Maskless Friday Reads

“The Twins, Kate and Grace Hoare” the sisters wear face coverings as they prepare for an outing with their elegant dog .John Everett Millais (1829–1896)
The Fitzwilliam Museum

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m off to the hospital this afternoon for a series of those “baseline” tests which basically signal that I can look forward to going downhill from whatever peak they establish. I will be wearing a mask there and on the way there and back home in my Lyft ride. It’s a different reality this month.  I’m drinking my coffee reading about Louisiana teens getting their vaccinations today.  The media is showing yesterday’s presser picture of the day which is basically a shot of President Biden and Vice President Harris mask-free.

Last year, masks were everywhere.  This includes the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, eastern England that closed during the peak of the pandemic and masked some of its collection for view on its website. Today’s art comes from the coverage given the show by CNN in June of 2020..

I’m not sure I’m completely ready to give up my mask yet.  I listened to the same conversation between Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. I’m pretty sure I will still wear it for my trips to the corner stores. My other outings were solo dog walks so they were always maskless but with a mask in the pocket. Yesterday, Temple and I celebrated our 7th Templeversary. That’s the day I called up the Bunkie pound and said I want to adopt that dog! Today, we look forward to walks without worrying about outfits with pockets!

So, we the vaccinated, rarely need to wear masks according to the CDC.  This is from David Leonhardt at the New York Times.

John Everett Millais’ “The Bridesmaid” (1851) with a decorated facemask to match her decorative dress. Credit: The Fitzwilliam Museum/FME, Cambridge


The C.D.C.’s intricate list of recommended Covid behavior has baffled many Americans and frightened others, making the guidance less helpful than it might have been.

Yesterday, the agency effectively acknowledged it had fallen behind the scientific evidence: Even though that evidence has not changed in months, the C.D.C. overhauled its guidelines. It said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most settings, including crowded indoor gatherings.

The change sends a message: Vaccination means the end of the Covid crisis, for individuals and ultimately for society.

If you’re vaccinated, you can safely get together with family and friends, mask-free. You can nuzzle your grandparents or your grandchildren. You can eat in restaurants, go to the movies and attend religious services. You can travel. If you’re vaccinated, Covid joins a long list of small risks that we have long accepted without upending our lives, like riding in a car, taking a swim or exposing ourselves to the common cold.

I’m still having a bit of reaction when even a friend I know is well vaccinated crossed the street with his dog to greet Temple and me.  I knew full well he got it back a few months ago and likely before me. It was the same reaction my neighbor had to me last month when we both got fully vaccinated and met up for a neutral ground chat.  She reached for her mask and said we’re okay.  We’d spent most of the year having small dinners on her porch or dining room properly socially distanced with hand sanitizer and the entire routine.  It’s easy to move forward along these lines.

I’m thrilled my youngest is going to see her very pregnant sister over Memorial Day.  The thought of getting on planes with strangers from the feral Trumpist outback still frightens me.  I had a year of knowing who was crazy and who was prudent with that mask and I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up.

“La Liseuse” (The Reader) by Belgian painter Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens in 1860, as imagined in the pandemic. Credit: The Fitzwilliam Museum/FME, Cambridge

Russell Berman–writing for The Atlantic–asks “Is This the End? The CDC’s surprising mask announcement was not just a public-health milestone.”

It had not, of course. There were, as always, plenty of caveats to the CDC’s guidance. Masks should still be worn on public transportation and in high-risk settings such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. The majority of Americans remain unvaccinated and should continue to mask up. Tens of thousands are testing positive for the coronavirus every day, and hundreds are still dying from it. Cases are surging in India and other parts of the world.

So, no, the pandemic isn’t over, but the significance of the CDC’s shift was unmistakable, and the nation’s senior political leaders made sure the public didn’t miss it. Inside the Oval Office, President Joe Biden and the Republican lawmakers with whom he was meeting took off their masks, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia told reporters outside the White House. On the Senate floor, Senator Susan Collins of Maine—who earlier this week chastised Walensky over the CDC’s “conflicting” mask guidance—triumphantly waved hers in the air. “Free at last,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, previously a fastidious mask-wearer, declared at the Capitol. Conservatives have mocked Biden, who has been fully vaccinated for months, for wearing a mask even when it clearly offered no discernible health benefit, including while walking alone to and from his helicopter. So when Biden spoke later in the afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, it was notable that he wasn’t wearing one. His remarks carried an air of celebration, if not quite finality. “Today,” he said, “is a great day for America in our long battle with the coronavirus.”

