Good Move… But What Happened to Data-Driven Decision Making?

by James A. Bacon

If current trends hold, Governor Ralph Northam said in a press conference yesterday, he will allow significant relaxation of emergency COVID-19 shutdown measures by May 14. Social distancing and telework will be encouraged but not mandated.

Phase 1 in the step-by-step migration back to normal will continue to ban social gatherings of more than 10 people but will ease some limits on business and faith communities and will transition the “stay at home” directive to a ‘safer at home” guideline. People still will be urged to wear face coverings in public.

Once-shuttered businesses will be allowed to reopen with industry-specific restrictions. “Here’s the bottom line,” Northam said. “You’ll be able to get your hair cut, but you’ll need an appointment. And you’ll see new safety measures in the salon. It means you can go out to eat again. But restaurants will use less of their seating, so to spread people out. Employees will wear face coverings.”

It is heartening to see that the Governor is shifting to a new balance between protecting the public safety and preventing economic collapse. These measures, combined with he previous edict permitting hospitals to resume elective surgery, should diminish the crushing impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on Virginia’s economy.

What Northam’s remarks lacked was a rationale for the policy reversal. The one favorable trend cited by the Governor — a decline in the percentage of positive tests — is, as I have repeatedly explained, the most demonstrably worthless set of data available. He might has well queried a Magic 8 ball.

Last week the Governor touted his data-driven approach to handling the epidemic. His “Forward Virginia” blueprint outlined four metrics for moving to Phase One of easing public health restrictions:

  1. Moving downward: percentage of positive tests over 14 days
  2. Moving downward: hospitalizations over 14 days
  3. Enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity
  4. Increasing & sustainable supply of personal protective equipment

Virginia clearly meets the third and fourth of those criteria, which justified the Governor’s earlier decision to roll back the ban on elective surgery. Here is the latest data, updated today, on hospital utilization:

Data source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals remains near its all-time high, but the utilization of ICUs and ventilators has been trending steadily downward. The number of “available” beds hit a low of 4,726 yesterday, although hospitals still have a comfortably wide safety margin. These numbers meet the Blueprint’s criteria.

Likewise, PPE shortages have largely evaporated. The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association reported zero hospitals anticipating difficulty in replenishing its PPE supplies or other supplies within the next 72 hours. Moreover, the Governor’s Office reported three days ago that the state expects to receive delivery of three Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System (CCDS) units that can collectively sterilize 240,000 units of PPE per day for reuse. The systems will be operational in Blacksburg, Newport News and Chesterfield County later this week. PPE shortages will become a thing of the past.

(The Battelle technology is very cool, by the way. According to the Governor’s press release, “The Battelle CCDS™ uses a concentrated hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate N95 masks, which can sustain up to 20 decontamination cycles without degrading filtration performance. “)

But the first two Blueprint criteria are problematic. This graph shows the daily percentages of positive COVID-19 tests reported to VDH over the past month:

Data source: Virginia Department of Health

Yes, it is true that the percentage of positive tests each day has trended down over the past two weeks or so. But for purposes of tracking the spread of the virus that is a meaningless number. For starters, the number of daily tests has been running around 5,000 to 6,000, or about half the number Northam said last week would be the minimum required. Even more nettlesome is the fact that the improving percentage of positive tests reflects the flood of results reported by private labs, which have a far lower test-positive rate than the tests conducted by the state lab and hospitals. Comparing test percentages today versus a month ago when only 1,000 to 2,000 tests were being conducted daily, with few private lab results in the mix, is comparing apples and oranges.

Finally, the Blueprint calls for a two-week decline in daily hospitalizations. This metric is far superior to the “test positive” number. While it may not tell us how prevalent COVID-19 is in the general population, it does tell us the number who are sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

Data source: Virginia Department of Health

It is pretty clear from eyeballing the trend line over the past two weeks that the spread of the COVID-19 has leveled off — a cause for optimism. But, seriously, can anyone make the case (other than by cherry picking the start and end dates of the comparison) that the number is declining?

Bacon’s bottom line: Frankly, it looks like Governor Northam reached a political decision over the weekend to relax the emergency restrictions despite the fact that the data fail to support two key criteria he had enumerated a few days before. As it happens, I think he reached the correct political decision. I think he should start rolling back emergency measures. But let’s be honest, the move to reopening was political, not data-driven.

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65 responses to “Good Move… But What Happened to Data-Driven Decision Making?”

