Tuesday, June 22, 2021

‘A Lot of Anxiety’ as Biden Agenda Collapses in Confusion, Liberal Infighting



Hopes for a big infrastructure investment are teetering. An ambitious elections and voting bill is all but dead. Legislation on police brutality, gun control and immigration has stalled out.

Nearly six months of Democratic control in Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless as campaign promises go undone — blocked not only by Republican unity, but also by Democrats’ own inability to unite fully around priorities.

The time ahead is pivotal for President Joe Biden and his allies in Congress to seize what some view as a transformative moment to rebuild the economy and reshape the country.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Ca., who had been a co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. “It’s a question really for President Biden: What kind of president does he want to be?”

The summer work period is traditionally among the busiest for Congress, but especially sharpened this year as Democrats strain to deliver on Biden’s agenda. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned colleagues that June will “test our resolve.” Infrastructure talks are dragging, though Biden is expected to talk again Tuesday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the lead Republican negotiator. But the limits of bipartisanship in the 50-50 Senate are increasingly clear.

The party suffered a debilitating blow over the weekend when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced his opposition to the voting bill, titled S.1 because it is a top party priority. Many Democrats view it as crucial to protecting democracy and a direct response to restrictive new voting laws being passed in Republican-led states egged on by Donald Trump, the former president.

“Do I feel discouraged? Yes,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warning of a failure to deliver on the promises. “We will lose voters for a generation.”

Schumer, in setting the agenda, is challenging senators to prepare to make tough choices. But he is also facing a test of his own ability to lead the big-tent party through a volatile period of shifting priorities and tactics in the aftermath of the Trump era and the Capitol insurrection.

While Democratic senators have been generating goodwill by considering bipartisan bills in the evenly split Senate, they face mounting pressure from voters who put them in office to fight harder for legislation that Republicans are determined to block with the filibuster. Democrats hold the edge in the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris can break a voting tie.

Fed up by the delays, some senators are ready to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster, which they blame for the inaction. The long-running Senate filibuster rules require 60 votes to advance most legislation, meaning as many as 10 Republicans would need to cross party lines to help Democrats achieve their priorities. Some senators propose reducing the voting threshold to 51.

But Manchin, in announcing his opposition to the voting rights bill Sunday as the “wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together,” also restated his refusal to end the filibuster — for now, denying his party a crucial vote needed to make the rules change that could help advance its agenda.

On Tuesday, leading civil rights figures including Rev. Al Sharpton and Marc Morial are scheduled to meet with Manchin in Washington. Biden urged them to visit the senator to discuss the voting bill and the legislative agenda. He encouraged them to keep the conversation constructive and not put pressure the senator — at least not yet, according to a person familiar with the discussion but not authorized to speak about private conversations.

While Manchin has talked about supporting another voting bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, advocates of S.1 say both pieces of legislation are needed. Biden agrees Congress should move forward with both, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

At the same time, Democratic groups supporting S.1 vowed to continue with a $30 million campaign pressing Democratic senators to rewrite filibuster rules and pass the bill — including with TV ads in Manchin’s West Virginia.

But it’s not just Manchin who opposes changing the filibuster laws. Without support from him or other filibuster defenders, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Democratic senators will be forced to confront the limits of their fragile majority. If Democrats decided to go it alone on the big infrastructure bill, as talks with Republican senators stall, they would need to be unified because they would have no votes to spare.

Failing to deliver on campaign promises that are popular with voters could exacerbate party divisions and expose Democrats to criticism from their own ranks as well as from Republicans eager to show that Biden’s party cannot govern.

“We need to move the ball,” said Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, a liberal advocacy organization.

“We told everyone to come out against all odds in the pandemic and vote,” she said about the 2020 election. The promise was that with Democrats in power, ”we’re going to have all these great things happen, their lives are going to be better. And what they’re finding is that it looks like Washington as usual.”

Schumer has been laying the groundwork for this moment since he became majority leader in January, trying to build the case that bipartisanship can work in some cases — with passage of an Asian hate crimes bill or a water public works package. But he also recognizes that it has limits, according to two Democratic aides granted anonymity to discuss the private strategy.

The Democrats’ weekly closed-door policy caucus lunches have been intense, particularly during the two special sessions they have held to privately debate the path forward on the voting rights bill, one of the aides said.

Rather than force reluctant senators to fall in line, Schumer is trying to lead Democrats to their own conclusion — either bipartisan deals with Republicans are possible or they have no choice but to go it alone on infrastructure or other priorities, the aides said.

One aide suggested Schumer is no arm-twisting leader in the style of Lyndon Johnson, who before he became president was famous for his hardball cajoling as majority leader.

Khanna said the president, however, can have a big role. “This would be his LBJ moment — can he pick up the phone and work his magic to get his Democrats on board?”

