Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Do BLM Protests Prove No More Pandemic?

It has become a widespread meme that the many protests over the murder of George Floyd and other racially based police brutality will show that it is fine to end all shutdowns related to the pandemic and end all rules about social distancing and wearing face masks.  Here we are reaching two weeks since these protests with thousands of people involved, supposedly all violating those rules, and we are not seeing a surge of Covid-19 cases coming out of the locations where these big protests have happened.

Well, it turns out, that while the reports are scattered, apparently at many of the protests many people wear face masks, not only that, there is apparently a lot of trying to keep some distance from each other as well, although based on the performance of nations in East Asia, it is pretty clear that the wearing of face masks is the most useful.  Among other cities with large protests where this has been observed is Philadelphia. But in many places there has been much urging of this.

It is a mere anecdote, but I can report that I attended one such protest, admittedly in peaceful Harrisonburg, VA where I live where we have a black mayor and a black police chief.  But I attended a peaceful protest with over 1000 people.  Almost everybody was wearing a mask, and most people were keeping distance from each other.  There has been a lot of this.

So, this meme widely spouted with great arrogance by many observers is just misleading.  It is quite likely we shall see no spike of cases following most of these protests, although possibly in some locations.  But that does not mean this will hold for places where reopenings coincide with lots of people imitating our president and not wearing face masks or maintaining social distancing.  And indeed, we are seeing surges of cases in many such states, with the vast majority of those being where we have seen such attitudes and policies.

Barkley Rosser


Anonymous said...

June 16, 2020



Cases ( 2,208,389)
Deaths ( 119,132)

Anonymous said...


June 14, 2020

The Masks Masquerade
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS: 1) missing the compounding effects of masks, 2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures, 3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing), 4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own, 5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals, 6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions....

Anonymous said...


June 14, 2020

The Masks Masquerade
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

First error: missing the compounding effect

People who are good at exams (and become bureaucrats, economists, or hacks), my experience has been, are not good at understanding nonlinearities and dynamics.

The WHO, CDC and other bureaucracies initially failed to quickly realize that the benefits of masks compound, simply because two people are wearing them and you have to look at the interaction.

Let us say (to simplify) that masks reduce both transmission and reception to p. What effect on the R0 (that is, the rate of spreading of the infection)?

Simply the naive approach (used by the CDC/WHO bureaucrats and other imbeciles) is to say if masks reduce the transmission probability to ¼, one would think it would then drop from, say R0= 5, to R0=1 ¼. Yuuge, but there is better.

For one should count both sides. Under our simplification, with p=1/4 we get R0'= p² R0 . The drop in R becomes 93.75%! You divide R by 16! Even with masks working at 50% we get a 75% drop in R0.

Second error: Missing the Nonlinearity of the Risk of Infection

The error is to think that if I reduce the exposure to the virus by, say, ½, I would then reduce the risk, expressed as probability of infection, by ½ as well. Not quite.

Now consider * that probability must follow a nonlinear dose-response, an “S curve”. In the convex part of the curve, gains are disproportionately large: a reduction of x% of viral exposure leads to a drop of much more than x in risk of infection. And, patently we are in the convex part of the curve. For example, to use the case above, a reduction of viral load by 75% for a short exposure could reduce the probability of infection by 95% or more!

* https://miro.medium.com/max/1000/1*XV3AU17D7-rJ2Z8lZE3pWw.png

Third Error: Mistaking Absence of Evidence for Evidence of Absence

“There is no evidence that masks work”, I kept hearing repeated to me by the usual idiots calling themselves “evidence based” scientists. The point is that there is no evidence that locking the door tonight will prevent me from being burglarized. But everything that may block transmission could help. Unlike school, real life is not about certainties. When in doubt, use what protection you can. Some invoked the flawed rationalization that masks induce false confidence: in fact there is a strong argument that masks makes one more alert to the risks and more conservative in behavior.

Anonymous said...

Fourth Error: Misunderstanding the Market and People

Paternalistic bureaucrats resisted inviting the general public to use masks on grounds that the supply was limited and would be needed by health professionals — hence they lied to us saying “masks are not effective”. They did not get the inventiveness and industriousness of people who do not need a government to produce masks for them: they can rapidly convert about anything into well-functioning protective face covering appendages, say rags into which one can stitch coffee filters… about anything. Nor did bureaucrats heed the notion of markets and the existence of opportunists who can supply people with what they want.

Fifth Error: Missing Extremely Strong Statistical Signals

Many people who deal with statistics think in terms of either mechanistic concepts (say correlation) they don’t quite understand, or local results; they fear to be presenting “anecdotes”, and fail to grasp the broader notion of statistical signals where you look at the whole story, not the body parts. For here, again, evidence compounds. We have a) the salon story where two infected stylists failed to infect all their 140 clients (making the probability of infection for bilateral mask wearing safely below 1% for a salon-style exposure) — we know the probability of infection for non mask wearers from tens of thousands of data points and the various R0 estimations) plus b) the rate of infection of countries where masks were mandatory, plus c) tons of papers with more or less flawed methodologies, etc.