  1. Virginian Avatar

    I live in Washington County, Virginia between Bristol and Abingdon. I can drive four miles to Bristol, Tn. and have breakfast, lunch or dinner at a restaurant. We have a very low number of cases in all of Southwestern Virginia and our hospitals are empty and hemorrhaging money (I am on a local hospital board!). I can go to my second home in Hilton Head, SC and walk, run, bicycle or read on the beach and go out to restaurants for dinner afterward. Why do we have such punitive restrictions in SWVA? Why can the governor not do a regional release of restrictions based on actual data? Why did he say a couple of days ago that he would?

    I believe it was DJ Rippert who commented that “impotent ” was misspelled in the title of one of the posts I have read here (when the words “most important governor ” were inserted in the title line). I agree!

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      The Governor stated in his news conference yesterday that to open up the less-impacted parts of the state earlier would be to pick winners and losers. Best that all remain losers, it seems. Walk across State Street and sit in a restaurant….

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Actually, he said this: ” Northam said the state is not planning to open up on a regional basis. Members of the business task force created by the governor overwhelmingly supported opening up on a statewide basis, not by region, the governor said.”

        correct? Are we cherrypicking what he said? I did not see the winners/losers quote… got a reference link?

        1. Steve Haner Avatar
          Steve Haner

          I watched it. Don’t need no stinking link. 🙂 Play the video tape if you doubt me.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            do you doubt the excerpt I provided?

            So Northam his Business Round Table were opposed to regional difference BECAUSE it would create winners and losers?

            Isn’t that a tad bit different in context?

      2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        If Mr. Bacon is right about the politics driving the decisions than what political obligations does Mr. Northam really have across rural Virginia? It does seem like Mr. Northam is more concerned with the “Yankee Crescent” from NOVA to Richmond, and on to the sea.

      3. Virginian Avatar

        Ralph Northam is one of the most interesting characters I have met in Virginia politics and I go back to Linwood Holton in 1969 when I was a young volunteer at the polls in Wise, Va. I have never encountered a man or a politician who would look you in the eye and make a promise and then renege on it shortly thereafter. I know of three specific instances when he has done this, two of which involved me and I have no respect for him. I hate feeling this way about “my” governor but truth is critical for those who choose to govern.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          let me know when you find a politician that does not do this.


          Remember Bob McDonnell? Do you think he lied?

          yeah, yeah.. McAulifee, Warner and Kain too!

          1. Virginian Avatar

            If Bob McDonnnell made a promise he fulfilled it, and he made at least two to me face to face.

            Ralph Northam looked me in eye twice and reneged on both and I was told by one of my closest friends that he did the same to her.

            Actually Mark Warner, as governor, made a couple of commitments and he kept them and I contributed money to his campaign for governor and senator. I have no relationship with Kaine.

            Honesty is in the person, not the party.

            I find your post as petty and incredibly uninformative. Flame
            throwing does not advance any intelligent or intellectual discussion of an issue.

            I have actually been there “in the room where it happens” and dealt with these people on a personal and professional level and Northam is the most dishonest politician I have ever encountered.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Very interesting, serious and informative comment. Very rare today. Particularly so here on this website. It’s tragic.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            And I’m just saying, I’ve heard the same complain about virtually all politicians including Warner and Kaine … and yes.. sometimes it does seem to be partisan.

            That’s just the reality.

            Northam may well be dishonest but that’s not the way that most Virginians feel about him. If you took a poll about his honesty, I bet it would be pretty much unblemished…

            Sorry you think it’s petty. I think it’s pragmatic and just the nature of the beast.

            The problem is a lot of folks are expecting a lot of things from politicians and politicians try to be accommodating when they’re running for offie … that’s the nature of the beast. And yes, they say one thing then do another sometimes… or sometimes just say things they shouldn’t have, i.e. ” you can keep your doctor”, etc….

            The real test is what they do over the long run – not their missteps which all of them make, including unkept promises.

          4. Virginian Avatar

            I roll my eyes when someone prefaces or finishes his/her remarks with “I am just saying”. It typically is at the beginning or ending of a poorly reasoned argument. Larry, you have continually cited “polls” as sources of data. “Polls” in the modern world with landline phones becoming obsolete and with Caller ID (I don’t answer if I don’t know AND want to talk to the person I know!) are incredibly inaccurate unless they are measuring a very targeted and specific group of people. There are some very good pollsters (and I know them…they are not the people you cite) still in existence but they are careful to qualify that which they report and they normally solicit numerous data points, many of which are online, social messaging. Your “polls” are old-time and representative of an uninformed and unimportant database.