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Friday, June 11, 2021

MILLIONS OF AMERICANS ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS COULD SOON SEE THEIR BENEFITS SLASHED

 

 

 


 

MILLIONS OF AMERICANS ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS COULD SOON SEE THEIR BENEFITS SLASHED, AS AT LEAST 25 STATES ARE LOOKING TO LURE WORKERS BACK INTO THE LABOR MARKET BY WITHDRAWING FROM THE FEDERAL PROGRAM THAT PROVIDES AN EXTRA $300 IN UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EVERY WEEK!

That data comes even as US job openings soared to a new record 9.3 million in April, according to data released this week from the Labor Department.
see also

Inflation surges as consumer prices leap 5%, biggest jump since 2008

President Biden confirmed last week that he would let the federal unemployment benefits program expire after Labor Day
BUT SOME STATES WILL PULL OUT OF IT AS SOON AS THIS WEEK!

“Both initial and continuing claims are down but remain at nearly twice the pre-pandemic levels,” said Anu Gaggar, senior global investment analyst for Commonwealth Financial Network. “Most industries are reporting acute labor shortages but that could even out by Fall as the pandemic-era unemployment benefits are phased out and schools reopen allowing parents to return to work.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Inside one network cashing in on vaccine disinformation

 

 

 

 


By MICHELLE R. SMITH

and

JOHNATAN REISS


This Wednesday, May 12, 2021 image shows a website featuring Ty and Charleen Bollinger advertising their video series, "The Truth About Vaccines 2020." The Bollingers are part of an ecosystem of for-profit companies, nonprofit groups, YouTube channels and other social media accounts that stoke fear and distrust of COVID-19 vaccines, resorting to what medical experts say is often misleading and false information. (AP Photo)

The couple in the website videos could be hawking any number of products.

“You’re going to love owning the platinum package,” Charlene Bollinger tells viewers, as a picture of a DVD set, booklets and other products flashes on screen. Her husband, Ty, promises a “director’s cut edition,” and over 100 hours of additional footage.

Click the orange button, his wife says, “to join in the fight for health freedom” — or more specifically, to pay $199 to $499 for the Bollingers’ video series, “The Truth About Vaccines 2020.”

The Bollingers are part of an ecosystem of for-profit companies, nonprofit groups, YouTube channels and other social media accounts that stoke fear and distrust of COVID-19 vaccines, resorting to what medical experts say is often misleading and false information.

An investigation by The Associated Press has found that the couple work closely with others prominent in the anti-vaccine movement — including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his Children’s Health Defense — to drive sales through affiliate marketing relationships.

According to the Bollingers, there is big money involved. They have said that they have sold tens of millions of dollars of products through various ventures and paid out $12 million to affiliates. Tens of thousands of people ponied up cash for an earlier version of their vaccine video series, they said.

“This is a disinformation industry,” said Dorit Reiss, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, who specializes in vaccine policy. Reiss said that unlike other multi-level marketing businesses, in which products are sold through low-level sub-sellers, the anti-vaccination industry is sustained by grassroots activists.

“They have many, many passionate believers that serve as sales people of the misinformation on the ground,” she said. “For the top, it’s a product. For the people below, they passionately believe it. They’re very sincere. And it comes across.”

The Bollingers and others were already in the business of selling vaccine disinformation before the coronavirus began its inexorable march across the globe. But the pandemic presented the couple and others a huge opportunity to expand their reach.

The Bollingers aligned themselves with right-wing supporters of former President Donald Trump — establishing a Super PAC to push what they call “medical freedom,” participating in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and promoting lies like the assertion that the election was stolen from Trump.

On the afternoon of Jan. 6, the Bollingers held a rally a few blocks from the Capitol. As emergency vehicles screamed past, responding to the invasion and the ransacking of the building, Charlene Bollinger celebrated from the stage. She called it an “amazing day” and led a prayer for the people she called “patriots.” Meanwhile, Ty Bollinger stood at the doors of the Capitol, waiting to get in.

The couple’s social media accounts have been identified as among the top vaccine misinformation super spreaders by organizations such as NewsGuard, which analyzes the credibility of websites, and The Center for Countering Digital Hate, which monitors online disinformation. They have more than 1 million followers on Facebook, and Charlene Bollinger said in a video conversation with Kennedy posted last year on their Super PAC’s website that their email list has “a couple million” people on it.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate said that from December 2019 to May 2021, five of the Bollingers’ biggest social media accounts gained 117,273 followers.

Public health experts say the spread of such disinformation undermines the effort to immunize enough of the population to stop the pandemic. A recent AP-NORC poll shows about 1 in 5 Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said last month that misinformation and disinformation circulating online about COVID-19 present a “clear and present danger” to people who need to be protected and who could get vaccinated.

The Bollingers declined interview requests and did not respond to a list of questions emailed to them by the AP about their business and political activities and backgrounds. Ty Bollinger later complained on an Internet show that “journo-terrorists” and “mainstream media whores” were about to release a “hit piece” on him and his wife.

