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2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2020

Summary:
By Lambert Strether of Corrente. #COVID19 At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Back to the states: Our problem states again, with New York included as a comparison. Much of the coverage frames the current spiking as a Red State v. Blue State thing, but California that makes framing a little problematic. Yes, California has a bigger population and more capacity, but the curve is worrisome in itself. Caliornia should have this under control by now, especially given that their early response was effective and vigorous. “Data map reveals the 23% of US counties that are currently seeing an uncontrollable growth in COVID-19 – as new model predicts Phoenix alone could see 28,000 new infections a DAY by July 18” [Daily Mail].

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

#COVID19

At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Back to the states:

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2020

Our problem states again, with New York included as a comparison. Much of the coverage frames the current spiking as a Red State v. Blue State thing, but California that makes framing a little problematic. Yes, California has a bigger population and more capacity, but the curve is worrisome in itself. Caliornia should have this under control by now, especially given that their early response was effective and vigorous.

“Data map reveals the 23% of US counties that are currently seeing an uncontrollable growth in COVID-19 – as new model predicts Phoenix alone could see 28,000 new infections a DAY by July 18” [Daily Mail]. “Twenty three percent of counties across the United States are now seeing an uncontrollable growth in new COVID-19 infections, according to a data map – as model projections show Phoenix could see 28,000 new cases a day by July 18. A color-coded data map, compiled by spatial analytics company Esri, shows how the US is faring in terms of infections by tracking the number of new COVID-19 cases on a county level. Updated data from Thursday shows that large parts of the South and Southwest are showing an ‘epidemic trend’ or ‘spreading trend’ for new coronavirus infections…. Of the 3,141 counties across the country, 745 are currently experiencing an epidemic outbreak and 1,232 are seeing spreading trends, according to the data map. Nearly 670 counties are currently seeing a controlled trend in new coronavirus cases. According to the map, the entire state of Arizona is seeing either epidemic or spreading trends. ” • A link to the map (which I would include but at smal scale the color coding is awful.

Politics

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

The electoral map. As of June 25: Lots of new polls. And yet so far the consensus (aggregating ten organizations) remains the same.

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!

2020

Biden (D)(1): “Tammy Duckworth Is Battle Tested. Could She Help Joe Biden in His Biggest Mission?” [New York Times]. • Who did this. Who wrote this headline.

UPDATE Biden (D)(2): “Joe Biden and the empathy gap” [WaPo]. “The Biden camp, we reported, was operating from the premise that Biden could show voters how a president should conduct himself amid such a trying crisis, by setting an example for conduct — at the time, remaining on lockdown — that, while emotionally grueling, would ultimately benefit us all. This latest discussion of the hardships of social distancing seems like a continuation of that basic bet. Indeed, after Biden finished his speech, he put on his mask before heading offstage — a moment that seemed all about drawing this deeper contrast.” • The mask question will be interesting in the debates…

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “Mandatory masks? Biden says as president he would require wearing face coverings in public” [NBC]. • An excellent example of followership, being about four months late. But at least Biden said it.

UPDATE Biden (D)(4): “Why Biden Is Rejecting Black Lives Matters’ Boldest Proposals” [Politico]. “The expected revolt of white suburbanites against the protests hasn’t materialized. Instead, they’ve joined them. ‘This is no longer a traditional wedge issue because all of a sudden white Americans, particularly college educated whites, understand that racism is real,’ said Cornell Belcher, a veteran Democratic pollster who worked for Barack Obama. ‘Those white suburban women now understand that they have skin in the racism game as well. And that changes everything.’… ‘I think Democrats didn’t know what to do at this moment and that’s typical,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and a social movement strategist. ‘Movements operate with different prerogatives than traditional electoral politics. Mass movements always lead—they come up with new ideas and surface problems that aren’t new but the surfacing of the problem makes visible something that had been invisible because we’ve tolerated it for so long and the problem has become woven into the fabric of the country.’ From this perspective, the fact that Biden is a relatively nonideological politician who has continuously shifted with the political tides to remain close to the consensus view of his party might be a feature, not a bug. • First time I can recall seeing “movement strategist” in print.

