The plague resumes in 4 days

I’ve been at home, rarely stepping out, other than to visit an empty university and a lab populated entirely and exclusively by spiders. And I like it that way! Alas, it all changes on Tuesday, when the students return and I have to mingle with them 5 days a week. I have my masks, and I’ve been thoroughly vaccinated, but I’m also aware that there are plague demons among us. People like Joseph Ladapo, surgeon general of Florida, and accomplice to the fast-fading fascist, Ron DeSantis.

It used to be fairly easy to dismiss Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, as a clownish anti-vaccine quack posing a danger mostly to residents of his home state.

That has become harder to do as time goes on, as Ladapo has moved from promoting useless treatments for COVID-19, such as the drugs hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, to waging an ever-expanding fact-free campaign against the leading COVID vaccines.

This month, Ladapo established a new low for himself. In a public advisory issued Wednesday by the Florida Department of Health, he declared the vaccines “not appropriate for use in human beings” and counseled doctors to steer patients to other treatments. He explicitly called for a “halt in the use of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.”

He’s basing this sweeping dismissal on ONE (1) swiftly debunked paper by an anti-vax crank.

It’s not just COVID, though. I’m concerned about that as I prepare to share an atmosphere with students again, but also because we’ve got idiots like Ladapo everywhere who are disrupting basic public health with their absurd ideas.

Then there’s the public health context: As COVID infections have been surging coast to coast, advisories from public health authorities to resume masking and take other protective measures, such as making sure you’re up to date on vaccinations, are almost invisible.

Even more worrisome, the incidence of other vaccine-preventable diseases may be rising. As many as nine cases of measles have been reported in Philadelphia, some associated with an infection started at a daycare center with a family that violated quarantine rules.

Among the victims, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, are “an infant who was too young to get vaccinated, an unvaccinated older child and the older child’s unvaccinated parent.”

Nine cases may not sound like a lot — 41 were reported nationwide in 2023 — but they could be a harbinger of worse to come, in clusters in which anti-vaccine propaganda has taken hold.

The “invisible” aspect of public health advisories is notable — my university used to have a big bold link on the main web page that pointed to the status of the pandemic on campus, with recommendations for protecting oneself. It’s gone. You have to dig to find any updates on COVID. I guess someone thinks COVID-19 is over.

And then, undermining public confidence in such basic principles of good preventive medicine, such as vaccines and hygiene, as Ladapo is doing, is going to do long-lasting harm. I don’t want to die of COVID, but I also don’t want to die of polio, or measles, or the bubonic plague, or some exotic new disease that springs up in the rotting flesh of some Republican ignoramus. Ladapo and all of these conservative know-nothings are making that more probable.

How do these morons get any power at all in government, I’d like to know.

The most punchable face in America is back!

And he’s giving us even more reason to punch him!

Infamous “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli announced his newest venture yesterday, and it’s about as awful as you’d expect. In a Substack post and on Twitter, he unveiled, a “virtual healthcare assistant” that (predictably) Shkreli believes will disrupt medicine—in spite of some very real and worrying legal and ethical gray areas.

“My central thesis is: Healthcare is more expensive than we’d like mostly because of the artificially constrained supply of healthcare professionals,” he wrote on Substack. “I envision a future where our children ask what physicians were like and why society ever needed them.”

“Dr. Gupta” is just Shkreli’s latest health venture since being released from prison last May. Last year, he founded Druglike, a drug discovery software platform being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is looking into whether Shkreli is violating a court-ordered lifetime ban on working in the pharmaceutical industry by running Druglike.

Madness. If you replace all the healthcare professionals who generate the data that is leeched off by a glorified chatbot with said chatbot, where is the information that they parrot going to come from? All you’re going to have left is a feedback loop that is disconnected from any reality checks, it’s going to get progressively worse, and we’re not going to get any new medical knowledge.

It’s quite rich that he’s blaming the high expenses of medical care on scarce skilled medical labor and knowledge, when he’s the guy who artificially elevated the cost of life-saving drugs. Blame the greedy pharmaceutical executives instead.

Hey, people like Shkreli are the ones who could be replaced by a mindless software program!

I’ve experienced brain fog, and no thank you very much

A few weeks ago, I had what is called a transient ischemic attack — don’t worry, it was brief, hasn’t returned, and the doctors examined me inside & out with embarrassing thoroughness, and have given me a clean bill of health — but it was terrifying. For a whole ten minutes, I couldn’t focus on a simple and familiar task on the computer. I knew what I had to do, if I was thinking normally, and I couldn’t figure out how to find basic, abstract functions on the screen in front of me. When it passed, then click-click-click it was a second’s work, and I couldn’t understand what had happened.

