Public Health Experts are Embarrassing Themselves

While the current protests are certainly well-meaning and anger over police violence and racism justified, claiming that the protests' positive effects on public health will exceed the harms from the spread of coronavirus is an assertion of faith, not science.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

For several months, epidemiologists have been warning about the dangers of coronavirus spread from large gatherings, including large outdoor gatherings. Much has been made, in particular, of the cautionary example of a big war bond rally held in Philadelphia in September 1918. Philadelphia's failure to cancel that rally as the flu epidemic hit is said to be responsible for thousands of additional deaths; St. Louis, which canceled its planned rally, suffered many fewer flu deaths. The Philadelphia rally attracted some 200,000 people, far fewer than have attended the recent protests (though, to my knowledge, no individual protest rally has attracted that many people).

Yet epidemiologists and other public health gurus have been overwhelmingly reluctant to criticize the loosening of public health restrictions on public gatherings to accommodate the current large public protests. Some, including hundreds who signed a public letter to that effect, have explicitly supported them. In doing so, some of the latter group have blatantly contradicted their own prior public statements on the dangers of public gatherings.

One Ivy League epidemiologist, for example, claimed that President Trump was putting "millions" of people in danger of contracting the virus by encouraging reopening rallies. This was, purportedly, Trump's "arguably most dangerous act" in a series of corona-related actions that amounted to the equivalent of "genocide."

That was in late April. By early June, much larger outdoor protests were somehow a significantly lower public health threat, with the same epidemiologist asserting that "The new infections that may be generated by protests pale in comparison to the larger drivers of the epidemic in the U.S…." What happened to the the "millions" of people that were put at risk by reopening rallies, and encouraging such rallies being especially dangerous?

That said, everyone seems to acknowledge that the protests will cause more, perhaps many more, Covid-19 cases and deaths. Public health types, in general, believe their mission is to focus on public health above all else, so they obviously need to explain why the protests are nevertheless justified from a public health perspective, or, for more moderate figures, why they are reluctant to be critical of the failure of authorities to crack down the protests in the name of public health.

The basic rationale they have provided is that protests against racism and state violence are different from other activities they have criticized and sought to have banned in the name of public health because racism and state violence are also public health problems. On the extreme pro-protest side, public health experts have argued that the damage from racism is so great that the rallies will have a more positive effect on public health than any harm caused by the spread of coronavirus. Even more sober analysts who have been sounding alarm about (but usually without much criticizing, much less calling for a shutdown of) the protests have felt obliged to pay lip service to such concerns, acknowledging, for example, that concerns about the spread of coronavirus must be balanced against the fact that "racism and state sponsored violence are critical public health issues."

It's not that public health folks are wrong that racism and police brutality have significant public health consequences; while coronavirus has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands in a short period of time, over the long-term racism and state violence can cause even greater harm.

But here's the thing: while it's understandable that people want to take to the streets to protest racism and state violence, there is no epidemiological or other scientific evidence that such protests will have positive public health effects by spurring positive social and political change. Any scientist or public health expert who suggests otherwise is engaging in political and sociological speculation that is not only beyond their expertise, but that really beyond anyone's expertise. But it's worse when such speculation purports to be scientific, from experts whose credibility is crucial for containing the current and future pandemics.

Will the protests raise public consciousness about the pernicious effects of racism? Surely, and that will likely have positive effects. But beyond that, things are very uncertain. Will violence/rioting continue and cause a "reactionary" backlash? Will reforms advocated by protesters, such as those encompassed by the slogan "Defund the Police," actually be enacted? If enacted, will they have positive effects on public health, or will they lead to a surge in violent criminal activity, itself a huge threat to public health and wellbeing?–it wasn't that long ago that violent crime rates were triple what they are now, with tens of thousands more people killed and injured each year. What will be the effect of social disorder on the economic health of big cities in general, and the poorer neighborhoods within them in particular, and what effect will that have on public health and wellbeing?

The public health folks who are comparing the negative Covid-related health effects of the rallies to the health effects of racism and police violence are committing a fundamental methodological error. On the one side, there is a real public health problem of coronavirus, and we know, based on what the experts have been telling us since March, that large public gatherings will likely kill a large but indeterminate number of people.

On the other side, racism harms people's well-being, and state violence directly harms their health. However, and this is key, no one has any idea what overall effect the protests (and any attendant violence) will have on racism and state violence, even whether it will be positive or negative.

When public health experts express implicit or explicit belief that political rallies and protests will lead to desirable social and political outcomes, they are not engaging in science, they are not relying on public health research, they are relying on something akin to faith.

In short, the situation we are faced with is that large pubic rallies will almost certainly kill and injure many Americans through Covid spread, and we don't have the slightest non-speculative idea as to whether the protests will have a positive effect on public health, much less whether any such positive effects will outweigh the health harms from virus spread.

To the extent public health experts claim to be relying on their expertise, rather than faith as political activists or fortune-tellers, there is only one plausible "public health" answer to having large, public protests: based on what we can actually measure and predict, they are a significant net threat to public health. How authorities should balance that threat against the public's undeniable right to protest, and the possibility that banning or limiting such protests would iteslf cause civil unrest with public health consequences, is a separate question.

NEXT: California NIMBYs Aren't Letting the COVID-19 Crisis Go to Waste

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  1. While the current protests are certainly well-meaning and anger over police violence and racism justified

    Stop pandering. Your own piece a day or two back made it clear that the statistics do not bear out the charge of police racism.