Ty Bollinger began their business several years ago with books and DVDs such as “Cancer: Step Outside the Box” and “The Truth About Cancer,” which medical experts say included unproven information about alternatives to chemotherapy and cancer prevention. The company even sells a series that purports to show “the truth” about pet cancer.

Ty Bollinger describes himself as a “medical researcher” on bios posted on his website and in at least one book. He holds degrees in accounting and taxation from Baylor, but the AP could find no indication that he has any scientific or medical training, and he declined to answer questions about his credentials.

In 2017, in what Ty Bollinger has called a “natural progression,” the business expanded its work into vaccines. The couple styled themselves as “vaccine safety advocates,” while they simultaneously minimized the threat of diseases such as measles. They also published articles questioning whether life-saving vaccines work and claimed unvaccinated children are healthier. Decades of research has shown that the opposite is true.

When coronavirus hit, the business pivoted again, producing and marketing false or baseless information about COVID-19.

The Tennessee couple has been promoting “The Truth About Vaccines 2020” at least since April 2020, and updated it in the fall. Their false and unsubstantiated claims about the virus and its vaccines run the gamut, from assertions that COVID cases are overreported and adverse reactions to vaccines are underreported, to theories about 5G wireless signals being linked to the virus, all ideas that medical experts said are flat-out wrong.

Among the materials they have produced is a 78-page “Coronavirus Field Guide” offering unsubstantiated claims that COVID-19 is “man-made,” when there’s no data to support that. In addition to books and DVDs, some of which cost hundreds of dollars, they sell an “Insiders Legacy Membership” that costs $5 per month, or $47 per year, for a “premium monthly newsletter.”

The Bollingers’ more recent Facebook posts focus on subjects such as ketogenic diets and the nutritional benefits of mangoes, while their most strident anti-vaccination content is reserved for the messaging app Telegram or their own website.

On Telegram, they spread misinformation — including the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine “is a killer” — and link public health efforts to fight COVID-19 to the “Deep State.”

On their “Truth About Cancer” website, to which their vaccine website often links, they recently posted an article containing false claims. Among them: “it looks as though the new vaccines are 67% MORE LIKELY to kill you than the virus itself.” In studies of hundreds of thousands of people the vaccines were proven to be safe and effective at preventing severe disease and death, and those results have been confirmed as tens of millions of vaccines have been administered.

“We don’t trust these vaccines,” they said in the post. “We don’t trust the ‘authorities’ who are working so hard to administer hundreds of millions of doses over the next 2 months. And we’re 100% willing to gamble that the vaccine is much more dangerous than the virus.”

Below the post, commenter after commenter said they were swayed.

“Thank you so much for all the information you provide us! I will not get the vaccine!” one commenter wrote. Another said she had received the first dose and asked for counsel on how to refuse the second. A third shared that she was being treated for cancer and her doctor said she should not be afraid, but that she was “terrified to get the vaccine.”

While the Bollingers describe themselves as “advocates,” they are running a for-profit business. It’s not clear how much money they have made from their vaccine-related marketing efforts, or from their business more broadly, but there are some clues.

The Bollingers’ company, TTAC Publishing LLC, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit last year in which it stated that TTAC had secured over $25 million in customer transactions since 2014. The lawsuit, which calls the company an “industry leader specializing in the marketing of information relating to health care” and cancer, does not say how much of that was profit.

Dun & Bradstreet, which provides estimates for company revenues, has two listings for TTAC Publishing. The first, at its former address in Nevada, estimates sales and revenue at $2.9 million last year. For the one listed at TTAC’s current address in Tennessee, Dun & Bradstreet estimated $76,000 in sales in 2020. Experian reported in 2020 that the company had $179,000 in sales from its Nevada corporate address. In February, Experian reported TTAC’s revenue at $202,000.

On applications for government loans during the pandemic, TTAC Publishing said it had 16 employees in May 2020. That number stood at 27 when their second loan was approved in February 2021.

On their website, the Bollingers explained that they make some of their money via affiliate marketing. In “The Truth About Vaccines Affiliate Center” page, which was taken down this month after the AP asked about information posted on it, the couple laid out how they paid people to drive followers, which they refer to as leads, and sales on their site.

Affiliate marketing is a widely used practice in which people are recruited to spread the word about a product. Affiliates are granted unique IDs, which can be used in links to track who referred a customer to a website, and who deserves the commission if the customer buys something.

People who signed up as an affiliate for the “Truth About Vaccines 2020” video series would receive a unique affiliate ID, which could then be used in a link to share in social media posts or mailing lists.

“We recommend sending at least 3 emails to get the highest conversions and commissions,” said the page, which was a part of the Truth About Cancer website as recently as May 7. “The earlier you mail and share on social media, the more you’ll make.”

The AP took screenshots before it was taken down, and the page is still available in the Internet Archive.

In an October contest for the launch of new episodes of their vaccine videos, the couple said they were “giving away $40,000+ in prize money!” For one part of the contest, only those who generated at least 2,500 total leads would qualify, while for another, those who generated at least $10,000 in sales qualified. First prize for both was a $5,000 bonus.

