Eyeballing trends in the epidemic? Proceed with caution!
Many of us anxiously scan coronavirus statistics, looking at trends and cross-country comparisons. Warning: We need to be cautious in interpreting those numbers. There’s lots of noise in the data, meaning that it’s not always an accurate measure of what we want to know about the disease. Even death counts are not always reliable — …CONTINUE READING
How Anti-Public Health Messages and Activities Spread
Like a virus, misinformation can spread within a population. It has its super-spreaders, just like the coronavirus. It can mutate in ways that make it more contagious. And it can be weaponized. Research into networks of coronavirus-related communication has revealed how both true and false information spread through social media . Misinformation can spread like …CONTINUE READING
We’ve seen some great examples of how NOT to deal with models.
Models have figured heavily in government responses to the coronavirus. This has given us the opportunity for a real-time lesson in the uses of models. In the process, we’ve learned some important lessons in how to best make use of models — and equally importantly, in how not to use them. That’s directly relevant to …CONTINUE READING
The Progressive-Leaning Democrat has more in common with Donald Trump than you might think.
Willful bungling of the coronavirus crisis cuts across ideologies and political parties. That’s the lesson that we learn from the story of Bill de Blasio. He is very different, across many different dimensions, than Donald Trump. But it turns out that he shares something important with Trump: a tendency to place personality over expertise. De …CONTINUE READING
Alas, that light at the end of the tunnel is still very far away from us.
World War I lasted four years, with millions of deaths. At the start, however, many people thought the war would be quick and easy. “Home by Christmas,” was what they said about their troops. A frightening number of Americans now have similar illusions about the coronavirus pandemic. According to a CNN poll a released Tuesday, …CONTINUE READING
Proposed Tort Liability Protection for Businesses
Sen. Mitch McConnell is demanding that any future coronavirus relief law provide a litigation shield for businesses, and other conservative/business interests have made similar proposals. So far, the supporters of these proposals have engaged in some dramatic handwaving but haven’t begun to make a reasoned argument in support of a litigation shield. In this post, …CONTINUE READING
What duties do countries have to avoid causing global harms?
There’s been talk lately of demanding compensation if a country’s negligence allowed a disease to spread globally. There is a long history of discussion regarding similar damage claims in international environmental law. The same principles seem applicable to disease spread. In theory, damages should be available in both cases. The core principle of international liability …CONTINUE READING
How Plastics Companies and Environmental Groups Can Help Us Find an Answer
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, concerns have grown over the safety of grocery bags. Many U.S. states—among them New York, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon—have suspended or delayed their single-use plastic bag bans in the past two months. Some places like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and San Francisco have gone even further to temporarily ban reusable …CONTINUE READING
Unfortunately, if anything, reality has often turned out somewhat worse than predicted.
The White House thinks coronavirus models are too pessimistic. If anything, the evidence suggests the models aren’t pessimistic enough. Their projections of future deaths have often been too low.CONTINUE READING
Could Congress mandate CORVID-19 vaccinations? Not if you take some Supreme Court opinions seriously.
If we get a vaccine against a national epidemic, could Congress pass a law requiring everyone to get vaccinated? That very question was asked during the Supreme Court argument in the 2012 constitutional challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate. The lawyer challenging Obamacare said “no, Congress couldn’t do that.” What’s shocking is that this may have …CONTINUE READING