“The daughters of Sir Matthew Decker,” painted by Dutch artist Jan van Meyer in 1718. Credit: The Fitzwilliam Museum/FME, Cambridge

So, I do want to make this post mostly about what seems to be a turning-the-corner moment in our history of Covid-19.  I even have a friend taking his usual group of college students to Seville Spain this summer to take in the music and the opera.  He’s at the Student Health Center getting his vaccine passport because that’s what the Spanish Government requires for visitors. The private universities here are requiring their students to show up on campus in the fall with proof of vaccine this fall.  They intend to be open. The Louisiana University and Lousiana State University are still pandering to the backwoods goons in the Lousyana outback.  So, it’s still political just as Berman states.

We get the news today that all of the Democratic Congress is vaccinated which surprises no one. (Via CNN)

“No,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when asked if the rule mandating masks unless a member is speaking on the House floor would be modified. She then asked, “Are they all vaccinated?”
The answer, among Democrats across both chambers, is a 100% vaccination rate. For Republicans, it’s a different story — with at least 44.8% of House members vaccinated and at least 92% of senators.
In a follow-up to a March House-wide survey and interviews with members, CNN has confirmed that 312 of the 431 members of the House — just over 72% of the 431-member body — have now received a Covid-19 vaccination. Of that, all 219 House Democrats have reported being vaccinated. Among the Republican conference, 95 of the 212 members — 44.8% — have said they are vaccinated.
One hundred and twelve Republican offices did not respond to multiple CNN inquires.
One House Republican, Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky, said he is not vaccinated.

There’s one other thing that popped up on my radar yesterday.  Trump may be prepared to order Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to protect his ass from extradition to New York for prosecution.  It appears that may be evident.  So, the speculation is wtf is going on here, and can Florida actually do that?  From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel“If New York indicts Florida resident Donald Trump, could DeSantis save him from extradition?”

Trump bought and renovated Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, long before he became president, and in 2019 he declared it was officially his residence after he decided he no longer wanted to call his native New York home. Born in Queens, Trump built an image of himself as a savvy Manhattan real estate mogul.

Since Jan. 20, he’s run his post-presidency from there, issuing statements and delivering occasional speeches to groups of guests in which he rails about the 2020 election. Trump continues to falsely claim the only reason President Joe Biden won is because of widespread voter fraud.

If Vance’s office secures an indictment of Trump while he’s at Mar-a-Lago, the question could land in DeSantis’ lap.

Florida statutes state that “When a demand shall be made upon the Governor of this state by the executive authority of another state for the surrender of a person so charged with crime, the Governor may call upon the Department of Legal Affairs or any prosecuting officer in this state to investigate or assist in investigating the demand, and to report to him or her the situation and circumstances of the person so demanded, and whether the person ought to be surrendered.”

To the extent DeSantis can do anything to help Trump — or appear to help Trump — it’s hard to envision DeSantis easily going along with New York and allowing extradition of the former president. Going along with extradition would infuriate Trump’s MAGA supporters — the very people DeSantis needs for his own re-election next year and any future presidential candidacy. Helping to fight it would undoubtedly earn praise from those same people.

You can read more on this from The Insider.  I am beginning to think Florida is a third rate banana republic right now.  It’s embarassing.

As the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump enters its final stages, officials in Florida are preparing for “thorny extradition issues that could arise” from a statute in the Sunshine State, Politico Playbook first reported on Thursday.

Two officials involved in the “contingency plans” told Politico that law-enforcement personnel in Palm Beach County were looking at what to do if Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s investigation results in an indictment while Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

State law allows Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — a staunch Trump ally — to step in and investigate whether a “person ought to be surrendered” if they’re indicted, Politico said.

Trump is residing at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for the next few months.

I wonder if they’re fortifying his Florida palace like a drug cartel lord.  Maybe he can get some hints from El Chapo.


