Law and Legal
WSJ – The COVID Storm – Coronavirus Hit the U.S. Long Before We Knew Months before travel bans and lockdowns, Americans were transmitting the virus across the country. “The Wall Street Journal interviewed disease detectives and reviewed hundreds of pages of new research to piece together how the coronavirus infiltrated the wealthiest nation on earth. The latest genetic, epidemiological and computational research suggests it was spreading inside the country before anyone started looking. How did this happen?…”
Ars Technica: “Many countries that controlled their COVID-19 cases in the spring are now seeing rises in infections, raising the prospect that they’ll face a second wave of cases, as many epidemiological models had predicted. But in the United States, the number of cases has never dropped to low levels. Instead, it varied between high levels of infection and very high peaks in cases. Why is everything so different in the states? While there are plenty of possible reasons, a series of new studies essentially blame all the obvious ones: the United States ended social distancing rules too soon, never built up sufficient testing and contact-tracing capabilities, and hasn’t adopted habits like mask use that might help substitute for its failures elsewhere. The fact that some of these studies used very different methods to arrive at similar conclusions suggests that those conclusions are likely to hold up as more studies come in…”
Phillip Bantz, In-House Discussion on Gender Pay Gap Had Very Few Male Listeners, Corp. Counsel (Oct. 7, 2020). “Legal department leaders for HP Inc., Fortune Brands and Interstate Battery System of America had a candid talk Tuesday about a thorny topic—the gender pay gap in the legal profession. Unfortunately, few men attended the web panel discussion, which litigation funding firm Burford Capital hosted. “We’ve got to have a greater level of engagement by males in this space. Women can’t attack this by themselves,” said Kelvin Sellers, vice president and general counsel of Interstate Batteries in Dallas. Noting that fewer than 10% of the webinar registrants were men, Sellers added: “Men have to join in the conversation. And together I think we can make some great progress.” Not at all surprising—members of X group are almost more interested in discrimination against X than anyone else is–but interesting that the article focuses on it…” [h/t Mary Whisner]
“The World Risk Poll is the first ever global study of worry and risk across the world. The poll was conducted by Gallup as part of its World Poll, and is based on interviews with over 150,000 people, including those living in places where little or no official data exists, yet where reported risks are often high. The World Risk Polls covers the biggest risks faced globally including new findings on subjects such as risks faced by women, safety of food, experience of serious injury and violence and harassment in the workplace, climate change, and online safety. The poll will enable businesses, regulators, governments and academics to work with communities to develop policies and actions that save lives and make people feel safer. This landmark piece of research will be undertaken at least four times over eight years and the weight of knowledge accumulated will contribute in a more significant way than any past research, to making the world a safer place. The poll reveals new insights – for example demonstrating that demographic factors are generally a better predictor of risk perception than experience; and new findings that tell us how across the world, different groups of people experience risk in very different ways. The Poll highlights discrepancies between people’s perception of risk and the actual likelihood of them experiencing those dangers. For the first time, we learn how safe people feel; how they perceive risk and what risks they experience everyday. Explore the poll now to discover more about the everyday risks people worry about and face across the world…”
October 8, 2020 – N Engl J Med 2020; 383:1479-1480 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe2029812: The Editors – Dying in a Leadership Vacuum: “Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy. The magnitude of this failure is astonishing. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000. Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly…Why has the United States handled this pandemic so badly? We have failed at almost every step. We had ample warning, but when the disease first arrived, we were incapable of testing effectively and couldn’t provide even the most basic personal protective equipment to health care workers and the general public…”
Inside Higher Education – “Absent a national standard for how higher education institutions should report COVID-19 cases on their campuses, many colleges have taken to publishing information on cases on online dashboards. But observers say the dashboards vary greatly in terms of completeness and transparency. A lack of transparency or completeness can deprive students, employees and families of crucial contextual information they need to make decisions about their safety and make it hard to make comparisons across institutions. “I think different states, state departments of health and state legislators really could play a role in advocating for what is the expected minimum amount of transparency that colleges and universities in their state should be putting out,” said Cary Gross, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale University and co-founder of We Rate COVID Dashboards, a website and associated Twitter account that grade university dashboards based on nine criteria.
The best dashboards, according to the We Rate COVID Dashboards rating scheme, are updated at least once every weekday and include information not only about the positive number of cases but also about the total number of COVID tests conducted and the frequency of testing. Dashboards that break down case data for students and faculty/staff separately, and provide information on trends in the surrounding city or county, the number of individuals in isolation/quarantine, and the campus’s operating status, among other elements, are also superior, according to the website’s metrics. Dashboards are very much works in progress. As the fall semester has gotten underway, some colleges have tweaked their databases, adding additional sources of information, or increasing the frequency of updates from weekly to twice weekly, or from weekly to daily. Ohio State University earned an A-plus from We Rate COVID Dashboards, while colleges earning A grades include Colgate, Harvard and Tulane Universities; Bryn Mawr and Vassar Colleges; Wheaton College, in Massachusetts; and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Fast Company – “For all the things that seem to be threatening the integrity of the November 3rd election, states have also done a lot of very constructive things to ensure that things go off fairly and safely, election experts say. Over the past six months, the media and the public have become increasingly concerned about the doomsday scenario where the election is close and Donald Trump uses that—along with the doubts he’s sewn about the sanctity of mail-in ballots—as a pretext to contest the election and potentially refuse to leave the Oval Office. No election official in any Red or Blue state can stop the flow of propaganda, but many have worked hard, and creatively, to prepare for this year’s contest, say three election experts who spoke on a panel at Fast Company‘s (virtual) Innovation Festival on Tuesday. Because of the coronavirus, many states will see as many as 10 times the number of mail-in ballots as they did in the last presidential election in 2016. And states have received little help from the federal government to prepare.