            The bigger question (which you seemed to not attribute a great deal of importance to) is honesty in public officials, which I think is the most important element of elective governance. I have and have previously had friends in public service and political party does not make an honest person…I know from extensive dealings with politicians of all stripes from county level to presidents of the USA! I have been a lifelong businessman, requiring extensive interaction with state and federal regulatory officials, and enjoying a great deal of success but am now retired and on the sidelines. In business you tell the truth or it costs you money. I had to be 100% honest to all governmental officials or my a$$ was headed to jail. The same criteria and standards were not what those governmental officials had to meet when interacting with me! I did expect, and usually got, honesty from them in but my early years when I was struggling to survive in a very difficult industry the regulatory officials, state and federal, were much more challenging to deal with.

            When I have had an issue to discuss with anyone in politics I expect to hear a truthful answer. I may not like the answer and I may not agree with the reasoning behind the answer but if it is honestly presented to me I respect that person regardless of political affiliation or disagreements I might have with that opinion.

            About Northam, I don’t care what “polls” say. I “know the man” and close friends of mine “know the man” and he is not honest and his promises are empty shells! I will send them to you (the shells) if you want them (the promises are not worthy of transmittal by any means I am aware of!).

    2. djrippert Avatar

      Neither Northam nor any of the Democrats care one whit about rural or small town Virginia. Same way the Republicans didn’t care about NoVa.

      You guys need to pressure the few Democrats still holding office in your neck of the woods. Sen Deeds is a good man but why should he remain in office if he can’t influence King Ralph to treat the people of Western Virginia fairly? Time for Deeds to go.

      After that, don’t enforce the lockdown. Declare yourselves a free enterprise sanctuary county. If Fairfax County can refuse to work with Federal officials to enforce America’s immigration laws why can’t Washington County refuse to work with the state to enforce unconstitutional and ill-conceived “one size fits all” lockdown rules. Just say no.

      Finally, we all have to realize that it’s not RoVa vs NoVa or urban vs rural. It’s everybody vs Richmond. People in Washington County should be making their own reopening rules, perhaps with coordination with other jurisdictions in the area. Fairfax County should make their own reopening decisions.

      The more we can cut our nanny state government out of local decision-making the better. And almost all decisions are local.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        What about Md? They got western rural and Eastern shore rural.. Right?

        1. djrippert Avatar

          Hogan claims he will consider regional differences. I doubt he’ll do that but he hasn’t closed the book on that yet.

          Maryland is much more of a home rule state than Virginia. The biggest example is the county by county income tax. Both Virginia and Maryland have a relatively flat state income tax structure with a top marginal rate of 5.75%. However, Maryland law allows counties to collect income taxes – which they do. The lowest rates are in Western Maryland and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The highest rates are in the DC suburbs.

          People on Maryland’s Eastern Shore still think they have too little autonomy. Serious succession efforts come up every so often. I have no doubt that a succession vote in the counties of the eastern shore would pass. And that’s in a basically home rule state.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        sure sounds like winners and losers, eh?

    3. matthurt92 Avatar

      I think Governor Northam is one of the few governors in our region who understands that the common person cannot be expected to use reasonable judgement about how to navigate the pitfalls of life. Thank God he’s in Richmond manipulating the levers of power to save us all!

      1. djrippert Avatar

        Despite having 4 Millennial generation sons (and one Gen Z son) I still can’t tell when a young ‘en is being sarcastic. I assume your comment is – what do they say? – snark. But if not – what government entity do you work for?

        1. matthurt92 Avatar

          I’m sorry my comment came across as snark. It was meant as sarcasm. I’m a grown ass man, and I don’t need our governor or anyone else making my decisions for me.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Might need rules for you to protect others, though, no?

            You DO stop at traffic signals and stop signs, right?

            If you were knowingly infected – would you do the right thing without “suggestions” from the govt and it’s scientists?

            Isn’t this the issue right now?

            If you do what you want and I do what I want – does it impact others?

          2. matthurt92 Avatar

            Sure, let’s implement a rule to reduce 1000 deaths per year in our state by outlawing motor vehicles.