    At best you can say that some of the protesters are well meaning, albeit naive. For the organisers, it’s just cynical political theater; for the rest – an opportunity to let off steam by looting and throwing bricks.

    1. Police violence is worth protesting regardless of whether its racist, the statistics on shootings aren’t the only data point for police violence, and there is certainly racism in the world at large worth protesting regardless.

      1. Professor Bernstein, there is another case in NJ that we’ll be hearing more about shortly. Google ‘Maurice Gordon traffic stop’. This incident occurred on May 23.

        1. Interesting, and a good example of why “unarmed” is not always the most salient issue. The cop claims the victim was trying to grab his gun when he shot him. *If* that’s true, the cop has a valid self-defense argument, regardless of whether the victim was armed. It also suggests a need for better police training and non-police backup. They were dealing with a guy who seems to have been obviously mentally unwell for over 40 minutes. Why weren’t psych people called to deal with him (probably because they aren’t available for that)? Why did the cop need to shoot him at all to get him away from the gun, much less six times? Assuming the officer’s story holds up, these are likely much better questions to ask than the ones that will be asked.

          1. The cop was trying to be a nice guy in this case and keep the guy safe.

            The guy was pulled over doing 110 on the highway and managed to wreck his car. While sitting on the side of the busy highway, the cop offered to let the guy sit in the patrol car’s backseat. The back door was unlocked, the guy was free to get in and get out as he wanted. It’s a busy highway, the car was safer than the side of the road.

            Guy started getting more irrational, opened the door, got out. Cop went around to see what was wrong. A tussle occurred, the guy went to try to try the patrol car away and went for the cop’s gun.

            1. If the cop is telling the truth. This is not a given.

              1. There’s full video.

          2. Why did the cop need to shoot him at all to get him away from the gun, much less six times?
            Whats wrong with six times? It could be considered a waste of ammunition. But dead with one shot is as with 6 shots. Once you pull the trigger, the number of times you pull the trigger is meaningless.

            1. And at least half the shots will miss. Seriously.

      2. No, “police violence” is not worth protesting.

        Violence is the raison d’etre of the police. That’s what they do, that’s what they’re for. One hopes, of course, that the mere threat of violence will be enough, but a threat without substance rapidly loses its potency.

        The problem is achieving the right amount of violence from the police, in the right circumstances. Not too hot, not too cold. This is a very complicated problem, because the dangers of too little police violence are just as real as the dangers of too little.

        Which is why nervous Democrat politicians are scuttling away from “Defund the Police” and translating it as “Reform the Police.” Good luck with that – they’ve had exclusive control of the police in the big cities for at least half a century, so I’m not holding my breath.

        In the case of George Floyd, the system for controlling excessive police violence seems to have clicked in. The officer is facing a murder charge and his mates are facing some charges too. When it comes to trial, we will all be able to see how excessive the police violence was, in the circumstances, and what – if any – adjustment to the temperature knob of police violence there needs to be.

        As EV noted in his piece noting 18 Chicago murders in one day, it’s a very sensitive knob.

        1. s/b

          “This is a very complicated problem, because the dangers of too little police violence are just as real as the dangers of too much. “

        2. As to his mates — two were on their FOURTH DAY as a police officer, and the third was an Affirmative Action Black hire.

        3. Violence is the raison d’etre of the police. That’s what they do, that’s what they’re for.

          You have stated the “law and order” axiom. But perhaps violence shouldn’t be what the police are there for? And perhaps the law abiding people in each local community should decide for themselves what the proper model for policing ought to be?

          In the case of George Floyd, the system for controlling excessive police violence seems to have clicked

          It clicked because of the video. Without the video, the officers would have gotten away with murder.

          1. But perhaps violence shouldn’t be what the police are there for?

            The chocolate teapot theory of policing.

          2. re: “perhaps violence shouldn’t be what the police are there for”

            It kind of can’t be. Law enforcement is an enforcement function. It’s right there in the name. And all enforcement ultimately is under the threat of government-sanctioned violence. If it weren’t, it would be “law persuasion”.

            The question is, as Lee says, the balance of violence proportionate to the enforcement goal. Stopping a murder or a rape in progress is one thing. Allowing traffic stops and tax code violations to escalate out of control is another thing entirely.

            1. I took Lee’s “raison d’etre” comment to mean that violence is a prime element, something that has to be in the forefront. If instead, he will consider that violence may be at the end of things police should consider, perhaps we agree more than I thought.

              That being said, I hold to my claim that the law abiding people in each community should decide what they want because the police exist to serve them.

              1. Depends on what you mean by “prime.”

                Violence is fundamental to the police. But it need not be at the forefront of police activity. A smiling face and persuasion will often, even usually, be fine. Usually violence will be in the background.

                As to “if he will consider that violence may be at the end of things police should consider” I agree with Rossami’s illustration. If they’re trying to stop a rape or murder (or riot) in progress, violence is going to be pretty much the first thing they consider. But usually not.

                Horses for courses. Which was my point. Slogans are insufficiently discriminating to form the basis for determining where to set the violence knob in different cases.

                That being said, I hold to my claim that the law abiding people in each community should decide what they want because the police exist to serve them.

                See ya on the march from Selma to Montgomery then. No cheating with calling in the National Guard though.

                I’m not disagreeing, of course, that there should be an element of local control and policy setting in police matters. But moderation in all things.

