The Morning Jolt


The Virus Doesn’t Care

A protest against the death of George Floyd, St. Louis, Mo., May 30, 2020 (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)

On the menu today: The national media begrudgingly acknowledge that the protests over the last ten days probably increased the risk of spreading the coronavirus further; an appeal for help from readers; and the protesters adopt “abolish the police” as a slogan and, apparently, a serious policy proposal.

The Virus Doesn’t Care about the Cause Motivating You to March in a Crowd

This morning, the national media are attempting to delicately acknowledge that the protesters gathering in crowds probably raised the risk of spreading the coronavirus among each other and their families. The New York Times:

In what he called a back-of-the-envelope estimate, Trevor Bedford, an expert on the virus at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, wrote on Twitter that each day of protests would result in about 3,000 new infections. Over several weeks, as each infected person infected just under one other person on average — the current U.S. transmission rate — those infections would in turn lead to 15,000 to 50,000 more, and 50 to 500 eventual deaths. Given the racial disparities so far in the pandemic, he noted, those deaths will be disproportionately among black people. “Societal benefit of continued protests must be weighed against substantial potential impacts to health,” he wrote.

That article continues, “If all communities were performing enough tests and contact tracing to bring down those numbers, fewer of those acquiring infections at protests would infect others, shortening the transmission chain and reducing the number of eventual deaths.” As noted last week, “contact tracing” in a gathering of thousands of people moving around is just about impossible. The only action that authorities can take is to announce when they know an infected person attended a protest and encourage everyone else who attended that protest to get tested.

Thursday’s Morning Jolt noted that a man arrested at a George Floyd–inspired protest in Lancaster, Pa., tested positive for the coronavirus; Columbus Public Health in Ohio announced that someone who was symptomatic attended protests in the past week. Oklahoma State University linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, but had attended a protest in Tulsa and taken precautions.

Now in Lawrence, Kan.: “A release sent by the Lawrence Douglas County Public Health Department states that a resident that was downtown at the protest has tested positive for the virus. The Department has stated that it was notified of the positive test on Friday after the test was taken on Thursday. They also say that the person was not wearing a mask at the protest.”

Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned, “I get very concerned, as do my colleagues in public health, when they see these kinds of crowds. There certainly is a risk. I can say that with confidence . . . It’s a perfect setup for further spread of the virus in the sense of creating these blips which might turn into some surges.”

(You noticed that for a long while, the media greeted every statement from Fauci as if he had descended from Mount Sinai with two stone tablets. Somehow, Fauci’s latest assessment just wasn’t as interesting.)

Will there be a discernible spike in cases because of the protests? It’s still a little too early to tell. Those attending the protests may have sufficient protection from their masks, being outdoors, and the high temperatures and sunlight. Some acts that seemed dangerous may not be all that dangerous in the long run. Remember that video of crowds in the swimming pool at Lake of the Ozarks back on May 23? As of June 5, one person in attendance tested positive for coronavirus.

Nationwide, the rate of reported daily new cases has mostly following a weekly pattern since early May, on the higher end of 20,000 to 25,000 on the weekdays, on the lower end during the weekends. Because many parts of the country partially reopened right around the same time as the protests, we are likely to see a lot of protest-defenders insisting any increase in cases must stem from the reopening of businesses, and reopening-defenders insisting any increase in cases must stem from the protests.

Protests in Minnesota began May 28. So far, the daily number of reported new cases in early June is fewer than the numbers in mid-May, but it’s also fair to wonder how complete the numbers from those days are, as people may not be as eager to go to the doctor during violence and unrest.

Protests in Atlanta began May 29 with the vandalism at the CNN center. Since then, the number of confirmed cases in Fulton County has increase by about 300, less of a spike than a continued steady rise. Dallas and Houston also saw spikes in recent days. Utah had its highest number of cases Saturday. (Yes, Salt Lake City had protests with hundreds in attendance and violence on May 30.) South Carolina had a record number Saturday, with Greenville County reporting the most new cases with 80. (Greenville saw an estimated 1,500 people participate in three largely peaceful protests last weekend.)

The virus does not care if you’re acting in the name of a noble cause or a selfish one. It does not draw distinctions between people in a pool at Lake of the Ozarks and people marching down a street. It does not care if you think wearing a mask is a sign of submission or an act of responsibility. It does not care if you’ve researched it extensively or if you think it is connected to 5G cellular towers. The coronavirus is just another one of those facts that does not care about your feelings.