According to the page, affiliates “earn 40% commissions on all digital products and 30% on all physical product sales.”

Several people and groups prominent in the anti-vaccine movement were listed on the page as affiliates. Perhaps best known among them was Kennedy’s nonprofit, Children’s Health Defense. Kennedy himself was listed as an “expert” on the page, and in addition, was listed in a version captured by the Internet Archive in spring 2020 as ranking among the Top 10 for the series’ “Overall Sales Leaderboard.”

Kennedy has been working with the Bollingers for several years, said Laura Bono, executive director of Children’s Health Defense. Being an affiliate, she said, meant only that the group “shared their materials” and that “It doesn’t mean there’s a business relationship.”

“We shared their information. Then people can choose to purchase, or not, their videos. So we just shared with our list. Like you would anything else,” Bono said.

Still, the AP examined social media posts made by Children’s Health Defense and found several instances when it posted links to the Bollingers’ site using a unique “affiliate ID” including at least five Facebook posts plugging “The Truth About Vaccines 2020” between April and October 2020.

Arunesh Mathur, a computer science expert at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, who studies affiliate marketing, confirmed the links included codes used in a popular affiliate system, Post Affiliate Pro. The Bollingers’ ‘Affiliate Center’ said they used the platform to track sales.

Bono said the Bollingers had donated $10,000 to Children’s Health Defense in December 2019. She denied that Kennedy and Children’s Health Defense ever received money from the Bollingers for leads, but also said they had received what she called a “negligible” amount in donations from the Bollingers after people followed their links to the site and chose to buy. She estimated the amount at about $1,000 and declined to clarify.

“No. 1, I don’t know it, and No. 2, I don’t think it’s any of your business,” Bono said. “I don’t think it’s against the law if a company gives money if it’s a charitable donation, right?”

She said Kennedy was likely listed as No. 4 on the “Overall Sales Leaderboard” because he shared the Bollinger’s link on his Instagram account, which had over 800,000 followers when it was banned in February for spreading misinformation about vaccine safety and COVID-19.

“His followers could choose to click on the link and go watch. Afterward, they could choose to purchase,” Bono wrote in an email. The Truth About Vaccines “did provide a small stipend to (Children’s Health Defense), not to Mr. Kennedy, for sharing the link. I am unsure of that total.”

Children’s Health Defense paid Kennedy, its chairman and chief legal counsel, $255,000 in 2019, according to the most recent publicly available IRS filings.

If Children’s Health Defense has received a “negligible” amount on its affiliation with the Bollingers, others have received substantial amounts. In a lawsuit brought last year, Jeff Hays, a former affiliate who promoted “The Truth About Cancer,” said he earned around $240,000 in commissions from 2015 to 2018.

In an archived version of the Truth About Vaccines Affiliate Center web page, captured by the Internet Archive in April 2018, the company states that 25,000 people purchased its first iteration of the “The Truth About Vaccines” video series. It said that since the company launched in 2014, it had paid affiliate partners “more than $12 million for sharing our events with their audiences through email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.,” and that “our affiliates have consistently earned an average of over $2 per click.”

Experts say such financial connections among anti-vaccination activists remain largely unknown to people who consume their content, many of whom are simply looking for information and end up falling down a rabbit hole of misinformation.

Many of the people who push vaccine disinformation emphasize that their audience should not trust pharmaceutical companies or “Big Pharma,” because they are making lots of money off of vaccines, said Erica DeWald, of the advocacy group Vaccinateyourfamily.org. But those purveyors of disinformation are also making money, said DeWald, who has tracked the Bollingers, Kennedy and others in the industry.

“I definitely think people are being misled. They think that folks are doing this out of the goodness of their heart,” she said. “I think there’s an assumption that people are making money, right? If you’re selling products, of course you make money. But I think they don’t realize how much money they’re making.”

Super-spreaders of vaccine disinformation such as the Bollingers and Kennedy have exploited their relationships with other groups to access new markets, said Imran Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

“Once you start to look at it through the industry lens, it suddenly starts to make sense as to why they’re doing all this stuff,” he said.

For example, Ahmed said, Kennedy has worked to appeal to African Americans, while the Bollingers have targeted the MAGA movement and far right.

“It’s a great market of people that also mistrust the government,” Ahmed said of the MAGA movement. “Once someone follows one conspiracy theory, they’re likely to follow another.”

With COVID, a disparate group of radical, fringe conspiracy theorists have come together around the idea that government can’t be trusted, is trying to kill you and is using the vaccine to do it, Ahmed said.

