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City councilor says she's proof why we need to cover faces and socially distance: She tests positive for coronavirus antibodies, never had symptoms

Michelle Wu getting a coronavirus test

Wu gets swabbed for infection; was negative on that test.

At-large City Councilor Michelle Wu, who lives in Roslindale, reports she was one of the 1,000 people randomly selected for testing for both coronavirus infection and for antibodies, which would indicate she'd been exposed to the virus - and that while she tested negative for a current infection, she tested positive for antibodies.

Wu reports she never developed any symptoms and adds:

That’s why physical distancing & testing are so important: anyone can get this virus & spread it without even showing symptoms! We all need to keep wearing masks outside & we need WIDESPREAD testing, especially in hardest hit communities like Mattapan, Hyde Park & Roxbury.

Experts have said that even people who remain asymptomatic can spread the virus until their bodies' immune systems adapt to the virus and begin killing it off.

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Comments

Randomly? I'm sorry, she, and any elected official, should have been exempt from being selected for this. I know random is supposed to take the biggest cross section of the population, but it is not a good look that she gets this test and thousands of care providers do not.

And then someone thinks it's a good use of her twitter account to show just how privileged she is.

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The test was conducted by Mass. General. You really think anybody at Mass. General could name a single Boston city councilor?

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"Outreach will be done by email, no calls. A randomized list of residents living in the selected sampling areas (East Boston, Roslindale and within the boundaries of zip codes 02121 and 02125 in Dorchester) will be receiving an email from the City (Boston.gov email account) inviting them to participate in the study."

How random can a list of 1000 residents where the city of Boston has their email addresses be? From what I am hearing anecdotally it was all city employees.

So please don't pretend it was "random."

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I'm not sure what you're getting at with your comment about people at MGH. But yes, MGH employees sometimes do know the names of city councilors and a quick search showed MGH employees, and Partners Healthcare employees, making scores of campaign contributions to city councilors in general and several to Wu specifically.

Many MGH employees are residents of Boston, and vote, and know who their councilor is.

And it is important to be aware that MGH management is, by its very nature and definition, political and politically aware.

I dont know if her selection was random or not, but I find it very reasonable to believe that Wu may not have been selected randomly, but rather due to her position and political promenance.

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Adam

Your article from 4-26 https://www.universalhub.com/2020/city-mass-general-partner-coronavirus-... says that MGH is "recruiting" among "selected residents" and only those that respond and agree to the testing will be tested. So it doesn't sound random to me, and if the residents are "selected", it is entirely possible that Michelle Wu was selected.

And yeah, lots of people at MGH know who their councilor is.

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You'll notice that the people were selected from "a randomized list of residents."

That's how you do a randomized test, of the sort scientists try to to do get valid results.

If Michael Flaherty, say, announced he'd been part of the study, then, yes, it would be suspicious, since he doesn't live in one of the four Zip codes they picked, but Wu lives in 02131, which was one of the specific Zip codes.

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It was a lot less random than it should have been to indeed say it was random. More precisely, it was a sample of people who have not displayed symptoms of the virus over the course of all of this. There are means to do a truly random sample, but in the end they found e-mail addresses of people who they could verify lived in the zip codes in question and worked up a sample from the people who responded to the e-mail.

My source of all of this- I was part of the sample, as were several people I know.

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Our old friend Kevin McCrea (RIP buddy) used to marvel at the Boston 80/20 rule.

Works like this

Some 20% of parents get their kid into their first choice of BPS

About 80% of city councilors get their kids into the best school near their house.

#BostonStrong #BostonRandom

(snark folks - this probably was random to the extent the terms of the test could make it random, which wasn't really random but it kinda was within the parameters)

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Thanks for mentioning him Stevil

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Had a share of a $14 million lottery ticket. That doesn't mean Wu's participation invalidates the study, even if her selection wasn't entirely random. But I also think that researchers at Mass. General are clearly going to be sufficiently media-savvy to recognize the value of having a likely 2021 mayoral candidate touting the results of a study on social media.

EDIT: I just reread this part from your original story:

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary for residents who have been contacted, is available to them on a first come, first serve basis up to 1,000 residents

Since they were recruiting, and since it was "first come, first serve" for "up to 1,000 residents" I expect it is highly likely that they contacted far more than 1,000 people in the four zip codes/neighborhoods. That's not quite a random sample as it selects for those who are sufficiently motivated to come in quickly (first come, first serve) and get tested.

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I would think that the workplace full of educated people located in Boston might employ at least one Bostonian who could identify their elected officials.