                1. A smiling face and persuasion will often, even usually, be fine. Usually violence will be in the background.

                  But not that far. One reason why we comfortable folk parked on our sofas are so shocked by police violence is that we are seldom exposed to those orders of humanity which lead one to a cynical view of human nature. Although police officers do often meet ordinary law abiding sweet natured members of the public, they have much more commerce with thieves, robbers, drugged up crazies and other non-Bambi types than we do.

                  So while we have our “be ready to bash this random stranger with a heavy stick” knobs turned to Off, police officers have theirs, from experience, turned to Simmer. It’s not surprising if they sometimes get their risk assessment wrong.

                  Sensible police reform depends on rooting out bad apples – a hard and discriminating task not helped by police unions.

                  And more body cams, sunlight. Everyone behaves better if their Mom is watching.

                  1. The law-abiding people in the communities with thieves, robbers, etc. should decide what role violence plays. And no, your analogy to Selma is inapt because law-abiding people do not have the right to take away other people’s rights.

                    1. I think you’re being a bit one eyed there, Josh.

                      We’ve had thousands of “other people” whose rights have been taken away – some even unto death – in the course of not always peaceful protests, riots and looting in the last few days. Rights which the police in the relevant localities, and their political masters, have judged it inappropriate to try to protect.

                      And one millisecond earlier, we had millions whose rights have been at least infringed by COVID lockdowns, which the police, and their political masters, judged it super-appropriate to enforce. Loot a store with thirty friends. Laissez faire. Take your kid to the park. Not so much.

                      To govern is to choose, and choosing what laws to enforce is part of that.

                      There’s no objective difference between Alabama police standing back and letting private violence be meted out to marching protesters in the sixties, and police in 2020 standing back and letting “protestors” mete out their own menu of private violence. Except that the former is an ancient cause celebre beloved of the media, and the latter is just well, whatever.

                      It’s a value judgement to enforce the lockdown vigorously, right up to when mass protests make a mockery of all those weeks of lockdown, because letting protests rip is more important. With the police standing back.

                      If you’re going to let local police and their politicos decide which rights to protect and which to stand back from, there’s no “except in Alabama” principle.

                    2. All of your analogies (Selma, the recent looting, the lockdown) are all inapt for the same reason: they all involve the judgment (for better or worse on a case-by-case basis) about what rights the government should be protecting.

                      In contrast, the argument about violence used by the police to protect those rights is an argument about how to and who should get the job done. Many folks in affected neighborhoods feel there is a better way to get the same job done. That is to them, the cure is worse than the disease. But, that doesn’t mean they want to stop fighting the disease.

                    3. And the point that you are missing is that – in Alabama in the 1960s just as in Chicago, Minneapolis, DC, NY etc in 2020 – how to and who should get the job done, determines what rights the government does and does not protect.

                      Personnel is policy.

                    4. Personnel is policy.

                      While that certainly can be the case, I do not believe it is in this instance. The people who want less violence in policing honestly want other ways to attack the disease.

                    5. The people who want less violence in policing honestly want other ways to attack the disease.

                      I’m probably missing your point. It looks a bit like – the folk who are protesting George Floyd’s death in large crowds in cities (and also presumably the city authorities where the protests are happening) honestly want to attack COVID 19 by means other than social distancing.

                      Is that what you meant ?

                      If so, when do you think they came to this, until very recently rather outre, view on how to handle the virus ? Or have they been of this opinion all along, but were just too shy to mention it ?

                    6. The disease is crime.

                    7. Ah, thank you. That sounds much saner.

                      Though we’ve probably strayed a long way off topic, I’ll simply cite the “managing 2 year olds” theory of policing. Woke opinion obviously differs from the wisdom of the ages (and not just human ages, all primates wup their kids when they get out of line) on the use of violence on 2-4 year olds; but even the wokest accept that it is sometimes necessary to engage in low level violence, or force, to prevent one child beating another over the head, launching across the road, or exploring the cutlery drawer too closely.

                      But mostly we can, and should, avoid violence. Instead we use persuasion and endless patience. Mom and sometimes Dad are willing to deploy endless patience because love.

                      But endless patience in policing is very expensive.

                      The same can be used for the use of “minimum” force. The stronger you are relative to the person you are trying to subdue, the easier it is to do without hurting him. It would obviously be easier to subdue a suspect, without hurting him, with eight officers than with four. This is also expensive.

      3. These protests cost lives. Hundreds of lives.

        1. And will destroy hundreds more.

        2. Your causality is pretty thin there, based on your past thread.

          1. You mean the white paper which analyzed past incidents like this, and found a large increase in homicides afterwards? On the order of hundreds.

            https://www.nber.org/papers/w27324

            Or perhaps just the bloodiest 24 hours in the last 60 years in Chicago, which starts all this?

            That’s before we even count all the additional COVID infections and deaths.

            Not sure how much more “causality” you need. But perhaps you just don’t care.

      4. OK, Professor Bernstein, where were all the people protesting it when Obama was President?

        Hmmmm????

        No, this is about the fact that 40% of Black voters intend to vote for Trump — and that will guarantee a Trump victory.

        it’s all about Orangeman bad — the faux impeachment, the overblown Wuhan Hysteria, and now this — all about Orangeman Bad.

        1. where were all the people protesting it when Obama was President?

          Hmmmm????

          Ferguson was in 2014, chief.

