Tag: Public Health

It’s Now Boris’ England

Yes, it is

It appears that the British National Health Service has decided to issue do not resuscitate orders for learning and developmentally disabled patients with Covid-19, because the UK was never properly de-Nazified at the end of the 2nd World War, I guess.

It’s something that I take kind of personally, since I have a nephew who, if he lived in the UK, would be subject to this sort of bigotry:

People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog.


The Care Quality Commission said in December that inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices had caused potentially avoidable deaths last year.

DNACPRs are usually made for people who are too frail to benefit from CPR, but Mencap said some seem to have been issued for people simply because they had a learning disability. The CQC is due to publish a report on the practice within weeks.

The disclosure comes as campaigners put growing pressure on ministers to reconsider a decision not to give people with learning disabilities priority for vaccinations. There is growing evidence that even those with a mild disability are more likely to die if they contract the coronavirus.


Younger people with learning disabilities aged 18 to 34 are 30 times more likely to die of Covid than others the same age, according to Public Health England.

Most people would call this horrifying, but I imagine that the Tories consider this an unintended benefit, because it reduces costs.

What a Surprise

Countries that May Manufacture or Buy Sputnik V

In a world* where Covid-19 ravages the world, and no one can see a way out beyond giving taxpayer funded research to rent-seeking pharmaceutical companies, one nuclear armed nation’s vaccing manages to turn in good numbers without looting by private actors.

By, “One nuclear armed nation,” I do not mean the United States.  The idea of creation and distribution of medications without government subsidies is completely beyond the pale in this country.

I am referring to Russia, where the Sputnik vaccine is not showing effectiveness in excess of 90%, at a lower cost and without the handling issues of the mRNA vaccines being rolled out in the United States.

There is a precedent, the widespread popularity of the AK-47, which occurred because anyone could make it without IP concerns:

President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use before it even completed safety trials sparked skepticism worldwide. Now he may reap diplomatic dividends as Russia basks in arguably its biggest scientific breakthrough since the Soviet era.

Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as U.S. and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.

At least 20 countries have approved the inoculation for use, including European Union member-state Hungary, while key markets such as Brazil and India are close to authorizing it. Now Russia is setting its sights on the prized EU market as the bloc struggles with its vaccination program amid supply shortages.


Its decision to name Sputnik V after the world’s first satellite whose 1957 launch gave the Soviet Union a stunning triumph against the U.S. to start the space race only underlined the scale of the significance Moscow attached to the achievement. Results from the late-stage trials of 20,000 participants reviewed in The Lancet showed that the vaccine has a 91.6% success rate.


Sputnik V uses a platform based on the adenovirus, which causes the common cold, and has been studied in vaccine development for decades, though its effectiveness is yet to be proven. AstroZeneca’s is similar, while drugs developed by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech rely on a new technology, which uses genetic instructions in a nucleic acid molecule called mRNA to program a person’s cells to make the viral protein itself, triggering an immune response.

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Sputnik V can be stored in a fridge rather than a freezer, making it easier to transport and distribute in poorer and hotter countries. At around $20 for a two-shot vaccination, it’s also cheaper than most Western alternatives. While more expensive than AstraZeneca, the Russian inoculation has shown higher efficacy than the U.K. vaccine.

The take-away here is not that Russia is some sort of biotech super-power, it clearly is not.

The take-away here is, or at least should be, that the US model, taxpayer financed research leading to private profits through additional government subsidies (patents) is not necessarily the best model to develop medical treatments.

*To quote Don LaFontaine.

Trump Writ Small

I am referring, of course to Andrew “Rat-Faced Andy” Cuomo, the Governor of the great state of New York, who thinks that he is smarter than public health experts, which, among other things, has led to vaccines being thrown out because of fears of draconian fines under Cuomo’s directives:

The deputy commissioner for public health at the New York State Health Department resigned in late summer. Soon after, the director of its bureau of communicable disease control also stepped down. So did the medical director for epidemiology. Last month, the state epidemiologist said she, too, would be leaving.

The drumbeat of high-level departures in the middle of the pandemic came as morale plunged in the Health Department and senior health officials expressed alarm to one another over being sidelined and treated disrespectfully, according to five people with direct experience inside the department.

Their concern had an almost singular focus: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Even as the pandemic continues to rage and New York struggles to vaccinate a large and anxious population, Mr. Cuomo has all but declared war on his own public health bureaucracy. The departures have underscored the extent to which pandemic policy has been set by the governor, who with his aides crafted a vaccination program beset by early delays.