Today I read Ed Yong’s latest, and dear god, it is chilling.

On March 25, 2020, Hannah Davis was texting with two friends when she realized that she couldn’t understand one of their messages. In hindsight, that was the first sign that she had COVID-19. It was also her first experience with the phenomenon known as “brain fog,” and the moment when her old life contracted into her current one. She once worked in artificial intelligence and analyzed complex systems without hesitation, but now “runs into a mental wall” when faced with tasks as simple as filling out forms. Her memory, once vivid, feels frayed and fleeting. Former mundanities—buying food, making meals, cleaning up—can be agonizingly difficult. Her inner world—what she calls “the extras of thinking, like daydreaming, making plans, imagining”—is gone. The fog “is so encompassing,” she told me, “it affects every area of my life.” For more than 900 days, while other long-COVID symptoms have waxed and waned, her brain fog has never really lifted.

Of long COVID’s many possible symptoms, brain fog “is by far one of the most disabling and destructive,” Emma Ladds, a primary-care specialist from the University of Oxford, told me. It’s also among the most misunderstood. It wasn’t even included in the list of possible COVID symptoms when the coronavirus pandemic first began. But 20 to 30 percent of patients report brain fog three months after their initial infection, as do 65 to 85 percent of the long-haulers who stay sick for much longer. It can afflict people who were never ill enough to need a ventilator—or any hospital care. And it can affect young people in the prime of their mental lives.

AAAAAAAAAAAAIIEEE! That’s what I experienced…for ten minutes. But that’s one of the possible symptoms of long-COVID, and people go through it for months? I can’t imagine it. I wouldn’t want to go through that.

For example, Robertson’s brain often loses focus mid-sentence, leading to what she jokingly calls “so-yeah syndrome”: “I forget what I’m saying, tail off, and go, ‘So, yeah …’” she said. Brain fog stopped Kristen Tjaden from driving, because she’d forget her destination en route. For more than a year, she couldn’t read, either, because making sense of a series of words had become too difficult. Angela Meriquez Vázquez told me it once took her two hours to schedule a meeting over email: She’d check her calendar, but the information would slip in the second it took to bring up her inbox. At her worst, she couldn’t unload a dishwasher, because identifying an object, remembering where it should go, and putting it there was too complicated.

That’s exactly what I was trying to do! I was trying to put a presentation I had to give on my calendar/email, and somehow I couldn’t figure out where anything was or what steps I had to take. Even my brief experience with that was intolerably frustrating. It was so awful that immediately after I recovered my ability to act again, I checked into a hospital, despite feeling totally fine once it passed.

Thanks, Ed Yong. Now in addition to worrying about respiratory failure and death, I can dread losing my brain. I’ve managed to avoid getting COVID at all so far, and now I’m motivated to be even more scrupulous in my preventive efforts. It’s too bad my employers, a fucking university, has so little concern about the minds of their faculty and students.


My grandnephew Alex (my brother’s daughter’s son — it can be hard to keep track!) is growing into a young man, which brings with it challenges most of us didn’t have to worry about. He was born with cleft lip and palate, which was surgically corrected…many times. It turns out that this is not a one-and-done kind of surgery, as he grows, his skull has to be continuously adjusted with more surgery and more gadgets. Right now he’s about to go in and get a device called a halo attached to his head for 3 months. It’s like braces for your whole face.

He has decided to document the procedure and his travails afterwards with a video series called HaloDays.

Follow and subscribe!

Random thoughts about pig hearts

A man in Maryland has received a pig heart transplant. What an interesting idea! People have been talking about xenotransplants of this magnitude for decades, and now someone actually gets to try it. It’s also a terrifying idea.