The Bollingers last year founded a political action committee called United Medical Freedom Super PAC, which raised more than $60,000 in donations, according to reports Ty Bollinger filed with the Federal Election Commission. A chiropractor who has been featured as an “expert” in their videos donated multiple times, twice in the amount of $1,776 -- a phrase that later became a rallying cry for insurrectionists as they stormed the Capitol. Super PACs can raise unlimited money from individuals and corporations to spend on independent political activities

In a video posted on the Super PAC website 10 months ago, Charlene Bollinger explained to Kennedy that anti-vaccine influencers have to band together, “Because we know the other side, they’re working together. They’re very efficient. They’ve got their agendas,” she said.

“And we’re going to be supporting specifically you, Children’s Health Defense. We believe in what you’re doing Bobby,” she said. “And so, we’re going to continue to highlight you. Highlight Children’s Health Defense and help you in any way that we can. So that’s how we win.”

Bono declined to say whether Kennedy agrees with the Bollingers’ support of the insurrection or whether he regrets aligning himself with the couple, but said that Kennedy has “chosen peaceful and thoughtful methods of providing information” to lawmakers and others. Children’s Health Defense, she said, “doesn’t condone any lawbreaking or violence of any kind.”

Bono told the AP that she didn’t think Children’s Health Defense had ever received a donation from the United Medical Freedom Super PAC, saying “I’ve never heard of it.”

One person it has supported is Roger Stone. United Medical Freedom paid the conservative political consultant, lobbyist and adviser to then-President Donald Trump more than $11,000 on Dec. 18. Stone told the AP that the money was for an appearance he made at a rally in Nashville in October.

Stone also was billed as the keynote speaker for the event the Bollingers held near the U.S. Capitol the afternoon of the Jan. 6, promoted as the “MAGA Freedom Rally D.C.,” which blended anti-vaccine “health freedom” activism with “Stop the Steal” rhetoric. Stone said he was supposed to speak at 3:40 p.m. but decided not to go because of the violence at the Capitol that day.

“I had no interest in going up to the capitol under those circumstances,” Stone said, adding that he was never supposed to be paid for speaking at the Jan. 6 event.

Video of the event was livestreamed but has since been made private. However, video posted online in various places shows it lasting for hours. Charlene Bollinger was emcee, calling for Congress to “Stop the Steal” as the rally kicked off following Trump’s speech that day.

Several people prominent in the anti-vaccine movement spoke, including Mikki Willis, who made the conspiracy movie “Plandemic.” He told the crowd he had just left the chaos at the Capitol.

“Our proud patriots just pushed through a line of riot police peacefully, as peacefully as that could happen, and are now at the stairs, at the doors of the Capitol,” Willis said from the stage. “And it was a beautiful thing to see.”

Charlene Bollinger cheered the Capitol breach.

“The Capitol has been stormed by patriots, we’re here for this reason, we are winning.” She added: “We are at war.”

Later that day, Ty Bollinger told the online “Robert Scott Bell Show” that he had been “maced” that day and had been among the people who crowded at the doors of the Capitol in an attempt to get inside, though he said he did not enter.

He called then-Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor,” called the people who got inside the building “patriots” and said “today, people’s true colors are being made known.”

The Bollingers show the convergence of “right-wing world with anti-vaccine and other sorts of anti-COVID, COVID conspiracy theory, anti-public health, health freedom all in one,” said Richard Carpiano, a professor of public policy and sociology at University of California, Riverside, who studies vaccine disinformation campaigns.

“At the end of the day, you have these activists trying to win over followers,” he said. “For them, it’s money-making.”

___

Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft and AP medical writer Mike Stobbe contributed to this report.

___

Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/tips/

 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Newsmax: 'Silencing' by Media Rigged the Election


  (Newsmax's "Cortes & Pellegrino")

By Eric Mack

Tuesday, 25 May 2021 08:12 PM


 


Big Tech and media Democrat allies effectively aided a rigged election by silencing stories on Hunter Biden and election fraud, President Donald Trump told Newsmax on Tuesday night in an exclusive interview.

"That's when you first saw silence," Trump told Steve Cortes on Tuesday's "Cortes & Pellegrino" of social media's blocking of the New York Post's reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop. "They silenced a newspaper. It's the oldest newspaper in our country, I believe, and it's a big one, but they silenced a newspaper in our country because they were talking about Hunter Biden.

"The other thing that they don't want to talk about – when you hear this whole culture of keeping things quiet, let's not talk about – is the election fraud."

Not only did the media rebuke attempts to investigate election fraud after the November election, the media is remaining quiet on the ongoing election audits in Arizona and more states, Trump lamented.

"What they're doing in Arizona, what they're doing in New Hampshire, what they're doing in Arizona, in Georgia now is so incredible," Trump said, referring to a stream of audits being conducted on the 2020 ballots that began in Arizona and has since extended to other battleground states. "It's so incredible, and nobody wants to talk about [it]."

Trump hailed the Arizona Republican senators as "great American patriots" for the courage to push for the forensic audit of Arizona's Maricopa County 2.1 million ballots.

"I give a lot of credit to the Republican senators from the state of Arizona because they took this," Trump said, pointing a critical finger at Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey and Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp for having "done nothing."