The troubled rollout came after Mr. Cuomo declined to use the longstanding vaccination plans that the State Department of Health had developed in recent years in coordination with local health departments. Mr. Cuomo instead adopted an approach that relied on large hospital systems to coordinate vaccinations not only of their own staffs, but also of much of the population.

I’m wondering if there are any major Cuomo donors at the “Large Hospital Systems.”

In recent weeks, the governor has repeatedly made it clear that he believed he had no choice but to seize more control over pandemic policy from state and local public health officials, who he said had no understanding of how to conduct a real-world, large-scale operation like vaccinations. After early problems, in which relatively few doses were being administered, the pace of vaccinations has picked up and New York is now roughly 20th in the nation in percentage of residents who have received at least one vaccine dose.

When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference on Friday, referring to scientific expertise at all levels of government during the pandemic. “Because I don’t. Because I don’t.

How very Trumpian.


In Albany, tensions worsened in recent months as state health officials said they often found out about major changes in pandemic policy only after Mr. Cuomo announced them at news conferences — and then asked them to match their health guidance to the announcements.

That was what happened with the vaccine plan, when state health officials were blindsided by the news that the rollout would be coordinated locally by hospitals.

But it also occurred earlier with revisions in a host of state rules from the fate of indoor dining and businesses like gyms to capacity limits on social gatherings, according to a person with direct experience inside the department.


But at least nine senior state health officials have left the department, resigned or retired in recent months. They include Dr. Elizabeth Dufort, the medical director in the division of epidemiology; Dr. Jill Taylor, the head of the renowned Wadsworth laboratory — which has been central to the state’s efforts to detect virus variants — and the executive in charge of health data, according to state records.

Additionally, the Health Department’s No. 2 official left for another job in state government, and another official, who helped oversee contact tracing, is expected to leave the department, also for another state government job.


Mr. Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic has come under criticism in recent days after the state attorney general, Letitia James, said his administration had undercounted the tally of Covid-19 deaths of nursing home residents by not publicly disclosing deaths of those residents that occurred at hospitals.

Given just how much of a control freak hizzoner is, this was not an accident.

This is Cuomo playing politics with the numbers, because he went to bat for his nursing home donors to get them immunity from their own malfeasance.

He knows that the horrific death numbers from New York nursing homes, if reported accurately, will be a source of criticism for any future elections.

Current and former health officials agreed to be interviewed about the crisis inside the public health bureaucracy only on condition of anonymity, saying that they feared retaliation for speaking out against the governor.

Also, he’s a vindictive son of a bitch, and managing through fear does not work.


The departures came as the state prepared for and then stumbled through the early weeks of its vaccine campaign, in which experts said speed was paramount because of the threat posed by more contagious variants of the coronavirus.



Mr. Cuomo said his approach had delivered results in New York, including a positivity rate that has been declining after a peak in early January and better vaccination rates. New York saw the worst of the pandemic in the spring, and roughly 43,000 have died, more than in any other state.


In the fall, Mr. Cuomo shelved vaccine distribution plans that top state health officials had been drawing up, one person with knowledge of the decision said. The plans had relied in part on years of preparations at the local level — an outgrowth of bioterrorism fears following Sept. 11 — and on experience dispensing vaccine through county health departments during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.


But elements of the state’s approach hindered the rollout, New York City officials contended.

“Extensive red tape and unnecessary rigidity over who we could vaccinate and when — all with the looming threat of millions of dollars in punitive fines — made an extraordinarily difficult task all the more challenging in those first initial weeks of the rollout,” said Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio.

In his own planning for the vaccine rollout, Mr. Cuomo spoke with hospital executives, outside consultants and a top hospital lobbyist in closed-door meetings. In December, Mr. Cuomo announced that the state would rely on large hospital systems as “hubs” to coordinate vaccinations, not simply for their own staff but also for ordinary New Yorkers.

Again, I gotta figure that the hospital systems are major Cuomo donors.

The state designated as a regional vaccination hub in New York City not the city’s 6,000-person Health Department, but rather the Greater New York Hospital Association, a trade group with a multimillion-dollar lobbying arm that had been a major donor to the governor’s causes.


The approach included narrow eligibility rules and suffered from a lack of urgency by some hospitals. That led to fewer doses being administered in the early weeks, followed by abrupt shifts in policy that created a kind of free-for-all among those searching for vaccine appointments, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former health officials, county leaders, vaccination experts and elected officials.

“The governor’s approach in the beginning seemed to go against the grain in terms of what the philosophy was about how to do this,” said Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a former deputy commissioner at New York City’s Health Department who often served as an incident commander during emergencies. “It did seem to negate 15 to 20 years of work.”

