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3 Things You Should Know About The COVID-19 Vaccine

In all honesty, some level of skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine is warranted. As a country, we've never experienced a situation such as this. In recent history, there has never been a virus as deadly and contagious as COVID-19. Moreover, there has never been a vaccine developed at such a swift rate.

That's why we're here to break down all of the pros and cons of the COVID-19 vaccine to help you make the most informed decision. It's your health we're talking about, after all, it shouldn't be taken lightly.

1. It doesn't contain the actual virus

First off, let's discuss what's inside of the COVID-19 Vaccine. As it stands, all COVID-19 Vaccines that currently exist are messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for decades with a focus on other viruses such as the flu, rabies, and even Zika.

One benefit of mRNA vaccines is that scientists have the ability to apply a standardized mRNA "template" to new vaccines as new viruses are discovered. This means that scientists can tailor the mRNA vaccine to an individual virus to create vaccines at a rapid pace!

But how does it work? First off, mRNA vaccines contain strands of mRNA that function as a sort of instruction manual within the body. In the instance of COVID-19, these instructions tell the body how to create a fragment of the "spike protein" unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Since mRNA encodes only for spike protein (which is a harmful protein found on the surface of the actual virus), the vaccine itself cannot cause a COVID-19 infection.

2. There are very few side effects if any, and the ones reported are extremely mild

Generally, any side effects reported as a result of taking the COVID-19 vaccine were reactogenicity symptoms. This means that nearly all symptoms were mild to moderate and would dissipate after only a few days. These side effects include pain, swelling, and redness in the area where you are vaccinated (common for any shot), as well as chills, fatigue, and headaches which should also go away in a day or two. It's important to note that these side effects are more common after the second dose of the vaccine.

But what about the more severe side effects that have popped up in the news cycle? Each of these can be considered one-off occurrences as they are not above the rate expected in the general population. In fact, many of these reported side-effects are simply unrelated to the vaccine as these cases tend to pop up sporadically every single year. When comparing the rate of these cases over the last month to the same period last year, there is no data that suggests that these cases are statistically significant. As such, there is no scientific link between the COVID-19 vaccine and any of these harmful side-effects.

3. The development process was not rushed as it went through full regulatory and safety review

One of the biggest fears behind the COVID-19 vaccine comes from the rapid pace at which it was developed and tested in clinical trials. However, relative to previous vaccine R&D, the COVID-19 vaccine was actually developed at a controlled pace. Right from the get-go, several of the biggest pharmaceutical companies signed a pact that stated that corners wouldn't be cut in an effort to be first to market. But if we're being honest, people don't really trust Big Pharma companies, and for good reason. There's an extensive history of big Pharma cutting corners and exploiting others to make a profit.

The important thing to note here is that you don't necessarily have to trust Big Pharma to trust the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. First off, all results from clinical trials are available online and show comprehensive testing for each stage of the development process. In reality, the fast-tracking of the vaccine was the sole result of upfront financing provided by the federal government to ensure that no shortcuts were taken.

In essence, the government paid for vaccines to be mass-produced without knowing whether or not they worked. While this can be interpreted as a waste of funds, it also means that the time between final trials and the first delivery of a vaccine (which can often take months from production to distribution) was basically cut out of the equation. This accounts for why the vaccine was able to be developed, tested, manufactured, and distributed at an unparalleled rate.


3 Things You Should Know About The COVID-19 Vaccine

In all honesty, some level of skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine is warranted. As a country, we've never experienced a situation such as this. In recent history, there has never been a virus as deadly and contagious as COVID-19. Moreover, there has never been a vaccine developed at such a swift rate.

That's why we're here to break down all of the pros and cons of the COVID-19 vaccine to help you make the most informed decision. It's your health we're talking about, after all, it shouldn't be taken lightly.

1. It doesn't contain the actual virus

First off, let's discuss what's inside of the COVID-19 Vaccine. As it stands, all COVID-19 Vaccines that currently exist are messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccine technology has been studied for decades with a focus on other viruses such as the flu, rabies, and even Zika.

One benefit of mRNA vaccines is that scientists have the ability to apply a standardized mRNA "template" to new vaccines as new viruses are discovered. This means that scientists can tailor the mRNA vaccine to an individual virus to create vaccines at a rapid pace!