Help Us Help the Country When It Needs Help the Most

You probably saw Rich’s message that we are asking for help from readers again.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the mission of National Review as a form of anti-gaslighting. The term “gaslighting” is used more frequently these days, and the term isn’t quite a synonym for mere lying. It usually refers to when a person tells you something that he knows is not true and tries to make you feel crazy for your innate sense or suspicion that it is not true.

In the last few weeks, we have seen Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer barring people from buying seeds at Walmart, because apparently that was somehow too risky because of the coronavirus . . . and then the governor stood shoulder to shoulder in a group during a protest march, as our Zach Evans reported.

I noted Contra Costa County in California wants no more than ten people to attend a funeral, but if you’re holding a protest, you can get together in groups of up to 100. (Maybe it says something about those protests; there’s so much possibility of it turning into a violent riot or looting that not even the coronavirus wants to show up near them.)

We have seen New York governor Andrew Cuomo blame nursing homes for their admissions of recovering but still contagious coronavirus patients . . . as the state government run by Cuomo required them to do. The order requiring homes to take this action mysteriously disappeared from state websites with no explanation, as our Tobias Hoonhout reported.

Apparently one of the big studies about hydroxychloroquine that influenced the decisions of all kinds of institutions and governments was unsubstantiated; as our Kyle Smith observed, the study was from a medical firm whose employees included a sci-fi writer and an “adult model.”

While broadcasting live in Minneapolis, MSNBC’s Ali Velshi insisted he was seeing, “mostly a protest. It is not, generally speaking, unruly,” as viewers watched a building burn down right behind him.

The New York Times insists that Senator Tom Cotton’s op-ed — that they asked him to write — needed more “fact-checking,” but refuses to say what facts Cotton had wrong, as our John McCormack observed. In this tumultuous hour, the Democratic nominee Joe Biden declared that it is wrong for political leaders to divide the American people, adding that “there are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people.” Our Mairead McArdle called out Biden for this glaring contradiction; few others did.

I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen more people in positions of power and responsibility insisting that you should believe their words instead of what you’re seeing with your own eyes.

At National Review, we’re not perfect. We make mistakes from time to time. Sooner or later you’ll read some article or Corner post and vehemently disagree. But whatever our flaws, we never gaslight you. We never tell you something that we know is untrue because we want you to believe the false version. We never tell you “2 + 2 = 5” because it looks better for us that way. That should not be a rare standard in the world of journalism and commentary, but somehow, it now is. We give it to you straight; you know where we come from, you know what we believe, and you know why we believe it.

The stakes are just too high right now. These are matters of life and death, of peace versus violence, and of order and safety versus chaos and malevolence. I don’t know what’s going on in the minds of those who keep trying to tell you things that you know aren’t true. Perhaps they’ve decided that how they feel is more important than the actual facts and truth of what’s going on. Just know that right now, at this moment, we are taking our stand for what we know to be true and I hope that you will continue to support us as we do that.

‘Abolish the Police! What Could Go Wrong?’

I’m open to the suggestion that there is waste in the budgets of police forces across the country. There’s waste in the budgets of most organizations. Lord knows that settling all of those police–misconduct lawsuits is a giant expenditure that cities and localities would prefer to avoid. Criminologists have argued that police purchase new systems and equipment with little cost-benefit analysis.

But “defund the police”? Why do some people find it so hard to contemplate how a decision like that could backfire?

Nine Minneapolis City Council member — a majority — declared over the weekend that they will “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new, transformative model for cultivating safety in Minneapolis.” The day before, protesters booed and jeered Mayor Jacob Frey when he refused to sign on to abolishing the city’s police department.

Inevitably, we will soon see “explanatory journalism” clarifying that the rallying cry “Abolish the Police” doesn’t really mean abolishing police, just as “Believe All Women” never meant all women had to be believed, and “Abolish ICE” does not believe Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished. Our progressive friends have an amazing habit of adopting slogans that don’t actually match their goals, or at least they claim this is the case.

ADDENDUM: An observation from Austin: “There [are] white parents taking their children to Black Lives Matter protests who refuse to take their children to the predominantly Black schools in their gentrified neighborhood.

I wonder how many of the people marching this past week support school choice? If we’re talking about systemic injustices and racial disparities in opportunity in American society, wouldn’t the number of African-American children who cannot get the education that will help them rise rank near the very top of the list?


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