Sounds like the Donald, doesn’t it?


For help in planning the vaccination campaign, the governor turned to consultants from Deloitte and Boston Consulting Group. The in-house lobbyist for New York’s largest hospital system, Northwell Health, had direct involvement in the rollout.

For about a month, starting in mid-October, the Northwell lobbyist, Dennis Whalen, worked from an office inside the State Health Department and helped shape the state’s approach. Mr. Whalen had worked previously as the department’s No. 2 official.

Yeah, Cuomo was rat-f%$#ing the vaccine roll-out to accommodate lobbyists.  Hoocoodanode?


Still, Dr. Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York and a former senior city health official, said that giving such a large share of doses directly to hospitals meant that the government lost control of the pace of vaccinations during the program’s first month.

“That was the bottleneck,” Dr. Nash said. “To put hospitals in charge of a public health initiative — for which they have no public health mandate, or the skills, experience or perspective to manage one — was a huge mistake, and I have no doubt that’s what introduced the delays.”

This is Cuomo considering his donors, and his ego, before the well being of the people of New York.

I am wrong.  That does not sound like Donald Trump at all.

Breaking Things on the Way Out

The Trump administration just authorized Tennessee to have its Medicaid funded through block grants.

Block grants is how Bill Clinton’s evil Welfare “Reform” worked, and the states took the money and spent it on things like romance lessions

The Trump administration wants to take a sledge hammer to Medicaid, and indirectly Obamacare, because they can.

Yeah, Right

The American Hospital Association wants the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to suspend its price transparency regulations,  because it’s too burdensome.


They just don’t want to be held to account for their deliberately opaque pricing structures and policies.

If there is one thing that hospitals get right, it’s how to charge people as much as is humanly possible:

Dive Brief:

  • The American Hospital Association filed an emergency motion for a stay, which means it’s seeking to stop the government from enforcing its price transparency rule, set to go into effect Jan. 1 if the law is not struck down in federal appeals court.
  • The AHA is still awaiting a final verdict from the court after the three-judge panel heard oral arguments in October. In the meantime, the group is hoping to bar the law from going into effect as hospitals are overwhelmed by the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines and record-high COVID-19 caseloads.
  • Emergency relief is warranted, AHA said, because CMS will start conducting audits of price transparency compliance and those not following the regulations face financial penalties, the parties said in a Monday filing.

Dive Insight:

A CMS bulletin from last Friday led AHA to file the emergency request with the federal appeals court. The notice informed providers that CMS is prepared to “audit a sample of hospitals for compliance starting in January” and those providers found in violation will face civil monetary penalties.

AHA argues that halting the policy is necessary given the “exceptional circumstances” the industry faces.


Meanwhile, the hospital lobby is still waiting on the ruling from federal appeals court. But after listening to oral arguments back in October, industry experts don’t feel AHA will prevail in the case, which is seeking to knock down the law.

The three-judge panel seemed highly skeptical that it is unlawful for the government to compel providers to publish the negotiated rates they reach with insurers for services provided to patients.

The hospitals can literally turn over pricing data at the press of a button, but the hospitals want to continue to profit over secrecy, and they are hoping to put one over on the incoming administration.

I Call This a Win-Win for Biden

Joe Biden has announced that he will be appointing Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services

I did not expect this, given Becerra’s support for Medicare for All, so it’s a win on a policy level. 

Additionally, it’s a win, because it means that Becerra will no longer be California Attorney General, where he has been a dedicated fluffer to bad cops and cop unions: (See also here, and here)

In his two years on the job, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has crafted an image as a progressive warrior, suing the Trump Administration dozens of times and delivering the Democrats’ Spanish-language rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union speech.

But there’s one major area where the Democrat isn’t allied with progressives: accountability for law enforcement. There, Becerra is at odds with the push by many in his own party to better police the police.

The attorney general is refusing to provide records on police misconduct that media outlets requested under a new law signed last year by Democratic former Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislator who wrote the law, also a Democrat, says the documents must be disclosed. But Becerra has sided with police who want the courts to weigh in before releasing records about officers who were involved in shootings, sexual assault or lying on the job.


Numerous police unions have filed lawsuits in recent weeks to try to block their departments from releasing misconduct records under the new law, Senate Bill 1421, which took effect on Jan. 1. The officers argue that the law only applies to records created on or after Jan. 1, while the legislator who wrote the law says it applies to any records in the police departments’ possession, including those from past years.