But how does it work? First off, mRNA vaccines contain strands of mRNA that function as a sort of instruction manual within the body. In the instance of COVID-19, these instructions tell the body how to create a fragment of the "spike protein" unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Since mRNA encodes only for spike protein (which is a harmful protein found on the surface of the actual virus), the vaccine itself cannot cause a COVID-19 infection.

2. There are very few side effects if any, and the ones reported are extremely mild

Generally, any side effects reported as a result of taking the COVID-19 vaccine were reactogenicity symptoms. This means that nearly all symptoms were mild to moderate and would dissipate after only a few days. These side effects include pain, swelling, and redness in the area where you are vaccinated (common for any shot), as well as chills, fatigue, and headaches which should also go away in a day or two. It's important to note that these side effects are more common after the second dose of the vaccine.

But what about the more severe side effects that have popped up in the news cycle? Each of these can be considered one-off occurrences as they are not above the rate expected in the general population. In fact, many of these reported side-effects are simply unrelated to the vaccine as these cases tend to pop up sporadically every single year. When comparing the rate of these cases over the last month to the same period last year, there is no data that suggests that these cases are statistically significant. As such, there is no scientific link between the COVID-19 vaccine and any of these harmful side-effects.

3. The development process was not rushed as it went through full regulatory and safety review

One of the biggest fears behind the COVID-19 vaccine comes from the rapid pace at which it was developed and tested in clinical trials. However, relative to previous vaccine R&D, the COVID-19 vaccine was actually developed at a controlled pace. Right from the get-go, several of the biggest pharmaceutical companies signed a pact that stated that corners wouldn't be cut in an effort to be first to market. But if we're being honest, people don't really trust Big Pharma companies, and for good reason. There's an extensive history of big Pharma cutting corners and exploiting others to make a profit.

The important thing to note here is that you don't necessarily have to trust Big Pharma to trust the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. First off, all results from clinical trials are available online and show comprehensive testing for each stage of the development process. In reality, the fast-tracking of the vaccine was the sole result of upfront financing provided by the federal government to ensure that no shortcuts were taken.

In essence, the government paid for vaccines to be mass-produced without knowing whether or not they worked. While this can be interpreted as a waste of funds, it also means that the time between final trials and the first delivery of a vaccine (which can often take months from production to distribution) was basically cut out of the equation. This accounts for why the vaccine was able to be developed, tested, manufactured, and distributed at an unparalleled rate.


Follow the Science - Accepting The Temporary During COVID-19

And how do we apply the principle of "the temporary" not only to science but to our daily lives?

On a daily basis, we hear that we should "follow the science" with regard to COVID-19. What does that mean in the context of COVID, exactly? Moreover, based on humanity's lived experience of "following the science" what does that mean in general?

By definition, "science" consists of establishing and testing falsifiable hypotheses. Once tested, a hypothesis becomes established as fact until some new element of the testing environment finds it wanting in some respect.

As a result, scientists - or, more likely, a lonely iconoclastic scientist - test a new hypothesis that refines, or even explodes, the previous hypothesis resulting in a new hypothesis. That new hypothesis becomes the latest established fact and subsequent generations marvel at their benighted ancestors who accepted the previous hypothesis.

In other words, "following the science" means accepting the temporary positions of constantly evolving human knowledge. Such knowledge has been historically disproven when more refined measurement, better information, or a genius insight comes along. Given the shortening interval required to double the total sum of human knowledge, these positions become ever more temporary.

In terms of the development of geocentric astronomy, consider the millennium that passed from the ancients to Ptolemy. A mere 500 years passed before Copernicus revolutionized the field with heliocentrism. Only 200 years elapsed before Newton elucidated the laws of motion and gravitation.

True, it was the same 200-year interval that lapsed before Einstein's quantum leap to his theory of relativity. But less than 30 years later Fr. Lemaitre posited the Big Bang theory. Since then our knowledge of physics has evolved at such a dizzying pace that every few years there are groundbreaking discoveries that change our conception (or at least scientists' conceptions) of the universe.

Here's the point: when we "follow the science" we are correct for increasingly short intervals of time. This is because we are continually learning that fundamental elements of our understanding are wrong, or woefully incomplete.

