Post #822: CDC: Just kidding, we take it all back

Source:  CDC

Just this morning, I posted the new CDC guidance to citizens on COVID-19 (Post #820).  The CDC finally mentioned aerosol (airborne) transmission of the disease.

Half-jokingly, I said:

In particular, I would not be surprised to see this language disappear, once those in power do realize the implications.  Hence the snapshot, above.

Well, as of about 1 PM, the A-words have been tossed down the memory hole.  I’m not holding my breath, waiting for them to return.

So, for one bright shining moment, CDC told the entire story to Americans.  Until somebody got wind of it, and put a stop to that.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe what a total crap show our Federal government has become.

In memorium.

Source:  CDC, but long longer posted.

Post #821: Political signs and the Town of Vienna. Digging down to find the facts.

Edit:  Nope, I still didn’t have it right.  Vienna is writing its own unique ordinance that does not match the one being promulgated as a Virginia standard.  I have rewritten this accordingly.

The Town’s unique new sign ordinance (.pdf), which is not the same as the Virginia model ordinance (despite what the public hearing notice said), would do the following, with regard to yard signs:

Limit any yard sign to no more than 12 square feet.

Place no limit in the number of yard signs you could have.

Place a 90 day limit on how long you may leave a yard sign up.

And, hilariously enough, although the genesis of this was that you had to treat all signs the same, regardless of content, the first thing they do is treat signs differently, based on content.  Political yard signs have to come down after 90 days.  Real estate signs can stay up indefinitely.

And so, literally the only thing of note, in recent Town-wide history, that the new ordinance would prevent would be a repeat of my “small town Vienna” sign campaign.  As well as the use of any campaign sign that exceeded 12 square feet, such as one erected by mayoral candidate Majdi.  (If erected in a residential area.)

It also appears to transfer some power to the Director of Planning and Zoning. Which, if you’ve been following the action in Town, is no surprise.

In any case, although the public hearing indicated that we were adopting the Virginia model ordinance, to make sure that the regulation is content neutral, neither of those statements is true.  This is not the language of the model ordinance, and the proposed ordinance differentiates treatment of signs based on content.  And, importantly, political signage is subject to more restrictive treatment than commercial (real estate) signage.

Finally, this does still reach inside your own house, and bars you from having any sign in your window for more than 90 days.  I can’t believe there’s any reasonable justification for that, other than maybe some Town Council member doesn’t like some particular sign.  And that, surely, is no justification for this part of the law.

The rest of this posting is obsolete.  Although informative.

The bottom line is that more-or-less the only thing that the new law prohibits is something like my small town Vienna signs.    Something intended for a long-term protest of Town Council actions.  And any large sign, such as the one used by mayoral candidate Majdi.  And any sign you would care to display in your window, if you want to keep it up more than 90 days.

Obsolete material follows.

I’m now going to the Town’s archives for various meetings and trying to figure out what they are actually saying about limiting yard signs.  In particular, limiting political yard signs.

To cut to the chase, if they follow through with what they propose, then:

A)  You will be limited to no more than four standard political campaign signs in your yard.

B) You will have to take them down (or, plausibly, replace them) after 90 days.

So, first, I can’t believe that would survive a legal challenge.  And second, the people drafting this were thinking only of aesthetics and safety.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t give freedom-of-speech issues any serious thought when they drafted this section of the proposed ordinance.

Details follow. Continue reading Post #821: Political signs and the Town of Vienna. Digging down to find the facts.

Post #820: The CDC finally says the A-words.

Source:  US CDC. I added the red lines.

The A-words would be aerosol and airborne.  The difference being that, up to this time, the CDC had only said COVID-19 was spread by droplets.  Droplets are (conventionally) larger than 5 microns, rapidly fall out of the air (so-called “ballistic trajectory”),  and are the basis for our 6′ social distancing rule.  By contrast, aerosols are small (under 5 microns), can hang in the air for a long time, can travel far more than 6′, and can be inhaled.

The news here isn’t that aerosol transmission matters.  The news is that, as of last Friday, the CDC is (finally) explicitly saying that.  And that, in turn, has a lot of implications for Federal, state, and local policies for dealing with COVID-19.

