warp Speed’s timeline all along.

You know, the plan that Biden says that Trump didn’t have.”

For proof, flashback to Friday September 18, 2020 … the day that Trump boldly predicted that there would be enough vaccine available for all Americans by April (2021).

As reported by Kaiser Health News the following Monday:

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Specifically, Trump said:

“Millions of doses will be available every month, and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.”

But, of course, the “experts” and the Trump-hostile media guffawed:

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To recap:

  • Operation Warp Speed delivered.
  • Trump was right.
  • The “experts” were wrong.

Sound familiar?

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Just in case the September, 2020 news reports gets vaporized, here’s a hard copy of the KHN recap article (with specific citations)

April 7: COVID Dashboard

April 7, 2021

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MLB: Dumbest decision ever?

April 6, 2021

Let us count the ways…
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1. Provoked by the Biden Declaration … which the WaPo fact-checkers gave:

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… and allowed the Babylon Bee to headline:

MLB: ‘We Will Not Legitimize Georgia’s Racist Election Law
By Reading It To See What It Says’

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2. Denounced by all Georgia politicos … bipartisanship, including Stacey Abrams — the self-proclaimed “legitimately elected” Georgia governor.

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3. Induced head-scratching for the eroding MLB fan base: mostly old, white, working-class, men.

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4. Spotlighted the under-representation of black players.

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5. Announced during the opening week of the season … effectively stepping on all the season starting hype and excitement.

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6. Set off a tweet storm by leaking Denver as the replacement site for the All-Star Game

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Oh yeah, and don’t forget the MLB’s policy re: All-Star balloting that we featured yesterday:

Flashback: MLB victimized by voter fraud …… and responded by taking the vote away from fans!

April 6: COVID Dashboard

April 6, 2021

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Flashback: MLB victimized by voter fraud …

April 5, 2021

… and responded by taking the vote away from fans!
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Want to know why MLB is so touchy about voting rights?

Well, it all goes back to the 1957 All-Star game balloting.

Controversy surrounded the 1957 game:

Cincinnati Reds’ fans stuffed the ballot boxes and elected nearly their entire team to starting positions.

The voting shenanigans deprived baseball greats Hank Aaron and Willie Mays of honored starting spots.

Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick (and many non-Cincinnati fans) was outraged.

So, Frick overrode the fans’ votes and named Aaron and Hayes to the starting lineup and …

Frick took the bold step of  eliminating fan all-star balloting entirely.

He transferred All-Star voting rights from fans  to the players, managers and coaches starting in 1957. Source

Fans were excluded from MLB’s all-star selection process until 1970, when fans regained a “role” in the selection process.

That role was not a final say.

Over the years, MLB’s all-star voting has morphed into a Byzantine, centrally managed process.

Byzantine: a system or situation that is excessively complicated, and typically involving a great deal of administrative detail.

In a nutshell, here’s how the MLB’s annual all-star roster is selected:  Source

  • All-Star Game starters (except for starting pitchers and the NL’s starting designated hitter) are chosen via fan vote in 2 phases (think: primary and run-off elections)
  • Phase 1 is akin to a political primary election.  Voting is conducted online & via paper ballots — stacks of which are are freely distributed at games. (think: mail in ballots). The top 3 vote getters advance to the “Starters Selection”
  • Phase 2 — the Starters Selection — is akin to a run-off political election. Vote totals are reset, and fans have a 28-hour period to vote online on starters from the list of finalists at each position. (Note: No provision is made for rural, minority or poor fans who lack internet access)
  • All of the pitchers and position-player reserves are chosen through a combination of player ballot selections and choices made by the Commissioner’s Office (i.e. fans have no say re: 75% of the roster slots)
  • All teams are guaranteed at least one roster slot (think: U.S. Senate representation)
  • The Commissioner (who decided to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta) reserves the right to over-rule any selection that is not in the best interest of baseball.