Okay, that’s enough for me.  I need to shower and shower, dress, and mentally prepare myself for post-pandemic wandering.  Let us know how your doing with the new reality.  Anyone else feeling hesitant like me?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

As I sat down to write this post, the sound of a jackhammer began somewhere inside or outside my building. Just what my frazzled nerves needed at 7:30AM in Trump’s dystopian nightmare America.

After midnight last night Trump sent out one his idiotic all-caps tweets:

And this morning, “Criminal Intent” is trending on Twitter. A sampling of the mocking replies:

This is the world we live in now. A killer virus is running rampant, the economy is a dumpster fire, and the “president” is a doddering but corrupt fool who is mocked unmercifully in the media and on-line forums.

Yesterday, Dakinikat told us about a study that suggests that recovering from Covid-19 probably doesn’t provide us with long-term immunity. Today another researcher tells us that cloth masks probably do nothing to protect us from the virus. The Asahai Shimbun: Cloth face masks offer zero shield against virus, a study shows.

Kazunari Onishi, an associate professor at St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo, found that cloth masks had a 100-percent leakage rate in terms of airborne particles penetrating the fabric and through the gap between masks and faces, substantially raising the risk of infection.

Onishi, a specialist in environmental epidemiology, tested numerous types of masks to ascertain which ones are effective in preventing infection from COVID-19.

Non-woven masks which passed filtering performance tests had a 100-percent leakage rate when not worn properly. Worn correctly, the leakage rate dropped to about 50 percent….

Onishi tested a range of masks: those made from cloth, non-woven masks, dust masks which met the N95 standard and other types, even the “Abenomasks” made of gauze distributed to every household in Japan by the central government.

Given that non-woven masks and dust masks have largely different leakage rates depending on whether they are worn correctly or not, they were compared on the basis of when they were worn casually and perfectly.

Onishi found that cloth and gauze masks had 100-percent leakage rates.

Dust masks had the lowest rate, 1 percent, when they were worn correctly. When they were worn casually, the rate was 6 percent.

With regard to non-woven masks, the type that passed the filtering performance tests had a 52-percent leakage rate when worn correctly. Masks that did not undergo the tests had an 81-percent rate.

We also recently learned that the virus is very likely spread through airborne particles. This is from MIT’s Technology Review: If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way.

This was the week airborne transmission became a big deal in the public discussion about covid-19. Over 200 scientists from around the world cosigned a letter to the World Health Organization urging it to take seriously the growing evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. WHO stopped short of redefining SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) as airborne but did acknowledge that more research is “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.”

“I honestly don’t know what people are waiting for,” says microbiologist Chad Roy of Tulane University in the US. “It doesn’t take WHO coming out to make a proclamation that it’s airborne for us to appreciate this is an airborne disease. I don’t know how much clearer it needs to be in terms of scientific evidence.” [….]

The evidence that this type of transmission is happening with SARS-CoV-2 arguably already exists. Several big studies point to airborne transmission of the virus as a major route for the spread of covid-19. Other studies have suggested the virus can remain in aerosolized droplets for hours. One new study led by Roy and his team at Tulane shows that infectious aerosolized particles of SARS-CoV-2 could actually linger in the air for up to 16 hours, and maintain infectivity much longer than MERS and SARS-CoV-1 (the other big coronaviruses to emerge this century).

We still don’t know what gives SARS-CoV-2 this airborne edge. “But it may be one reason this is a pandemic, and not simply a small outbreak like any other coronavirus,” says Roy.

What can we do to be safer? The gist is that we need to be wearing masks and staying away from crowded spaces; and repeatedly cleaning surfaces is a big waste of time and energy. Head over to Tech Review to read the details.

Naturally, Trump is doing nothing to help us deal with the pandemic and everything he can think of to make things worse. Right now the focus seems to be on attacking Dr. Fauci.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: White House turns on Fauci as disaster grows out of aggressive state openings.

Instead of focusing on the out-of-control coronavirus disaster in Florida and other early opening states, the White House is trying to destroy the reputation of one of America’s most respected public servants, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for telling the truth about how bad things are getting.

President Donald Trump is meanwhile highlighting claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors, media and the Democrats are lying about the country’s pandemic — the world’s worst — in order to crush the economy on which he is relying for reelection.