Systems we use to describe the world have gaping holes that render a system such as geo-centrism obsolete with the introduction of heliocentrism. It was inevitable that heliocentrism would be usurped by the concept of an infinite ever-expanding universe - revealing our previous understanding to be at a preschool level compared to a doctoral program.

Following the science has long been the refuge of totalitarians. How did White Supremacists in the antebellum South justify their critical race theory? With science - carefully reasoned studies and tracts that they claimed to demonstrate the genetic inferiority of Blacks.

How did the Nazi party justify its version of critical race theory? With science - carefully controlled experiments on supposed genetic deficient populations carried out by the likes of Mengele.

How did the 20th-century Marxists justify wiping out millions in the Ukraine, the Cultural Revolution, or the Killing Fields - just to name a few? With science - as they touted the revealed truth of Social Science that requires the inevitability of class struggle.

Galileo on trial defending science

Even the Catholic Church - a supposed "enemy of science" - actually suppressed Galileo in the name of science. The real charge against him was not disagreement with his theories, but that he presented the theories as fact in the face of established science at the time.

Pick your bugaboo authoritarian regime at random and you'll find that each and every one bases its authority on "science".

So, let's bring this back to COVID.

The very same authorities have told us to "follow the science" all along. Not surprisingly, that science is constantly changing. COVID seemed nothing more than a nuisance until it turned into an existential threat to humanity that required shutting down our economy.

That shutdown was supposed to be two weeks so that we could flatten the curve. But then it turned into the oxymoron of eradicating an unstoppable, communicable virus.

Wearing masks was unnecessary until it turned out to be necessary. The virus wasn't transmitted person-to-person until we realized it was transmitted person-to-person.

The Swedish approach to minimizing economic lockdown was a grossly negligent mistake that put lives at risk. But then we realized that lockdowns themselves caused more human harm and suffering than the actual virus. This goes on and on, with breathless anxiety-inducing instructions as to what we should do as responsible citizens.

If we give this a charitable reading, we can assume people are acting in good faith who realize that their "science" changes rapidly as human knowledge of COVID expands. If true, then we should take their revealed science with a healthy dose of salt and wait for it to change in short order.

If we give it a less than charitable reading, then we can assume that this is an agenda propagated by authoritarians seeking power. In an election year during which so much power is at stake, this notion isn't at all far-fetched.

As for me, I go back to simple scientific discussions about diet. During my lifetime I've seen amusing swings in scientific opinion in this regard.

Are eggs good or bad for you? Sometimes eggs have been viewed as a death sentence by cholesterol consumption - guaranteed to give you a heart attack. At other times, eggs have been touted as an essential part of your diet that promotes brain health.

Is red meat good or bad for you? Sometimes red meat lurks as a killer. At other times red meat leads the way to weight loss and energy.

As it happens, I like both eggs and red meat. Indeed, I find myself to be more energetic, happier, and more productive when I include both in my diet. Others may disagree based on a different lived experience. Fine by me, but I suspect a scientist won't convince either one of us one way or the other. After all, we have our actual experience.

So, when people tell you to "follow the science" my recommendation would be to study this rapidly changing and evolving body of knowledge and get to understand what science actually means.

Further, I'd suggest that you question the agenda of anyone who presents "science" as a settled matter that only supports their own conclusions.

Finally, I'd suggest that the practicality of your own lived experience counts for much more than esoteric theory. After all, whether explained by Ptolemy, Copernicus, Newton, or Einstein, we find our feet firmly on the ground.

Margaret Caliente is a professional athlete turned internet entrepreneur and Manhattan-based journalist.

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How To Interpret COVID-19 Statistics

Stay Safe? - The Illusion of Safety

How To Interpret COVID-19 Statistics

How are the powers that be twisting the facts?

Mark Twain once observed, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Those in the legal profession might say: "There are three kinds of liars: simple liars, damned liars, and experts."

Data can be manipulated and presented to support a specific narrative or a particular conclusion. Because of this, you'd be well advised to seek out and analyze data for yourself, as opposed to allowing others to summarize and present that data for you.

A number of data sources are particularly helpful regarding the COVID pandemic. Instead of relying on others to draw conclusions from raw data, you're better off analyzing for yourself.