But legislatures in battleground states should be applauded for seeking transparency on the 2020 presidential election, Trump added.

"What they have done is incredible," he said. "They have to be admired. They're great American patriots, the Republican senators from Arizona and now other senators, state senators and others are looking at it, because they say, 'the same thing happened to us.'"

Trump predicted the audits will show what he has been saying all along about election fraud.

"Based on some of these early letters, it looks like – I'm not involved – it looks like they're finding tremendous fraud," Trump said. "Now we'll see in four weeks. It's going to take a period of time."

Ultimately, the Big Tech-purchased drop boxes for mass mail-in ballots under the guise of COVID-19 safety worries was an illegal way to stuff the ballot for then-candidate Joe Biden, according to Trump.

"What they do is illegal when they have drop boxes during elections when they spend hundreds of millions of dollars – you have a maximum of [what] you can spend of $5,600 and they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars as individuals to get drop boxes where all the votes – almost all of the votes were for Biden – and then they take these boxes with thousands and thousands of votes and they're late in delivery. Where have they been?

"And then you find out that the votes are mostly – 96% in some cases of the votes – are for Biden. Didn't happen, you know the election was a fraud.

"It was a rigged election.

"And when you look at what they did, it's so illegal. So, I think things are happening at a very fast pace, much faster than people understand."

Note: See Newsmax TV now carried in more than 100 million U.S. homes, on DirecTV Ch. 349, Dish Network Ch. 216, Xfinity Ch. 1115, Spectrum, U-verse Ch. 1220, FiOS Ch. 615, Frontier Ch. 115, Optimum Ch. 102, Cox cable, Suddenlink Ch. 102, Mediacom Ch. 277, AT&T TV Ch 349, FUBO and major OTT platforms like Roku, YouTube, Xumo, Pluto and most smart TV’s including Samsung+, Sony, LG, Vizio and more – Find All Systems that Carry Newsmax – Click Here

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill

 

 

All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how the virus spreads. Droplets! No, aerosols! At the heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences.

 

 

Early one morning, Linsey Marr tiptoed to her dining room table, slipped on a headset, and fired up Zoom. On her computer screen, dozens of familiar faces began to appear. She also saw a few people she didn’t know, including Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for Covid-19, and other expert advisers to the WHO. It was just past 1 pm Geneva time on April 3, 2020, but in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Marr lives with her husband and two children, dawn was just beginning to break.

Marr is an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and one of the few in the world who also studies infectious diseases. To her, the new coronavirus looked as if it could hang in the air, infecting anyone who breathed in enough of it. For people indoors, that posed a considerable risk. But the WHO didn’t seem to have caught on. Just days before, the organization had tweeted “FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne.” That’s why Marr was skipping her usual morning workout to join 35 other aerosol scientists. They were trying to warn the WHO it was making a big mistake.

Over Zoom, they laid out the case. They ticked through a growing list of superspreading events in restaurants, call centers, cruise ships, and a choir rehearsal, instances where people got sick even when they were across the room from a contagious person. The incidents contradicted the WHO’s main safety guidelines of keeping 3 to 6 feet of distance between people and frequent handwashing. If SARS-CoV-2 traveled only in large droplets that immediately fell to the ground, as the WHO was saying, then wouldn’t the distancing and the handwashing have prevented such outbreaks? Infectious air was the more likely culprit, they argued. But the WHO’s experts appeared to be unmoved. If they were going to call Covid-19 airborne, they wanted more direct evidence—proof, which could take months to gather, that the virus was abundant in the air. Meanwhile, thousands of people were falling ill every day.

On the video call, tensions rose. At one point, Lidia Morawska, a revered atmospheric physicist who had arranged the meeting, tried to explain how far infectious particles of different sizes could potentially travel. One of the WHO experts abruptly cut her off, telling her she was wrong, Marr recalls. His rudeness shocked her. “You just don’t argue with Lidia about physics,” she says.

Morawska had spent more than two decades advising a different branch of the WHO on the impacts of air pollution. When it came to flecks of soot and ash belched out by smokestacks and tailpipes, the organization readily accepted the physics she was describing—that particles of many sizes can hang aloft, travel far, and be inhaled. Now, though, the WHO’s advisers seemed to be saying those same laws didn’t apply to virus-laced respiratory particles. To them, the word airborne only applied to particles smaller than 5 microns. Trapped in their group-specific jargon, the two camps on Zoom literally couldn’t understand one another.

When the call ended, Marr sat back heavily, feeling an old frustration coiling tighter in her body. She itched to go for a run, to pound it out footfall by footfall into the pavement. “It felt like they had already made up their minds and they were just entertaining us,” she recalls. Marr was no stranger to being ignored by members of the medical establishment. Often seen as an epistemic trespasser, she was used to persevering through skepticism and outright rejection. This time, however, so much more than her ego was at stake. The beginning of a global pandemic was a terrible time to get into a fight over words. But she had an inkling that the verbal sparring was a symptom of a bigger problem—that outdated science was underpinning public health policy. She had to get through to them. But first, she had to crack the mystery of why their communication was failing so badly. 