  2. I would love for some uber-lib to explain to me why it is Ok to protest among hundreds of people, yelling my ass off, with no mask, to boot….but I cannot attend synagogue and say Kaddish for a family member who has died – because it is too dangerous.

    I have nothing but contempt for the leaders who perpetuate this double standard.

    1. What we are witnessing is the birth of a new religion or replacement for traditional religion. As Christianity displaced the more ambivalent paganism with a more activist personal creed the social justice religion pretty much has hijacked elements to outchristianize christianity.

      It has it all, good…evil, guilt…original sin….redemption through works… virtue that must be signaled…the cult of the outcasts and underdogs and a parallel dislike of the perceived hegeomic elite of society…and above all a focus on the Crusade to save the perceived downtrodden from their perceived oppressors. Faith above logic. It takes characteristics that have both been praised and despised by the leftists themselves

      Marxism was an initial limited experiment in this ‘reconstruction’ of the religion for the New Age mostly limited to the economic sphere. Social Justice expands on this.

      In a way its kind of like their JudeoChristianity 2.0 taking mechanical elements which gave old religion much of its appeal and kicking them up a notch while jettisoning the rest. The hate and dogma that and black and white good vs evil they claim they find and hate so much of in traditional religion they take to the next level here. You unleash a powerful thing convincing the Wendy’s fry cook that she can escape her humdrum life and go on an adventure to slay the White Supremacist Dragon and rescue the poor blacks, LGBT whatever. The formula’s right there in that silly old book. It just needs to be updated for the times.

      1. John McWhorter couldn’t have said it better. When he first suggested it was a religion, I thought he was using the word metaphorically or rhetorically. The movement is “like” a religion; it has some of the same qualities – the fall of man, et cetera. Okay, it’s similar to one.
        But he says it’s literally a religion and not just like one, it doesn’t just have some qualities of one. I was skeptical to that interpretation but no longer although its adherents, like Christians, come in many forms – fundamentalists to reformists.
        The, or one problem with religion, of course, for a secular society is that it believes it and it alone has the absolute truth, that God is on its side. Thus the religious wars that ravaged Europe; and why the Framers wanted to cordon off religion from the state. This is now our problem too.

        1. As memeplexes, giant collections of memes designed to spread together, religion and politics are the exat same phenomenon. They both strive for the ultimate brass ring — the power to force themselves onto unwilling humans by gaining the power of the government.

          Then they don’t have to waste slow time spreading by convincing, which in meme terms means slowly evolving more and more seductive memes into themselves. They can just jump to enforced mandates. That’s the real power of memes — not just ideas that spread, but that get hosts to act in ways that help the spread. Now we can send our hosts out with guns, filled with a warm sense of self-righteousness.

          Who will win? Which brand of Christianity? Islam? Democrats? Republicans? Depends on region and century.

          Politics officially removed religion from achieving that directly in the US. If you understand this, you understand the source of the cynical statement men will never be free until the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

      2. I’ve been saying for a long time that Social Justice and Global Warming are religions.

    2. Please to remember this in November . . .

    3. I would love for some uber-lib to explain to me why it is Ok to protest among hundreds of people, yelling my ass off, with no mask, to boot….but I cannot attend synagogue and say Kaddish for a family member who has died – because it is too dangerous.”

      Simple: It’s because Jews aren’t violent.

      Block off a few Interstate highways, burn a few cop cars and smash a whole bunch of other people’s plate glass windows and you’ll be able to say all the Kaddishes(?) you want to, with every politician praising you for being “mostly” nonviolent in doing so.

      This crap started in academia over 30 years ago with building takeovers and spineless administrators appeasing it. Antifa, in it’s various incarnations, (BAMN, etc) has been around since at least 1999 and the Battle of Seattle (the WTO riots).

      No one has ever told these little darlings “no”, no one has evm ber held them accountable for the laws they violate, and now they have grown from teen-aged Millennials to 30-something Millennials — wreaking havoc and mahem on a larger scale.

      I’m being serious here: you can’t attend your synagogue and say your Kaddish because you won’t burn down City Hall in retaliation — and City Hall knows you won’t. That’s all this is — rule by terror — and why it is so truly scary.

      And as an aside, President Trump supports your right to say your Kaddish — it’s the Democratic (and RINO) Governors who won’t let you do it. That’s something to remember in November.

  3. Much of the population lives in a fantasy world concocted by the media only loosely connected to actual reality. The laws of the fantasy world can change back and forth from their opposite ala 1984 and true believers don’t care. Its just particularly obvious this time but everybody just chugs along because they are too brainwashed or cowardly or cynical to put an end to this nonsense.

    1. Tell us more about the true way, AmosArch!

      1. Well we could start with sex. Which is a real, objectively determinable, biological thing.

        Not something you get to choose. Nor something you get to determine subjectively.

        1. I know. We all know that. Transgender people know that biological sex is a real thing objectively determined. (Excepting a tiny subset of marginal genetically androgynous cases.)

  4. Public Health Experts are Embarrassing Themselves

    They’re not the only ones, not by a long shot.