  • My first thought was of Baby Fae, the infant in 1984 who received a baboon heart. It was a disaster. The surgeon didn’t believe in evolution and dismissed concerns about the degree of relatedness, and the donor was blood type AB and Fae was type O. They also didn’t have any means of genetically modifying the baboon. Would you believe there are ethical concerns and responsibilities in this sort of thing?
  • The Washington post article is all about the ethics of the surgery, which is good. It takes a really cock-eyed perspective, though: the recipient was a bad guy who stabbed and paralyzed someone, failed to pay court-ordered compensation to his victim, and also has a history of being sloppy and undisciplined about his medications. Should he have been given this gift?
    Jesus, it’s not even in question. Doctors should deliver health care based on need, not passing judgment on the worth (in all senses of the word) of their patient. What next? Will doctors decide on my treatment based on my credit score? Yeah, you don’t have to tell me that here in the good ol’ USA that is the de facto situation. It’s not good.
  • For the retribution crowd, relax. He is being punished. He’s an experimental guinea pig for a treatment that’s going to buy him a little time. The pig was extensively manipulated with 10 genes modified to reduce, but not totally eliminate, the chance of rejection. He’s going to be trapped in a hospital bed for a good long while, with nurses waking him up every few hours through the night to do blood tests, and he’s going to be taking so many pills. I’ve been in that place for relatively trivial surgeries, it’s a necessary hell. Have a little pity.
  • He’s probably going to die in a few months, anyway — I’ll be surprised if his new heart isn’t shredded by rejection in short order. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he gets a significant survival time, though, since that means this could be a very promising treatment for everyone.
  • Except the pigs. You do realize that this implies the existence of pig farms for animals whose fate is to be chopped up as needed for organs, right? It’s a tiny drop in the slaughterhouse bucket, since humans butcher 1.5 billion pigs per year to make pulled pork sandwiches and bacon, so it’s not the numbers that are daunting, it’s the fact that right now there are cloned pigs being modified and raised in artisanal farms in the hopes that genetic refinement will make them incredibly valuable to corporations. These are long term investments!
  • No one is talking about how much these expendable pigs cost. We aren’t talking about the ethics from the pig’s perspective, and we’re suspiciously mum about what the bill is going to be. This lucky (?) fellow in Maryland is benefitting from a bit of scientific curiosity — hey, we’ve been raising all these special pigs for a decade or so, how about if we splice one heart into a test subject and see what happens — but if it works and becomes a relatively routine intervention, who’s going to be able to afford it?
  • While I’m on the pig’s side, what do these gene modifications do to the health of the pig stock? Does this compromise their immune systems? Are these going to be bubble-pigs that need to be raised in a sterile environment?
  • I got to wondering about the scientific methodology behind making pigs with all these genetic modifications. Here’s an article on practical approaches for knock-out gene editing in pigs. It’s a multi-step, multi-generational process to produce pigs with specific mutations. Scientists have been working for years to make these pigs.

    Schematic workflow of the different steps needed to generate a gene edited pig. (A) Efficiency analysis of mutations induced by CRISPR-Cas9 system. (B) Different strategies to generate one-cell stage porcine edited embryos. (C) Gene editing analysis of the founder pigs (F0) and offspring produced by crossbreeding F0 pigs (F1).

  • The above article describes the mechanics, but not the research that goes into discovering candidate genes to reduce the immune response. Everyone is fumbling forward in the dark, finding likely genes that are affecting rejection, but they have to put that pig donor tissue in a human host to see if they actually got ’em all. This man in Maryland is very much a wildly experimental test subject, a scientific experiment in progress. The most likely result is they’ll find that “oops, we missed an important gene” and they’ll go back to the pig farm with a new CRISPR/Cas target and raise another generation with 11 modified genes for the next attempt. Meanwhile, this host is dead. But he will have contributed to Science with his demise!

Anyway, my brain is currently split between a Frankensteinian fascination with this bold experiment, and a humane dismay at the cost in suffering for humans and pigs.


First, I must remind everyone that billionaire Rupert Murdoch elbowed his way to the front of the queue to get the vaccine as soon as it was announced, and that all those blithering conservative on-air personalities on Fox News are required to be vaccinated, just to put this story on Fox News’ promotion of quacks in perspective. It lists ten of the COVID denialist and anti-vax and tepid apologists for inaction who have been featured on the network many hundreds of times. Names you should learn to recognize and scorn: Marc Siegel, Martin Makary, Nicole Saphier, Rand Paul, Brett Giroir, Janette Nesheiwat, Jayanta Bhattacharya, Harvey Risch, Scott Atlas, and Peter McCullough. They all have the title of “Dr”, but you should know that the majority of doctors disagree with these scam artists; Fox News has been carefully distilling the population of MDs to purify and isolate the most untrustworthy scum to selectively display on popular programs by even more reprehensible filth like Carlson and Ingraham and Kudlow. You don’t get a prime time opinion/bloviation slot on Fox if you hold a reasonable view of the science.