 

Marr spent the first many years of her career studying air pollution, just as Morawska had. But her priorities began to change in the late 2000s, when Marr sent her oldest child off to day care. That winter, she noticed how waves of runny noses, chest colds, and flu swept through the classrooms, despite the staff’s rigorous disinfection routines. “Could these common infections actually be in the air?” she wondered. Marr picked up a few introductory medical textbooks to satisfy her curiosity.

According to the medical canon, nearly all respiratory infections transmit through coughs or sneezes: Whenever a sick person hacks, bacteria and viruses spray out like bullets from a gun, quickly falling and sticking to any surface within a blast radius of 3 to 6 feet. If these droplets alight on a nose or mouth (or on a hand that then touches the face), they can cause an infection. Only a few diseases were thought to break this droplet rule. Measles and tuberculosis transmit a different way; they’re described as “airborne.” Those pathogens travel inside aerosols, microscopic particles that can stay suspended for hours and travel longer distances. They can spread when contagious people simply breathe.

The distinction between droplet and airborne transmission has enormous consequences. To combat droplets, a leading precaution is to wash hands frequently with soap and water. To fight infectious aerosols, the air itself is the enemy. In hospitals, that means expensive isolation wards and N95 masks for all medical staff.

The books Marr flipped through drew the line between droplets and aerosols at 5 microns. A micron is a unit of measurement equal to one-millionth of a meter. By this definition, any infectious particle smaller than 5 microns in diameter is an aerosol; anything bigger is a droplet. The more she looked, the more she found that number. The WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also listed 5 microns as the fulcrum on which the droplet-aerosol dichotomy toggled.

There was just one literally tiny problem: “The physics of it is all wrong,” Marr says. That much seemed obvious to her from everything she knew about how things move through air. Reality is far messier, with particles much larger than 5 microns staying afloat and behaving like aerosols, depending on heat, humidity, and airspeed. “I’d see the wrong number over and over again, and I just found that disturbing,” she says. The error meant that the medical community had a distorted picture of how people might get sick. 

Epidemiologists have long observed that most respiratory bugs require close contact to spread. Yet in that small space, a lot can happen. A sick person might cough droplets onto your face, emit small aerosols that you inhale, or shake your hand, which you then use to rub your nose. Any one of those mechanisms might transmit the virus. “Technically, it’s very hard to separate them and see which one is causing the infection,” Marr says. For long-distance infections, only the smallest particles could be to blame. Up close, though, particles of all sizes were in play. Yet, for decades, droplets were seen as the main culprit.

Marr decided to collect some data of her own. Installing air samplers in places such as day cares and airplanes, she frequently found the flu virus where the textbooks said it shouldn’t be—hiding in the air, most often in particles small enough to stay aloft for hours. And there was enough of it to make people sick.

In 2011, this should have been major news. Instead, the major medical journals rejected her manuscript. Even as she ran new experiments that added evidence to the idea that influenza was infecting people via aerosols, only one niche publisher, The Journal of the Royal Society Interface, was consistently receptive to her work. In the siloed world of academia, aerosols had always been the domain of engineers and physicists, and pathogens purely a medical concern; Marr was one of the rare people who tried to straddle the divide. “I was definitely fringe,” she says.

Thinking it might help her overcome this resistance, she’d try from time to time to figure out where the flawed 5-micron figure had come from. But she always got stuck. The medical textbooks simply stated it as fact, without a citation, as if it were pulled from the air itself. Eventually she got tired of trying, her research and life moved on, and the 5-micron mystery faded into the background. Until, that is, December 2019, when a paper crossed her desk from the lab of Yuguo Li.

An indoor-air researcher at the University of Hong Kong, Li had made a name for himself during the first SARS outbreak, in 2003. His investigation of an outbreak at the Amoy Gardens apartment complex provided the strongest evidence that a coronavirus could be airborne. But in the intervening decades, he’d also struggled to convince the public health community that their risk calculus was off. Eventually, he decided to work out the math. Li’s elegant simulations showed that when a person coughed or sneezed, the heavy droplets were too few and the targets—an open mouth, nostrils, eyes—too small to account for much infection. Li’s team had concluded, therefore, that the public health establishment had it backward and that most colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses must spread through aerosols instead. 

Their findings, they argued, exposed the fallacy of the 5-micron boundary. And they’d gone a step further, tracing the number back to a decades-old document the CDC had published for hospitals. Marr couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement. A journal had asked her to review Li’s paper, and she didn’t mask her feelings as she sketched out her reply. On January 22, 2020, she wrote, “This work is hugely important in challenging the existing dogma about how infectious disease is transmitted in droplets and aerosols.”