Sixth Error: The Non-Aggression Principle

“Libertarians” (in brackets) are resisting mask wearing on grounds that it constrains their freedom. Yet the entire concept of liberty lies in the Non-Aggression Principle, the equivalent of the Silver Rule: do not harm others; they in turn should not harm you. Even more insulting is the demand by pseudolibertarians that Costco should be banned from forcing customers to wear masks — but libertarianism allows you to set the rules on your own property. Costco should be able to force visitors to wear pink shirts and purple glasses if they wished.

Note that by infecting another person you are not infecting just another person. You are infecting many many more and causing systemic risk.

Wear a mask. For the Sake of Others....

ilsm said...

Define a "surge" in Covid 19. Is it like the surge Petyraeus sold Obama on?

"Attitude" if I were under 50 and in the shape I was in while in the Air force I would take this pandemic lightly. Morbidity in the US military was 36 persons a couple of days ago, they count civilians and contractors.

While morbidity among the older and less healthy VA population is worrisome. Similar to nursing homes and long term care facilities experience.

How would a new covid 19 patient's contact tracer react if she discovered the patient had marched for BLM 9 days ago? If they could ask.

I Hope "they" hold the pandemic panic screed for a few weeks, I am currently short cash for more "bottom feeding" the markets.

Calgacus said...

“There is no evidence that masks work”, I kept hearing repeated to me by the usual idiots calling themselves “evidence based” scientists.

Yup, there's a famous and excellent paper in a British Medical Journal bemoaning the lack of "scientific" controlled statistical studies on the benefit of wearing a parachute when jumping out of a plane.

The usual idiots could do with some exposure to dry British humor. It might be contagious and cure them.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings

via @CDCgov

CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Fred C. Dobbs said...


Flushing the Toilet May Fling Coronavirus Aerosols All Over

... Scientists have found that in addition to clearing out whatever business you’ve left behind, flushing a toilet can generate a cloud of aerosol droplets that rises nearly three feet. Those droplets may linger in the air long enough to be inhaled by a shared toilet’s next user, or land on surfaces in the bathroom.

This toilet plume isn’t just gross. In simulations, it can carry infectious coronavirus particles that are already present in the surrounding air or recently shed in a person’s stool. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids, adds to growing evidence that the coronavirus can be passed not only through respiratory droplets, but through virus-laden feces, too.

And while it remains unknown whether public or shared toilets are a common point of transmission of the virus, the research highlights the need during a pandemic to rethink some of the common spaces people share. ...

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


"Surge" may be hard to define, but several states are having the highest numbers of recorded cases ever over several days in a row. That might not be a "surge," but it is certainly a sign that they do not remotely have the virus under control, and most of those are ones where mask wearing and social distancing have been mocked and are not being widely followed.

Anonymous said...

June 17, 2020



Cases   ( 2,231,846)
Deaths   ( 119,908)


Cases   ( 299,251)
Deaths   ( 42,153)


Cases   ( 99,786)
Deaths   ( 8,254)


Cases   ( 54,562)
Deaths   ( 5,041)

Anonymous said...

June 17, 2020

Coronavirus (Deaths per million)

Belgium ( 835)
UK ( 621)
Spain ( 580)
Italy ( 570)

Sweden ( 499)
France ( 453)
US ( 362)
Netherlands ( 355)

Ireland ( 346)
Switzerland ( 226)
Canada ( 219)
Luxembourg ( 176)

Portugal ( 149)
Germany ( 107)
Denmark ( 103)
Austria ( 76)

Finland ( 59)
Norway ( 45)
Greece ( 18)

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Slate just put out an article three hours ago that indeed there does not seem to be any increase in Covid-19 infections in locations where major protests have been going on over the last three weeks. An important bottom line pointed out upfront in the article is that as I suspected and reported, apparently the overwhelming majority of protesters have indeed been wearing masks, if not keeping six feet away from each other so much. But it looks like this is further evidence that masks really do work.

Two other factors are that these protests have been basically all outside, where we know the virus is less contagious, and also most protesters are fairly young. But it remains that almost certainly the widespread mask wearing by protesters has played an important role.

Now we have Trump having a rally this Saturday in Tulsa in an indoor facility for 19,000, with apparently no effort to get people to eiither wear a mask or social distance, although participants must sign a release that the Trump org and those putting on the rally are not responsible if they get sick, and I also think they will be taking peoples' temperatures before letting them in. But Tulsa has had cases rising to new highs as has the whole state of Oklahoma, and the mayor and chief health official in Tulsa, as well as the local newspaper, have expressed unhappiness about this rally happening there. But, hey, he clearly wants to have this rally in the place where the biggest massacre of African Americans happened, even if it got put off a day so as not to be on Juneteenth.

ilsm said...


