1968 and 2020

A lot of people asking whether 2020 is like 1968, most of them saying that they weren’t there. I was there – not in the riots, but rather focused on my own life. A few years married, in a job at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that was below my capabilities but learning a lot about reactors. Just moved into a new house. I was not very political, although the Vietnam War was part of every young person’s consciousness.

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Michael Flynn’s Conversations

The repercussions of Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia don’t go away. Michael Flynn is a part of that relationship, although it is not clear how much of his interaction with Russian officials was directed by Trump. Trump keeps interactions at arm’s length so that he can claim he is not responsible for his administration’s wrongdoing. Flynn had connections to Russia before he became part of Trump’s machine.

Attorney General William Barr has requested that the case be dropped against Flynn for lying to federal agents, to which Flynn pleaded guilty. Judge Emmet Sullivan plans to open the case to amicus curiae briefs and has appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s case for dismissal.

Acting DNI Richard Grenell has released records of requests for “unmasking” that resulted in the legal action against Flynn and the discovery that Flynn was lying to Vice President Mike Pence, for which he was fired by Trump. Those records raise further questions of what Flynn was doing.

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A Small Bit Of Good News

I’ve warned before not to believe one single publication until it is confirmed by others, but this study looks solid enough, and there’s another that partially confirms it.

One of the things that has worried me most about SARS-CoV-2 is that it may not provoke robust immunity. That would leave us all vulnerable to it forever, and it would be impossible to stamp out. These studies suggest that a vaccine is possible, or at least that having had COVID-19 confers immunity. There’s no data about how long that immunity lasts, though.

Science magazine has a readable summary of the research. I’ll summarize the findings.

  • Helper T cells, part of our immune system, recognize SARS-CoV-2 proteins and react to them, including the important spike protein that attaches to cells so that the virus can infect them.
  • The T cell response is strong enough to suggest a vaccine is possible.
  • In the second study, T cells from people who have not had COVID-19 responded to virus proteins. This may be because other coronaviruses, which cause colds, are similar enough to provoke the response.

You can bet that virologists working on vaccines are reading these papers, and the ones whose approach is immunization through viral proteins are feeling good about them. But it’s still a long way to a vaccine.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

CDC Projects 200,000 Deaths This Summer

The New York Times obtained a CDC document indicating the likelihood of 3000 new cases of COVID-19 a day by summer, and a total of 200,000 deaths or more.

The White House says

This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed

Additionally, White House officials say they are using a “cubic model” prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, led by Trump adviser Kevin Hassett. Hassett is the fellow who predicted a Dow Industrial average of 36,000 just before the tech crash. The “cubic model” is said to predict that deaths will drop to zero by May 15.