You can read some news writeups at MSN, or CNN.  Someone in those organizations must have been keeping an eye out for this, because I don’t see this being reported elsewhere.  Yet. Continue reading Post #820: The CDC finally says the A-words.

Post #819: Town of Vienna to limit use of yard signs

Source: Caroline Kitchener/The Washington Post, as posted in The Lily.

Well, reluctantly, I have been hectored into posting about the Town of Vienna again.  If you’re not a TOV resident, move on.

Caveat: I haven’t done my proper due diligence on this.  Haven’t so much as bothered to look up the facts.  Because I’m just so sick of Town of Vienna bureaucracy.

So let me do the weasel-word thing and say, suppose.

Suppose I said that you, as an American, have the right to post a sign in your yard expressing any political opinion you choose.  Like the farmer pictured above.  Which, although I don’t like the message, I have to applaud the ingenuity.

You’d say, “duh”.  Because this isn’t Communist China.  This isn’t the (former) USSR.  This is America, right? Damned right, I can say what I want, on my own property.

Right up to what’s allowed, in general.  Famously, the First Amendment does not give you the right to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater.  For example, advocating the violent overthrow of government, or threatening elected officials (used to be?) is illegal.   And, likely, endorsing criminal acts — such as advocating violence against an individual — likely that would be illegal.

But beyond that, presumably, if you want to put a sign, on your own private property, expressing an opinion.  Even an ugly opinion.   You can.

Now suppose I said, well …. maybe.  Depends on how long you intend to express that opinion.  Suppose I said, after N days, you have to stop expressing that opinion.  Even if it’s free speech, as protected in the Constitution.  Because The Town Council in tiny little Vienna VA knows better.  With a proposed piece of legislation.

And your Town Council is focused on neatness.  As in, neat-freak-level neatness.  And, hey, that’s just so sloppy, having signs around for more than a little bit.  So let’s shut that down.

Now, I may be misunderstanding this.  But as this has been relayed to me, in the Town of Vienna, you have 90 days to express that opinion.  As proposed.  Or maybe just 60 days.  Black Lives Matter.  Make America Great Again.  Eat at Joes.  It doesn’t matter.

Under proposed legislation, after 90 days (or maybe just 60 days), your sign has to come down.  By law.  Because the omnipotent and omniscient Vienna Town Council orders it so.

Now, let’s get real.  The only widespread set of signs, in individual yards, that remained in place for more than 90 days, within living memory, were my signs.  These signs.  Shown at left.

Damned awkward, that was.  The principal charge from the citizens involved in MAC development was to maintain Vienna’s small-town ethos.  And here was somebody publicly reminding the town of that.

And, as low-tech as they were, they got people aware of what the Town Council was up to.

And I recycled them responsibly, to boot.  Again, at left.

Eventually, the Town Council repealed that MAC law.  So these humble, locally-printed long-lived lawn signs ended up being an effective example of real grass-roots democracy.

Kind of.

I take no credit for that.  Had it been a good law, I’d have been wasting my time.  As it was, I take credit only for pointing out the facts.   And having good sense prevail.

Above:   Merrifield Mosaic District, overlain on the Town of Vienna MAC zoning district.

And now, as the Town bureaucracy goes about re-writing all the zoning in Vienna.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that it is awkward, at best, for people to participate in that.  Somehow, right now, that’s the perfect time for the Town to prevent any recurrence of a long-lived lawn-sign-based protest.

Right now, apparently, is the ideal time to prevent any repeat of what occurred with MAC.  Ahem.  In terms of citizen opposition.

Yeah.  Sure.  As a patriotic American, that makes great sense to me.  Let’s make sure that the last effective means of citizen protest, for our last attempt at rewriting the zoning, can’t be used this time.  As the Town bureaucracy plows ahead with rezoning, despite taking advantage of the pandemic and all the restrictions that imposes on citizen participation.