The records they released, all of abuses that were confirmed by internal investigations, showed one officer was fired after he offered to help a woman deal with drunk-driving charges if she had sex with him. In another case, an on-duty police officer had sex with a member of the public. Numerous other officers were dishonest or used force that resulted in severe injuries. It was the first time in many decades that such information has been made public in California, which has had one of the nation’s most restrictive police records laws.A broad coalition of media outlets have been requesting misconduct records from law enforcement agencies big and small since the new law took effect at the start of the year. Some agencies have complied—including police departments in Fairfield,Rio Vistaand Burlingame.

The records they released, all of abuses that were confirmed by internal investigations, showed one officer was fired after he offered to help a woman deal with drunk-driving charges if she had sex with him. In another case, an on-duty police officer had sex with a member of the public. Numerous other officers were dishonest or used force that resulted in severe injuries. It was the first time in many decades that such information has been made public in California, which has had one of the nation’s most restrictive police records laws.

Becerra refused to disclose any misconduct records regarding officers employed by the state Department of Justice. Then the free-speech nonprofit, the First Amendment Coalition, suedhim, arguing that his refusal has had a ripple effect, giving “a green light to other departments to disregard the new law.”


Becerra is not the first California Attorney General to side with police on accountability issues—or to take heat for it from the left. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, for instance, refusedas attorney general to support statewide standards for police body cameras, endorsing instead the law enforcement argument that such rules should be determined at the local level, even if the result was a patchwork. She also opposed a bill to put the state Department of Justice in charge of investigating police shootings.

Becerra has held a similar position on more recent versions of the bill, marking another instance in which he sided with law enforcement against efforts toward greater transparency. Progressive advocates for criminal justice reform argue that the state Department of Justice could be more objective than local prosecutors in determining if shootings are justified, because local prosecutors work so closely with police. Even Becerra’s Republican opponent saidthe state should be in charge of investigating police shootings.


Becerra’s office agreed to review the Sacramento Police Department after officers killed an unarmed man in his grandmother’s backyard, but that was only because local officials requested it. And even though his review has made some strong recommendations—including that the Sacramento police should overhaul their use-of-force policies—Becerra stopped short of endorsing a tougher statewide standardto justify police shootings, something progressive Democrats are fighting forthis year.

Hopefully, the next California AG will not be so beholden to crooked cops.

A Shanda Fur Die Goyim

After health authorities came down on like a ton of bricks on plans for a 10,000 person wedding of the grandson of the chief rabbi of the Satmar ultra-orthodox sect, the wedding of the grandson of other chief rabbi of the Satmar sect held a huge wedding in direct contravention of Covid-19 rules. (Yes, other chief rabbi. Some sort of schism whose details I do not know, or care to learn of) 

Fines is not enough.  People need to be jailed over this:

The city is investigating a wedding in the Satmar Hasidic community that reportedly drew thousands of people to an indoor celebration in Brooklyn without masks, in violation of pandemic social distancing restrictions.

Thousands of guests, most of them men, gathered earlier this month for the wedding of the Satmar Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum’s grandson, Yoel Teitelbaum, according to videos obtained by the New York Post. The videos appear to show wedding-goers packed inside the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in Williamsburg on Hooper Street, singing and dancing with no face coverings.


Last month, rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum’s rival (due to a longtime feud and split within the Satmar sect) Grand Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum planned to hold a large wedding for his grandson in which an estimated 10,000 guests from Brooklyn and Rockland County were expected to attend.

After pressure from officials and news coverage of the event, the synagogue’s leaders announced it would only be attended by close family members following what a spokesperson called “unwarranted attacks.” The state health commissioner issued a pre-emptive order to limit the number of guests.

This wedding, however, was planned in secret, according to the Post, citing a Yiddish-language newspaper, Der Blatt. The newspaper reported the wedding was planned by word-of-mouth to avoid “ravenous press and government officials,” according to the reports.

“If that happened, it was a blatant disregard of the law,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday when asked about the wedding. “It’s illegal. It was also disrespectful to the people of New York.”

“If it turns out that because we stopped that wedding, the reaction was, ‘Well, we’ll have a secret wedding,’ that would be really shocking,” Cuomo added. “I’m sure [the city] will be able to figure it out, and then we’ll bring the full consequence of legal action to bear.”