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Billy Bulger was on the board of MGH. Do you think he was selected because of his work supporting runaway siblings involved with the criminal justice system?

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So you want a random study to not be random? Yeah sorry that's not how that works.

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MGH is trying to do tests with very small numbers of supplies outside of the tests being conducted elsewhere. They are trying to spread this out so they can get an accurate feel of where the virus is, was and is going.

This is not a Senator from Kentucky getting it just for shits and giggles. This is part of a study.

The Councillor posted it not to show privilege but to show the process.

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But hey "randomly" can be a tricky word sometimes.

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Lol, WUT? Do you not understand the point of 'RANDOM' testing?

If we start focusing on 'care providers' and - as you worded it - "unprivileged" folks, do you realize how biased the results would be?

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that's not what privilege means

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Stay safe we need you. Stop riding the MBTA which is a petri dish of germs. You will never see the Governor or Mayor set foot inside the subways.

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There are several tests out there and for most of them, we only have the manufacturer's word as to their accuracy, including false positives and false negatives.

Also I find it impossible to believe that a well known politician, relentless self promoter, and potentially future candidate for higher office, was selected at random.

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There's a flip side to that logic. If so many people have already been exposed and developed antibodies then that evidence supports Reopening, not Lockdown. It suggests social distancing didn't stop the spread, and the virus has already spread beyond control.

I wish they'd test everyone who caught that bug that was going around in January, to see how many of them have covid antibodies.

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If so many people have already been exposed

You'd maybe have a point if you hadn't just made up that part.

Get the testing. Get accurate, widespread testing for the virus and for antibodies. Otherwise you, like everyone else, are making conjectures based on wishful thinking and bullshit.

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It'd be nice if people were optimistic about such theories, instead of raging against any glimmer of hope. I don't understand why everyone loves to be negative.

There are many more studies coming out showing a lot of similar results, the Pine Street Inn testing, a similar test in Iceland, testing in CA. What ever became of the Pine Street testing? Why haven't we heard any more about that? Almost 40% test positive, 145 of the 146 asymptomatic positives continued to have no symptoms.

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It's fine to be optimistic but that can easily devolve into cynical opportunism or naivety or worse, cynical opportunists taking advantage of naive people. being hopeful is great but it's not a basis for health care policy.

When people in Georgia are being given the choice between returning to an unsafe work environment or losing access to unemployment but it's papered over with a statement that it's probably fine, that's the issue.

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No progressive on this planet would be optimistic. This pandemic is all about making President Trump look like he caused this. Keeping things closed down is punishment for the booming economy that has played out while he has been in office. Spreading fear and posting stories that hint Trump is to blame is what the left is all about. If Bernie was in office then it would all be downplayed. “Journalists” like Adam could stay busy for years by continuing to post on the fears of Covid. I hope MA gets use to sitting around and having the economy closed, since they will play things out to the fullest. Meanwhile, other states are open and life is getting back to normal. Enjoy the rest of the chilly raining Spring.

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Or get away from your keyboard.

Your whiny misinformation screeds are not contributing to dialogue. They are just whiny misinformation in service of your feels.

And in a pandemic your feels don't matter honey. Ask mommy for a hug.

PS: you wanna know who is making Trump look stupid? Trump being stupid is making Trump stupid and the world is laughing its ass off and plotting to fill the leadership void he created: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/time-americans-are-doi...

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Didn't realize the Trump administration was made up of progressives or members of the left these days, what do you know.

As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks. The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double the current number of about 1,750.

The projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways as the health care system was overloaded.

(source)

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One thing to keep in mind is that not all of the antibody tests are accurate (yet). I'm sure we'll get there, but this rush to get results out there means that some of this data may not hold up. There's still a lot we don't know about this virus.

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Linked to from TFA:

https://wbznewsradio.iheart.com/content/2020-04-22-study-covid-19-antibo...

The full results of the 1,000 test subjects isn't compiled and ready yet, but it's safe to assume Councilor Wu is not the only person who'll test positive for antibodies.

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31% is encouraging, another study showing large amounts of people with antibodies that did not become sick. It would be good to see some studies on the possibility of reinfection, if not possible we could be well on our way to "herd immunity".

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For relatively healthy people under the age of 50. Yes we've all read about the horrible stories of young athletes succumbing to this thing, but the state stats indicate that if you are young and healthy Michelle's experience represents the typical or at least common form of exposure. And if she had it, her kids probably have and so has her husband and nobody is the wiser.

There is unquestionably a steep curve for this thing based on underlying health and age.