Contrast that with this genuinely excellent interview with Jonathan Eisen, a biologist at UC Davis. Eisen simply and plainly says what every biologist and informed citizen knows about SARS-CoV-2.

The Omicron variant is way more infectious [than Delta]. It’s horribly contagious. Even people who are boosted are still getting infected. [The vaccine] does not seem to provide a huge protection against getting infected. I think that’s part of why it’s spreading so fast—people who have been vaccinated and/or boosted have mistakenly thought they were not going to get infected, and so they were going maskless everywhere. But if you have five times as many people infected, that’s going to create havoc, and that’s what is happening in New York and the Northeast, where the hospitals are full. They’re already sending people away who have any other types of emergency or nonemergency health needs. I think we’re in for some tough times; that’s my prediction.

Exactly. This is what I’m expecting, too. It’s also what everyone who isn’t brainwashed by Fox News can figure out. So what should we do?

All the evidence right now shows that vaccines are incredibly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and death from Covid. And this is true even for new variants such as Delta and Omicron, even though the vaccines were not specifically designed for them. One can reduce the risk of severe illness even more by getting a booster shot. This reduction in risk is very, very clear from all the data. The one issue with Omicron that is different than with other variants is that just getting the regular vaccine dose (e.g., two Pfizer shots) does not reduce the risk of severe illness as much as it did for other variants. In other words, to reduce the risk of severe illness or death, it seems that a booster is very important here.

This is what infuriates me. Everyone wants the quick fix, the easy treatment, the simplest, most painless way to prevent this disease, and science provides one: the vaccine. Go in to the clinic or pharmacy, poke, you’re done, death averted. And what happens? People who listen to Fox News whine, “I want an insta-fix, but not that one.” They’d rather dose themselves with hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin or bleach or betadine, treatments that don’t work, than take the medicine proven to work.

In a world with people who refuse the treatment that works, and other people who can’t, for other medical reasons, get the vaccine, what can we do to protect ourselves. That’s also easy. Wear a mask in public.

What I’m hoping is that people do a lot of behavioral intervention that can slow down the spread of the Omicron variant. It goes back to the whole “flattening the curve” thing from before, and there are many things we can do. If you’re in crowded indoor spaces, you can avoid doing things where you have to take off your mask—so, no eating. But even with your mask on, not all masks are created equal. There’s new guidance that has come out in the last few days that cloth masks just aren’t going to cut it against Omicron. They just do not, on their own, filter enough particles out to reduce your exposure when airspace is getting filled with virus. What you want is a KN95 or N95 mask.

Yes. Masks aren’t the imposition the whiny-ass-titty-babies of conservatism pretend they are. When I’m teaching, I wear them continuously all day long with no difficulty, other than that I’m generally soft-voiced and muffling me doesn’t help (I’m working on it by TALKING LOUDER with my teaching voice). I tried to order some N95 masks in time for spring classes, but right now they’re backlogged and horribly expensive, so I settled for N94…still expensive with slow delivery — I think they’re all coming from South Korea — but I’ll double-up with a cloth mask until N95s become more available, I hope. If they do.

Eisen mentions also that he avoids big indoor events, even restaurants, and won’t fly, although he thinks if everyone on the plane takes reasonable precautions it’s probably safe. It’s just that too many people have been infected with the Fox brain-rot. Just glance at YouTube fights over masks on airplanes — people are getting into brawls in the aisles because they refuse to wear a mask. It’s nuts.

I avoid going out because I live in a county where practically no one wears a mask, ever. Even when our governor imposed a mask mandate, briefly, a lot of people ignored it, and our local business wouldn’t enforce it — and even then, half the population was incapable of figuring out that the mask covers your mouth and nose. It was good news when my university reluctantly decided to require masks and vaccines for all of our incoming students, but we’re a tiny island of common sense in an ocean of conservative denialists of basic medical facts.

We also need to worry about the long-term consequences of infection. Idiots like those talking heads on Fox News want to pretend it’s just a kind of flu, you get over it and carry on, but COVID has complications you ignore at your own peril.

That is one of my biggest concerns with this attitude of not worrying about Omicron too much because it might cause less severe symptoms. We know that long Covid is a problem for the other variants. It’s a big problem that is poorly understood medically, but is very clearly a real thing. These are real medical problems that people are having for months to now years after infection. Some people are saying everybody is going to eventually get Omicron, and that’s just the wrong attitude. We can make it so that not everybody gets it, and therefore reduce the risk of long Covid in too many people. We can’t just let it spread to everyone on the globe, because that’s going to be a medical catastrophe. Now is not the time to do nothing and hope for the best. It is the time to take measures while at the same time trying not to damage people’s lifestyles and lives and the economy.