Congress really failed in terms of providing the appropriate funding early on this year that would have enabled states to plan and prepare and execute for the massive changes they’re facing right now,” said Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute…”
Science Advances 03 Apr 2020: Vol. 6, no. 14, eaay3539. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay3539 – Evaluating the fake news problem at the scale of the information ecosystem [full-text] – “Fake news,” broadly defined as false or misleading information masquerading as legitimate news, is frequently asserted to be pervasive online with serious consequences for democracy. Using a unique multimode dataset that comprises a nationally representative sample of mobile, desktop, and television consumption, we refute this conventional wisdom on three levels. First, news consumption of any sort is heavily outweighed by other forms of media consumption, comprising at most 14.2% of Americans’ daily media diets. Second, to the extent that Americans do consume news, it is overwhelmingly from television, which accounts for roughly five times as much as news consumption as online. Third, fake news comprises only 0.15% of Americans’ daily media diet. Our results suggest that the origins of public misinformedness and polarization are more likely to lie in the content of ordinary news or the avoidance of news altogether as they are in overt fakery.”
The Inventory – “It’s not something many of us think about often, but RSI is no joke. Left unchecked, you can find yourself with lasting neck, shoulder, back, and wrist pain that could lead to permanent nerve damage. That sounds scary, and it can be! But the good news is it’s totally preventable with the right gear and good posture. Between monitor arms, ergonomic mice and trackballs, seat cushions, and various other accessories, it can be a lot to take in. Since you probably spend a lot of time typing on your keyboard, that’s a good place to start. Easier said than done though, right? There’s lots of options to choose from, many are some variation of pricey and ugly, and you might not know it’ll really help your wrists—or keep them safe if you’re just being precautionary. A good ergonomic keyboard will feature a split key design to keep you from cramping up your wrists and shoulders, with keys that don’t require too much pressure for a successful keystroke. You may want a wireless keyboard, or maybe you’re prioritizing mechanical keys. Either way, you’ve got some good options to choose from, and we’ve rounded up the best options according to Amazon reviewers and mechanical keyboard-obsessed Redditors…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
- “If you think you’ve contracted the coronavirus, you’ll need to notify your boss to get time off to recover.
- Do not go into work, especially if you’re working in person at an essential business or attending meetings.
- If your work hasn’t released a formal COVID-19 plan, refer to the federal and state governments’ regulations.
- Outline a plan on your recovery time, consider transferring responsibilities, and remember that you don’t need a note proving you tested positive.” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Lifehacker: “Spotify rolled out its new “lyrics search” feature into all of its apps without fanfare, so you’re excused if you had no idea it even exists. (How many of us spend time typing out I would choke on the rinds, but the lack thereof would leave me empty inside into the search fields of our favorite music apps?) But now if you do so within Spotify’s iOS, Android, or desktop apps, you’re search results will deliver the exact song those lyrics come from. (In this case, Eve 6’s ‘90s jam, “Inside Out.”) On your mobile apps, Spotify will even let you know that it performed a lyric search when listing out the matches it finds…”
Bloomberg via MSN: “Covid-19 patients who experience even the mildest illness risk suffering symptoms for months, researchers in France found. Two-thirds of patients who had a mild-to-moderate case of Covid-19 reported symptoms 60 days after falling ill, when more than a third still felt sick or in a worse condition than when their coronavirus infection began. Prolonged symptoms were more likely among patients aged 40 to 60 years and those who required hospitalization, according to staff at Tours University Hospital, who followed 150 non-critical patients from March to June. Their study [full-text no paywall], published Monday in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection, adds to evidence that a proportion of the 35 million people known to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus worldwide will suffer lingering effects weeks to months later. Post–Covid clinics are opening in the pandemic’s wake to cater for an expanding population of so-called long-haulers — survivors left with scarred lungs, chronic heart damage, post-viral fatigue and other persistent, debilitating conditions. “We were able to assess the evolution of the disease and demonstrate that even the mildest presentation was associated with medium-term symptoms requiring follow up,” Claudia Carvalho-Schneider and colleagues wrote. “Thus, the Covid-19 pandemic will involve a care burden long after its end.”
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Washington Post – “There’s a way for the White House to prove exactly how the outbreak traveled among its ranks: through gene-based contact tracing. But it doesn’t appear interested in doing so — even as the circle of President Trump’s associates infected with the virus expands by the hour. The Trump administration could, if it chose, search samples taken from dozens of White House staff members and visitors for tiny genetic variants. Because the virus undergoes slight changes as it moves from person to person, it’s possible to map where it has moved by looking for similarities in mutations. White House spokesman Judd Deere said tracing has been done for people who had contact with Trump. But it’s the kind recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which involves merely tracking people who were nearby those known to be infected…”