But wait, there’s more.  Did I mention that if you have a sign in your own home, that can be seen from outside, the Town is going to regulate that as well?  Yep. That’s the plan.  So, forget yard signs.  If you dare to post anything in your window, that somebody objects to, the Town’s going to assert the right to come after you.

If you have an objection to this — or if you actively favor it — I suggest that you send an email to your Town Council members.  Let them know how you feel about it.

But under no circumstances should you post a sign in your yard /s.  Or, at least, don’t post one for more than 90 (or maybe 60) days.  That’s no longer going to be legal, in the Town of Vienna.

If I have been mislead about this, I apologize in advance.  But I don’t think I have.

I literally don’t have the stomach for sitting through the tapes of Town Council and Planning Commission meetings, to try to pin down the facts on this one.  If necessary, I will provide citations as to source.  In fact, it might be a healthy thing, to quote all the relevant Town officials who have heartily endorsed this.

It’s just so over-the-top, that … well, of all the things I need to worry about right now, finding any one of a dozen ways to dodge this ham-handed law is way down on my list.

Now I have to waste my time taking a detailed look at this, and whatever else the Town is up to.

Post #818: Well, turns out, this *is* as good as it gets.

Three days ago, the head of the US CDC said, more-or-less, that you’re going to get more protection from wearing a mask than you are from the forthcoming US vaccine.  He’s had to recant, publicly, since then.  But my guess is the he got it right the first time.

I summarized that in Post #815, What if this is as good as it gets?  With the title being my take on that testimony.  We’ve been expecting a vaccine to make a radical change in the situation.  But, taken at face value, the US CDC director basically just told us, that’s not going to happen.  Presumably, the implication of what he said is that it’ll do no more than mask wearing and social distancing have done.

Today I stumbled across a recent interview with Dr. Fauci where he said that if we adhere to all the current public health measures, and we get a “good” vaccine, we might be able to return to normalcy as early as the end of 2021.  Apparently, he’s been saying 2021 for some time.  This is the first time I’d seen it stated as the end of 2021.  And seen that conditional on having a “good” vaccine.

So, twice in the last couple of days, responsible public health leaders have told us that this is about as good as it gets, for the time being.  Vaccines really won’t alter the situation in any material way, for quite some time.  Even with a “good” vaccine, the situation we are in right now — with the shutdowns and social distancing and all of that — that’s as good as it gets, until at least the end of 2021.  And that’s only projected to end if we have a “good” vaccine, and everybody adheres to the other public health measures like social distancing and mask use.

At this point, I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking through this.  I need slap myself across the face, wake up, and start listening to the people who know what they’re talking about, and plan accordingly. 

The smartest people in the room are trying to tell us that we’re going to be in this semi-lockdown, socially-distanced, mask-wearing limbo for … a year or years to come.  Vaccine or no vaccine.

And now that I’m waking up, I realize just how many things I’d let slide because I unconsciously assumed that there was a chance that we could return to normalcy soon.  Particularly with numerous vaccines on the way.  No sense in doing things that incur a risk of COVID-19 infection if US society is likely to be COVID-free in the near future.

Should I list a few?  I’ve been slacking off on exercise, thinking, well, I’ll be able to get back to the gym soon enough.  Nope.  No I won’t.  So I’ve been putting on weight accordingly, but you know, that’ll come off when I can get back to the gym three days a week.  Nope, that’s not going happen any time soon.  I’ve put off seeing the doctor, figuring, it can wait until things are back to normal.  No sense being around a lot of sick people during a pandemic.  I’ve put off a major home repair because I don’t want workmen in the house, figuring things won’t have rotted out completely by the time we’re over this COVID thing.  Again, wrong, wrong, wrong.  And so on.

So I think I finally am getting my mind around this.  This really is as good as it gets.  For quite some time, anyway.  That’s what the smartest people in the business are telling us.  If you try to live your life in a reality-based fashion, plan accordingly.


Post #817: Vaccine and sins of omission.

I’ve had a series of posts arguing that Russia (and now the China) are doing the right thing by deploying their vaccines before they know their effectiveness.  That was stated most recently in Post #814.  Both countries are already providing those vaccines to high-risk populations such as health care workers, before they know how effective the vaccines are (or aren’t) in preventing (or lessening severity of) COVID-19 infection.