Three things really matter in the discussion of COVID-19:

The Infection Rate

The infection rate not only tells us about the spread of the virus; ultimately it informs about the lethality of the coronavirus. Of course, lethality is difficult to measure during an outbreak, especially when so many infections are asymptomatic.

Indeed, a Penn State University study estimates that the number of people infected in March 2020 was 80 times the officially reported number (in other words, there were 8.7 million more infected people in March than reported).

Estimates of lethality vary, but the early projection of 3.4% from the WHO appears to be wildly overstated. Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford makes the case for a lethality of 0.25%. You can monitor the confirmed infection rate for yourself on a daily basis, including by state, at a helpful site from USA Today that posts data from Johns Hopkins University.

By watching this number – a minimum (as stated by USA Today), due to the great number of asymptomatic and unreported cases – you can correlate the rate of infection with other key metrics.

As of today, the new cases curve looks like this:

COVID-19 cases tracker

The Death Rate

Bearing in mind that any death in which the deceased has tested positive for Covid has been classified as a "Covid death" regardless of other contributing factors, you can monitor daily deaths at the same USA Today site.

Safeguarding human life should be our main concern, so please look at the data critically. On June 25th, for example, a spike appears in the data which, after digging through data state-by-state, incorporates results from a retroactive reclassification of ~1,800 deaths in New Jersey as COVID-related.

It's helpful to cross reference with the Worldometer site to identify any large daily discrepancies that could result from retroactive changes. By watching this number, including data concerning state levels, you can begin to correlate the tragic human toll of this disease with infection rate and public policy.

You can also start to draw conclusions as to both lethality and improvements in treatment over time. As of today, the death rate curve looks like this:

COVID-19 deaths trackerJune 25th reclassification of ~1800 deaths by NJ.

The Hospitalization Rate

The need to "bend the curve" and avoid overwhelming our hospitals initially drove the lockdown strategy. So, understanding the actual rate of hospitalization nationally remains very important. The CDC publishes that rate on a weekly basis, helpfully sorted by age group.

As of July 4th the hospitalization curve looks like this:

COVID-19 associated hospitalizations

In addition, the CDC publishes state by state data with regard to hospitalizations so you can see the situation on the ground. As of July 10th, Arizona has an in-patient COVID occupancy of 28.4%, followed by Texas and Florida at 16% each.

The national picture looks like this:

COVID-19 in-patient beds

Realize that these important metrics only take into account the COVID variable itself; they don't deal with the economic and collateral public health consequences of public policy. As public health officials - such as Dr. Fauci - clearly state, they don't advise on economics or on the broader impact of health policy recommendations.

I suspect that most people are quite able to judge the impact of policy on themselves, their families, and their communities.

The point of this article is to encourage everyone to take advantage of the information that is readily available - and the above is only a start. You should think critically and form your own opinions.

Obviously, any data set will be a snapshot of a given moment, but it allows you to access that data and monitor it over time.

Margaret Caliente is a professional athlete turned internet entrepreneur and Manhattan-based journalist.

Coronavirus Updates: Can Asymptomatic Carriers SpreadCOVID-19?

New evidence suggests asymptomatic transmission is less likely than previously thought.

On Monday, a representative from the World Health Organization called asymptomatic transmissions of the coronavirus "very rare." This was quickly bolstered by conservative lawmakers to call for the end of social distancing guidelines and the mandatory wearing of face masks. Many health experts and scientists questioned WHO's statement, citing a lack of evidence.

Today, WHO has walked back their original statement, clarifying that the observation "was based on a relatively small set of studies," and, "Evidence suggests people with symptoms are most infectious, but the disease can be passed on before they develop."

So What Happened?

Essentially, the original statement was referring to a small set of data from various countries in instances where an asymptomatic case had been followed up and secondary infections among the asymptomatic person's contact had been sought out. This data suggested that infections among the people the asymptomatic person had come in contact with were "very rare."

The WHO emphasized today that there is no way of knowing if this trend is true on a global scale.

According to the BBC, the Director of the WHO's health emergencies program, Dr Michael Ryan, said he was "absolutely convinced" asymptomatic transmission was occurring, but "the question is how much."

What Exactly Does Asymptomatic Mean, Anyway?

According Dr Van Kerkhove, the WHO's head of emerging diseases, there are three categories within the designation of "asymptomatic."

