Reason Roundup

CDC Took Mistaken Data on Delta Variant Transmissibility From a New York Times Infographic

Plus: Dominion defamation suit against Trump lawyers can proceed, prices rose 0.5 percent in June, and more...


Another CDC data flub distorts delta variant contagiousness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed the delta variant of COVID-19 is "as transmissible as" chickenpox. It's not true.

Chickenpox, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is one of the most contagious diseases we know of. "If one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected," states the CDC website.

One person infected with chickenpox will infect an average of 10 people when everyone in a population is vulnerable to catching it. (This transmissibility number—referred to as R0—goes down when people have immunity to the disease.)

"The initial COVID-19 strain had an R0 between two and three," computational biologist Karthik Gangavarapu told NPR. The delta variant has an R0 between six and seven. For chickenpox, the R0 is nine or 10.

How did the CDC conclude that these were equivalent?

For one, the leaked document underestimated the R0 for chickenpox and overestimated the R0 for the delta variant. "The R0 values for delta were preliminary and calculated from data taken from a rather small sample size," a federal official told NPR. The value for the chickenpox (and other R0s in the slideshow) came from a graphic from The New York Times, which wasn't completely accurate.

Apparently, the federal agency charged with disseminating COVID-19 data and setting public health policy is taking its cues from a newspaper infographic. Oh my.

Using more accurate data, the delta variant proves more transmissible than O.G. COVID but less transmissible than the virus behind the chickenpox.


Defamation suits against Giuliani and others can go forward, says judge. U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols rejected a request from former President Donald Trump's lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to throw out defamation lawsuits against them from Dominion Voting Systems. The suits stem from claims made by Giuliani, Powell, and Lindell about Dominion machinery used in the 2020 election—machines that Giuliani et al. claimed had been rigged to throw the election to President Joe Biden.

From The Washington Post:

In a written opinion, Nichols said that Powell and Lindell made their claims "knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth."

"A reasonable juror" could conclude that Powell did not have a video of Dominion's founder saying that "he can change a million votes, no problem at all," as she had claimed, the judge wrote.Nichols also wrote that a sensible juror could conclude that Lindell's insistence on "the existence of a vast international conspiracy that is ignored by the government but proven by a spreadsheet on an internet blog is so inherently improbable that only a reckless man would believe it," referencing Lindell's assertion that a spreadsheet he shared on Twitter as proof of Trump's victory was evidence.

Dominion has also filed defamation suits against Fox News, Newsmax, One America News, and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne.


Inflation is up. "Rising prices on everything from groceries to gasoline have eaten away the wage gains workers have seen since the start of the year, leaving most Americans earning less than they were before the pandemic began and derailing the White House's argument that paychecks have grown under President Joe Biden's tenure," reports Politico. Prices went up 0.5 percent between June and July, meaning that real earnings are down 0.1 percent.


The Biden administration continues its Trumpian immigration policy streak, with expedited removals and a surge of deportations. From CBS News:

U.S. authorities are now flying Central American migrants deep into the Mexican interior using a Trump-era public health order that was extended indefinitely last week, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, who said the expulsions are meant to curb repeat border crossings and the spread of the coronavirus.

The Biden administration has also restarted "expedited removal" flights for some migrant families who can't be expelled to Mexico under the public health authority, known as Title 42. Since the end of July, the U.S. has carried out six expedited removal flights to Central America, deporting 242 migrant parents and children under the procedure, DHS officials said.


Reason has received 15 nominations for the 2021 Southern California Journalism Awards.

• Trump's account firm must turn over his recent tax records and financial information, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

• A black market in COVID-19 vaccination cards was bound to happen, writes J.D. Tuccille.

• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to sanction a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised people.

• Children "are being transformed into a political talisman for the right. And for no reason: Most people, regardless of politics or identity, end up having kids at some point," writes Elizabeth Bruenig, taking aim at rhetoric from the likes of Tucker Carlson and J.D. Vance.

• The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says Ohio can't impose work requirements on Medicaid.

• Some colleges will be charging unvaccinated students a "Covid fee."

• No self-respecting American should aspire to Hungarian-style nationalism, writes Reason's Matt Welch.

• "Oregon Gov. Kate Brown privately signed a bill last month ending the requirement for high school students to prove proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic before graduation," reports Yahoo News.

• Against the Civilian Climate Corps.