            I’m not an anarchist, but I am extremely sensitive to governmental overreach. Certainly this pandemic is a crisis, and it could turn out better or worse based on a variety of factors. However, there are some politicians that tend to overreact in fear of being called out after the fact for having blood on their hands.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            see.. outlawing motor vehicles is NOT the same as having traffic signals.

            but if you get right down to it – a traffic signal impinges on your freedom also.

            Why do we have them? Not because some politician has grandiose ideas about controlling people.

            Nope, it’s primarily because most of us want them because we know what happens if we don’t – or for that matter even when we do – most of us will obey them and some will not.

            If you have the “freedom” to behave in such a way that it can harm others – is that YOUR “freedom” or THEIRs?

          4. matthurt92 Avatar

            You’re exactly right. Both traffic signals and outlawing vehicles would/do save lives. Why one and not the other?

            Also, I don’t think Northam has grandiose ideas about controlling people, but he is very sensitive to being called out by the woke among us. There seems to be a general movement afoot in Virginia and elsewhere that has at it’s core the belief that flawed humans can be perfected, but only through the correct application of governmental power. In my view, their objective is to usher in the Great Progressive Utopia.

            Now that being said, I am not a conservative, but I do hold some of the same values. I’m not a liberal, but I hold some of those same values as well. I am by no means a progressive. Also, it’s important to note that I’m often wrong, but never in doubt.

          5. DeptOfTyranny Avatar

            DJ, I appreciate and enjoy your very often insightful and tongue & check comments.

            As a GenX’er I immediatly recognized it as sarc, but it seems many politically focused folks don’t seem to have that filter (though I think its intentional.) Maybe it’s really a generational thing.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Nag. Nag. Nag. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    Northam actually opened up BEFORE Maryland and just crickets about that from DJ… and others… who claimed that Northam was “draconian” compared to other states.

    Now that, that has proven false, we’re now going to move on to other things to complain about….

    only fair, Conservatives are mad as hell and SOMEONE has to PAY for this disaster…. and the usual suspects are folks like Noretham.

    yadda yadda yadda

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Darn right, Larry. We should ignore discussion of the timing on this, and focus on where blame really needed to be assessed: pathetic testing failures, slow recognition that nursing homes and long term care facilities were the real killing zones, protecting the profits of those politically-connected entities by keeping their infections secret…..I long suspected that May 8 was the earliest possible economic relaxation and when other states started moving, it was inevitable Virginia would have to, as well. Frankly, I still thought it might be Memorial Day.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        All these complaints? The usual right wing/partisan suspects or
        most Virginians?

        Ya’ll just ‘evolve” in your complaints. If Northam actually does what you were complaining about, you just shift to the next item… it never ends, right?

        I think Bacon calls this the “loyal opposition”.

        I call it partisan dumb and not representative of most Virginians.

        RPV doesn’t give credit at all.. nope… their standard line is that “Northam must be held accountable for his incompetence and ineptness”.

        Sound familiar? Same old. Same old here in BR too!

        like I said.. Conservatives are mad as hell that their little world imploded and it’s GOT to be someone’s fault – and liberals, elites, scientists, etc are the prime suspects!

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Indeed conservatives are mad and we do live in a imposed little world that has imploded. What makes this time around different is that your world has imploded too. You should join with us Mr. Larry! I promise you a little sizzle!

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Jim – how I deal with my imploded world is by listening to scientists and believe them when they say, for instance, this is NOT the flu as some conservatives are insisting.

            My world does not go out into the streets carrying weapons to demand that we “open up” when the reality is that it’s not really government that is the problem.

            ” Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses, despite easing of restrictions in some states, Post-U. Md. poll finds”

            The “open up now” folks are about 20% and they’re flat wrong so who in their right mind will “join them”?

          2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Mr. Larry you are so right. Many visions of Virginia are swept up in something that cannot be controlled, something not fully understood, and steering our great land straight into troubled waters.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Well I suppose Mr. Northam can stand the heat. He is a doctor. If it gets too hot than I suppose Filler-Corn will get a fan for the governor.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        No need for a fan when there are stacks of Dominion cash laying around. Just wave a bunch of $100 dollar bills.

    3. djrippert Avatar

      Is it May 14 already? My obviously defective calendar claims it’s May 5. Which means Northam hasn’t opened anything. He’s said he will start to reopen in 9 days if some set of unspecified good things happen. Meanwhile, Hogan has promised to reopen in early May. We’ll see on both. I think the ratings from the poll were about right. Northam gets an “F” while Hogan earns a “D”. In fairness to Hogan Maryland has about 75% of Virginia’s population and twice the number of COVID19 deaths. Maryland is cursed by being much closer to Dr Death deBlasio and his world class incompetence in handling the outbreak.