  • People who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)
  • People who test positive when they don't yet have symptoms - but go on to develop them (pre-symptomatic)
  • People with very mild or atypical symptoms who do not realise they have coronavirus
So, while people who never develop symptoms are unlikely to pass on the virus, it's impossible to know if someone who has tested positive is truly asymptomatic or merely pre-symptomatic. If they are pre-symptomatic, then they are more likely to pass on the virus.

Should I Continue to Social Distance and Wear a Mask?

Yes. There is still so much that experts don't know about the spread of COVID-19, so while some evidence may suggest the virus isn't as easily passed on by as many people as previously thought, that doesn't mean you won't contract the virus if you aren't careful.

Dying While Dying: COVID-19 & Police Brutality in Black America

We looked for 2020 to be the year of Exodus from all of the strife of the previous decade(s). But, it seems that we might have to endure a few more plagues before we see the Promised Land.

2020 was supposed to usher in a decade of change and elevation. On December 31, 2019, personal and social resolutions were at the forefront of our minds as we collectively waited for midnight. For Black Americans exclusively, this was the hope that the atrocities from the 2010s in regards to race relations wouldn't accompany us. Still, it seems we've become more engrossed in the fight for our right to exist on several fronts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented paralysis in the world both economically and emotionally. Millions are without jobs, adequate health care, and engaged leadership. African Americans are the most impacted by the disease. As of June, there have been over 21,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the Black Community nationwide. Pre-existing health conditions and challenging living situations act as barriers preventing proper social distancing and protection/recovery. Though coronavirus is an unexpected nemesis for Blackness to combat, an old foe is still ever-present.

Currently, foreign and domestic protests and riots have erupted in response to the multiple deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Memorial Day has captured the world's attention. In an 8 minute and 46-second clip, America has yet another lifelong lasting image of an unarmed African American male screaming, "I Can't Breathe" - an unholy sequel to the video of Eric Garner uttering those exact words in 2014 as his life was brutally driven from his body.

George Floyd

If Floyd's death was the explosion on a global scale, then Breonna Taylor's death was undoubtedly the fuse. Back in March, the 26-year-old Louisville EMT worker was fatally shot eight times when the Louisville Metro Police Department entered her home serving a no-knock warrant.

Overwhelming feelings of helplessness, anger and fear due to coronavirus, coupled with the recent murders at the hands of the authorities, have exacerbated our current temperaments. We are expected to adhere to the pleas of law officials and politicians to shelter in place and social distance when the particular cases of Floyd and Taylor indicate the antithesis of these requests when put into practice by the police.

Breonna Taylor Graduation

While dealing with a faceless adversary in COVID-19, African Americans remain engaged in an ongoing battle with a known opposition. Black people have become savants at juggling multiple issues of our survival. But balancing civil unrest and possible contagion simultaneously, and at this magnitude, is an ask that is too great - despite our resiliency.

BLM Neighborhood Peace March

At the risk of further spreading coronavirus, the streets are running wild with rebellion. However, the sickness of racism, of injustice, is a pandemic that has been ever-present since this country's inception. We looked for 2020 to be the year of Exodus from all of the strife of the previous decade(s). But, it seems that we might have to endure a few more plagues before we see the Promised Land.

Dwayne "Deascent" Gittens is a Hip Hop artist, On-Air Personality, & Content Creator from The Bronx. Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @Deascent.


COVID-19 Part 8: Georgia Sees Increase in Cases and Deaths 3 Weeks After Lifting Lockdown - Sweden Continues Without Clear Downward Trends

The science of COVID-19 explained by a doctor.

By Anthony Lee, MD

Faculty, Harvard Medical School


As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. In Part 8 of this series, we continue to see The US reliably decline in the number of daily deaths in most areas of the country with at least one exception being Georgia. Sweden has never shown a clear trend in decreasing cases and deaths. We will focus on these locations as they continue to be of interest. As mentioned in previous installments of this series, easing lockdown measures was expected to disrupt downward trends in cases and deaths. Georgia is the best example as they lifted lockdown measures on May 1st and we subsequently have 30 days of data.

