Just a Theory

Black lives matter

Posts about Covid-19

The Kushner Kakistocracy

Katherine Eban, in a deeply reported piece, for Vanity Faire:

Those representing the private sector expected to learn about a sweeping government plan to procure supplies and direct them to the places they were needed most. New York, home to more than a third of the nation’s coronavirus cases, seemed like an obvious candidate. In turn they came armed with specific commitments of support, a memo on the merits of the Defense Production Act, a document outlining impediments to the private-sector response, and two key questions: How could they best help? And how could they best support the government’s strategy?

According to one attendee, Kushner then began to rail against the governor: “Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state…. His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.”

But wait, it gets worse:

Kushner, seated at the head of the conference table, in a chair taller than all the others, was quick to strike a confrontational tone. “The federal government is not going to lead this response,” he announced. “It’s up to the states to figure out what they want to do.”

One attendee explained to Kushner that due to the finite supply of PPE, Americans were bidding against each other and driving prices up. To solve that, businesses eager to help were looking to the federal government for leadership and direction.

“Free markets will solve this,” Kushner said dismissively. “That is not the role of government.”

Seldom have falser words been spoken. These incompetents conflate their failure to lead with their belief that the government cannot lead. The prophecy fulfills itself.

The same attendee explained that although he believed in open markets, he feared that the system was breaking. As evidence, he pointed to a CNN report about New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his desperate call for supplies.

“That’s the CNN bullshit,” Kushner snapped. “They lie.”

“That’s when I was like, We’re screwed,” the shocked attendee told Vanity Fair.

And indeed we sure have been. Nearly 200,000 have died from Covid-19 in the United States to date, with close to 400,000 deaths forecast by January 1.

I’m restraining myself from quoting more; the reporting is impeccable, and the truth of the situation deeply alarming. Read the whole thing, then maybe go for a long walk and practice deep breathing.

And then Vote. And make sure everyone you know is registered and ready to vote.

We Need to Talk About Ventilation

Zeynep Tufekci, in a piece for The Atlantic:

Jimenez also wondered why the National Guard hadn’t been deployed to set up tent schools (not sealed, but letting air in like an outdoor wedding canopy) around the country, and why the U.S. hadn’t set up the mass production of HEPA filters for every classroom and essential indoor space. Instead, one air-quality expert reported, teachers who wanted to buy portable HEPA filters were being told that they weren’t allowed to, because the CDC wasn’t recommending them. It is still difficult to get Clorox wipes in my supermarket, but I went online to check, and there is no shortage of portable HEPA filters. There is no run on them.

It’s the profoundly irresponsible plan to reopen schools without any remotely sufficient attempt to upgrade and modernize the air circulation systems of our dilapidated public school buildings that disturbs me. Meanwhile, school reopening proposals pay undue attention to hygiene theater to assuage fears, while very real risks go largely unaddressed.1 It simply won’t work, and that means disastrous outcomes for communities.

And it’s not like there aren’t ways to get things under better control. Tufekci continues:

However, Japan masked up early, focused on super-spreader events (a strategy it calls “cluster busting”), and, crucially, trained its public to focus on avoiding the three C’s—closed spaces, crowded places, and close conversations. In other words, exactly the places where airborne transmission and aerosols could pose a risk. The Japanese were advised not to talk on the subway, where windows were kept open. Oshitani said they also developed guidelines that included the importance of ventilation in many different settings, such as bars, restaurants, and gyms. Six months later, despite having some of the earliest outbreaks, ultradense cities, and one of the oldest populations in the world, Japan has had about 1,000 COVID-19 deaths total—which is how many the United States often has in a single day. Hong Kong, a similarly dense and subway-dependent city, has had only 24 deaths.

The U.S. needs to get it shit together. We have the wealth and knowledge to do this right, but need to put empathy for each other ahead of temporary political and economic impacts to do so.


  1. In fairness, the Health and Safety section the New York City DOE’s Return to School 2020-2021 plan says that the “DOE will make improvements to HVAC systems, as well as air conditioning repairs, to improve air circulation, as well as replacing regular air filters with higher efficiency types.” Still, there’s a social failing here, national leaders ought to fund the upgrading of air circulation systems to the highest standards in every school and classroom in the United States. ↩︎