      My guess is that Hogan will reopen on May 14 too.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        So Hogan’s re-opening is “competent” and Northams is plantation elite incompetent?


        1. djrippert Avatar

          Neither have reopened anything. Why is this hard to understand? My guess, as I stated, is that they’ll both open on the same day. Given that Maryland will open with more than twice the per capita COVID19 deaths than Virginia I’d have to give Hogan the nod for being more aggressive. If Hogan shows the minimal sense to adjust the reopening rules by region within Maryland I’d give him a substantial advantage. Also as I previously stated – I give Northam an “F” for reopening and Hogan a “D”. However, that’s reopening. As far as managing the epidemic I’d give Hogan a “B” and Northam a “Z”. The fact that Northam couldn’t get a competent testing program in place is horrific evidence of his incompetence as a governor. Oh yeah – and the lies about his family’s slave holdings, his infanticide rhetorical incontinence, the blackface incident, coonman and his lies about that, the tax and spend fest, his lies about the budget impact of the shutdown, etc, etc.

          Yeah, Larry – we got a real winner of a governor from the Democrats.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            If Virginia is moving along about the same way as Maryland – then how can the assessment between Hogan and Northam be so different?

            As far as I can tell, Virginia is NOW doing contact tracing – is Maryland?

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    It made very good sense for Northam to work with Maryland and the District to deal with reopening in the National Capital Area. That’s the biggest impact area affecting the state in many ways.

    But there also needed to be similar, but smaller, coordination efforts with other bordering states, e.g., N.C., Tenn., Ky. and WV. Perhaps, these have occurred but perhaps not.

  4. TBill Avatar

    Re: PPE
    My spouse has personally made almost 200 washable cloth masks, and as a team with the quilters she works with, thousands. For various hospitals and social services and family (Wash Nats, Pgh Steelers, Star Wars, etc themes) . Recently making “ear savers” because the elastic is hurting ears of nurses etc.

    Fun fact: if you take an old tee shirt, and cut a 1-inch strip around the circumference, and stretch it out with your foot, it rolls up and turns into face mask ties.

  5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Jim Bacon said:
    “But let’s be honest, the move to reopening was political, not data-driven.”

    This is the lens through which we should read every article and action on this Coved-19 subject written by people with a political stake.

    Look for this trend to taint and spin the news to expand exponentially, especially as deaths contract, and/or bounce around.

    Look for how many ways and reasons, politicians and those with vested interests in Covid 19 can manipulate facts, spin words and manipulate numbers in their effort to gain political, private, monetary, ideological, and/or cover our tracks, advantage, over everyone else. Especially among those who live the lives this way.

    The Rent Seeking Covid 19 Game is now on big time steroids. So, view everything you read in Washington Post with this psychological slant in mind. For example, this:

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Here is another obvious example of politicizing the Covid 19 epidemic. Look for daily examples of these Russia Collusion type mass media spin tactics, articles, news and web casts, tweets, leaks, blogs you name it, on the Covid 19 epidemic.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Here is referenced leaked plant article:

        We are back to Comey’s FBI style operations, this time with our federal government’s health departments.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      Mr. Fawell:

      The High Court of Libtwittery has filed charges of “independent thinking” against you. This is a serious matter. As you should know, only “experts” and “science” are permissible topics of conversation about anything and everything. This is true whether or not there is any actual expertise or conclusive science.

      The specific charges against you refer to your willingness to question “experts” and even impugn those “experts” as possibly having their own agenda. This is unacceptable behavior. The Third Law of Libtwittery requires that acceptable public discourse be limited to endlessly repeating the various predictions of “experts” chosen by the Council of Libtwits. It is understood that these “experts” are often wrong, rarely consider any implications outside of their field of specialty and make predictions that vary widely from “expert” to “expert” and from one day to the next.

      The Council of Libtwits has used painstaking research to uncover an “expert” prediction of 200,000 COVID19 deaths per day in June. Since this prediction comports well with the Libtwit goal of an extended pre-socialist lockdown it has been deemed “science” by the Council of Libtwits and has been rated “True” by the useful idiots who fact check absurd predictions. Therefore, you are precluded from questioning the prediction, the “science” behind it or the media outlets who perform the critical civic service of endlessly repeating such settled “science’.