COVID-19 cases tracker

In Figure 1, we see the plots of daily new cases in Georgia and Sweden. On the left we see the cumulative number of cases per 100,000 population, and on the right, the number of daily new cases per 100,000 population. Three weeks after lifting of lockdown measures there appears to be a spike in Georgia's new cases. While in Sweden, daily new cases continue to plateau with a potentially larger surge in the midst.


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COVID-19 Part 7: New York and Massachusetts Continue to Improve - Sweden Is Less Clear - Monitoring Georgia 17 Days After Lifting Restrictions

COVID-19 Part 6: Massachusetts Tops New York in Daily Casualties While Sweden Seems to Magically Improve

COVID-19 Part 5: Massachusetts Tops New York in Number of Daily New Cases Per Capita

COVID-19 Part 4: New York Cases Plateau, Massachusetts Surges, the Rest of the U.S. Is Relatively Flat

COVID-19 - Part 3: The Inflection Point

COVID-19 - Part 2: New York is the Epicenter of the World

COVID-19: Tracking the Changes

COVID-19 deaths tracker

Figure 2 shows that for "The Rest of the United States" (US minus NYS or US-NYS), the maximum number of daily deaths occurred on 4/29 - 42 days after the start of social distancing, and this number continues to fall. In Georgia, daily deaths peaked on 4/27, 20 days after their peak of daily new cases. However, a more recent, lower peak appears on 5/22 - 3 weeks after lifting restrictions.

For Sweden, the maximum number of daily deaths (and new cases) occurred on 4/23 - 25 days after the start of their light social distancing measures. Since then these numbers have not shown a clear pathway to resolution, with the latest surge being larger than the previous one.

Sources of data: Worldometer.com, Georgia Department of Public Health,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_the_United_States

COVID-19 Part 7: New York and Massachusetts Continue to Improve - Sweden Is Less Clear - Monitoring Georgia 17 Days After Lifting Restrictions

The science of COVID-19 explained by a doctor.

By Anthony Lee, MD

Faculty, Harvard Medical School

As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. In Part 7 of this series, we continue to see New York and Massachusetts reliably decline in the number of daily deaths. As we assume that the pandemic in these states is on the mend, we will no longer track the number of daily new cases.

Likewise, Ireland and the UK have not seen increases in daily new cases or deaths over the last 3-5 weeks, so we will no longer follow them. However, as these countries begin easing lockdown measures, this may change.

COVID-19 Cases Tracker

In Figure 1, the plot for "The Rest of the United States" (US minus NYS or US-NYS) is compared to those of Sweden and Georgia.

On the left of Figure 1, the cumulative number of cases increased at different rates by location. On the right of Figure 1, the number of daily new cases are declining in Georgia and the Rest of the US, while it plateaus in Sweden.

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Reopening Isn't About the Economy—It's About Kicking People off Unemployment

The economic impact of reopening is unclear, but the goal to keep government "small" is unwavering even in a crisis

In the coming weeks many US states will begin the process of loosening COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and "reopening" their economies.

Other states have already done so.

While the argument for reopening has been unequivocal—it's supposedly what we need to save our flagging economy from a full-blown depression—it's not clear that it will serve that function at all. Recent polling has shown that the vast majority of Americans support social-distancing and stay-at-home measures and are not enthusiastic about the prospect of going back to restaurants and crowded stores while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing. Which means that the number of customers who return as states drop their restrictions may not be enough to keep small businesses afloat.

Unfortunately that majority opinion has not received as much attention as many of the loudest advocates for reopening—who have argued that a death toll that is likely to more than double current figures is worth it, or that the whole pandemic is just a hoax. Of course it makes sense for small business owners and people who are struggling to make ends meet right now to want to get back to work, but what good will it do?

If cases spike, overwhelming local hospital systems and causing deaths and tremendous medical debt in the process, then restrictions will need to be reinstated, and the economic problems we're currently dealing with will only be prolonged. Right now we lack the widespread testing and the sufficiently improving conditions to support reopening without a vaccine. There are measures we could take at the federal level to improve the situation without such startling risks, but we are ignoring those options—treating reopening like it's the only solution available—for one simple reason: Americans hate "big government."