    1. Remember these are the same “experts” preaching the Global Warming hoax.

        1. No, he’s just the resident dipshit who peddles in lies and stupidity.

  5. My daughter took her eleven year old daughter to a protest a couple of days ago. She sent a picture of my granddaughter holding a sign with the names of victims of racism starting with Emmett Till and ending with George Floyd. Emmett Till was undoubtedly a victim of racism, systemic racism, in 1955. Was George Floyd a victim of racism, much less systemic racism? Actually we don’t know if Derek Chauvin was motivated by racism or some animus toward a guy he knew, or maybe just sadistic sociopathy. What evidence is there that there is systemic racism in the Minneapolis police department, or in any police department in a major US city? I don’t think there is any. In fact I would like someone to point to evidence of systemic racism in any US institutions.

    Yes as David points out there is racism in “the world at large.” No doubt about it. But is racism at the core of the problems with law enforcement and the legal system in this country? I don’t think so. I don’t even think it’s much of a factor at all. Many people at this site share the same ideas about what is wrong and what should be done to fix the problems but the solutions need have no regard to racism at all, even though solving them would greatly benefit African Americans.

    1. Or, maybe with Floyd, dealing with a career criminal, who has repeatedly been incarcerated, the longest time for a brutal home invasion.

    2. George Floyd was high as a kite on Fentaynl, Meth, & Pot.
      He probably was hallucinating (i.e. the bit about “claustrophobia” and his refusal to get into the cop car). Fentaynl causes hallucinations, Meth is particularly notorious for doing that.

      From his autopsy:
      1: Fentanyl 11 ng/mL
      2: Norfentanyl 5.6 ng/mL
      3: 4-ANPP 0.65 ng/mL
      4: Methamphetamine 19 ng/mL
      5: 11-Hydroxy Delta-9 THC 1.2 ng/mL; Delta-9 Carboxy THC 42 ng/mL; Delta-9 THC 2.9 ng/mL

      1. Your point?
        Even if I believe everything you say, how does that excuse the actions of the police?

        That might reduce the officer’s conduct from murder to manslaughter (as you can possibly argue that he intended to hurt him, but not kill him). However, there is a reason you don’t restrain people like that. It’s risky and it closes the airway. The fact that Floyd was unconscious for several minutes before his died makes it even worse, and I believe that it shows the flagrant disregard for life that falls into Murder 3. The fact that Floyd was not resisting and there was no reason to hold him down like that eliminates all possible justification.

        Rights only matter if they apply to people we dislike. Freedom of speech applies to the Klan. Murderers are protected by the 4th through 7th amendments, and even the worst monster is protected by the eighth.

        1. “Your point?
          Even if I believe everything you say, how does that excuse the actions of the police?”

          Amazing that you can ask the question. Society is aflame with demonstrations/riots/looting and political convulsions and race is the foremost consideration. Aside from a few nutjobs, no one is suggesting the police’s actions were justified.

          1. Dr. Ed is. He’s arguing Floyd was in a drug-rage or something that then killed him.

            Dr. Ed is a special case, though.

  6. Sure go ahead and look at the health effects of “racism”, but don’t ignore the effects of burning out the grocery stores, creating a food desert, and having a large portion of the population dependent on Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores for their nutrition.

  7. One of the virtues of living in a republic is that each state can experiment with different things leaving the others to wait and watch.
    I think it would be wonderful if Minneapolis were to shut down its police department and replace it with unarmed social workers. It might even work. If it fails, as seems very likely, the advocates for it will probably only say that it wasn’t true socialism or something like that. Others might take the failure as a lesson on what not to do, rather than as a sign to double down.
    Of course, I only say this because I don’t live in Minneapolis.

  8. Advocates for lockdowns going forward, shall be defenestrated. You want “protests”, you’ll get protests. Not the kind you like.

  9. The only science is political science:

    “science” when people were just getting sick, not rioting:
    1. “If you are sick,” the CDC says, “you should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.” But “if you are NOT sick,” it adds, “you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask).
    2. A randomized trial of face masks involving about 7,700 hajj participants in Mecca had less promising results. At the end of the study, which was reported in The Lancet last year, the subjects who received masks—most of whom used them intermittently or not at all—were just as likely to have viral respiratory infections as those who did not. Last year was 2019; most people in C19 panicked 2020 wear their mask intermittently, or just plain wrong like over their mouth only, or hanging around their neck.
    3. New England Journal of Medicine 5/21/2020
    We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

    Current “science”, since the CDC remembered where the funds come from:
    Oddly enough, for the real flu;
    Unvaccinated Asymptomatic Persons, Including Those at High Risk for Influenza Complications
    No recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses
    But for the magical COVID;
    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.
    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.

    So “cloth face coverings” (note: not called masks) are a voluntary option where anti-social distancing is NOT feasible.

  10. Politics is like a highly metastatic cancer; Once it becomes important, it invades everything else and takes over. The moment any organization or discipline starts to have political implications, it gets taken over by politics.

    And almost always left-wing politics, because left-wingers have long seen taking things over as a priority.

    So this is hardly surprising.

  11. Your understanding of the reasons for social-distancing, and when it could have been most effective if dipshits in this country weren’t screaming about ‘muh freedumbs!’ is abysmal.

    If people had followed the directives issued in March and April (and if our President wasn’t the dumbest fuck in the country advocating AGAINST those very instructions and encouraging people to protest against the public health orders issued to try and save hundreds of thousands of lives), the US case count and overall COVID situation would be much different than it is now. At this point the disease has spread everywhere, and thus the efficacy of doing the right thing has been lessened to the point where these protests are NOT the driving force behind new cases.

    I miss the days when Stewart Baker was the only author of entries not worth reading.