The Tuskegee Vaccine

Over at Stat, a medical news web site, they are calling for giving priority to giving any new vaccines to peoples of color

Taken at face value this seems like a good idea, but when one considers the fact that all of the vaccine candidates have been developed on an accelerated schedule, with Pfizer’s recently hyped entry using a technique never used in human beings before, one can’t help but wonder if the real push for this is to use the minority community as guinea pigs, because even if some of the will be effective and without significant side effects, it is likely that some of them will not be successes:

As the U.S. edges closer to approving a vaccine for Covid-19, a difficult decision is emerging as a central issue: Should people in hard-hit communities of color receive priority access to it, and if so, how should that be done?

Frontline health workers, elderly people, and those with chronic conditions that make them especially vulnerable to Covid-19 are likely to be at the head of the line, but there is also support among public health experts for making special efforts to deliver the vaccine early on to Black, Latino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and Native American people — who have experienced higher rates of serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

“Having a racial preference for a Covid-19 vaccine is not only ethically permissible, but I think it’s an ethical imperative,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. “The reason is both because of historic structural racism that’s resulted in grossly unequal health outcomes for all kinds of diseases, and because Covid-19 has so disproportionately impacted the lives of people of color.”


There is also concern that some groups, especially Black people, might be hesitant to be among the first to get a vaccine, given the history of mistreatment of Black patients in medical research.

“The other challenge you have with saying, ‘We want African Americans to step up first,’  is that we don’t want people to feel that they’re being guinea pigs,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We need to be very careful. We don’t want to give people the perception that they’re being experimented upon.”

Gee, you think? 

The criteria for distribution should be fairly straight-forward:  Where you have large outbreaks, the vaccine goes first.

Yeah, This Does Not Fill Me with Confidence

It turns out that the CEO of Pfizer timed the announcement of their Covid vaccine to correspond whith a pre-scheduled order to sell most of his stock in the company.

This is not the action taken by someone who has faith in the long term prospects of this product.

Given that the product needs to be shipped at -70°C (-94°F), and this technique has ever used in humans before, I would not go long on Pfizer either:

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sold 62% of his stock on the same day the company announced its experimental COVID-19 vaccine succeeded in clinical trials.

The vaccine announcement sent Pfizer’s shares soaring almost 15% on the day.

Bourla sold 132,508 shares in the company at an average price of $41.94 a share, or $5.6 million total, according to filings registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 52-week high for Pfizer’s stock is $41.99, meaning Bourla sold his stock at almost its highest value in the past year. His stock sale was carried out through a routine Rule 10b5-1, a predetermined trading plan that allows company staff members to sell their stock in line with insider-trading laws. Bourla’s sale was part of a plan adopted August 19, the filing showed. He continues to own 81,812 Pfizer shares.

Am I being too paranoid in thinking that the promise of this vaccine is yet another over-hyped Covid treatment being hyped for the personal benefit of senior management?

Trump Pushing Derp Immunity

In case you are wondering, it appears that Donald Trumo is giving up whatever miniscule f%$#s that he used to have about dealing with Covid.

He is going full birther herd immunity. 

To quote Michael Cain in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Despite publicly downplaying it, President Donald Trump and his team of White House advisers have embraced the controversial belief that herd immunity will help control the COVID-19 outbreak, according to three senior health officials working with the White House coronavirus task force. More worrisome for those officials: they have begun taking steps to turn the concept into policy.

Officials say that White House adviser Scott Atlas first started pushing herd immunity this past summer despite significant pushback from scientists, doctors and infectious disease experts that the concept was dangerous and would result in far more Americans getting sick and dying. Since then, various White House advisers have tried to play down the idea that the administration has implemented a strategy for COVID-19 based on herd immunity, which holds that if enough people contract a disease and become immune from it, then future spread among the broader population will be reduced.


But those working on the government’s COVID response say that the attempts by the White House and Atlas to steer clear from using the phrase “herd immunity” are merely a game of semantics. Privately, one of those sources said, the actual policy pursuits have been crafted around a plainly herd immunity approach; mainly, that the government should prioritize protecting the vulnerable while allowing “everyone else to get infected,” that source said.

In a recent call with reporters, in which The Daily Beast participated, administration officials laid out a new emphasis in the president’s coronavirus policy which underscored “protecting the vulnerable,” key among them nursing home patients. One official said the coronavirus was “dangerous for a certain subset of the population” and that “most people do extraordinary well.”

Officials on the call pointed to a Great Barrington study, which was assembled by a team of scientists who advocate for trying to reach herd immunity through the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.


Health officials say that the practical acceptance of herd immunity by the president could lead to a dangerous and potentially deadly new phase in the pandemic, even if it is accompanied by a simultaneous effort to screen and protect seniors and those with comorbidities. Scientists warn that if the administration continues to focus just on protecting, for example, individuals in nursing homes, it will overlook those people who fall outside of the most vulnerable population but who could still contract the virus, survive it, and have long-lasting health complications.