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So, these jabrones self-appoint as the arbiters of voting rights?

C’mon, man.

Have they looked in a mirror recently?

As the Babylon Bee asked: Will the MLB stop requiring picture IDs for beer purchases … and sell beer until the last out?

I’m betting the under …

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April 5: COVID Dashboard

April 5, 2021

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April 4: COVID Dashboard

April 4, 2021

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Herd Immunity Projection details…

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COVID: How risky to resume activities?

April 2, 2021

Here’s an interactive online assessment tool to try.
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To answer the question “What Can You Do Once You’re Vaccinated?”, the NY Times devised a handy risk assessment tool.

Boiled down, the tool rates participation risks by asking questions along a couple of key dimensions:

Your vulnerability … Vaccinated?  Healthy?

Location risk  … Regional hot spot? Indoors??

Activity risk … Close contact? Intensity?

Crowd risk … Number of strangers?  Behavior?

Inner circle risk … Their vulnerability?

It only takes a couple of minutes to rate an activity.

It’s worthwhile to try it.

At a minimum, it will plant some seeds in your brain re: factors to consider.

It may even sub-consciously nudge you to more healthy (i.e. risk-reducing behavior).

Try it.

April 2: COVID Dashboard

April 2, 2021

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Herd Immunity Projection details…

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VAX: J&J tosses 15 million doses … failed quality control.

April 1, 2021

First, HUGE vaccine blunder comes under Biden’s watch !
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A couple of weeks ago we noted a red flag in the CDC vax numbers.

See Notice anything odd about this vaccine shots’ chart?

Specifically, we pointed out that J&J’s vaccine deliveries were far below plan (and still are).

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But, not to worry … Team Biden was on the case.

In a mid-March statement, Biden said:

“You know, when we came into office, we began working with the team at J&J to accelerate and add capacity to their manufacturing and production efforts.

I have not hesitated to use my power under the Defense Production Act to expedite critical materials in vaccine production …. to help speed up the delivery of millions of more doses.

Whew.

Fortunately, Team Biden was on the case and not Trump’s Operation Warp Speed clowns, right?

Well, not so fast, mes amies.

The original Grandma Homa used to say: “Sometimes haste makes waste.”

And, as Rev. Wright preached: “The chickens will come home to roost”.

Yesterday, reports surfaced that:

Workers at an Emergent Technologies plant in Baltimore manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines (for J&J and Astra Zeneca) accidentally conflated the ingredients several weeks ago, contaminating up to 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Source

The good news: J&J’s quality control checks uncovered the mistake before any doses were packaged in vials or shipped.

The bad news: 15 million doses went down the drain.

According to the NY Times:

The mistake is a major embarrassment both for J&J, whose one-dose vaccine has been credited with speeding up the national immunization program, and for Emergent, its subcontractor.

Note that the Times neglected to mention that Team Biden had been working with J&J and Emergent “since they came into office … to expedite critical materials … and accelerate manufacturing”.

Probably just an oversight, right?

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Again, Team Biden says not to worry since they’re nudging “the other two approved coronavirus vaccine makers (Pfizer and Moderna) to meet President Biden’s commitment to provide enough vaccine to immunize every adult by the end of May.”

I like the America First thinking, but the spin doesn’t change the facts: subbing 2-dose vaccines for J&J’s 1-shot formulation will stretch the time it takes the U.S. to get fully vaccinated … and, it means that 15 million folks somewhere (Canada, for example, which is far behind in vaccinations) are missing out on timely vaccinations at a critical time.

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P.S. Politico is reporting that:

Senior officials working on the federal government’s Covid-19 response told POLITICO that it became clear earlier this month that there were significant problems at Emergent’s West Baltimore plant, where the company was producing the active ingredient — or drug substance — for J&J’s vaccine.

What happened to truth and  transparency?

April 1: COVID Dashboard

April 1, 2021

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Herd Immunity Projection details…

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