You enter an objective called "control"...... what does "control" the virus mean? Should the state (Andrew Cuomo) impose control on the virus by state imposing controls on the people's activities?

How do you measure control, and ascribe effects of "controls"? Certainly not by clips on mass media!

A very boring pandemic if it were not an election year, and government were as worried about side effects of its actions as the health community is concerned about "doing no harm".

Conclusions, metrics and cherry picking........ problems at both poles.

Anonymous said...

Coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,122 on June 17; an unfortunate upturn stemming importantly from a factory cluster after the infection spread had appeared increasingly limited through the country:

June 17, 2020


Cases   ( 189,504)
Deaths   ( 8,927)

June 18, 2020


Cases   ( 190,050)
Deaths   ( 8,944)

Anonymous said...


April 25, 1903

The Souls of Black Folk
By W.E.B. Du Bois

Of the Dawn of Freedom

Careless seems the great Avenger;
History's lessons but record
One death-grapple in the darkness
'Twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above His own.

-- Lowell

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War; and however much they who marched South and North in 1861 may have fixed on the technical points, of union and local autonomy as a shibboleth, all nevertheless knew, as we know, that the question of Negro slavery was the real cause of the conflict. Curious it was, too, how this deeper question ever forced itself to the surface despite effort and disclaimer. No sooner had Northern armies touched Southern soil than this old question, newly guised, sprang from the earth,—What shall be done with Negroes? Peremptory military commands this way and that, could not answer the query; the Emancipation Proclamation seemed but to broaden and intensify the difficulties; and the War Amendments made the Negro problems of to-day.

It is the aim of this essay to study the period of history from 1861 to 1872 so far as it relates to the American Negro. In effect, this tale of the dawn of Freedom is an account of that government of men called the Freedmen's Bureau,—one of the most singular and interesting of the attempts made by a great nation to grapple with vast problems of race and social condition.

The war has naught to do with slaves, cried Congress, the President, and the Nation; and yet no sooner had the armies, East and West, penetrated Virginia and Tennessee than fugitive slaves appeared within their lines. They came at night, when the flickering camp-fires shone like vast unsteady stars along the black horizon: old men and thin, with gray and tufted hair; women with frightened eyes, dragging whimpering hungry children; men and girls, stalwart and gaunt,—a horde of starving vagabonds, homeless, helpless, and pitiable, in their dark distress. Two methods of treating these newcomers seemed equally logical to opposite sorts of minds. Ben Butler, in Virginia, quickly declared slave property contraband of war, and put the fugitives to work; while Fremont, in Missouri, declared the slaves free under martial law. Butler's action was approved, but Fremont's was hastily countermanded, and his successor, Halleck, saw things differently. "Hereafter," he commanded, "no slaves should be allowed to come into your lines at all; if any come without your knowledge, when owners call for them deliver them." Such a policy was difficult to enforce; some of the black refugees declared themselves freemen, others showed that their masters had deserted them, and still others were captured with forts and plantations. Evidently, too, slaves were a source of strength to the Confederacy, and were being used as laborers and producers. "They constitute a military resource," wrote Secretary Cameron, late in 1861; "and being such, that they should not be turned over to the enemy is too plain to discuss." So gradually the tone of the army chiefs changed; Congress forbade the rendition of fugitives, and Butler's "contrabands" were welcomed as military laborers. This complicated rather than solved the problem, for now the scattering fugitives became a steady stream, which flowed faster as the armies marched.

Then the long-headed man with care-chiselled face who sat in the White House saw the inevitable, and emancipated the slaves of rebels on New Year's, 1863....

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


I continue to worry about you. You are making comments that seem all but disconnected from what you claim to be commenting on.

So you started your most recent comment thusly: "You enter an objective called 'control' - what does 'control" the virus mean?"

Sorry, ilsm, but please read my last comment again. The word "control" does not appear in it, and I did not specifically ask that question, although I did discuss evidence that it looks like wearing face masks may slow the spread of the virus, something that the data from East Asia is certainly consistent with.

Just how out of it are you now?

ilsm said...


How is your solstice going?

Thank you for worrying about my well being.

But...... I paste this from above:

"That might not be a "surge," but it is certainly a sign that they do not remotely have the virus under control, and most of those are ones where mask wearing and social distancing have been mocked and are not being widely followed."

June 17, 2020 at 5:11 PM

The day CNN was waggling about a red state having the most new positive tests ever, Cali had a fairly large "blip" in new positive tests as well. Cali is a blue state.

I do worry abut Az as I have friends there one is a couple years older than you.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


OK, previous comment. I shall stop worrying about you.

As it is, out of the 9 or so states having record numbers of new cases, presumably something none of them should like however one labels it, only 2 are "blue states," CA and OR, with one arguably a purple one, NC, which has a Dem gov and a GOP legislature. Otherwise the rest are solidly red: SC, FL, AL, TX, OK, UT, and AZ.