For Trump, Atlas’ advocacy of this approach has represented an opportunity. The president has long pushed for less restrictive public health measures to combat COVID, under the belief that the country needed to prioritize economic interests. Herd immunity as a theory “basically gave him permission to reopen the country even if we hadn’t flattened the curve,” one official said.

If, as the polls indicate, Trump loses on Tuesday, I would expect even more bizarrely destructive actions from Trump and his Evil Minions, on their way out the door.

I expect to see actions that make Herbert Hoover’s hissy fit following the 1932 election look like a tea party.

About Damn Time

I understand that a wedding, particularly the wedding of the grandson of a prominent rabbi, will traditionally be a time of celebration, but authorities were correct to shut down a wedding in the Hasicic community that would have had over 10,000 guests.

After the debacle that was the Sturgis rally, where thousands, if not tens of thousands of cases resulted, it is clear that these sorts of large social events are a clear and present danger to society.

The one of first steps to mending the world (תיקון עולם) is not to spread disease during a pandemic:

New York State health officials have taken extraordinary steps to shut down an ultra-Orthodox wedding planned for Monday that could have had brought up to 10,000 guests to Brooklyn, near one of New York City’s coronavirus hot spots.

The state health commissioner personally intervened to have sheriff’s deputies deliver the order to the Hasidic synagogue on Friday, warning that it must follow health protocols, including limiting gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

On Sunday, the synagogue, the Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar, accused state officials of “unwarranted attacks” on the wedding, where a grandson of Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, the synagogue’s rabbi, was to be married. The congregation said that the ceremony and meal would have been restricted to “close family members,” while the public would have been invited to participate only “for a short period of time.”

The wedding will continue, the synagogue said, but will be limited to a smaller group of family members. “It’s sad that nobody verified our plans before attacking us,” Chaim Jacobowitz, the congregation’s secretary, said in a statement.

The state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, took the rare step of issuing what is known as a Section 16 order, which can carry a daily fine of $10,000 if violated. The state has issued dozens of Section 16 orders during the pandemic.

A wedding involving 10,000 guests is insane even when you are not in the midst of a pandemic.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Sen. Ted Cruz is appearing virtually. He has tested negative for COVID but has been self-quarantining after coming into contact with Sen. Mike Lee…who tested positive and delivered his in-person maskless opening statement in the hearing room.

— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) October 12, 2020

We Are Doomed

OK, imagine a situation where there are two people in a similar situation.

One behaves responsibly, and the other acts likes an asshole.

One of the people is Ted Cruz, and the other ……… Isn’t Ted Cruz.

And finally, the asshole in this situation ……… Isn’t Ted Cruz.

If this is not an end of the world scenario, if not an end of all existence.

At the very least, Thanos is snapping his fingers like Frank Sinatra right now.


From Friday to now, over $150,000 in fines from 62 summonses were handed out by City agents in the Red, Orange and Yellow zones, including 5 to non-compliant religious congregations.

— City of New York (@nycgov) October 11, 2020

New York is finally enforcing tanctions against people who violate social distancing and mask mandates.

Notably, this includes members of New York’s Ultra-orthodox Jewish community, who have been been notorious for ignoring rules against mass gatherings.

I get that these communities have a lot of political pull, but their reckless behavior needs to be checked:

Authorities cracked down this weekend on some of the city’s coronavirus hot spots, issuing more than 60 summonses and tens of thousands of dollars in fines to people, businesses and houses of worship that did not follow newly imposed restrictions on gatherings or mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements.

Among those issued a summons by the New York City sheriff were a restaurant and at least five houses of worship in the city’s “red zones,” where coronavirus infection rates are the highest. Each of those locations was given a summons that could result in up to $15,000 in fines, said Sheriff Joseph Fucito.

That means some of these were synagogues.

There are certain things that only can be done in a group in Jewish worship, but you only need 10 people, a minyan, to do that.  You don’t need 200 crammed together in a synagogue, it can be 10 folks in a living room.

In total, officials issued 62 tickets and more than $150,000 in fines during the first weekend the new restrictions were in effect, the New York City government Twitter account said on Sunday.

The city is wrestling with its most acute pandemic crisis since the virus first swept through the five boroughs in March. Since mid-August, city and state officials say large gatherings and lax social distancing have caused a surge in new cases in pockets of Brooklyn and Queens, many of them in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. The spike prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to issue new restrictions on large gatherings and nonessential businesses in certain parts of the city.