Today’s twist is that they are also winning allies and gaining international influence by supplying vaccines, now, to other countries that need them.  That’s written up in this Washington Post article.  So not only are they ahead in their own country, but they are gaining influence around the world by being first-to-market in a number of countries that need help right now.  (And, in an odd twist, they’ve decided to pool some efforts on their vaccines. )

In this post, I’m going to review the logic behind this one last time, and then do the grade-school arithmetic that validates that logic.  Something that, apparently, neither our elected officials nor our public health bureaucracy seems willing or able to do.  Or at least, to admit to doing, in public.

My best guess, using some quite conservative estimates, is that providing 10 million doses of vaccine now, instead of six months from now, would save just under 10,000 hospitalizations (worth about a quarter-billion dollars), and about 2800 lives.  This doesn’t even count other costs saved, such costs saved by avoidance permanent organ damage from COVID-19, or economic losses from work or school time not missed due to COVID-19 illness and quarantine.    Not only would the avoided hospital costs more than pay for the vaccine itself, these numbers are vastly higher than any plausible health or economic damage from any as-yet-undiscovered rare side effects of the vaccines.

Details follow.
Continue reading Post #817: Vaccine and sins of omission.

Post #816: We actually did have a rational, national plan for mask use?

Source:  The Daily Beast, from an article on the demonization of masks in Trump world.

Yep, we did.  We had a national mask initiative in the works.  It’s just that the President killed it.  As you can read in this famously not-liberal publication, Business Insider.  You can also see the same information buried inside this Washington Post article.  You can also see that the bare bones of this story were reported back in April, when the mask initiative was killed.

I just wanted to document this here, as it really didn’t get much play on its own and it’s already slipping out of the news. Continue reading Post #816: We actually did have a rational, national plan for mask use?

Post #G27: A treatise on the squash vine borer, final version


Source:  U Wisconsin Vegetable Entomology.

Yet another gardening post.  If you have no interest in growing cucurbits, stop now.

This is a rewrite of an earlier post (G09), mostly to summarize the results of this season.  And to shorten it up and tighten up the writing.  It’s a summary of everything I think I have learned about the squash vine borer (SVB).  All in one place.  Off the top of my head, based on what I’ve read over the past week, and what I’ve observed in my garden.  So I can remember it next year.  Citations as to source only if and as I feel like locating them.

Continue reading Post #G27: A treatise on the squash vine borer, final version

Post #815: What if this is as good as it gets?

Source:  Immunogenicity and protective efficacy of influenza vaccination
Claude Hannouna, Francoise Megas,  James Piercy,  Virus Research 103 (2004) 133–138.

The importance of this graph will be clear about five paragraphs down.

At this point, with the Phase III trials of coronavirus vaccines well underway, even if they don’t have enough “statistical power” to do the formal statistical test, our public health bureaucracy ought to have a fairly good indication of how things are shaping up.

I’ve been waiting for any US public health leader to start leaking information on the likely effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines.   Informally tossing some numbers out there, to get us prepped for the eventual formal announcement.

We just got our first indication today.  And, although the CDC Director broke the news gently, and indirectly, and with spin, if you paid attention, the news was clearly not good. Continue reading Post #815: What if this is as good as it gets?

Post #814: COVID-19 vaccines. The Chinese get it, the Russians get it. We don’t get it.

In Post #777 (and earlier), I talked about why the Russian strategy of early use of their vaccine made good sense.  And now, it turns out that the Chinese are doing the same thing as the Russians.  They just didn’t brag about it, the way the Russians did.  I guess I am unsurprised that the Chinese are doing the rational thing here.

In both cases, they are taking vaccines that have passed safety trials, but have not yet completed trials showing whether or not they work, and they are using them right now, for high-risk populations such as health care workers.

This is so rational, and so logical.  And yet, apparently so beyond the grasp of our government.  Either our elected leaders or our professional bureaucracy. Continue reading Post #814: COVID-19 vaccines. The Chinese get it, the Russians get it. We don’t get it.