What Matters: Data is everything

Data accuracy questioned. Increasingly, facts are in dispute. And it’s not just sketchy numbers from China and Russia. Read this from CNN’s alarming report on how data in two US states is different:

Florida and Georgia, two states that were among the first to announce the reopening of businesses and public spaces, have come under scrutiny for the accuracy and transparency of their reporting on Covid-19 cases.

In Florida, Rebekah Jones, the official behind the state’s “dashboard,” a web page showing the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, said she was removed from the project and questioned the state’s commitment to accessibility and transparency, according to Florida Today.

And in Georgia, data tracking Covid-19 cases has come under question after a misleading chart was posted on the Department of Public Health’s website with the dates out of order, suggesting cases were declining over time, according to an article by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Data not shared is dangerous. Virus researcher Dr. William Haseltine was on CNN Wednesday arguing we have to see actual data about the company Moderna’s vaccine trials and, separately, about the experimental drug remdesivir as a treatment.

In this era, as everyone races to figure out a vaccine and treatments, he said, we’re seeing science by press release.

Here’s an excerpt of his CNN interview, or you can read what he wrote in The Washington Post:

“It is dangerous because you don’t know what has happened…

“It’s absolutely equivalent to a CEO of a publicly traded company saying we have had a fantastic quarter, and nobody gets to see the numbers…

“Would you believe a CFO with a lot of shares in that company… or would you like to see the numbers?

“Well, science and medicine has people’s lives at stake, not just money at stake… The fundamental aspect of science is being able to reproduce somebody’s results. You know what they did, you get the same result. That is the fundamental building of trust in medicine and science.”

Speaking of, vaccine czar will donate stock windfall — When Moderna released its press release saying it saw good results but without releasing data to go with them, the man President Donald Trump appointed to take part in his vaccine Manhattan Project had a very good day financially.

But that’s a huge conflict of interest. Moncef Slaoui, who once sat on Moderna’s board and is now attached to Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” will divest his millions in stock options at Moderna and donate profits from last week to cancer research.

CDC vs. White House, continued. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s position is increasingly uncertain after his standoffs with Dr. Deborah Birx, of the White House coronavirus task force.
The CDC finally released another version of its recommendations for distance (we’ll look in-depth at schools tomorrow), but it left out any recommendations for churches, some of which have been vocal about defying the government.
Separately, a CDC case study of a church in Arkansas shows how a church service can be a perfect spreading event. From the CDC case study: “Among 92 attendees at a rural Arkansas church during March 6–11, 35 (38%) developed laboratory-confirmed Covid-19, and three persons died… An additional 26 cases linked to the church occurred in the community, including one death.”
How CDC was sidelined — Officials at CDC spoke out in a new CNN investigation:

Rising tensions between CDC leadership and the White House over the perception that the agency has been sidelined has been a developing story in the media for weeks. But now, mid- and higher-ranking staff members within the agency — six of whom spoke with CNN for this story — are starting to voice their discontent. Those six spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“We’ve been muzzled,” said a current CDC official. “What’s tough is that if we would have acted earlier on what we knew and recommended, we would have saved lives and money.”

Keep it clean

In the factory — Two positive Covid-19 tests forced Ford to close a Chicago plant just one day after opening it. The shutdown lasted from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday.
The company is mandating temperature checks for all employees and tests for those with symptoms. Trump will visit a Ford plant in Michigan tomorrow. Masks are required there. I’ll bet you Trump doesn’t wear one.
In the air — JetBlue announced it’s going to keep its no middle seat policy through July 6. Several airlines say bookings are showing improvements, but there are a patchwork of airline rules. United is partnering with Clorox to clean its planes.
On the rails — New York City is using black lights to clean subways.

Trump does what he does

On Tuesday, I predicted in this newsletter that in the very near future, Trump would say something completely outlandish.
On Wednesday, he threatened states that might expand vote-by-mail because of the pandemic, which he sees as a Democratic conspiracy against him, and he pushed (again) a baseless conspiracy theory involving MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

Which I point out not as a I told you so, but rather as proof that it happens every single day without fail.

He could win! — Trump has a convincing path to reelection, detailed by CNN’s Harry Enten’s close read of current and historic polling.
He could lose! — But here’s an election model based on economic indicators from Oxford Economics that suggests he’ll lose in a landslide.

So who the heck knows.

A new word for the day

In a press conference on Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi said she’s talked to doctors to figure it out and she thinks the President might be a “confabulator.”

I like that word — “confabulator,” although neither Pelosi nor I are psychiatrists, so it’s inappropriate for her to offer a diagnosis.

Here’s a definition for “confabulation” from Dictionary.com: Psychiatry. The replacement of a gap in a person’s memory by a falsification that he or she believes to be true.
Trump keeps calling people crazy — Pelosi is looking for psychiatric terms for Trump, but he keeps using mental health pejoratives to insult other people. “Psycho,” “nuts,” “crazy.”

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