      Remember, patriotic Americans do not question what the Washington Post tells them. Please be patriotic.

      Thank you.

      Nancy Pelosi
      Chief Magistrate, High Court of Libtwittery

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Chief Magistrate:

        Never have I received a higher compliment than that of your Inquisition and Judgement rendered upon me, as as sat in your dock with such luminaries, accused men of such high achievement in the real world outside your toxic bubble, Madam. To quote your Official Mouthpiece:

        “The coronavirus response being spearheaded by President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has relied in part on volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the tasks to which they were assigned, exacerbating chronic problems in obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs, according to numerous government officials and a volunteer involved in the effort.

        About two dozen employees from Boston Consulting Group, Insight, McKinsey and other firms have volunteered their time — some on paid vacation leave from their jobs and others without pay — to aid the Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to administration officials and others familiar with the arrangement.

        Although some of the volunteers have relevant backgrounds and experience, many others were poorly matched with the jobs they were assigned, including those given the task of securing personal protective equipment, or PPE, for hospitals nationwide, according to a complaint filed last month with the House Oversight Committee …”

        Oh, the Comradery of the Dock! Us Brothers in Arms, laughing at our Grand Inquisitor, the Chief Magistrate, Her Highness herself, hidden behind her little Blue Polka Dot Mask,

        But, why hide such a work of art face job behind cloth as if Her Highness be an enslaved Arab girl?

        To quote Her Highness’s Official Mouthpiece:

        “Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more. It’s more essential because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans wear a mask when interacting with others. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a more complicated cultural proposition. And, of course, the face mask is political because both the president and the vice president have refused to wear one on highly public occasions and because some protesters have insinuated that masks are un-American. As the country moves toward reopening, masks are assuredly part of our future. And in some ways, their evolution is the perfect encapsulation of how much life has changed in a blink of an eye — and how challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, it will be for us to go forward.“The question about face masks is how will they morally change us? To some extent the answer depends on our motivation for wearing them,” says Liz Bucar, a professor of religion at Northeastern University. “If you are wearing a mask to protect yourself from others, you are forming a habit of fear. Every time you put a mask on, every time you see someone else wearing one, you will reinforce this fear.“ But if you are wearing the mask to protect others, wearing it will create a feeling of connection to those in your community,” she says. “You’ll see others wearing masks as a sartorial sign that they are willing to sacrifice some freedom and comfort for the common good.”“The meaning we give to these masks matters.”

        In the beginning …’ Quote End

        For more see Washington Post, “Masks are here to stay. And they’re quickly becoming a way to express ourselves,” found at.

  6. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    Richmond Free Press’ Opinion Page has some input about Covid reopenings and the GOP…

    I will only offer a wow.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      well heckfire, not only blacks, but Hispanics and just about anyone in that low-income “entitlement-taker” group, eh?

      Hadn’t really considered that – not even the GOP would think that, right?

    2. djrippert Avatar

      The answer is clear. Proper liberals will boycott all minority owned or minority staffed businesses. Once restaurants reopen good liberals will ask the host or hostess to ensure that they are served by a white waiter or waitress, preferably a straight male waiter.

  7. NorrhsideDude Avatar

    So Northam has suggested hair salons etc may be able to open next week… will the Richmond Free Press Opinion Page lump him in with the GOP?
    Interesting times and opinions.
    FYI if y’all don’t read that opinion page you should… a whole other perspective on issues. Plus some opeds by Stoney and McEachin.

  8. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    A little late today, I bring you the latest news from DOC. And that news is very heartening! For the first time since this all started, the total number of positive cases has decreased. And not by just one or two, by 10 cases. That is a 2 percent drop. The Virginia Women’s Correctional Center in Goochland, which had the first cases and a cumulative total of 43 cases and 1 death, is down to 4 positive cases, with two of those still in the hospital. Here is the summary:

    Summary of COVID-19 Cases in Va. Dept. of Corrections
    As of 5:00 p.m., May 4

    Cumulative testing positive 556
    Total Deaths 3
    Active positive cases in facilities 452
    Number in hospital 10
    Recovered 91
    Staff currently tested positive 67

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Dick – do you know if the Dept of Corrections has done anything in particular – changes.. to the way the facilities are operating?

      for instance, have they instituted any kind of social distancing for the dorms?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Social distancing in the dorms is not feasible and, in fact, it is in those type of facilities that the vast majority of the positive cases have occurred.