Eisen’s is the kind of sensible voice we ought to have been hearing all along in our news media, providing accurate, honest information. I guess Rupert Murdoch knows that that doesn’t sell, unfortunately. And that’s why we’re screwed right now.

Nice big experimental animals

Prison populations are hotbeds of COVID-19 infections, and they’re full of surplus people society doesn’t really need, and gosh, a lot of them are black, even, so you know what we should do? An experiment!

An Arkansas doctor under investigation for prescribing an anti-parasite drug called ivermectin to jail detainees with COVID-19, even though federal health officials specifically warn against it, has said that those patients took the drug willingly. But several inmates at the Washington County jail say that is not the case — that they were given the pills with no indication of what they really were.

CBS News spoke with 29-year-old Edrick Floreal-Wooten over a video call from the jail on Friday. After testing positive for COVID-19 in August, he said he and other inmates went to “pill call” and were given several pills with the explanation that it would help them “get better.” He said he and others asked repeatedly what the pills were.

“They said they were vitamins, steroids and antibiotics,” Floreal-Wooten told CBS News. “We were running fevers, throwing up, diarrhea … and so we figured that they were here to help us. … We never knew that they were running experiments on us, giving us ivermectin. We never knew that.”

Except it wasn’t even an experiment. The doctor, Rob Karas, took it upon himself to dose the patients, despite the fact that every credible medical organization says it is dangerous and not recommended.

Karas, who has treated people at the jail for six years, confirmed prescribing the drug to CBS News on Friday, saying that vaccines are a “tremendous asset in the fight against COVID,” but that their availability “does not change the day-to-day reality of caring for sick patients.”

Karas said in an email he obtained ivermectin from a licensed pharmacist “in dosages and compounds formulated for humans” to give to COVID patients.

“I do not have the luxury of conducting my own clinical trial or study and am not attempting to do so. I am on the front line of trying to prevent death and serious illness,” he told CBS News. “I am proud of our track record in both of my clinics and at the jail in particular.”

Karas is now under investigation by the Arkansas State Medical Board. That’s weak sauce — he’s been poisoning his patients, and needs a rather more severe and immediate punishment.

But what the hey, they’re just prison inmates, they probably deserve some mild poisoning.

Colonoscopy prep day!

Good morning, everybody! It’s colonoscopy prep day, and I am so excited!

For you young’uns out there, this is a rite of passage you get to enjoy once you turn 50, or maybe earlier if you have risk factors. This is a process where a doctor invasively scrutinizes every inch of your colon to screen for cancer, and you get to do it every 5 years (or in my case, every 3 years because last time they found a few harmless polyps). So today is the day I get ready for an outpatient trip to the local hospital.

Everyone will tell you the prep is worse than the procedure, and it is. You have to completely empty your bowels so the doctor’s view isn’t impeded by, umm, shall we call them Deplorables? Today I’m purging the Deplorables.

First thing, I’m fasting. No solid foods at all today. I made some pineapple jello yesterday, and I get to have clear broth, but otherwise, it’s all drinking down fluids and nothing else. I do get to drink all the coffee I want, so I will.

I have to take 4 Dulcolax pills this morning, a stool softener.

At 3pm this afternoon, I get to fill up this jug with four liters of water, and start drinking it. I’m supposed to finish all four liters by 6pm. Chug, chug, chug!

It says “lemon flavor”. This is only sort of true, if your lemonade tastes more like watery mucus. I will cope. This is really the worst part of the worst day. Well, maybe the worst part — I do get to spend the rest of the evening expelling Deplorables.

Then, as of midnight, I go dry. No water, nothing, shall pass these lips, and prep day will have passed.

Tomorrow I go into the hospital at 8:15. I get to strip naked and put on one of those chic hospital gowns that opens at the back, and the nurse will stick a needle in my arm, and Dr Sam will walk in and tell me to lie on my side and bring my knees up to my chest, and then deliver the magic drugs and a veil of darkness will fall over the unspeakable events that ensue. He’s going to stick a tube up my butt with a small flashlight and a camera at the end, and also little snippy scissors so he can chop out anything he wants to take a closer look at.

By 10am I’ll be groggily putting my clothes back on and my wife will drive me home, where I’m told I’m supposed to be lazy all day. I can do that! I might also be hungry.

