Below is a chart that shows nothing interesting and a whole lot interesting. The underlying graph is from the New York Times. I have added some important chronology to it. It is, with my overlay, a Rorschach test for how you see the virus and its spread. The reality is that the Times’ graph isn’t very helpful because it does not show increases in testing, among other things. But what you notice and how you interpret the graph and my labels really is instructive on how people are seeing common data and objective points and processing them.
Multiple vocal members of the press told us that the small business owners protesting across the nation in early to mid-April would cause a spike in the virus. One White House correspondent tweeted that these people should be forced to waive their rights to ventilators if they got COVID-10 from protesting. News anchors behaved similarly.
When Governor Brian Kemp reopened Georgia at the end of April, various pundits suggested he had blood on his hands. But an uptick in cases in Georgia did not come, at least until Memorial Day revelers disobeyed the Governor’s still in place requirements on social distancing.
Then the protests happened in the wake of George Floyd’s death followed by large Pride rallies at the end of June. Many pundits, reporters, and politicians gave those people a pass even after attacking the small business owners in April.
As you can see from the trendlines, the virus really didn’t start its nationwide surge until about two weeks after the protests began, which does suggest a clear link even as some talking heads dogmatically refused to believe it. Seeing healthcare workers who disparaged small business owners in April take to the streets in June helped undermine trust in the experts. Seeing journalists seemingly take sides helped undermine their trust. The truth is that the virus spread for a whole host of reasons. It was no one protest, no one rally, no one party, no one march, and no one thing that did it. Mostly, it was individuals who did not follow guidelines and their irresponsibility is no more the fault of their governor as it is the President’s fault. It is their fault. We, individually, have a responsibility to our neighbors and the spread of the virus actually indicates how selfish so many people have gotten. Their liberty trumps their social responsibility to help keep a virus from spreading.
The reality is our institutions are as broken and tribal as our society. We need not replay the Bari Weiss resignation at the New York Times to understand that. Everyone is finding experts who tell them what they want to hear, not the truth. Narrative is more important than fact. Victory must come before virtue.
I came back from vacation and took to the air on Monday morning spending almost the whole first hour of my radio program explaining why we now know masks work effectively to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The science has changed from February to July. We now have real world examples too.
A man infected with COVID-19 flew from Beijing to Toronto, coughing the whole trip while wearing a mask. None of the people around him on the plane got infected.
Two hair stylists in Missouri, both infected with COVID-19, gave haircuts to over 100 people, all of whom wore masks. Not a single client got infected.
Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Slovenia, and South Korea have all gone mostly back to normal with COVID-19 contained by mandating masks.
I point these facts out and people send me analysis by fringe scientists to prove masks are ineffective. They believed masks were ineffective and then found the scientists who agree with them. There are scientists who think boys really can become girls too. There are scientists who believe the moon landing was not real. China and Russia are seeding misinformation and people are recirculating it. Partisans are politicizing it.
The issue here is that everyone and everything is now so political and tribal that we have a trust deficit. Much of the media contributes to it. Much of the public now only want to hear their views parroted back to them. Just consider I am, two days removed from my Monday post, still getting people demanding refunds and cancellations because, though I said if I vote I’m voting Trump and have given the man money for his re-election, I also said I thought he lacked character and wasn’t leading credibly during the virus.
People only want to hear what they want to hear and nothing else. I can understand why Jesus didn’t feel the need to waste miracles on people who he knew would not believe him anyway.
But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all peopleand needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. John 2:24-25.
That actually gets me to the larger point that needs to be made here.
Much of the information we now know about COVID-19 is different from January, February, and March.
Back then, government officials told us only sick people needed masks and it would not do healthy people good. We now know that advice is wrong and, more importantly, a lot of healthy people can be infected, not know it, and transmit it to others. We now know the most infectious people are pre-symptomatic people, i.e. they’ll get the symptoms, but haven’t yet and have no idea they’re infected. We are better off presuming we all have the virus and are infectious.
Much of the data changed. Likewise, much of the data is still changing. Much of the data is so rushed that it winds up being in error or is misinterpreted by non-experts as it is put out in real-time.
Layer on top of that the partisanship in America now both in the news and off the news and a lot of people are putting tribal concerns ahead of fact and truth.
Andrew Cuomo gets a great pass from much of the media for his handling of the situation in New York, but while Cuomo was sending senior citizens with the virus back into nursing homes, Ron DeSantis was shutting down nursing homes and protecting the elderly there. Florida has not seen the per capita nursing home death toll that New York saw. But DeSantis is not of the party much of the media likes so he gets maligned while Cuomo gets the hero treatment.
Kudos to Jake Tapper for this, by the way. It’s why he remains one of the most reliable voices in the press:
I’m not trying to make a partisan point here, believe it or not. My point is that a lot of the data is being interpreted through partisan lenses and wishful thinking and it is affecting everyone’s response.
Here is mine.
We have fifty states and fifty governors, all of whom are dealing with different situations in different ways as data changes rapidly and science advances. I think in hindsight we will see some behaved badly and some behaved well.
But I’m not going to attack Gavin Newsom or Greg Abbott or Ron DeSantis or Brian Kemp or other governors for doing what they can to keep their residents safe. They are facing a virus that has no cure, which spreads more easily than the flu, and that kills more people than the flu. They have constantly changing expert opinions; must balance the concerns of an economy with the health of citizens and the limited resources of hospital capacity; and must consider school reopenings, workforce reopenings, and more to avoid overwhelming their systems.
Yes, I am critical of Andrew Cuomo because I think he made obvious mistakes well after he should have known better and the press gave him a pass. But Cuomo too had to deal with a City of New York bureaucracy that was still telling people to go out and celebrate Chinese New Year even as the virus was spreading.
I’m just not going to blame these ladies and gentlemen for overreacting or underreacting at times when the science was unclear, the advice was mixed, and the messages were muddy. And now, having reopened, they are forced to govern over people who think masks are ineffective, but Wayfair is engaging in human trafficking through the sale of cabinets, both because they read it on the internet. Governors cannot keep their citizens from behaving irresponsibly except by forcing them to stay home.
We have fifty laboratories of democracy and one of them is going to find the right way to fight COVID-19. We should be cheering on all fifty governors who have no easy task in uneasy times. We should be praying for them, not condemning them for doing what they think is right — even if it deviates from your preferred expert who tells you exactly what you want to hear and knew to be true even if it isn’t.
God bless them all, our President, and all of you.