Trump (R)(1): “The Week It Went South for Trump” [Peggy Noonan]. This is brutal.

It was all weak, unserious and avoidant of the big issues. He wasn’t equal to that moment either.

His long-term political malpractice has been his failure—with a rising economy, no unemployment and no hot wars—to build his support beyond roughly 40% of the country. He failed because he obsesses on his base and thinks it has to be fed and greased with the entertainments that alienate everyone else. But his base, which always understood he was a showman, wanted steadiness and seriousness in these crises, because they have a sense of the implications of things.

He doesn’t understand his own base. I’ve never seen that in national politics.

Some of them, maybe half, are amused by his nonsense decisions and statements—let’s ban all Muslims; let’s end this deadbeat alliance; we have the biggest, best tests. But they are half of 40%, and they would stick with him no matter what. He doesn’t have to entertain them! He had to impress and create a bond with others.

The other half of his base is mortified by his antics and shallowness. I hear from them often. They used to say yes, he’s rough and uncouth and unpolished, but only a rough man can defeat the swamp. Now they say I hate him and what he represents but I’ll vote for him because of the courts, etc. How a lot of Trump supporters feel about the president has changed. The real picture at the Tulsa rally was not the empty seats so much as the empty faces—the bored looks, the yawning and phone checking, as if everyone was re-enacting something, hearing some old song and trying to remember how it felt a few years ago, when you heard it the first time.

Trump (R)(2): “Trump is headlining fireworks at Mount Rushmore. Experts worry two things could spread: virus and wildfire.” [WaPo]. “Trump’s reelection campaign is also leveraging the South Dakota trip to fill its coffers, according to fundraising invitations obtained by The Washington Post. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway will appear as “special guests” at two high-dollar fundraisers in the days before the event in Rapid City, S.D., and Gallatin Gateway, Mont., along with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, campaign senior adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle. The retreat in Montana will run from June 30 to July 2 and features activities such as shooting and fly-fishing, according to the invite, while the ‘Rapid City Roundup’ will take place from July 2 to July 3. Tickets to the events cost $250 for a single-day attendee in Rapid City and between $250 and $100,000 for access to both events.” • The locals seem dubious. I’ve gotta say, though, that if Trump’s pyrotechnics do ignite a forest fire — what an outsize metaphor that would be! — the Republican Establishment, or what remains of it, might bestir themselves and nominate somebody more from the mainstream, like Pence or Cotton.

UPDATE Trump (R)(3): “Fauci Says Trump Considering Coronavirus Strategy Change: Group Testing” [Forbes]. “Using the pool testing method, health officials would combine samples from a large number of people and use one one test on the entire pool. If the test is negative, researchers would move on to the next pool of samples and would only test people individually if the test came back positive. ‘What you need to do is find the penetration of infected people in your society,’ Fauci told the Post. ‘And the only way you know that is by casting a broad net.’ … Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post in an interview on Thursday that health officials are having ‘intense discussions’ about making the switch because ‘something’s not working.'”

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RussiaGate

UPDATE Please tell me this isn’t true:

I haven’t gotten to this episode on the West Wing podcast; if Huber is right, I’ll probably stroke out when I hear it.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “U.S. House on verge of approving Washington, D.C., statehood” [Reuters]. “Four decades after launching its drive for U.S. statehood, Washington, D.C. was poised to take a step toward becoming the 51st state as the House of Representatives on Friday was expected to approve its admission.” • Does race the stakes for control of the Senate.

UPDATE “Democrats are finally taking their Senate problem seriously” [The Week]. “Realistically, for a Biden administration to be able to govern effectively, they will have to abolish the filibuster, and likely make the District of Columbia and/or Puerto Rico a state. There are some signs Democrats are beginning to take the Senate obstacle seriously, with growing talk of filibuster reform and a House vote to make D.C. a state. Whether they will follow through may well determine whether the United States survives into the medium term.” • Too funny. Obama and Reid could have abolished the filibuster in 2009 and, say, passed #MedicareForAll, or, if that’s still too high a bar, a decent recovery package. Eleven years later, here we are….