The new campaign of deception is accelerating a day after Florida recorded the highest-ever single daily caseload of new infections for any US state and as the daily total of confirmed cases nationwide hits a staggering 60,000. The surge is raging across southern and Western heartlands, also including Texas, Georgia and Arizona which tried to get back to normal before the curve of infections was suppressed. The resulting torrent of new cases is exposing Trump’s call for early openings, embraced by many Republican governors in defiance of CDC guidelines, as one of the worst political and economic decisions in modern history….

The campaign against Fauci, who has been one of America’s most highly regarded public health officials for decades and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush, tells an extraordinary tale of administration priorities amid a national crisis and of the brutal approach it uses to discredit any official who challenges Trump’s false narratives.

On Sunday, a White House official told CNN that several top aides to Trump were concerned about “about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” citing his past comments on the threat from the virus and the use of masks. Sources told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Monday that the President, who hasn’t met Fauci for weeks, was annoyed with the top infectious disease specialist’s public statements and “good press.”

And there’s more scapegoating of Fauci to come, according to The Daily Beast: Top Trump Ally Preps a New Assault on Fauci.

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who informally advises Trump on economic matters, said on Monday evening that he is working on a new policy memo that would “go after Fauci,” not just for the doctor’s proclamations on the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, but for his decades of work for the U.S. government prior to the current crisis.

“We are working on a memo that shows how many times Dr. Fauci’s been wrong during not just [this pandemic], but during his entire career,” Moore told The Daily Beast, adding that he and his team at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity had been working on it for weeks. Moore, whose failures at political and economic prognostication are routine grist for his critics, added that he and his group intend to send their final product to the White House and Trump and to “publicize it,” once ready.

Moore said that the current title of the memo is: “Dr. Wrong.”

“It will document how often his predictions have been not just wrong, but in many cases, fabulously wrong…[and it’ll be] looking at his whole career of making predictions about disease, and trying to show a pattern,” he continued. “Fauci’s been ‘Dr. Doom’… and I don’t have a problem with him being ‘Dr. Doom,’ but I have a problem with him being wrong, wrong, wrong… He’s been a detriment to getting the economy reopened, with a lot of his false predictions.”

At The Washington Post, there’s an op-ed by four former leaders of the CDC, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richer Besser: We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has.

As America begins the formidable task of getting our kids back to school and all of us back to work safely amid a pandemic that is only getting worse, public health experts face two opponents: covid-19, but also political leaders and others attempting to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk.

As of this date, the CDC guidelines, which were designed to protect children, teachers, school staffers and their families — no matter the state and no matter the politics — have not been altered. It is not unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release. Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency’s recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation’s pandemic response. On Sunday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos characterized the CDC guidelines as an impediment to reopening schools quickly rather than what they are: the path to doing so safely. The only valid reason to change released guidelines is new information and new science — not politics.

One of the many contributions the CDC provides our country is sound public health guidance that states and communities can adapt to their local context — expertise even more essential during a pandemic, when uncertainty is the norm. The four of us led the CDC over a period of more than 15 years, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More stories to check out today:

Jacob Stern at The Atlantic: This Is Not a Normal Mental-Health Disaster. If SARS is any lesson, the psychological effects of the novel coronavirus will long outlast the pandemic itself.

ABC News: Down-ballot races across Alabama, Maine and Texas revolve around Trump: 5 things to watch on Tuesday.

Salon: Dr. John Gartner: “Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history.” Psychologist and former Johns Hopkins professor on Trump’s pandemic conduct: “He is a first-degree mass murderer.”

The New Yorker: The Study That Debunks Most Anti-Abortion Arguments.

Politico: House to quickly revive legal effort to get Trump’s financial records.

Axios: House Judiciary Committee releases transcript of Geoffrey Berman testimony.

Karen Attiah at The Washington Post: The Texas Rangers’ team name must go.

Vox: What the police really believe. Inside the distinctive, largely unknown ideology of American policing — and how it justifies racist violence.

Stay home as much as you can, Sky Dancers. As Dakinikat suggested yesterday, I hope you’ll briefly check in from time to time to let us know how you’re doing. We love you all and want you to be safe!