    1. If you can find me epidemiologists or other public health experts saying that huge, non-socially-distanced public gatherings were fine from a public health point of view *before* the Floyd-inspired protests started, I’ll concede your point. But you can’t, because they weren’t. If they were, major league baseball could open tomorrow.

      1. I responded to your other post about this subject, with quotes from the article which you conveniently omitted because it directly contradicted your intended message.

        You’ve done the same thing with this post. You cherry-pick quotes that make it seem like you’re right, when in actuality the other 90% of your source speaks out against the idea of ignoring social distancing, and urging that people adhere to mask-wearing and keeping their distance if possible.

        For example, the rollcall article you use to complain about Aisha Terry’s quote also had this quote from her – BEFORE the text you decided to pull out of context:

        ‘“In the midst of this perfect storm with thousands of people protesting, there’s no doubt it could lead to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.”

        She stressed any protesters should “protest with a plan,” by wearing a mask and eye protection and disinfecting their hands often.”‘

        (Also of note: it isn’t clear that she’s even an epidemiologist as you claim. https://www.acep.org/people-pages/board/aisha-liferidge/ )

        To summarize: You deliberately remove context and quotes from the same sources which would clarify that you’re wrong, and it’s clear that these public health statements you are complaining about are NOT in fact encouraging people to go protest. These statements are also not claiming that COVID-19 is gone, or that it’s perfectly ok for mass-gatherings to take place and that protesters shouldn’t concern themselves with COVID any longer.

        Take your disingenuous arguments elsewhere, and spare us your partisan outrage.

        1. Partisan?

          1. Considering your disingenuous arguments, and selective quotations while ignoring context and the other 90% of the articles, your choice is either partisan outrage, or deliberate deceit.

            I notice that you didn’t even bother to address the claim that Aisha Terry is an epidemiologist when her professional credentials do not indicate any such specialty.

            It’s easier just to accuse without fact-checking I suppose and presume that people who read your opinion won’t bother to check whether you’re telling the truth.

            I did, and it seems to me that you aren’t.

            1. Allright, I am not morbidly curious. Who is this Aisha Terry whom you claim I said was an epidemiologist, and when did I make that claim? Never heard of her.

        2. From the letter signed by 1200 public health-related professionals. “However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.” Yes, they prefer that protesters adhere to public health guidelines/social distancing. And yes, they support the rallies even though it’s obvious from watching on t.v. that those guidelines are not being adhered to. Given that they aren’t you would think you’d hear public health officials calling for crackdowns. You aren’t.

          1. Health experts are allowed to opine on political issues of the time.

            They are experts in one area, not in another. They have opinions on both. I hope you see nothing foolish about that, given your post does the same thing.

            1. They are “free” to say whatever they want. I am free to point out that they are saying, “We know that these protests will kill a lot of people, but there is some possibility they will have some positive effect on police violence and racism, and the possibility this is true, which we can’t measure and have no expertise in, and which includes the possibility that the protests will make things worse, not better, is sufficient to overcome our otherwise strong opposition to activities that could accelerate the spread of Covid and kill untold number of people.” They are not nearly that forthright about it, and I’m not sure if it’s disingenuousness or if they really do have a quasi-religious faith in the power of “activism,” such that it never really occurred to them that there is no way of knowing what the outcome of the protests will be for public health. It’s also possible that most of them aren’t that bright, and they didn’t realize they were measuring a *known* public health benefit, social distancing, against an unknown and unkowable possible health benefit, the outcome of the protests.

              1. It seems like you believe that health experts should foreground health concerns in their personal opinions. While I believe that is probably often the case, I don’t think it’s ridiculous when it is not the case.

                I don’t give their opinion on the advisability of the protests much credence, because that’s not really their area. Just like I don’t listen much to all the businesses sending solidarity messages to my inbox. Doesn’t mean I think the businesses are embarrassing themselves, nor are these people.

                It seems clear you disagree with their political judgement as to the utility of these protests. I’m also cynical about the long-term prospect for change here. Which makes my cost-benefit about the health risks probably more like yours. But that’s a political call.
                Your opinion doesn’t invalidate your legal opinion or make you an embarrassment either.

                1. “It seems like you believe that health experts should foreground health concerns in their personal opinions.” When speaking as public health experts, that not what I believe, that’s what I expect, because that’s the consistent theme in public health literature and the entire underlying ideology of “public health” as a field. But beyond that, the pro-protest rally didn’t say, these rallies will harm public health but we support them anyway because other things are more important. Rather, consistent with the ideology, they claimed, without a shred of evidence, that the rallies would improve public health to a sufficient extent to outweigh the risk of Covid spread.

                  1. Morning,

                    I have not seen them characterize police violence as a public health concern, but rather a policy concern.
                    If they are saying it’s a public health concern, that is indeed abusing their authority in a way beyond the celebrity endorsement like stuff I thought was going on.

                    1. Checking out the first page, I see articles by:

                      Bioethics prof-authored article

                      A panel of a ‘health equity officer’ another ethicist, a JD education lecturer, a pediatrician and child health advocate, a chief medical examiner of the Nation’s Capital, director of ‘an organization of over 450 health workers committed to structural change to address health problems.’

                      Same bioethicist.

                      Syllabus by a faculty member at George Washington University and a public health practitioner with expertise in equity, diversity, and inclusion. Point for you, I think.