UPDATE The Democrats could also pick up a Senator by splitting California in two. From America’s most lateral political thinker:

(Here is Donmoyer’s original letter.)

“Nancy Pelosi Just Protected The WTO From Trump, Other Democrats” [Forbes]. “House leader Nancy Pelosi just made sure that a vote to leave the World Trade Organization would not be taken up by this congress, going against other Democrats that think it’s time the U.S. considers leaving the multilateral trade body…. Before every vote in the House, a rule is passed for how bills will be voted on. In that rule, Pelosi slipped in the line saying WTO could not be brought up…. Republican Senator Josh Hawley was given a thumbs up to force Senators to vote on whether or not to stay in the WTO. No vote on membership has been held in around 15 years. The Senate will vote on membership in July. No date has been set.” •

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The Great Assimilation™:

Liberal Democrats seem not merely to be seeking suburban Republican voters, but actively merging Never Trump Bush-era Republicans into the Democrat Party apparatus, a sort of realization that both parties — the legitimate parts, anyhow — are on the same team, presaging a government of national unity. I suppose, thinking back, Bush giving Michelle candy at McCain’s funeral opened the floodgates, or cloacae, or whatever. Anyhow, here are some current examples. There are rather a lot:

David Plouffe:

James Carville:

Steven Colbert:

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Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.

Consumer Spending: “Record Surge In Consumer Spending Tempered By Coronavirus Concerns” [PAYMNTS.COM]. “Consumer spending jumped 8.2 percent in May, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported on Friday (June 26), representing the biggest increase since the federal government began tracking the number in 1959. The rise in spending came as an increasing number of businesses across the country, including a growing range of retail establishments, reopened their doors in May as states began to lift coronavirus lockdown restrictions. However, the jump in consumer spending was tempered by a 4.2 percent decline in personal income amid double-digit unemployment and as the first wave of government stimulus payments — including one-time $1,200 checks — began to wear off. And personal income across the U.S. is expected to take an additional hit at the end of July, when an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits, paid for by the federal government, is slated to sunset.” • A sugar high.

Personal Income: “May 2020 Headline Personal Income Jumps, Expenditures Significantly Improve” [Econintersect]. “This month’s data was severely affected by the coronavirus. Income last month grew because of the economic recovery payments sent to most Americans – and this month it was not there so income fell. Expenditures grew as the economy began to open and most had the stimulus check to spend…. The real issue with personal income and expenditures is that it jumps around because of backward revisions – and one cannot take any single month as fixed or gospel.”

Consumer Sentiment: “Final June 2020 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Improves Over May” [Econintersect]. “Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin, makes the following comments: ‘Consumer sentiment slipped in the last half of June, although it still recorded its second monthly gain over the April low. While most consumers believe that economic conditions could hardly worsen from the recent shutdown of the national economy, prospective growth in the economy is more closely tied to progress against the coronavirus. The early reopening of the economy has undoubtedly restored jobs and incomes, but it has come at the probable cost of an uptick in the spread of the virus…. Unfortunately, confidence in government economic policies has fallen in the June survey to its lowest level since Trump entered office. The need for new relief programs is urgent and would best be accomplished before the national elections dominate the debate.'”

Leading Indicators: “19 June 2020 ECRI’s WLI Improvement Continues But Continues In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “ECRI’s WLI Growth Index which forecasts economic growth six months forward improved, remains deep in contraction, and remains at a level at the values seen during the Great Recession.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 20 June 2020 – Again Slight Improvement But Remains Deep In Contraction” [] Econintersect. “Week 25 of 2020 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) contracted according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. Total rail traffic has been mostly in contraction for over one year – and now is taking a hit from coronavirus…. Intermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. declined and remains deep in contraction.”

