Covid-19: Where Do We Go from Here?

I’m not a physician, and though I understand epidemiology models, I’m not really qualified to develop them. But I’ve got some things to say, the first of which I think is original and, I claim, would be effective. I believe the other points should be kept in mind as well.

  1. We keep hearing, accurately I believe, that Covid-19 is hitting the LatinX and black communities especially hard. We should act accordingly! I believe that highly intensive measures should be taken in those communities, while substantially loosening the general societal lockdown. We should be sending “testmobiles” into those communities, going door to door if need be, administering tests, distributing masks, taking temperatures and so on. We should make available government-subsidized sick leave to anyone living or working in high-risk ZIP codes.
  2. Impose draconian penalties for gatherings that do not enforce wearing masks. Set it up just like the laws under which a party host is liable if a guest is drunk and drives etc.
  3. Open the schools! With precautions for both kids and teachers, of course, but it can be done. Taiwan set a good example. And stop politicizing this dire situation! Seems like opinions on the schools situation are highly correlated with politics. I recently heard a radio program on the schools issue, with a number of people cited, mainly politicians and school officials. All but one said “Keep the schools closed.” The one exception? Head of the CA Pediatrics Association, the only real expert. She said we should open the schools, and made a good case for it, I believe. All those Democrats have constantly said during this crisis, “Listen to the science!” Well, do so!
  4. The controversy over Dr. John Ioannidis, a Stanford physician and statistician, is depressing. A few months ago he led a study that seemed to show that the number of Covid-19 cases was far greater than previously thought. This was a Politically Incorrect view, because, by increasing the denominator, it caused the estimated death rate to be much lower, hence less need for strict lockdowns. It quickly became apparent that the study had a number of serious flaws, largely methodological but even with hints that there had been ethical problems with the study’s funding. Good for Buzzfeed for their dogged refusal to take this study at full face value (see above link). But to my knowledge, the consensus in the field is now that the thrust of the study was indeed correct, and I think the “piling on” of Ioannidis is unfair. I am particularly disturbed by signs I’ve seen that Ioannidis’ Stanfor colleagues are treating him as a pariah. The latest report (again, see above link) is that Ioannidis and others tried to see Pres. Trump to urge him NOT to put the nation in lockdown; people cited in the report made it seem like this was an unprecedented breach of scientific protocol. They ought to check their history books; a group of scientists dispatched Einstein to meet with Pres. Roosevelt in WWII regarding atomic weapons.

If the country has not handled the pandemic well, it has been due to a number of unforced errors.  Still not too late to rethink strategy.

Biden on H-1B

Imagine the government saying, “Women, are you worried about the tight labor market,  compounded by a gender Glass Ceiling? Don’t worry, we’re going to add more workers, mostly men.” Or, “Black and Latino owners of small businesses, are you getting hammered by Covid-19? Don’t worry, we’re bringing more small entrepreneurs from the outside, so that they can undercut your prices and dilute your market share.”

Or even better, “You Asian-American engineers and programmers out there, we know that hiring in the tech industry has slowed down, and that you already faced rampant age discrimination in the industry. But don’t worry, we’re going to reverse Trump’s order to temporarily restrict H-1B, so we can continue to have people compete with you for jobs at low wages.” No kidding on this one, because that is basically what Joe Biden said, in a June 27 digital town hall meeting focusing on Asian American issues.

Nationwide, about 25% of computer-related Bachelor’s degrees are awarded to Asian-American students (note: NOT Asian foreign students). In states with large Asian-American populations, it’s even higher, over 70% at my university.

I’m sure the image of American techies on the Hill is of “undeserving whites,” but the fact is that the field has always attracted a lot of Asian-American students, who tend to gravitate to “practical” majors. I wonder whether Biden watched the major 60 Minutes piece in 2017 about the protests by American IT people replaced at UCSF by H-1Bs. There were a number of Asian-Americans (and some blacks) among the protestors.

Biden’s a smart, astute guy, and he’s not the first to say “Choose your poison” to Asian-Americans regarding H-1B. (I recall that Sen. Patty Murray did too.) But for a major presidential candidate to be that tone deaf is amazing.