                      An interview with a sociologist

                      A blog kept bu JHU school of health that comes down on both sides of the issue

                      Articles about health care workers expressing solidarity.
                      ==========================
                      There’s plenty of takes going on relating the protests to public health.
                      But I do not see many by public health experts.

    2. I think your anger needs (also) to be directed at China, for lying to the world, and the prominent Democrats who, eager to bash Trump for the travel ban to said China, told everyone that the virus was no big deal and to be “Wuhan strong” and go out to the Chinese New Year parades.

    3. Gotta love outcome based “science.”

  12. Law Professors are Embarrassing Themselves

    FTFY

    1. Oh, ya did eh? Can’t tell. Looks works.

  13. “It’s not that public health folks are wrong that racism and police brutality have significant public health consequences; while coronavirus has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands in a short period of time, over the long-term racism and state violence can cause even greater harm.”

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?

    Assuming that every Black man killed was an act of racism and state violence — as opposed to, say, “self defense” as in Ferguson — where are the bodies? Where are the bodies?

    According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, including 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites. The Wuhan Flu has killed over 100,000 Americans as of Memorial Day.

    This is all junk science — as is the Global Cooling/Warming/Climate Change hysteria which preceded it. And to make a claim like the above is totally irresponsible.

  14. We get it…you are in the tank for your side no matter what….call it “science” or anything else, doesn’t matter….

  15. Prof. Bernstein is right.

    Our new discourse on race is better than the old discourse on race. That’s worth remembering. At least now things like structural racism get discussed.

    But there’s two really bad things going on here, and they are trendy:

    1. When someone says something is racist, no empirical proof is required. No numbers, no data, nothing. Motivations are assumed.

    So here, we go from “police racism kills blacks”, which is true, to “it outweighs coronavirus risk”, which is a quantitative question that requires proof.

    2. Everyone is afraid of criticizing wokeness and being labeled a racist. That’s a big part of why public health types don’t want to take this on. They know if they call out the protesters, they will IMMEDIATELY be met with “you don’t care about black lives”, “we are always told it is the wrong time for black people to stand up”, etc. There is no room for “not a racist, but just disagrees with my position” in these folks’ rhetoric. And since accusations of racism are so inflammatory, the tactic works.

    We need to be able to identify and fight racism without exempting claims of racism from the usual standards of evidence.

    1. “So here, we go from “police racism kills blacks”, which is true, to “it outweighs coronavirus risk”, which is a quantitative question that requires proof.”

      Proof? Proof?

      We don’t need no stinking proof….

      And as to racism killing Blacks, where’s the proof on that?
      George Floyd was high as a kite — drugs don’t kill???

      1. I look forward to the day where a cop kneels on your neck for 8:46, and confirms that you don’t have a pulse after 5 minutes and continues to kneel on your neck.

        All while you don’t resist arrest and complain that you’re about to die.

        You fucking asshole.

    2. “2. Everyone is afraid of criticizing wokeness and being labeled a racist.”

      I think this is especially true for many epidemiologists, who are tied to universities putting them in closer proximity to young people who are eager to make their own place in the world by tearing down others.

  16. I tend to agree with Professor Bernstein here. Our ability to predict the future is limited, and not improved by feeling very strongly. Also, genuine experts can be no different from others in confusing strong personal feelings with actual science-based expertise.

    As I have said many times, I think the constitution generally permits feeling to drive policies. Feelings and values are not necessarily seperable. The feelings and values of elites are entitled to whatever weight society gives them. However, experts should not confuse their feelings and values with their expertise.

    This principle is as applicable to public health experts In their field as it is to judges in theirs.

    Here, I think the public health experts are entitled to say how they feel. But they are not entitled to say their conclusions are based on science.

    1. Right.

      And that demonstrates what you might call the Nate Silver Principle. People who are an expert on something are always tempted to use the cachet that is conferred by their expertise to opine on other stuff they aren’t experts on. So Silver, an excellent poker player and statistician, pretends his political punditry and pandemic posts are within his expertise. Richard Epstein pretends his legal expertise makes him an epidemic expert. Plenty of people who read a few Supreme Court cases think they are legal experts. And public health people who have never done any science on the issue of police racism want to declaim as experts rather than conceding that it is just a personal, non-expert opinion.

      1. Again, you criticize Silver’s pandemic posts but don’t say what he got wrong. And, his election modeling is within his expertise, and his record is a solid one.

        1. 1. No, “election modeling” is not within his expertise. There is an entire academic discipline named political science, with people who spend years studying to get Ph.D’s and publish peer reviewed papers where their statistics can’t make it into print without a whole process to ensure accuracy.

          He is just a pundit. A guy who learned about numbers and thinks he is an expert on everything. He needs to go get a degree and try to publish in actual journals and has his ideas challenged by actual experts.

          2. You can do your own research. But his epidemiology tweets have been repeatedly criticized by actual epidemiologists.

          1. I also think the fact that people think Silver is an expert on any subject other than poker or raw statistics is a great example of how even smart people can be very gullible. It requires a narrative that “the actual experts are idiots and this outsider has all the answers” that is no different from what any global warming denier believes. But Silver’s followers don’t recognize that is what they are doing.

            1. the actual experts are idiots

              Silver doesn’t support such a narrative. His narrative is the most political pundits are not experts and do not understand how to properly interpret numbers. Perhaps you can share with us who the “actual experts” are and what they think of Silver?