        Generally speaking, they took these actions:
        1. suspended visitation
        2. suspended bringing in offenders from jails
        3. suspended trasfers of DOC inmates between DOC facilities
        4. instituted limited lock-down procedures
        a. offenders get their meals in cells or housing units
        b. suspended classes and other programs
        c. inmates in celled procedures allowed out of cells, but restricted to housing pod
        d. inmates go to outside recreation with housing unit or pod. No mixing with inmates from other housing units or pods.
        5. all staff members and offenders required to wear face masks
        6. Anyone entering prison has temperature taken

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          thanks. So the dorms still operate as dorms… how do things like exercise, meals, and bathrooms work in dorm settings?

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            For exercise, offenders have access to a recreation yard. For meals, normally they would go to a central dining hall. Now, the meals are brought to the housing unit. (Eating those meals has got to be sort of awkward. I am not sure how that works.) Each housing unit has communal toilet and shower facilities.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            thanks. So .. if someone gets infected in the dorms, it may well end up with others getting infected also? There is no real “social distancing”.

            Do you know if they test everyone and how often?

          3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            The correctional centers that are dorm facilities have buildings used for “restrictive housing” (euphemism for segregation) that consist of single-bed cells. I don’t know if DOC used these cells to isolate those testing positive, but it would have been an alternative.

            The agency tested every offender member and staff in four facilities, each of which was used dorms to house inmates. In one, over 200 were positive and about 100 in another. I assume that DOC isolated the positive cases in “dedicated” housing units. Each dorm housing unit can accommodate 100 or so beds.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            Thanks. The more you tell me, the more I realize what I do not know.

            If the dorms also have cells… is that a typical configuration?

            Are the cells normally for those who cannot behave in a dorm setting?

            Sounded like a large number tested positive.. and I’d probably guess (perhaps wrongly) that the number of cells is limited and not enough to hold that many that tested positive and so you’d still have to somehow segregate in the dorm itself maybe?

            I don’t know… just curious about how they are handling it because next to nursing homes, it sounds pretty challenging.

            With testing – only one time is of limited use. As soon as a week or two go by, it’s possible for more infection to occur and that – like Trump and company, testing frequently is the only real way to detect new infections and isolate.

            Most workplaces are going to have to institute some protocol along these lines… I would think because, unlike the prisons – employees go home or to other places where they could have contact with infected – and then bring it back to the workplace.

            The only way to really deal with that is frequent testing – multiple times ongoing – not just one test.

            I digress… here…

        2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          Even after being the DOC analyst at DPB for more than 20 years, I was always learning something new about prisons.

          In a prison that uses dorms to house inmates, the segregation cells are not in the same building with the dorms; they are located in a separate building. Typically, in such a prison, there are about 20 segregation cells. They are used to house temporarily inmates who have broken some of the rules of the institution. For those inmates who have committed major infractions, they are placed in the segregation cells until they can be transferred to a higher security prison. In those facilities which had more than 100 positive cases, I assume they consolidated those inmates into one or more of the housing units, with the result that those housing units housed only positive-COVID-19 inmates.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    Truth be known – most of the Govs are being pushed by the “open now” politics. They’ve tried to hold off as long as they could but there are diminishing returns if people start to ignore the rules like we are now seeing.

    The models show the reality. By opening up – the infection rate is inevitably going to increase but it will not be believed until it actually happens because prior model predictions did not come true.

    It may not matter what the Govt does – if this poll is correct:

    Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses, despite easing of restrictions in some states, Post-U. Md. poll finds

    1. djrippert Avatar

      “Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses, despite easing of restrictions in some states, Post-U. Md. poll finds”

      That’s not what your chart says. The question asked wasn’t about reopening businesses. It was about patronizing some types of businesses.

      I support reopening movie theaters but I wouldn’t go to one. Why? Because I’m 60+ and I’ve never been all that thrilled about watching overpaid prima donnas recite words written by others while pretending to be someone they are not. In other words, actors – those fountains of wisdom in liberal minds. But if younger people want to watch a movie what right in hell do I have to tell them “no”?