Let those under 50 go back to living a normal life. Let those who aren't afraid to go back to living a normal life do so. Protect the vulnerable by all means necessary. Lock down those at risk (and I might be in that category-my doctor can advise me if I can ever see him again). That leaves the fearful (read Adam's front page some time, that should scare most of you way more than the virus).

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Ok so, first define “vulnerable”. Let’s say it’s anyone over 60 and anyone with relevant underlying health conditions.

How much of the workforce is that? How many school kids have health conditions that don’t particularly affect their daily lives but who would be in greater danger if they do get the virus? How are these people going to be able to afford to be isolated if everything reopens? Age is easy enough to prove; what’s the burden of proof for health issues? Diabetes seems to be a risk factor. 10% of Americans have diabetes. Do they all isolate?

Back to the school children: how do the schools ensure their staff and the children’s families stay safe? If particular children are determined to be more at risk and shouldn’t be at school, how do the schools make sure they’re receiving an equal education? If the children’s primary caregivers are in the at-risk group, what happens to those children?

The whole point of this post is that people can walk around asymptomatic and contagious. In an average week before quarantine, I’d interact with easily 150 different people of all different ages closely enough to potentially transmit this virus to them. Then those 150 people interact with however many people they do in a week, and so on.

Of course, not all 150 people would get it or pass it on, I understand that. I’m just not convinced that “protecting the vulnerable” is as easy as some people think.

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How are you so sure that a single infection confers permanent immunity and permanent inability to further spread infection?

I'd be interested in where you got that information.

Note: there are four "common cold" viruses that are coronaviruses. None of them give you such an advantage. You get progressively more able to handle them, but you still get sick and still spread them.

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None of us are.

But the best case scenarios are a vaccine by year end. Worst case is never. In either case the economy will be in a shambles if we keep this up.

I'm willing to take the risks as long as we don't crash the hospitals. I'm also willing to bet that I'm in a significant majority of Americans. I get that this means I can't visit my parents or my wife's dad to keep them safe and other reasonable precautions.

We are suffering from "mission creep". It started out as don't crash the hospitals. Now it's prevent every infection possible. The first is a worthy goal and achievable goal. The latter is a one way ticket to being a third world country - and maybe worse.

And so far, we haven't seen a single case of "reinfection" that I've heard of (have you?). Reactivation, which is different is definitely a thing in rare cases. Reinfection, so far is not.

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The kind of social distancing you're describing, where the at risk and elder stay isolatated while everyone else gets back to work, is sometimes called "vertical isolation." The UK tried it for a hot minute, then realized it was a terrible idea.

Add to your list of people who are left out of this new economy you want to start, everyone who has diabetes, heart conditions, or whose family members do PLUS anyone who staffs elder care facilities, or works with elderly. The physical therapist office or the gym, where you see a mix of athletes and seniors who have lost some mobility or are trying to prevent that- do they just ditch half their patients and customers? Which of the remaining live with someone who works in elder care?

Do you think the people over 60 bagging at the grocery store are there because they love it? Or because their retirement or pension funds got burned up 10 years ago in the last economic crash, and they need the money? So you want to go to the grocery store without a mask on, and half the staff are in high at-risk populations and get to choose between getting sick or losing their homes?

If my favorite restaurants reopen and they tell their staff that if they or anyone they live with are in an at-risk group they cannot come to work, then how does your new healthy-young-only economy handle those people? Who supports them and their families? And if you wait tables or drive a bus, or have literally any other job around people, and you have an invisible high risk condition, do you tell the manager, or hide it do you can pay rent?

Unless or until we have a universal basic income and sturdy public health and services, trying to create an economy in which only people without certain genetics, or of certain ages can participate, is infeasible, inhumane, and also called eugenics where we kill off people who are inconvenient... Which will quickly put the winners in your new economy back exactly where they are now, with no one left to do all the jobs we're so impatient and eager to have people do for us.

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What, by reopening Georgia? By lifting bans in Florida? Italy, China, Spain - lots of places which were highly impacted are reopening, carefully. Yet here you are claiming the opposite.

Let me guess you're just regurgitating something Friedman wrote?

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Just looking at the numbers.

Give me a statistical reason why we should not let everyone under 50 and every person cleared by their doctor not to go back to business as usual.

As I've said - you can start with the stat that 99% of the people that died are over age 50 and 99% of all deaths were from people that suffered some underlying health issue that compromised their outcome.

Shelter the older and vulnerable. Sure. Extra precautions for those in senior/nursing homes? Absolutely.

Shut down society? Show me real numbers that justify that.

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https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/05/04/world/europe/04reuters-health...