* * *

Retail: “The growing inventory stockpiles at clothing companies are turning into a financial drag for retailers. Clothing companies, including Columbia Sportswear Co., Ralph Lauren and Urban Outfitters Inc., have taken millions of dollars in what is often referred to as inventory obsolescence charges… even as many are activating plans for selling out-of-season clothing at the highest-possible price” [Wall Street Journal]. “Those include selling through outlet stores and holding excess inventory to sell later, potentially even next year. The inventories soared after stores closed under lockdown orders aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.”

Shipping: “Will this freight surge continue after the Fourth? Consumer spending data says yes” [Freight Waves]. “The volumes are bursting from the seams this week. Large asset-based carriers have begun to rapidly reject contracted freight. This is putting upward pressure on spot rates. Independence Day typically marks the beginning of the mid-summer slow down. If volumes continue flowing like this post-Fourth of July, and tender rejections remain elevated, we could be looking at a significant capacity event in the third quarter.”

Shipping: “Grocers and restaurants want consumers, not delivery drivers, to handle the last mile as online business surges. The sweeping changes in sales patterns driven by coronavirus lockdowns have created a vast test in online fulfillment for the food sector, and… businesses now are building out services for customer pickup operations that offer better margins than delivery” [Wall Street Journal]. “Several major grocers are waiving pickup fees and expanding spaces to fill orders while several restaurant chains and standalone dining spots are sticking with the curbside pickup that has become a lifeline for them. Some are trying to wrest control of their online orders away from food-delivery apps that come with hefty, profit-shrinking fees.”

Shipping: “Cargo clogs US airports as freighters proliferate” [Freight Waves]. “International passenger terminals may have little traffic, but at some airports there is so much cargo that frustrated businesses can wait days for medical supplies and other imports arriving on big all-cargo planes. The unusually heavy cargo volume, driven by a surge in medical supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic and e-commerce orders from homebound consumers, has exposed long-standing, systemic inefficiencies at major hubs in Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. For airport handling agents, the coronavirus is a double-edged sword. More business is pouring in, but COVID health precautions, changes in normal cargo flows, staffing shortages and the added complexity of handling cargo-only passenger planes are combining to create operational havoc. Nearly all cargo terminals at these gateways are overwhelmed, although some are handling the situation better than others, airfreight professionals say. ” • All this is before desperate airlines started taking out seats and installing cargo pods.

The Bezzle: “Ernst & Young Under Scrutiny Over Wirecard Accounting Practices” [PAYMNTS.COM]. “‘The big question for me is what on earth did EY do when they signed off the accounts?” a senior banker at a lender with credit exposure to Wirecard told the newspaper. The accountancy firm, which has audited Wirecard since 2010, has been thrust into the center of the scandal around $2.1 billion in missing funds that Wirecard said it deposited in two Philippines banks. The island nation’s lenders, BDO Unibank Inc. and the Bank of the Philippine Islands, have said the money never entered the country.” • Two billion is real money; the last money laundering scandal through Phillipines casinos was only $80 million.

The Bezzle: “Amazon to acquire self-driving startup in a $1 billion+ deal” [Freight Waves]. “Amazon is expected to announce a deal to buy self-driving technology startup Zoox for over $1 billion… California-based Zoox was founded in 2014 to create a fusion robo-taxi that is both electrified and autonomously driven. In that regard, the company initially looked to retrofit existing vehicles to make them autonomous, rather than building a vehicle from scratch…. Many observers thought Amazon’s advent into autonomous driving was inevitable. One of the largest ecommerce companies in the world, Amazon’s operations are massive and widely dispersed. With logistics costs being its single largest operational expense, Amazon has tirelessly looked to improve efficiency across its supply chain – predominantly by digitalization and automation…. Zoox’s fundamental issue has been biting off more than it could chew. Vehicle electrification, autonomous driving, and on-demand cab-hailing are all individual segments that have companies battling for market space. For a startup hamstrung by depleting finances, Zoox found it hard to compete in all these segments simultaneously.” • I’m still filing this under “The Bezzle,” because I think a Level 5 autonomous vehicle is just as much a delusion this year as it was last year, and the year before that. That said, if your program doesn’t work, control the inputs. Amazon is one of the few companies with the clout to get states and localities to optimize the built environment so that inputs are limited enough for the software to work. Still, I wouldn’t bet on it, and a billion to Amazon isn’t all that much.

