A Blog by Jonathan Low


May 13, 2021

The False Hope of Herd Immunity

It's not a specific number that will signal the end of the Covid pandemic. 

And even if it were, the world is a long ways away from achieving it. Covid will fade and become less of a threat, not disappear. JL 

Malia Jones reports in Slate:

If herd immunity is possible, it’s a long way off. Widespread vaccine hesitancy and the fact that vaccines aren’t available to everyone yet put it out of reach for now. The herd immunity threshold is the number of immune people it will take to maintain herd immunity once cases reach their nadir, not a number used to declare the pandemic ended. The truth is we just don’t know what the threshold is because it’s very sensitive to small changes in both human and viral adaptation. It’s not a magic number, and it’s usually not even an ending. It’s a policy goal, not a light switch.

Ransomware Hackers Post DC Police Psych Evals In Negotiations Over Payment

Ransomware attacks are becoming daily occurrences. 

As the shutdown of hospitals this past year demonstrated, this is a growing threat that central governments need to address, especially since so many of the attacks appear to emanate from Russia, North Korea and one or two other countries.JL 

Dan Goodin reports in ars technica:

A ransomware gang that hacked the District of Columbia’s Police Department posted personnel records that revealed highly sensitive details for two dozen officers, including psychological assessments and polygraph tests; driver's license images; fingerprints; social security numbers; dates of birth; and residential, financial, and marriage histories. After threatening to leak the names of confidential informants to crime gangs, the operators agreed to remove the data while they carried out negotiations. The operators demand $4 million in exchange for a promise not to publish any more information and a decryption key that would restore the data.

With Post-Covid Hiring Stalled, McDonalds Raises Hourly Wage 10 Percent

The caveat is that this only affects company owned sites, which constitute about 5% of its total. 

Franchisees are free to do what they want, but with so many competing offers at higher compensation levels for unskilled workers, it will be tough to maintain lower wages for cheapskate Mickey D owners. JL 

Amelia Lucas reports in CNBC:

McDonald’s is raising the hourly wages for its U.S. company-owned restaurants as the fast-food chain looks to hire 10,000 workers for those locations. Workers at McDonald’s company-owned locations will see pay raises of 10% over the next several months. Entry-level employees will be making $11 to $17 per hour, and shift managers will make $15 to $20 an hour based on location. These increases will not directly impact workers who are employed by restaurants owned by McDonald’s franchisees. The fast-food giant franchises 95% of its U.S. restaurant footprint.

How Electric, Self Driving Cars and Ride-Hailing Transform America's Love Affair With the Auto

Applications for drivers' licenses - once the emblematic American declaration of freedom and impending adulthood - are declining. 

Cars as a product are becoming more of a 'mobility service.' And the auto industry may become even more profitable as a result. JL 

Daniel Yergin reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The merging of electric, autonomous vehicles with ride-hailing will create a different car economy. Tied together by the connectivity of digital networks, this new business could upend the culture that for more than a century has been built around the steering wheel. America’s love affair with the car will turn into more of a hookup. For the young, getting a driver’s license will no longer be the rite of passage, replaced by an Uber app tied to a parent’s credit card. Ride-hailing offers not a vehicle as a product but mobility as a service. For growing numbers of people, the car, as an expression of identity, will fade away.

Ohio Launches $1 Million Prize Per Person Lottery To Encourage Vaccination

Even diehard vaccine skeptics may think twice about ignoring a chance at a $1 million lottery prize. 

But the publicity and the notion of making vaccines sound like fun - sort of - may be the real benefit in the effort to encourage inoculation to end the pandemic. JL 

Jaclyn Diaz reports in NPR:

Amid dropping vaccine demand in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine announced five, weekly drawings of $1 million open to residents who've received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A similar lottery for teenagers will provide the lucky names with a full, four-year scholarship to a public university in Ohio - room and board included. The names for the lottery drawing will be pulled from Ohio's publicly voter registration database. There will be a webpage created for people not in a voter registration database. Participants must be at least 18 or older, an Ohio resident, and must be vaccinated before the drawing.

As Post-Covid Travel Picks Up, Rehired Pilots Find They Need Retraining

As air travel picks up, passengers may sometimes sense that some of their pilots seem a bit rusty after a year without flying. 

That's because they are. JL 

Ceylan Yeginsu reports in the New York Times:

Returning pilots can’t just pick up where they left off. They must undergo rigorous training that involves classes, exams and simulator sessions, which are determined by proficiency levels and the length of time since they have flown. “Before the pandemic pilots were practicing procedures day in and day out flying over and over again. When you’re not flying as often your cognitive motor skills are degraded.” (As) an almost empty Airbus 320 started to accelerate for takeoff, (the pilot) was surprised how quickly it picked up speed. He was used to flying the aircraft full of passengers and had not covered how the weight differential might affect a flight.

May 12, 2021

Preparing Hospitals For the Next Pandemic

Pandemic lessons learned increasingly focus on how what hospitals and doctors knew was frequently not shared. 

A lack of collaborative data-sharing led to ventilator shortages in regions that had sufficient numbers and to changes treatment protocols that could have saved lives if there had been a central repository of information rather than informal networks.To beat whatever the next pandemic may hold in store will require far more widespread, resilient and informed collaboration. JL

Nicole Wetsman reports in The Verge:

COVID-19 won’t be the last threat to stress-test the fragmented, private health care infrastructure. Real preparation will require changing the way hospitals work together, changing them from isolated enterprises into a collaborative network - thinking of hospitals as infrastructure. The for-profit health system pushes hospitals to keep overhead low. Keeping a bed open costs money; if there’s not a patient to fill it, it’s a cost waiting to be cut. Making the health care system more collaborative - and more resilient - benefits everyone. “That should create incentives for people to cooperate and hedge their risk.”