Italy shows that overall mortality rate "were up 39% compared with the average of the previous five years."

Can we agree that in huge swathes of the US, state governments will not practice anything near the aggressive practices in Italy? With the addendum that the state of healthcare is better in Italy than say Florida in terms of access and quality? I can't see that true death rates somewhere like Florida won't be much worse than Italy. If you want to have that conversation, I think you need to recognize that you simply don't know the true level of harm caused by the virus but don't care to wait to find out.

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No - US or Mass numbers. I trust the US numbers more than Italy and the Mass numbers way more than most of the rest of the country. We're good at that stuff. Not perfect, just better than most of the rest.

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Including excess mortality? Last data I see if from 2017.

As for US numbers, you are aware that most GOP led states are not allowing good data to be published right?

https://www.wlrn.org/post/theres-something-strange-about-floridas-corona...

Once we (MA) have widely available testing and a reliable anti-body test available, then yes we should open up. I'd argue we can wait another six-eight weeks to get it right. We simply do not have the health care infrastructure right yet thanks to our failed federal leadership.

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Show me real numbers that justify that.

How many people are you willing to have die to "keep the economy going"? What groups are you willing to sacrifice? What's the number where you'd say "ok that's it, this is serious, we can have people stay home now"? Are you willing to make this statement publicly, to your friends, relatives, neighbors? Or is this just easy talk from someone posting on the Internet who can work from home anyway so doesn't have to worry about the potential consequences of sending everyone else back to work?

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Two months being somewhat generous.

Two months' worth of heart disease deaths is 2,000 people.

Context matters.

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you can see as easily as I can that there are at least two completely separate populations in this group - under 50 has VERY different outcomes from over 70.

Here's a better number. The treasury announced it has to sell $3 TRILLION worth of bonds this quarter to pay for this. Are you ready to start paying 15-20% for your next mortgage? Any idea what a 20% mortgage does to the value of your home? Or what it does to any stocks you own?

God bless the Fed - I hope they don't have a problem buying 80% of these bonds.

Context matters.

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Seems like you'd learn some new info about a strong federal government action can massively improve the lives of the average citizens vs. just padding the wallets of the 1% like the current policies do.

Check it out!

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At the start of the depression our national debt was about 20% of the GDP. Now it's 100% and going to about 140%. Please explain how those numbers work. It will be fascinating.

Are YOU buying hundreds of millions of 5 year notes yielding 0.5% interest next month? Or are you accepting government assistance. You know, the old part of the problem or the solution thing.

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there are options for keeping "the economy" out of the toilet that don't require a small amount of otherwise healthy people to die. things like the government paying EVERYONE an actually livable amount of money to stay home are just unthinkable in American conversation. have we ever thought about why that is? hint: the reason isn't inflation.

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How do we eat? Who takes care of us in the hospital? Who provides us with medication?
How do the lights stay on? Who puts out fires? Who makes sure we have clean water?

A small amount of otherwise healthy people die every single day thanks to road accidents, fires, workplace accidents, recreational accidents, etc. Do we prohibit all driving, working, recreation, etc. to save all those lives?

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The government is paying everyone - with what? Monopoly money?

And we did get inflation - not price inflation - asset inflation. If you haven't noticed, the economy has barely budged, but everything is worth 2-3 times more than it was 10 years ago.

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Somehow, someway, Canada is giving every worker $2K a month to live on, despite the oil glut. My brother is making more as an essential worker, but my SIL was able to file for hers after shutting down her small business. Other countries have similarly supported their citizens in a meaningful way.

I think you need to get out more.

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Canada is also probably printing money. Maybe we'll just be the best house in the slum.

Maybe.

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Eventually people catch on that the value of that money isn't what it used to be. That becomes more acute as the available supply of goods and services shrinks if people aren't working. If employers have to pay more to get people to work vs. guaranteed income, prices go up. The long-term effect is Venezuela/Zimbabwe/Weimar Germany

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You are drawing a false conclusion. Yes it's likely that many people already caught the virus before we started social distancing. But social distancing DID slow the spread further. The problem is we don't know what percentage of the population had it at the time we locked things down. Without knowing that number (or even knowing it now), we don't really know whether hospitals would have been overwhelmed beyond capacity. And when you don't know, it's better to err on the side of caution. You can always reopen things. You can't bring back people from the dead.

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I wouldn't rely on antibody tests too heavily at this point. Especially when their accuracy hasn't been verified.