Pandemic: “At least 25 state fairs, drivers of local economies, have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19” [ABC]. “So far this year, at least 25 state fairs have been canceled or indefinitely postponed across the country, as officials either deemed it too risky to hold crowded fairs effectively, or aren’t able to due to state restrictions on mass gatherings. That doesn’t include the hundreds of county fairs — some of which, like in Erie, attract more people than some state fairs do — that have also been canceled. Among the more than two dozen state fairs that haven’t been canceled, several, including New York, Texas and Utah, are tentatively still on. In addition to its cultural and social significance, the state fair — a celebration of a region’s agricultural heritage — is a driver of economic activity. The Indiana State Fair, which has been canceled this year, typically hires more than 1,000 seasonal employees.” • Handy map:

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2020

Pandemic: “In Search Of The Small Business Apocalypse” [The American Conservative]. “I got in the car and drove down the stretch of U.S. Route 1 (Richmond Highway) that runs south of D.C. through suburban Alexandria, Mount Vernon, and Hybla Valley. This is an interesting, if frustrating, drive in ordinary times; Route 1 is invariably traffic choked, and navigating its service roads and frequent intersections requires high alert. The communities sprawled along the highway are heavily Latino and relatively poor, as D.C. suburbs go. There are plenty of chain businesses, but also a heavy concentration of independent restaurants and small stores, many in aging, repurposed buildings. There are likely undocumented workers living here, afraid or unable to seek personal or small business economic relief. Fairfax County’s Hispanic population disproportionately suffered from COVID-19, to boot. If any place, at least in this region, should be ground zero for a small business recession, it’s this six-mile stretch of aging suburban sprawl. Happily, I found no evidence of the prophesied extinction-level event. And I happen to have a good reference point, because the very last pre-lockdown drive I took, back in the first week of March, was exactly this one.” • Old Town/Alexandria? Really?

Gentlemen Prefer Bonds: “Fear Revives Muni-Bond Insurance Business From Decade-Long Slump” [Bloomberg]. “As the coronavirus pandemic rips through the finances of state and local governments, municipal-bond insurers are busier than they’ve been in years. Since early May, about 10% of new bond sales have been offered with insurance, nearly double the average since 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The last time the market saw back-to back-months of double digit insurance rates was in July and August of 2009. State and local government bonds sold with insurance was once a mainstay in the $3.9 trillion market. But the industry nearly collapsed in the financial crisis, when the companies had their credit ratings slashed because of losses tied to toxic mortgage securities, leaving only about 5% of new sales carrying insurance since then.”

Honey for the Bears: “U.S. Recovery Looks to Be Ebbing in States With Virus Outbreaks” [Bloomberg]. “The U.S. economic recovery is showing incipient signs of weakening in some states where coronavirus cases are mounting. The ebbing is evident in such high-frequency data as OpenTable restaurant reservations and follows a big bounce in activity as businesses reopened from lockdowns meant to check the spread of Covid-19. ‘We’re now starting to see very early evidence that things are leveling off” in some of the states that reopened first and are now suffering rising virus cases, said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Corp.’… Overall, counties accounting for between one-third and one-half of U.S. GDP are suffering from worsening trends in new cases or Covid-19-related deaths, according to research by Deutsche Bank AG economists….’We’re playing mediocre Whac-A-Mole’ in controlling the disease, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 49 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 26 at 12:15pm.

