Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Gov. Bill Lee Embraces Death For Tennessee


As Señor Trumpanzee spent Monday morning frustrated at being shut out of his own pandemic briefings and rage-tweeting instead, people were reading accounts of more Trumpists demanding their rights to steepen the curve and kill the rest of us. Covering the dangerous sociopaths in Wisconsin, Holly Bailey wrote that "Like other protests here and in other states in recent days, attendees defied the advice of health-care professionals, who have urged social distancing. They stood shoulder to shoulder, many without masks or face coverings that officials say could prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The rally highlighted the growing political rift over how and when states should reopen businesses in the wake of the coronavirus and covid-19, the disease it causes, a contagion that has infected more than 950,000 Americans and killed over 54,000."

Wisconsin has 6,081 confirmed cases, which should be read as 1,052 cases per million, a number than has been steadily creeping up since the Republicans in the state legislature forced in-person voting on the state earlier this month. Tennessee is worse off-- 9,918 confirmed cases or 1,491 cases per million. But Tennessee has a crackpot governor, Bill Lee (R), who has decided-- with the acquiescence of the Republican-controlled state legislature-- to reopen the state's restaurants yesterday. Sunday's jump in new cases-- 478-- is "the highest number of new cases recorded in one day so far in the state... The increase marks the fifth consecutive day where the day-over-day rate increase has been more than 5%." Retail stores will be allowed to open tomorrow.

Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville will ignore the crackpot governor and set their own timetables for reopening businesses based on local conditions rather than right-wing ideology.
Under the state's plan, restaurants are asked to require employees to wear gloves and masks, use disposable menus, have a maximum of six people per table and limit overall occupancy to 50% capacity.

The state has asked restaurants not to have live music and to keep their bar areas closed. Restaurants are also asked to clean all front-of-house surfaces every two hours and halt any buffets, shared condiments or beverage stations.

The plan encourages restaurants to screen customers with "basic questions" about COVID-19 symptoms. 
No live music? That's actually a good idea. A report last week by T.A. Frank in Vanity Fair noted that singing is a way to infect people. "Enclosed spaces in which people raise their voices together have time and again proven to be the sites of major outbreaks," he wrote. "In Daegu, South Korea, members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus crowd together, embrace, and shout 'Amen' throughout an hours-long service, and one person is believed to have infected hundreds of others that way. A funeral in Albany, Georgia, at which people embraced and 'belted out hymns,' according to Ellen Barry in the New York Times, infected dozens. Hundreds of cases are believed to have emanated from an après-ski restaurant and bar in Ischgl, a resort town in Austria... Why is singing significant? One 2019 study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports found that 'the rate of particle emission during normal human speech is positively correlated with the loudness (amplitude) of vocalization.' It also found that 'a small fraction of individuals behaves as speech superemitters, consistently releasing an order of magnitude more particles than their peers.' In its review of the literature, it also offered wild (at least to this author) facts like this: Saying 'aah' for 30 seconds releases more micron-scale particles than does 30 seconds of coughing. That may be why weddings and funerals and birthday parties and church services of all sorts have been central to outbreak anecdotes. As for drinking establishments, a quiet pub with a bit of space between customers probably isn’t going to see a lot of people infected at once. But a rowdy spot in the Alps? A lot of infections. Shared vocalization is a magical thing in normal times, but these are coronavirus times. Even a cough-along is looking safer than a sing-along."

As long as we're talking about that Vanity Fair report and leaving Tennessee to its own devices, turns out you have to work hard to catch COVID-19 out of doors. "Coronavirus transmission is an indoor phenomenon that works in mysterious ways," wrote Frank. "Outdoor transmission, on the other hand, is a rarity. One impressive Chinese study, still in the preprint phase, examined 320 cities in China for every outbreak affecting three or more people. Not one was found to have occurred outdoors. Had the authors delved into two-person outbreaks, it still wouldn’t have changed much. Only one of out of the 7,324 cases fit the bill. In a village in Henan province, note the authors, a '27-year-old man had a conversation outdoors with an individual who had returned from Wuhan on 25 January and had the onset of symptoms on 1 February.' Even in that case, the people in question may have touched, shaken hands, or gotten very close for a long time... Based on the evidence we have so far, you’re less likely to get the coronavirus outside than you are to die inside from falling, poisoning yourself, or choking, all of which start to look tempting amid all the mindless restrictions on fresh-air activity. Absent compelling evidence for the benefits of joyless outdoor life, let people stroll (even sit!) on the beach, play some tennis, or throw a Frisbee back and forth. They’ll kill no one."

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