No One Wants to Solve Real Problems

Demonstrators in Portland, Ore., August 2, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

On the menu today: pouring cold water on the notion that any figure or faction is going to benefit from riots in the streets of American cities, figuring out what to conclude from those reports of a few cases of coronavirus reinfection around the globe, and why new data about the importance of “comorbidities” factor is not as reassuring as some seem to insist it is.

Nobody Benefits from Riots in the Streets

Democrats widely believe and proclaim that President Trump wants chaos in the streets and violence, believing that the more Americans see their cities in flames and violent mobs in the streets, the more they will turn away from Democrats.

The party’s elected officials and their fans are pretty quick to insist that because Trump is president, we’re still in “Donald Trump’s America” and thus the riots cannot possibly represent “Joe Biden’s America.”

But we all know that Donald Trump’s view on how to deal with an angry and potentially destructive mob is dramatically different from that of Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, or New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. Trump’s administration sent U.S. Park Police into Lafayette Park, using “smoke canisters, irritants, explosive devices, batons and horses.” Quite a few observers contended the tactics used more force than necessary or that was justified by the situation. But we know Trump’s instincts are to overreact to the threat of mob violence, not underreact.

In several major cities, the elected officials who oversee the police are simply not comfortable with the authorities they have, and in Portland, the district attorney is choosing not to prosecute in hundreds of cases of interfering with police, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, harassment, or riot, unless accompanied by other charges. Certain elected progressives desperately want to find some sort of way to end rioting, looting, arson, and assaults without using police forces. After three months . . . they’re still looking.

On Sunday, Joe Biden issued a statement; lest anyone accuse me of selective quotation, this is it in its entirety:

The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy. Today there is another family grieving in America, and Jill and I offer our deepest condolences.

We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.

As a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash. It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight. What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters? He is recklessly encouraging violence. He may believe tweeting about law and order makes him strong – but his failure to call on his supporters to stop seeking conflict shows just how weak he is. He may think that war in our streets is good for his reelection chances, but that is not presidential leadership – or even basic human compassion.

The job of a President is to lower the temperature. To bring people who disagree with one another together. To make life better for all Americans, not just those who agree with us, support us, or vote for us.

Donald Trump has been president for almost four years. The temperature in the country is higher, tensions run stronger, divisions run deeper. And all of us are less safe because Donald Trump can’t do the job of the American president.

Biden said a lot of the right things — but was quick to follow it with the accusation that the violence on the streets of Portland is President Trump’s fault. We will see if what Biden said has any impact on the streets of America’s cities. At this point, there is no indication that Biden will go to Kenosha, as George Packer urged late last week; instead Biden will travel to western Pennsylvania today. Biden provides America with an alternative to President Trump’s perceived overreaction. Biden offers a carefully calibrated reaction — the kind that you can see the focus groups nodding their heads in agreement to — that appears to have no discernable impact on the ground at all.

Judging from Portland, Kenosha, and other cities, we have plenty of Americans who are apparently eager to fight a civil war, or at least cosplay fighting one. It’s not enough to register how they feel at a ballot box, and it’s not enough to hold a protest. They want confrontation. They want to get in the face of a woman having dinner at an outdoor café. They want to hold a “caravan,” driving through red lights and groups of opposing protesters.

There is no shortage of real problems to solve in this country. We still have a pandemic going on. Unemployment is still above 10 percent. Food banks nationwide are seeing more demand than ever. But instead, we’ve got to tie up resources in getting a handle on angry failed souls playing revolutionary and counterrevolutionary.

What to Make of Those Ominous Headlines about Coronavirus Reinfection

The bad news is that it appears that you can indeed get reinfected with SARS-CoV-2. “Following the news this week of what appears to have been the of a Covid-19 reinfection, other researchers have been coming forward with their own reports. One in Belgium, another in the Netherlands. And now, one in Nevada.” And it can be worse the second time.

The paper revealing the case of reinfection in Nevada notes, “the individual associated with these cases possesses no significant conditions of an immunological nature that would imply facilitation of re-infection. They were not utilizing any immunosuppressive medications. The individual was negative for HIV by antibody and RNA testing (data not shown) and had no obvious cell count abnormalities. The secondary positive case occurred simultaneously to a positive case of a co-habitant (parent) . . .”