The Biosphere

“Forestry Giant Discovers Downside of Planting Millions of Trees” [Bloomberg]. “A multi-decade state program to subsidize tree planting in one of South America’s wealthiest nations led to a loss of biodiversity and did little to increase the forests’ capacity to capture greenhouse gases. Chile’s plantation forests more than doubled between 1986 and 2011, while native forests shrunk by 13%, according to a new report by U.S. and Chilean academics. The country subsidized tree planting while its forestry sector boomed over that period. Yet the environmental benefits are not as clear. Subsidies accelerated biodiversity losses in Chile as plantations often focus on one or two profitable tree species, the report said. While forest area expanded by more than 100% between 1986 and 2011, the carbon stored in vegetation increased by just 1.98% during that period.” • Who knew, plantation monocultures are about money capture, not carbon capture.

“California mandates big increase in zero-emission trucks” [Los Angeles Times]. “The nation’s toughest clean-air mandate on trucks was approved Thursday by the California Air Resources Board. In effect, the board ordered manufacturers of medium-duty and heavy-duty commercial trucks to begin selling zero-emission versions in 2024, with 100,000 sold in California by 2030 and 300,000 by 2035…. The mandate is intended to cut air pollution and push the state toward ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals — 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below by 2050.”

Health Care

In keeping with my sunny temperament:

“What caused the Black Death?” (PDF) [Journal of Postgraduate Medicine] (2005). “For the whole of the 20th century it was believed that the Black Death and all the plagues of Europe (1347–1670) were epidemics of bubonic plague. This review presents evidence that this view is incorrect and that the disease was a viral haemorrhagic fever, characterised by a long incubation period of 32 days, which allowed it to be spread widely even with the limited transport of the Middle Ages.” • This is a fascinating piece, and shows that observational medicine was strong in the Middle Ages, even if theorizing was still dominated by ideas as crazy as mainstream economics today. Forty day quarantines, four metres (!) social distancing! Now, I am not equipped to judge the claims, so here is a counter–

“Distinct Clones of Yersinia pestis Caused the Black Death” [PLoS Pathology] (2010). “The etiology of this disease has remained highly controversial, ranging from claims based on genetics and the historical descriptions of symptoms that it was caused by Yersinia pestis to conclusions that it must have been caused by other pathogens. It has also been disputed whether plague had the same etiology in northern and southern Europe. Here we identified DNA and protein signatures specific for Y. pestis in human skeletons from mass graves in northern, central and southern Europe that were associated archaeologically with the Black Death and subsequent resurgences. We confirm that Y. pestis caused the Black Death and later epidemics on the entire European continent over the course of four centuries.” • Can knowledgeable readers adjudicate?

* * *

Science is popping:

UPDATE “Persistence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Aerosol Suspensions” [Emerging Infectious Diseases]. “We aerosolized severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 and determined that its dynamic aerosol efficiency surpassed those of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome. Although we performed experiment only once across several laboratories, our findings suggest retained infectivity and virion integrity for up to 16 hours in respirable-sized aerosols…. SARS-CoV-2–infected persons may produce viral bioaerosols that remain infectious for long periods after production through human shedding and airborne transport. Accordingly, our study results provide a preliminary basis for broader recognition of the unique aerobiology of SARS-CoV-2, which might lead to tractable solutions and prevention interventions.” • Note that this study is, as it were, in vitro. This is not the behavior of the virus in the open air, or in sunlight. That said, I’m still going to be taking a shower when I come home from the store.

UPDATE “Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in the context of COVID-19” (PDF) [ECDC Europa]. This is well worth reading in full. Here is the conclusion:

In conclusion, the available evidence indicates that:

• Transmission of COVID-19 commonly occurs in closed indoor spaces.

• There is currently no evidence of human infection with SARS-CoV-2 caused by infectious aerosols distributed through the ventilation system ducts of HVACs. The risk is rated as very low.

• Well-maintained HVAC systems, including air-conditioning units, securely filter large droplets containing SARS-CoV-2. It is possible for COVID-19 aerosols (small droplets and droplet nuclei) to spread through HVAC systems within a building or vehicle and stand-alone air-conditioning units if air is recirculated.

• Air flow generated by air-conditioning units may facilitate the spread of droplets excreted by infected people longer distances within indoor spaces.