One of the Orthodox Jewish men who led protests against the restrictions, Heshy Tischler, was taken into custody by the police department’s warrants squad Sunday night, a police official said. Mr. Tischler, a talk radio personality, is expected to be charged with inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment in connection with an incident in Borough Park, Brooklyn, last week in which a Jewish journalist, Jacob Kornbluh, was attacked by a crowd during a protest.

The sense of entitlement in this community is mind boggling.

Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations, not a group of self-important thugs.

Inmates Running the Asylum

In what might the most extreme example of Stockholm Syndrome ever, USPTO chief Andrei Iancu has declared that patents are in no way slowing the emergence of new Covid-19 treatments.

Less than a week later, major pharma manufacturers were sued for ……… wait for it ……… patent infringement:

A week or so ago, the head of the US Patent and Trademark Office, Andrei Iancu, who has been an extreme patent maximalist over the years, insisted that there was simply no evidence that patents hold back COVID treatments. This is a debate we’ve been having over the past few months. We’ve seen some aggressive actions by patent holders, and the usual crew of patent system supporters claiming, without evidence that no one would create a vaccine without much longer patent terms.

Iancu was questioned about how patents might hold back life-saving innovation and he brushed it off like this was a crazy question:


Iancu also shot down the idea that patents might be used to limit access to a vaccine:


But just to highlight how ridiculous Iancu’s statements were, just days later, Pfizer, Regeneron, and BioNTech — all working on COVID treatments (including the antibody cocktail that President Trump took from Regeneron) — were all sued for patent infringement for their COVID treatments.


And then to make an even stronger point, pharma company Moderna — which had been facing a ton of questions about how its patents might delay COVID-19 treatment — has announced that it will voluntarily agree not to enforce the patents during the pandemic.


The key point: even if Iancu pretends otherwise, people actually in the space know that patents can and will get in the way of life-saving innovation, rather than acting as an important incentive.

It’s long past the time we recognized how damaging patents are for innovation in many different industries, including pharma, and having a Patent Office boss who simply denies reality is fundamentally unhelpful and anti-innovation.

As I have noted many times, IP law is at its core public interest law.

As it says in the US Constitution, copyright and patent are created to, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts,” not to reward maniacal rent-seeking, which is what it has become.

Thanks Obama

In news that should surprise no one, the cost for workers’ health insurance policies, as well as deductibles have skyrocketed over the past decade

This is not a surprise.  Obamacare was all about appeasing the malefactors in the insurance industry, and so it brought the fox into the hen house:

The high cost of health care is persisting during the pandemic, even for people lucky enough to still have job-based insurance.

The average annual cost of a health plan covering a family rose to $21,342 in 2020, according to the latest survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks employer-based coverage. Workers paid about a quarter of the total premiums, or $5,588, on average, with their employers picking up the rest of the cost.

An analysis of the results was published Thursday online in Heath Affairs, an academic journal. While premiums rose only slightly from the 2019 survey, the increase in premiums and deductibles together over the last decade has far outpaced both inflation and the growth in workers’ earnings. Since 2010, premiums have climbed 55 percent, more than double the rise in wages or inflation, according to the foundation’s analysis.


The survey also underscored how much workers with health insurance still have to spend out of pocket for their care. In addition to paying for their share of premiums, most employees face a hefty deductible — an average of $1,644 for an individual. That is more than twice as high as it was in 2010, when the average for a single person was $646, according to the foundation.

This was foreseeable in the plan, and made inevitable with Obama’s dissembling over the public option.

American Exceptionalism , Huh?

Minnesota has had to Stop Corona Virus surveys in Mennesota because of the racism and violence of the “Real Americans” in the state’s agricultural heartland.

This is not a surprise, but it has gotten MUCH worse over the past few years.

It’s almost as if people were deeply and pervasively bigoted, and they were only waiting for permission.

So, now they are letting their bigotry put their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, to promulgate their racist fantasies:

A door-to-door COVID-19 testing survey has been halted due to multiple incidents in greater Minnesota of residents intimidating and shouting racial and ethnic slurs at state and federal public health survey teams.

The CDC pulled its federal surveyors out of Minnesota this week following reports of verbal abuse and intimidation, including an incident in the Iowa border town of Eitzen, Minn., in which a survey team walking to a house was blocked by two cars and threatened by three men, according to state health officials. One man had his hand on a holstered gun.


Surveyors had been fanning out to 180 neighborhoods this month — offering free diagnostic testing for active COVID-19 infections and blood antibody testing to identify prior infections — to understand the true prevalence of the coronavirus causing the pandemic.