The good news is that it appears pretty rare. The world now has seen more than 25 million diagnosed cases of SARS-CoV-2, and so far, we’ve seen just these handful of confirmed cases. The one in Nevada is the first confirmed case of reinfection in this country, out of more than 6 million Americans. If the odds of you getting reinfected and having a worse bout with COVID-19 the second time around are one in six million . . . we can probably live with that level of risk.

Separately, a new study from Yale University School of Medicine found a significant difference in the way men’s and women’s bodies responded to the virus — “women’s bodies produced more so-called T cells, which can kill virus-infected cells and stop the infection from spreading.

Men showed much weaker activation of T cells, and that lag was linked to how sick the men became. The older the men, the weaker their T cell responses.”

Back in July, we discussed T-cells, which are produced in bone marrow but get their name because they develop in the thymus gland. T-cells are basically the special forces of your immune system and split into two groups. The first, CD8, acts as the Navy SEALS of your immune system: They take on infections, virus bacteria, and tumors and, God willing, take them all down. The second category of T-cells, CD4, are the support staff, performing a variety of duties . . . including the production of cytokines. (Readers who remember past articles about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine recognize that term from the discussion of the dangers of “cytokine storms” and how that drug can prevent the immune system from overreacting at attacking healthy cells.) Our bodies’ production of T-cells slows after puberty and basically is gone by age 65, which is one reason why elderly people are more vulnerable to infection.

One of the reasons that most people might be at low risk of reinfection is that so far, studies suggest that most people’s T-cells remember how to fight the virus after the first exposure. One study conducted by mostly European medical researchers concluded, “many individuals with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19, after SARS-CoV-2 exposure or infection, generated highly durable and functionally replete memory T cell responses . . . [further suggesting] that natural exposure or infection could prevent recurrent episodes of severe COVID-19.” And some people’s T-cells might be already well prepared to fight off SARS-CoV-2 because of previous fights against other types of coronaviruses.

Overall, the U.S. fight against SARS-CoV-2 is slowly making progress in the right direction. Broadly speaking, active cases are leveling off, daily new cases are slowly declining, hospitalization rates are declining (click on weekly at the link, the first chart is cumulative) and in most places, hospitals are comfortably below capacity. (There are exceptions, such as Hawaii, Fresno County in California, and some parts of Idaho.) Unfortunately, the reported total of daily new deaths is still stuck in that roughly 1,000-per-day range on weekdays.

‘Comorbidities’ Aren’t Exactly Rare, People

The president of the United States retweeted a link to a post on Gateway Pundit, asserting that the real death toll from COVID-19 is merely 9,000, and that the other roughly 178,000 deaths were because of other factors. That was a pretty egregious misinterpretation of the CDC’s data; the CDC stated, “For 6 percent of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned [on the death certificate]. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”

The list of conditions is long and varied: diabetes, various heart-related conditions including hypertension, cardiac arrest, ischemic heart disease (hardening of the arteries), cardiac arrhythmia and heart disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, obesity, an immunocompromised state from an organ transplant, coronary art disease, or sickle cell disease.

None of the conditions listed above are death sentences by themselves. With treatment and medication, most people diagnosed with those conditions can live long and happy lives. No one with the slightest understanding of human health can look at someone with one of those conditions listed above dying from COVID-19 and conclude, “that person was going to die soon anyway.”

And if your takeaway from this data is that SARS-CoV-2 is only a risk to those with one of those conditions . . . great, now we just have to worry about the 100 million or so Americans with diabetes or prediabetes, the roughly 100 million Americans with high blood pressure, the one in three American adults at risk for chronic kidney disease, the 16 million to 24 million Americans believed to be at risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the 1 in 500 adults who have cardiomyopathy, the millions of Americans either being treated for cancer or who have recovered from cancer, the roughly 100,000 Americans with sickle cell disease, the nearly 49,000 Americans who had an organ transplant last year, and the slightly smaller number of transplant recipients this year.

There are some overlaps among those groups, but we have plenty of Americans who have one or more comorbidities and who would be at risk if they caught SARS-CoV-2.

ADDENDUM: Michael Brendan Dougherty, with a closing line I wish I had written, wondering why grassroots Democrats are so angry approaching what is supposed to be an easy and sweeping victory: “Joe Biden’s America is within our grasp. You just have to reach for the lever and pull it. The poll numbers suggest it should be easy to achieve. But for some reason, it’s not enough.”

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