• Politics
    The Week

    The noble lie about masks and coronavirus should never have been told

    Those of you of a certain age will doubtless remember a time when it was universally acknowledged that wearing masks would not protect you or anyone else from the coronavirus pandemic. By "certain age" here I mean all living Americans born on or before April 1, 2020, which according to my notes is when it became possible to express a contrary position in polite society.This was always nonsense. The White House is now suggesting that all of us should wear masks whenever we leave our houses. We are even stealing vast stockpiles of them from the Germans, who have been wearing them in public for around a month on the rather more numerous occasions when their leaders exempt them from house arrest. People who can't get proper masks (apparently the kind people wear when they spray for bugs) are being encouraged to make their own. If nothing else, this has given tedious DIY addicts something else to be self satisfied about. No one cares how quaint and interesting you think the piece of cloth meant to protect you from a disease is, okay?Whether the journalists and other apparent experts who enthusiastically spread this apparent lie about masks knew it was false is very much an open question. Some of us found it odd that the same people were also saying that masks should be reserved for use by medical professionals. If masks don't do anything, why do doctors and nurses need them? Are they an ornamental part of a dress uniform? The mind reels.Regardless of the personal honesty of those involved in it, this propaganda campaign should never have been conducted in the first place. It is one thing to debate what should be empirical questions, such as the efficacy of wearing protective equipment in an attempt to forestall the spread of viral infections; it is another for people to bang on about whatever the latest current corona wisdom is with the same tedious certainty that not long ago made us a nation of Logan Act scholars and experts on the non-existent criminal law implications of the emoluments clause. These manias do roughly as much for public health as those kids — there was at least one in every first-grade class — who relentlessly ssshh everyone else in line do to improve schoolyard behavior.The 180-degree shift in acceptable public opinion about masks is in line with how the rest of this crisis has unfolded. Masks won't help. Everyone needs a mask. It's not worth shutting down travel to and from China over the virus, and Trump is just being a xenophobe here. Trump should have done more to prevent the virus from coming to these shores. It's less dangerous than the flu; calling it less dangerous than the flu is a right-wing meme, perhaps even (one shudders) "misinformation." Human beings can't even transmit the virus directly to one another; it originated with animals in Chinese open-air "wet" food markets. Talking about the wet markets is racist, except when Dr. Fauci does it.Can we please stop talking this way? As I write this our paper of record is all but publicly rooting for the failure of anti-malarial drugs that appear to have been successful in treating some coronavirus patients. It is not against "science," whatever that may be, for the president or anyone else to observe that certain medicines or treatments have worked. It is not for science, either. It's just a fact that may or may not have limited application depending upon what happens over the next few months. A bit more epistemic humility would be welcome all around.As would more of I will bluntly call adult behavior. We must put an end to the idea that the best way to get through this crisis is to say things we know are not true in the hope of getting people to behave a certain way. This means not saying masks are useless when what you really mean is, "Masks are in short supply, please consider before you start hoarding them whether you really need them at present and if so how many." Ditto the painfully relentless attempts to give young people the impression that they are horribly likely to die from the new virus. Even in Italy, the country with the worst measured fatality rate so far, around 86 percent of all the deceased have been aged 70 or older, and 50 percent were at least 80. We do not need to zero in on statistical anomalies or otherwise engage in scaremongering. It should be enough to say, "Even though you are very unlikely to die from coronavirus, remember that you could contract the disease and spread it to more vulnerable people without even experiencing symptoms, so please don't revel with 5000 strangers at the beach and then run home to give Grandma a hug."This is how grown-ups talk to one another.More stories from theweek.com 5 funny cartoons about social distancing Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for COVID-19 5 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's TV ratings boast

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  • U.S.
    The Guardian

    Sean Hannity defends Fox News against claims of coronavirus misinformation: 'I never called it a hoax’

    Hannity responds to open letter signed by 74 journalism professors and leading journalists claiming Fox News spread false statements * Coronavirus – live US updates * Live global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageFox News host Sean Hannity has hit back against intense criticism of the conservative network’s coronavirus coverage, even claiming in a new interview he was ahead of most media in taking Covid-19 seriously.Hannity’s statements to Newsweek were in response to a 1 April open letter signed by 74 journalism professors and leading journalists that lambasted Fox News for allegedly spreading “misinformation” about the outbreak.The professors directly cited Hannity’s statement that the Democrats and media overplayed coronavirus to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax”.The letter came before a report in The Daily Beast that Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan Murdoch, are bracing for lawsuits over the network’s coronavirus coverage.Asked about his statement that Democrats and the media were using Covid-19 “to bludgeon Trump”, Hannity responded: “Many of them did.”“We are in the middle of the huge pandemic and where’s the Democrat saying, ‘You know, I didn’t agree with the travel ban at the time, but it was the right decision.’ Politics trumps truth in their world.”Hannity was referring to Trump’s decision to clamp down on – but not shut down, despite his repeated claims – travel from China as the virus broke out there.“It’s the same Democrats,” Hannity continued, “media mob and liberal professors who are so lazy they won’t even look at what I’ve said about the virus. They just go with their narrative. I never called it a ‘hoax’.“I said it was a hoax for them to be using it as a bludgeon on Trump. And they are. [House intelligence chair] Adam Schiff and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi are talking about an investigation. Now? In the middle of a pandemic?”Hannity also said: “Go to my website and you’ll see irrefutable evidence that I have taken this seriously way before most in the media did. I warned in January that it was dangerous because it was highly contagious, but some people were asymptomatic, so it would spread quickly.”The professors’ letter, addressed to both Murdochs, claimed: “Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network–false statements downplaying the prevalence of Covid-19 and its harms.”The professors claimed Fox News offered “misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities”.The Mediaite website points out that Fox News has taken some actions that seemingly view coronavirus more seriously – with Hannity and other talking heads such as Tucker Carlson appearing in a public service announcement, for example. Hannity. Rush. Dobbs. Ingraham. Pirro. Nunes. Tammy. Geraldo. Doocy. Hegseth. Schlapp. Siegel. Watters. Dr. Drew. Henry. Ainsley. Gaetz. Inhofe. Pence. Kudlow. Conway. Trump. Today, we salute the Heroes of the Pandumbic. pic.twitter.com/35WLDgoHcf — The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) April 3, 2020On Friday night, Carlson criticized Trump administration infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, over his call for a national stay-at-home mandate.“More than 10 million Americans have already lost their jobs,” the host said. “Imagine another year of this. That would be national suicide, and yet, that is what Anthony Fauci is suggesting, at least.“Now, we’re not suggesting that Fauci wants to hurt America. We don’t think he does, he seems like a very decent man. But Fauci is not an economist or for that matter someone who fears being unemployed himself. Like most of the people around him.”