Why am I doing all this? Consider the payoff matrix. It’s the only rational thing to do.

I get a colonoscopy I don’t get a colonoscopy
I have cancer I catch it early! I have to get cancer treatments, but I have a better chance of not dying, and the treatments won’t be as debilitating as if I let the cancer grow. I have cancer, but I don’t know it. It grows until the unpleasant symptoms become noticeable and require more serious intervention. Or I die.
I don’t have cancer Yay! And I know it! Relax, resume my decadent lifestyle until the next colonoscopy. I’m OK! But do I know for sure? I do not. I might have to hold some reservations, rather than plunging into my life of careless hedonism.

As you can easily see, all the possible outcomes from the decision to get a colonoscopy are positive, while all the outcomes from shirking my responsibilities range from negligible concerns to dire, horrible consequences.

We even have graphic examples right here on Freethoughtblogs!

Caine’s Journey.

The Fight, ©Caine, all right reserved

Caine died of this terrible disease in 2018, after a long struggle.

Iris discovers a serious problem.

Fortunately, Iris is surviving, but read her account of her travails: no one wants to go through that. I don’t want to experience that.

So, yeah, get your butt checked regularly. It inconveniently wrecks a day, but that’s better than wrecking your life.

Please stop dithering, CDC and everyone

It’s driving me nuts. We are in a serious pandemic, and authorities everywhere are acting as if the best strategy is to pretend we’re already back to normal, full speed ahead, don’t deviate from the pretense that everything is just dandy. Yet…

The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”

Public schools are opening in a few weeks, as is my university. No one is acknowledging that the war has changed. Instead, we’re all planning to march right into the maw of the pandemic.

My prediction: they’re all going to be frantically backpedaling by October. I fully expect my school to shut down in-person classes by the middle of the semester.

I could be wrong, and I would be very happy if I were — we could have a gentle, delightful Fall with brightly colored leaves and soft snows and a world that embraces love and peace, and all the homeless would be given homes, and all the sick cared for, the QAnoners could all wake and look at each other and say “What are we doing?” and go home to their families, and peace could reign across all the lands. Sure. It could happen. But only if we struggle to make it all happen. And that’s what I’m not seeing, a will to change and do what needs to be done.

The CDC isn’t helping, either. They keep dithering. Recommendations change at the first breeze of new data, and change back a few weeks later. There is a difference between being responsive to new information, and being too quick to accept new suggestions in the face of uncertainty; it’s also important to build the public trust with consistent messages.

The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.

It cites a combination of recently obtained, still-unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant.

Right. So the appropriate message from the very beginning should have been conservative, assuming the worst and establishing a consistent policy. I want to hear the words, “It wasn’t as bad as we feared, now that we’ve got solid evidence from three months of hard science we can think about easing some restrictions,” rather than “Oh, I guess we shouldn’t have told everyone to have orgies, you’ve all got three months to live.”

Be decisive for a change. I wrote to my university president urging her to take a stronger stand, but I’ll make another bold prediction: she’ll dither. It’s all the rage.

Important qualifier to the CDC’s “ebola” comment:

You know, it’s becoming really obvious that the CDC is very bad at science communication, at a time when we need the science communicated effectively.

This cannot end well, Tennessee

The insanity is going too far. Tennessee (or rather, Republicans in Tennessee) want to shut down access to vaccines. All vaccines.

The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers, according to an internal report and agency emails obtained by the Tennessean. If the health department must issue any information about vaccines, staff are instructed to strip the agency logo off the documents.

The health department will also stop all COVID-19 vaccine events on school property, despite holding at least one such event this month. The decisions to end vaccine outreach and school events come directly from Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, the internal report states.

Additionally, the health department will take steps to ensure it no longer sends postcards or other notices reminding teenagers to get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccines. Postcards will still be sent to adults, but teens will be excluded from the mailing list so the postcards are not “potentially interpreted as solicitation to minors,” the report states.

That’s amazing. I’m used to Republicans opposing fundamental ideas in science, but now the prion disease that rots their brains has progressed so far that they want to silence information about basic health care. There will be dead teenagers as a result of this policy, and this will lead to another spike in coronavirus infections.

And these changes will take effect just as the coronavirus pandemic shows new signs of spread in Tennessee. After months of declining infections, the average number of new cases per day has more than doubled in the past two weeks – from 177 to 418. The average test positivity rate has jumped from 2.2% to 5.4% in the same time period.

Oh, it already has.

Republicans are a menace to society.