              1. His narrative is that he knows as much or more than (1) actual people who work on political campaigns, (2) actual people who conduct polls, and (3) actual political scientists.

                The pundits are a straw man. He is not claiming to be a better version of Mark Shields and David Brooks. He is claiming to be an expert, on the same level of people who spent years actually learning about politics while he was playing online poker 50 hours a week.

                1. I agree he believes he knows more than many people who work on political campaigns because many of those people do not understand the numbers. And, I think he is right.

                  But again, what “actual political scientists” does Silver think he knows more than, and what do those professionals think of him? Your continued inability to name names undermines your argument.

                  1. And global warming deniers believe they know more than climate scientists because they don’t understand the numbers.

                    That’s the point. The number of times some outsider actually understands a complex field he has zero relevant experience in better than the people in the field is an extremely tiny number. There’s no reason to think Silver is in that group- it’s not like political scientists have all repudiated their methods and adopted his, which is what actually happens in the rare instance where that is true.

                    1. And once again, you are unable to name these expert insiders and what their election models are. I don’t think such models exist.

                    2. ‘Deniers.’ It’s a theory. A compelling theory, but not accepting it is not on par w/ denying the Holocaust.

          2. 1. Silver’s models have been publicly published so that anyone can review them. Are there peer-reviewed papers with election models created by people with Ph.D’s in political science? How does the performance of those models compare to Silver’s?

            2. It’s your claim. You need to back it up with evidence.

            1. Publicly publishing a model is not the same as peer review. A political scientist has to prove her model accurate and scientifically valid BEFORE publication, and nobody looks at political scientists not-peer-reviewed models as truth or important information. He is circumventing the process by which truth is discovered.

              The equivalent would be a purveyor of pharmaceuticals saying “I don’t need to demonstrate safety and effectiveness before releasing my drug to the public, because I am making all my data available and they can judge for themselves”. He knows there is no way he could survive gatekeeping. It’s all incredibly dishonest. But as I said, he has a lot of marks who fall for the con.

              1. Also, a lot of stuff Silver says is completely unfalsifiable. You can’t run the elections 500 times. His record is to be right sometimes and wrong others, just like all political forecasters, although he hides behind probability figures (“I said there was a 20 percent probability!”), which is a dodge when your business model is what a great forecaster you are.

                1. Of course you can’t run a single election 500 times. But, if you predict 500 different elections, there is plenty of data to evaluate the model.

                  A model that predicts a 100% chance of someone winning a close election is trivially not a good model.

                  1. And what was his projection vis a vis Crooked Hillary again in 2016? 🙂

                    1. Silver gave Trump a 29% chance of winning, which I believe was the highest of any prediction. Moreover, Silver gave a 10% chance of Trump winning while losing the popular vote.

              2. I’m not buying that election models need to go through the same process as drugs for the obvious public health reasons. But again assuming I am wrong, where are the models that have gone through the appropriate gatekeeping and how do they compare to Silver’s?

          3. “He is just a pundit. A guy who learned about numbers and thinks he is an expert on everything. He needs to go get a degree and try to publish in actual journals and has his ideas challenged by actual experts.”

            This is nonsense. You don’t have to have a Ph.D to submit quality papers for review by Ph.Ds. His ideas are challenged by “actual experts” (however defined) all the time. The problem for them (and you) is he’s right, a lot. Which is a much more important metric than pointless credentialing.

            There’s no point responding to as broad a claim as someone’s tweets, at some point, “have been repeatedly criticized by actual epidemiologists.” I will rebut with a specific claim, namely that epidemiologists have pointed to Nate Silver’s work. I’ll try to gather as many as I can find in replies.

            1. Briana Mezuk is an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan. She has a BS in Neuroscience (Pitt) and a PhD in Mental Health (Johns Hopkins). She said:

              “3i: If the number of total of infected persons is ever known, the death rate will more closely resemble that of Influenza, even though many more people were infected.*

              Unknown (and unknowable) at the current time. Currently, it looks like it will be worse than influenza, but we just don’t know. I highly recommend this post by Nate Silver at 538 that helps explain why the data we have can’t answer the questions we want it to.”

              1. The April 4 article from 538 she highly recommended is available here.

  17. By the way, is it possible to unflag comments? My cell phone inadvertently flags them.

  18. I am persuaded by Bernstein’s argument. I doubt the protests could have been stopped, but Fauci and other public health officials should have been constantly calling for social distancing and the wearing of masks.

    1. I agree, Josh R. There was no stopping it. But the silence was appalling. They’re physician’s for Pete’s sake.

  19. The so-called COVID emergency was overblown from the beginning. And when there is no resurgence, the so-called experts will be forced to admit that all the states should have fully reopened months ago.

    This may turn out to be the only good the protests have done for anyone.

    1. I was expecting this article to be about the WHO announcing they have realized through contact tracing that it is very difficult for an asymptomatic person (not coughing!) to pass along a virus that is spread by coughing.

      How many people have been stigmatized and food processing plants shut down because of asymptomatic persons, many of which are false positive blood tests?

  20. PS. Loved the Freudian slip “large pubic rallies.”

  21. Doesn’t Professor Bernstein know? Being an expert means never having to say your sorry.

  22. I’m worried that sympathetic governments will start re-labelling some of the new cases as “pneumonia” instead of COVID-19, especially if they order a reduction in testing. That way they can hide any increase caused by their protest appeasement. They would risk minimizing the pandemic, but they may decide it’s worth it.

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