And accuracy needs to be high. The prevalence of Covid-19 is estimated at around 5% in the US, and at this low a level the risk of false positives becomes a major problem. If a serological test has 90% specificity, its positive predictive value will be 32.1% – meaning nearly 70% of positive results will likely be false. At this same disease prevalence, a test with 95% specificity will lead to a 50% chance that a positive result is wrong. Only at 99% specificity does the false positive rate become anywhere near acceptable, and even here the chances are that 16% of positive results would be wrong.

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maybe we still don't know as much as we think we know about this virus:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/paper-non-symptomatic-patient-tr...

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I think the Boston homeless study bolsters the theory that asymptomatic infection is occurring. This particular article is from Feb 3rd. It is good in calling out faults in research methods, but it is ancient history as far as study of Covid-19 goes.

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This demonstrates that you can catch the virus but not show symptoms. But unless there's a scientific study demonstrating the effectiveness of homemade face coverings in uncrowded outdoor settings, this incident in no way demonstrates that homemade masks are important or useful, any more than tucking your pants into your socks to keep the virus from crawling up your legs is important.

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See how this works?

It is all about spray of germs and probabilities. We don't have absolute proof, so lets risk the lives of a whole bunch of people because some anon has a hunch.

Sorry, but there is solid evidence of the potential for infection, and cities and towns and now the state has acted accordingly.

Then again, you are probably one of those people who thinks he has a system to beat the house at a casino.

COVER YOUR FILTHY PIE HOLE ALREADY. I'll cover my filthy pie hole, too.

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Time to stop typing Miss "But that lethal stuff is rare". You are an absolute fool.

https://www.universalhub.com/2020/too-late-coronavirus-placebo-already-s...

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Take a deep breath, get a flu shot, practice washing your hands, and call your state reps and officers and ask them all to remind employers and school districts that policies that encourage or require people to come to school or work when sick will be severely punished.

she's advocating for social distancing in january when nobody was taking any of it seriously.

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Does this doctorate in public health make you look like a fat ass?

There have been multiple studies in the interim to show what the risks that come from not wearing masks may be - studies that had not been done at the time that was posted. Studies that had been sorely lacking because we hadn't had a good hardcore pandemic in few years.

THAT'S HOW SCIENCE WORKS, BITCH! Sorry if your pea brain don't get "iterative improvements in knowledge" or "how the fucking scientific method works". More information leads to changed decisions in those who actually read the literature and look for the facts.

I'd tell you to go read about Baysian systems thinking, but that "thinking" part is sorely lacking in your life already.

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Being an internet know it all with a fictitious degree must be a terrible way to go through life.

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Being a swamp yankee with a manufactured grievance hangover must be an even worse way to go though life.

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I guess it's ok to spend all your time being an internet know itall, as long as you don't try and back it up with any kind of facts or credentials.

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The logic behind wearing masks (and continuing lockdown, and so much of this) basically follows the outline of this classic Simpsons exchange.

A proper rational attitude is that unless one can prove something works/exists/is as stated, one take the position that it doesn't. Until shown otherwise. This is sometimes referred to as the "null hypothesis."

Your subject line reminds me of the common retort that religious believers would throw back at atheists in interminable online debates. "Well, you can't provide God doesn't exist!" True, yet an irrational position. Basically taking an argument on faith.

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Logical reasoning and scientific evidence-based policies aren't going to get us out of this mess. Jumping on the bandwagon because all your friends are doing it is the answer. I just hope you have the right friends.

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Even the best tests tout "only" a 5% false positive rate.

But if you have 1000 people and only 50 are expected to have antibodies, then that means that test will falsely identify an equal number of people as having been infected.

That can be dangerous and give a seriously false sense of security, even if we have a virus that confers permanent immunity from a single infection (doubtful with Coronae generally)

I'm sure Mass General is considering this, but it is good for all of us to think about.

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In my opinion, this sort of random testing should be used to look at prevalence rates (there are formulas to correct for the expected number of false results with a give sensitivity/specificity) and agreement between test findings plus self-reports (i.e., how many of those who had positive antibody tests said they thought they'd had COVID-19) but should not give participants their test results unless they show they have an active case and need to be aware of it.

In our clinical trials, we require confirmation of tests used as study endpoints precisely because of the issue of false positives. Similarly, I would want any positive antibody test in someone who'd never tested positive for COVID-19 infection to be confirmed with a 2nd test before considering it as a trustworthy results.

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She is looking for headliners because Marty is taking the press attention . Needs coverage for her 2021 Mayor run.

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I read this to my husband who is sitting next to me and is a front line worker on Covid ward. He rolled his eyes and said, the antibody tests are shit. There are many out there and none are validated yet. Should not get people's (false) hopes up.

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