• HVAC systems may have a complementary role in decreasing transmission in indoor spaces by increasing the rate of air change, decreasing recirculation of air and increasing the use of outdoor air.

UPDATE “Sex differences in immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 that underlie disease outcomes” [medRxiv]. “A growing body of evidence indicates sex differences in the clinical outcomes of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)…. [W]e found that a poor T cell response negatively correlated with patients age and was predictive of worse disease outcome in male patients, but not in female patients. Conversely, higher innate immune cytokines in female patients associated with worse disease progression, but not in male patients.”

UPDATE “Detailed phylogenetic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 reveals latent capacity to bind human ACE2 receptor” [bioRxiv]. “SARS-CoV-2 is a once-in-a-century pandemic, having emerged suddenly as a highly infectious viral pathogen. Previous phylogenetic analyses show its closest known evolutionary relative to be a virus isolated from bats (RaTG13), with a common assumption that SARS-CoV-2 evolved from a zoonotic ancestor via recent genetic changes (likely in the Spike protein receptor binding domain – or RBD) that enabled it to infect humans. We used detailed phylogenetic analysis, ancestral sequence reconstruction, and molecular dynamics simulations to examine the Spike-RBD’s functional evolution, finding to our surprise that it has likely possessed high affinity for human cell targets since at least 2013.” • Seven years!!!

“Neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19 in 153 patients: a UK-wide surveillance study” [The Lancet]. “The aim of this study was to investigate the breadth of complications of COVID-19 across the UK that affected the brain…. During the exponential phase of the pandemic, we developed an online network of secure rapid-response case report notification portals… Physicians were encouraged to report cases prospectively…. the platforms received notification of 153 unique cases that met the clinical case definitions by clinicians in the UK, with an exponential growth in reported cases that was similar to overall COVID-19 data from UK Government public health bodies. Median patient age was 71 years.” • The effects are… not good. But the numbers are, thankfully, small.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“California confronts its racist past as tributes to Confederates and colonizers fall” [Los Angeles Times]. “Marcus Hunter, chair of African American Studies at UCLA, said he thinks the statues are falling at such great numbers and with less pushback than in years past because white people and others who are not Black are joining the protests and helping pull them down. He also believes that people being forced to stay home during the pandemic could not ignore Floyd’s killing and the movement it sparked. ‘I’ve been calling this the great pause,’ Hunter said. ‘It wasn’t just a slowdown. It was 90 days of shelter in place. Either people are going to change America, or it’s going to remain the same.'”

Class Warfare

“Private Equity Abuzz Over Access to $6 Trillion 401(k) Market” [Bloomberg]. “The Trump administration has cracked open the door for private equity funds to get into 401(k) workplace retirement plans. There’s roughly $5.6 trillion in such accounts, and the prospect of capturing even a sliver of it has the industry abuzz…. Lurking behind all this is a broader policy fight. Regulators in the Trump era have argued that retail investors should have broader access to a lot of investments previously limited to wealthy individuals and institutions. Democrats have generally sought more regulation of financial products, and some have been critical of private equity, blaming it for loading up companies with debt and causing layoffs and bankruptcies. The government’s approach could soon change with the presidential election less than five months away. As a harbinger, six Democratic senators and Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, sent a letter to [Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia] urging him to reconsider his decision.” • The buzzing of wings, the stridulation of hind legs, the chitinous flexing of sucking mandibles…

“What Should We Expect From the Demonstrations in the United States?” [Communia]. “[The movement’s] great success has been to ensure that, while the aid to workers is being cut off to force a full reopening as soon as possible, despite the fact that the epidemic continues at a fast pace in the workplaces, the ‘anti-racist’ movement suddenly becomes the central political question in the USA.” • For those who like their whiskey neat.

News of the Wired

Department of Entertaining Distractions, a thread:

“Greasy parcel”!

Department of Clarification:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2020

TH writes: “I’m calling this a “Desert Lupine” and hoping it’s not a lie.” The tawny hills of the High Desert and the purple flowers are a very nice color combination.

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2020

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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