A deserved word of thanks
A few days ago I stumbled across an episode of Idaho Reports (see: bit.ly/3mRMssn) on Idaho Public Television, and heard a physician, Dr. Joshua Kern, at St. Luke’s Jerome Hospital, state how staff at his hospital are, to paraphrase, suffering moral injury from having to provide suboptimal care to their patients because of the influx of COVID-19 patients.
Today, I read Gov. Brad Little’s warning that because of the influx of COVID-19 patients, some Idaho hospitals are on the brink of needing to provide crisis standards of care. Among other examples, crisis standards of care can redirect ICU beds and ventilators to patients more likely to survive.
I see this as likely further contributing to the moral injury experienced by many health care providers, and can’t help but think that, were one to end up in an overburdened hospital, one owes the health care providers an enormous thank you. If one is unvaccinated, perhaps, while there is still breath, one should consider offering an apology as well.
Stop blowing hot air
I am an atmospheric scientist with degrees in physics and geophysics. I study cloud and aerosol particles and how they affect climate and air quality. When the pandemic began in 2020, my colleagues and I performed experiments at Washington State University on ventilation through classrooms and hallways to help university leaders determine the safety of in-person learning.
I know something about how particles move in air and about the physics of particle distributions. However, I am not an expert on the efficacy of masks in preventing COVID-19 transmission.
Just like you wouldn’t seek advice from a podiatrist for cancer treatment, it’s important to listen to experts who have performed peer-reviewed research on mask efficacy. Peer review is important because it requires research to be carefully and critically reviewed anonymously by experts (who are also the researchers’ competitors) in that specific field.
For advice on mask wearing, I rely on experts like Lindsey Marr at Virginia Tech, who has made her career studying airborne transmission of viruses.
In a recent paper published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Marr and her colleagues summarized what is currently known about COVID-19, based on a workshop of leading experts held by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine: “Masks … reduce the amount of virus emitted in aerosols and droplets and reduce the wearer’s exposure to them, and masks reduce community transmission.”
A recent review in Science (published Aug. 27) states: “Universal masking is an effective and economical way to block virus-laden aerosols. Model simulations show that masks effectively prevent asymptomatic transmission and reduce the total number of infected individuals as well as mortalities as a result of COVID-19. It is crucial to optimize the allocation of masks.”
Please listen to Dr. Marr and other experts: Wear masks and stop blowing hot air.
Von P. Walden
Badminton with a zombie
In a game of badminton with a zombie, one may expect the opponent to repeatedly fail to return the birdie, pick it up manually and attempt to throw it over the net, unaware that it has lost the point. Such is volley No. 4 in Chuck Pezeshki’s series of rambling, data-free anti-mask tirades.
Reminding us again that he is a professor, he complains about logic-based criticism yet never provides logical counterargument. His most recent column differs from the previous by three elements: his claim that recent epidemiological time series from Louisiana and Arkansas show no differences despite differing mask mandates, his introduction of a curiously scatological yet false analogy for aerosol filtration, and his enthralled (“Absolutely!”) embrace of the epithet “Wizard of Oz.”
Data for Louisiana and Arkansas are available in multiple sources. Their mandates, identical since the end of April, have only differed since Aug. 3 when Louisiana reinstated their mask mandate. The resulting time series over the past three weeks are quite different, with Louisiana showing a marked decrease in 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases beginning exactly 7 days after reinstatement of mask mandates. Inconclusive indeed but any draft reading is just perfectly in opposition to Mr. Pezeshki’s claim that masks don’t work.
Mr. Pezeshki associates droplets with diarrhea and aerosols with farts suggesting public awareness of individual flatulence indicates mask failure. I am not making this up. The fragrant and unfiltered part of farts is mostly a gas phase, not an aerosol phase, as laundry tells, because clothing filters aerosols.
Finally, Mr. Pezeshki’s gleeful acceptance of the title of an incompetent “con man who operates machinery” (Wikipedia) who abandoned Dorothy in Emerald City and helped nobody but himself get to Kansas, is, well, no surprise, and frankly kind of fitting for our local Wizard of Oz.
Shades of ‘Big Jim’ Folsom
I became aware of politics in the 1962 Alabama governor’s race featuring “Big Jim” Folsom running for a third term (at that time, Alabama forbade a governor succeeding himself, so Folsom ran every eight years after sitting out an interim 4 years twice, being elected in 1946 and 1954).
I remember him for his weird television ads. He was accused of filming them drunk, which may have been the case. But what I remember is Folsom once saying something like this: “All politicians lie to you. Then they turn around and say that they’re not lying, that they’re telling you the truth. Well, I’m here to tell you that I will lie to you. But at least I’m honest enough to tell you that I’m lying.”
I almost fell off our sofa. I couldn’t believe that a man was fool enough to say something so stupid. And the only reason he didn’t get re-reelected in Southern Baptist Alabama was that he might have been drunk, not that he was admitting to being a liar. I thought something that bizarre could never happen again, even in a strange state where ignorance is glorified.
And then we had the elections of 2016 and 2020, when a much worse liar than Folsom got elected president and then ran again and got beat only because states were held to a high elections standard.
The man got caught lying time after time; only God knows how many women have accused him of sexual assaults; he cheated contractors out of contracted payments over and over for 30 years; he is responsible for the deaths of over half a million Americans; and he tried to overthrow the government. Yet some folk still want him unfairly elected.
I guess the campaign of 1962 wasn’t so bizarre after all.