The surveyors trapped in the Eitzen incident were permitted to leave and did not file a police report about the gun-toting man or the two others who approached them.


The frequency of problems became clear last weekend when surveyors discussed their experiences, Yendell said. A Hispanic surveyor was called one slur “more in the last week than in her entire life,” she said.


The forced end to the study is an amalgam of 2020’s overriding tensions — the anger over prolonged business restrictions to limit COVID-19 and the racial tensions following police killings of Black people that resulted in protests and riots, and some predominantly white counterprotests.


Incidents occurred mostly in central and southern Minnesota, rural areas where there has been pent-up resentment over the spring statewide shutdown, the indoor mask mandate and the bar and restaurant restrictions. Such measures were seen as overkill in small towns where virus transmission has been less prevalent.

If, as the Republicans insist, these sorts of rural communities are the “Real America,” then the “Real America” is a profoundly nasty place.

H/T Stephen Saroff      o o  The Bear who Swims      
oo oo

They Say over 200,000. I Think That It Is over ¼ Million

Excess Deaths is the Gold Standard Here

So, the official death toll from Covid-19 crosses the 200,000 mark

The reason that I think that this number is low is that I have looked at the CDC’s excess death figures, and the range there is between 201,917 and 262,877, only the death numbers can be 6-8 weeks late, and these figures only go to the week ending September 5, and deaths have been running at about 10,000 a week. 

Given that we are now entering the busy season for viral spreading, more indoor activity and lowering humidity in those spaces, I think that ½ million dead is not outside of the realm of possibility by year’s end.

Can You Say ……… Dystopian? Good — I Knew You Could

Google is looking at providing information services to employers to help them control their healthcare costs.

To put that into English, Google will collect enormous amounts of data about its clients employees in order flag people who are engaging in “Unhealthy Lifestyles” and mitigate employer exposure to healthcare costs.

Basically, they will spy on employees, and provide information that employers can use to meddle in their employees eat, when they sleep, etc.

And, though Google (Alphabet) will deny it, employers will use this data to fire employees who are flagged as healthcare cost risks.

If you want a picture of the Google’s future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever:*

Without much fanfare, Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences unit, has launched Coefficient Insurance. It was only a matter of time before Google’s parent got into the health insurance business — in fact, one wonders what took it so long. With Google’s intimate knowledge of our daily patterns, contacts and dreams, the search engine group has for years had a far better picture of risk than any insurer.

That Coefficient Insurance, which is also backed by Swiss Re, would initially focus on the relatively arcane area of stop-loss insurance to protect employers from staff health cost volatility should not obscure its ambitious agenda for the rest of the industry. Thus, according to Verily’s senior management, it might soon start monitoring at-risk employees via their smartphones and even coaching them towards healthier lifestyles.


As with many services out of Silicon Valley, there is not much reflection about the probable reconfigurations of power among social groups — the sick and the healthy, the insured and the uninsured, the employers and the employees — that are likely to occur once the digital dust settles.

One would need to be extremely naive to believe that a more extensive digital surveillance system — in the workplace and, with Alphabet running the show, now also at home, in the car and wherever your smartphone takes you — is likely to benefit the weak and the destitute. Some good might come out of it — a healthier workplace, maybe — but we should also inquire who would bear the cost of this digital utopia.


Privacy law does not offer an adequate solution either. Under pressure from employers, most workers acquiesce to being monitored. This was obvious even before Alphabet’s foray into insurance, as plenty of smaller players have been pitching employers sophisticated workplace surveillance systems as a way of lowering healthcare costs.

If this does not scare the hell out of you, you have not been paying attention.

*Apologies to George Orwell.

What Duncan Said

But this isn’t like putting a sign in front of a cliff which says, “please don’t step right up to the edge of the cliff,” and then blaming the student who plunged to his death for failing to obey the sign. Though that’s the story university administrators want to tell.

The student who steps up to the edge of the cliff, idiot as he may be, is tethered to 5 more students, who are tethered to 5 more students, who are tethered to 5 more students…

That some number of students are dipsh%$s was known by the responsible adults making these plans. That each student dipsh%$ is going to infect some number of other “blameless” students is regularly ignored. 

Atrios, aka Duncan Black

(%$# mine)

He is completely right.  In the context of a residential educational institution, it is impossible to make ALL the students behave responsibly.

Administrators know this, and so the outbreaks are a direct result of their callously disregard for the safety of their students, because they wanted the tuition and fee money.