      However, even if the question were about reopening it wouldn’t matter. The Constitution guarantees individual rights whether a majority of people like it or not. It wasn’t all that long ago that a majority of Virginians would have supported continuing racial segregation.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses, despite easing of restrictions in some states, Post-U. Md. poll finds

        Americans clearly oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, even as governors begin to lift restrictions that have kept the economy locked down in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

        The opposition expressed by sizable majorities of Americans reflects other cautions and concerns revealed in the survey, including continuing fears among most people that they could become infected by the coronavirus, as well as a belief that the worst of the medical crisis is not yet over.

        About half of states have eased restrictions on businesses, but Americans’ unease about patronizing them represents a major hurdle to restarting the economy. Many Americans have been making trips to grocery stores and 56 percent say they are comfortable doing so. But 67 percent say they would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store, and 78 percent would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant. People in states with looser restrictions report similar levels of discomfort as those in states with stricter rules.

        Americans also overwhelmingly approve of the way federal public health scientists, including Anthony S. Fauci, have dealt with the challenges from the coronavirus. Fauci’s positive rating stands at 74 percent. He maintains wide bipartisan appeal, winning positive marks from more than two-thirds of Republicans and independents, and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats. Public health scientists in the federal government overall are rated 71 percent positive.

        The Post-U. Md. poll asked about the following types of businesses: gun stores, dine-in restaurants, nail salons, barbershops and hair salons, retail establishments such as clothing stores, along with gyms, golf courses and movie theaters.

        The most significant opposition is to reopening movie theaters, with 82 percent of Americans saying they should not be allowed to open up in their state. There is also broad opposition to reopening gyms (78 percent opposed), dine-in restaurants and nail salons (both with 74 percent opposed).

        Now… what was that about the Constitution?

        these folks have “rights” and that INCLUDES the right to NOT visit certain businesses…. no matter what the Govt says.

        this is totally counter to the narrative that DJ and others here are claiming.

        you’re pretending that a majority of people want to re-open – that’s just not the truth.

        1. Next poll question ought to have been “at what point will you approve of opening these listed businesses?”
          A. After I am immune e.g. have been infected and recovered
          B. After I receive a vaccine
          If yes to B are you willing to wait
          1. 18 months
          2. 24 months
          3. As long as it takes, even if no vaccine is developed
          C. I don’t care if these businesses reopen because they are not important to me

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    well you need one more that says:

    4 – when it’s safe

    I don’t think that many folks think in terms of how long but rather in terms of “is it safe”?

    And different folks will make different judgements. There are fairly huge difference between those that lean Dem and lean GOP on things like barbers and bars and sports events in recent polls.

    Many folks will stay back and let others be “probes” and if it turns out good – they’ll join in … it’s turns out bad, they’ll stay hunkered down.

    no govt needed!

  11. I think “safe” may be the worst word to use; too subjective. Safe in Abingdon isn’t safe in Arlington. It is largely to blame for the divided stance we see/hear around us. No one signs on to “Unsafe, yes please!” But safe to some won’t come about for 2 years. We have to put qualifiers and gradations on safe to survive. In this vein, we need some brave leaders to speak both optimistically and honestly to prepare Americans to lose 1M souls to the pandemic. I think success with COVID-19 will be ugly and painful and the better we prepare Americans for a long-range monstrosity the better they will cope when their good practices fail to keep them completely safe. Your standard of safe today may not equal safe in September and will be impossible over the required long haul. It seems like people believe we can wait out a vaccine and avoid wider spread infection. That’s never been promised by epidemiology, we just wanted to keep that rate to a dull roar so that health care is accessible to those who need it.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      well.. it’s the one that people will use – and yes, it’s subjective and yes, it can change depending on circumstances, so I agree.

      I don’t agree that people are “waiting” as long as it takes for a vaccine.

      They’re just not going to take bad risks unless they have no choice.

      That’s the way pandemics “work” even when there is no govt.

      You just can convince most people to do something that THEY feel is unsafe.

      You have to keep in mind – a lot of families – moms, dads, kids..grand parents, etc. .and they act to keep the family safe.

      You can tell every single business and institution to open up. You can tell the schools to open but if parents fear contagion – they’re not going to send their kids and if a teacher who is 50 with an underlying health condition fears the virus, he/she is not going to show up either unless
      they have no choice.

      This may well be what the less dense areas of the state actually do – in defiance of the State – that will probably happen.

      And if there is no outbreak – good things will happen.

      But if there is outbreaks, then people in those areas will panic and try to flee to other places and likely spread the virus.

      There are no easy answers – it’s just a choice between bad and worse and we’re having trouble right now recognizing which is which.

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