Since at least the 1980s our society has been flooded with anti-government propaganda. We recite mantras about government mismanagement, waste, incompetence, while ignoring successful programs at home and abroad. One of our two major parties has devoted much of its political willpower to actively sabotaging federal programs and agencies like the US Postal Service to prove their point and push for further privatization (that they, along with their donors and friends, stand to personally profit from). In this context, the kind of aggressive federal spending we would need to keep small businesses and struggling families afloat in current conditions is virtually unthinkable.

Even America's relatively compassionate party is only pushing fairly moderate measures that are likely to be whittled down and paired with massive business subsidies in the Senate—just like what happened with the Cares Act in March. In its current form the Heroes Act includes $175 billion in housing assistance, a second round of $1200 stimulus payments (with children receiving as much as adults this time), $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers, $1 trillion in funding for states to pay their vital workers, and a six month extension of the $600 unemployment expansion.

Undoubtedly these measures will help a lot—though not as much as more generous proposals—but they ignore some major issues. The biggest problem (apart from the fact that the senate isn't going to let the bill pass as is) is that states are straining to make the basic unemployment payments that the $600 expansion is meant to supplement. As a result, many of the tens of millions of people trying to file for unemployment have been stymied by bureaucratic foot-dragging and red tape, and now states are using reopening as a way to push workers off of unemployment and protect state budgets from possible bankruptcy—an outcome which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no interest in preventing. In some states there are even systems being implemented to report workers who refuse to go back to work, regardless of their circumstances or legitimate fears.

Mitch McConnell

Whether any of this will improve the national economy in the long run remains to be seen. What is clear is that state governments are being understandably cautious with their budgets, and the Republican party is playing their usual political games with lives, health, and livelihoods on the line. The result is that states are reopening, and millions of workers are about to be pushed off unemployment. The next stop is cutting retirement benefits, and fully dissolving any remnant of a social safety net this country has.

As we enter what is likely to be another global depression, it's worth keeping in mind that these programs are among the measures that helped us get through the last one under FDR and that countries that chose a different path were pushed toward a scarier form of politics that has lately been threatening resurgence: outright fascism. Let's try not to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s.

Could Vitamin D Help Treat COVID-19?

New studies show a correlation between COVID-19 deaths and low levels of the "sunshine vitamin."

Vitamin D has long been a useful warrior in the fight against disease, but now some studies are hinting that it might help fight COVID-19.

In this day and age, everyone is desperately looking for a cure, the Internet is rife with misinformation, and nothing is certain about vitamin D yet. But several promising studies have found that lower levels of vitamin D can put patients at increased risk of death from COVID-19, while higher levels might increase patients' chances of survival.

An April 9 study from the Philippines measured vitamin D levels in 212 coronavirus patients and found that patients with lower Vitamin D levels had relatively mild symptoms, while patients with deficiencies tended to grow much sicker. Prior to that, an Indonesian study from May said that "majority of the COVID-19 cases with insufficient and deficient vitamin D status died."

A similar study from Northwestern University explored 10 countries and also "found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems." Most recently, a new study from Trinity in Ireland came to the same conclusions, also finding that lower levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher mortality rate for COVID patients.

Vitamin D plays an important role in the body's immune response. It may also be able to help heal compromised respiratory functions, according to Newsweek. COVID-19 is still a relatively unknown disease, but it is believed that the virus creates what's called a cytokine storm in patients. That means that the body produces a superabundance of messenger proteins called cytokines, which can lead to inflammation in the lungs. Vitamin D can help prevent the release of cytokines.

These studies are inconclusive, and clinical trials are just beginning. "If vitamin D levels are really a marker for better diet, or more access to healthcare, or any of a variety of other variables that are not statistically assessed, then it is not the vitamin D that is the cause of the better or worse outcomes but rather the other factors," said Daniel Culver, Director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program in the Department of Pulmonary, Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

To be clear, vitamin D is not a miracle cure. "We found no clinical evidence on vitamin D in COVID-19," scientists from Oxford University wrote after their study. "There was no evidence related to vitamin D deficiency predisposing to COVID-19, nor were there studies of supplementation for preventing or treating COVID-19."

Still, because it's relatively harmless, some countries are now calling for widespread dissemination of vitamin D supplements and advising people to pay attention to their own levels. It's important to note that it is possible to ingest too much vitamin D, but a few supplements, some eggs, or some extra (safe) sunshine is probably as good a prescription as any during these isolated times.