Even as she composed her note, the implications of Li’s work were far from theoretical. Hours later, Chinese government officials cut off any travel in and out of the city of Wuhan, in a desperate attempt to contain an as-yet-unnamed respiratory disease burning through the 11-million-person megalopolis. As the pandemic shut down country after country, the WHO and the CDC told people to wash their hands, scrub surfaces, and maintain social distance. They didn’t say anything about masks or the dangers of being indoors. 

 

A few days after the April Zoom meeting with the WHO, Marr got an email from another aerosol scientist who had been on the call, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Colorado Boulder named Jose-Luis Jimenez. He’d become fixated on the WHO recommendation that people stay 3 to 6 feet apart from one another. As far as he could tell, that social distancing guideline seemed to be based on a few studies from the 1930s and ’40s. But the authors of those experiments actually argued for the possibility of airborne transmission, which by definition would involve distances over 6 feet. None of it seemed to add up.

Marr told him about her concerns with the 5-micron boundary and suggested that their two issues might be linked. If the 6-foot guideline was built off of an incorrect definition of droplets, the 5-micron error wasn’t just some arcane detail. It seemed to sit at the heart of the WHO’s and the CDC’s flawed guidance. Finding its origin suddenly became a priority. But to hunt it down, Marr, Jimenez, and their collaborators needed help. They needed a historian.

Luckily, Marr knew one, a Virginia Tech scholar named Tom Ewing who specialized in the history of tuberculosis and influenza. They talked. He suggested they bring on board a graduate student he happened to know who was good at this particular form of forensics. The team agreed. “This will be very interesting,” Marr wrote in an email to Jimenez on April 13. “I think we’re going to find a house of cards.”

The graduate student in question was Katie Randall. Covid had just dealt her dissertation a big blow—she could no longer conduct in-person research, so she’d promised her adviser she would devote the spring to sorting out her dissertation and nothing else. But then an email from Ewing arrived in her inbox describing Marr’s quest and the clues her team had so far unearthed, which were “layered like an archaeology site, with shards that might make up a pot,” he wrote. That did it. She was in.

Randall had studied citation tracking, a type of scholastic detective work where the clues aren’t blood sprays and stray fibers but buried references to long-ago studies, reports, and other records. She started digging where Li and the others had left off—with various WHO and CDC papers. But she didn’t find any more clues than they had. Dead end.

 

She tried another tack. Everyone agreed that tuberculosis was airborne. So she plugged “5 microns” and “tuberculosis” into a search of the CDC’s archives. She scrolled and scrolled until she reached the earliest document on tuberculosis prevention that mentioned aerosol size. It cited an out-of-print book written by a Harvard engineer named William Firth Wells. Published in 1955, it was called Airborne Contagion and Air Hygiene. A lead!

In the Before Times, she would have acquired the book through interlibrary loan. With the pandemic shutting down universities, that was no longer an option. On the wilds of the open internet, Randall tracked down a first edition from a rare book seller for $500—a hefty expense for a side project with essentially no funding. But then one of the university’s librarians came through and located a digital copy in Michigan. Randall began to dig in.

In the words of Wells’ manuscript, she found a man at the end of his career, rushing to contextualize more than 23 years of research. She started reading his early work, including one of the studies Jimenez had mentioned. In 1934, Wells and his wife, Mildred Weeks Wells, a physician, analyzed air samples and plotted a curve showing how the opposing forces of gravity and evaporation acted on respiratory particles. The couple’s calculations made it possible to predict the time it would take a particle of a given size to travel from someone’s mouth to the ground. According to them, particles bigger than 100 microns sank within seconds. Smaller particles stayed in the air. Randall paused at the curve they’d drawn. To her, it seemed to foreshadow the idea of a droplet-aerosol dichotomy, but one that should have pivoted around 100 microns, not 5. 

The book was long, more than 400 pages, and Randall was still on the hook for her dissertation. She was also helping her restless 6-year-old daughter navigate remote kindergarten, now that Covid had closed her school. So it was often not until late at night, after everyone had gone to bed, that she could return to it, taking detailed notes about each day’s progress.

One night she read about experiments Wells did in the 1940s in which he installed air-disinfecting ultraviolet lights inside schools. In the classrooms with UV lamps installed, fewer kids came down with the measles. He concluded that the measles virus must have been in the air. Randall was struck by this. She knew that measles didn’t get recognized as an airborne disease until decades later. What had happened?

Part of medical rhetoric is understanding why certain ideas take hold and others don’t. So as spring turned to summer, Randall started to investigate how Wells’ contemporaries perceived him. That’s how she found the writings of Alexander Langmuir, the influential chief epidemiologist of the newly established CDC. Like his peers, Langmuir had been brought up in the Gospel of Personal Cleanliness, an obsession that made handwashing the bedrock of US public health policy. He seemed to view Wells’ ideas about airborne transmission as retrograde, seeing in them a slide back toward an ancient, irrational terror of bad air—the “miasma theory” that had prevailed for centuries. Langmuir dismissed them as little more than “interesting theoretical points.”

But at the same time, Langmuir was growing increasingly preoccupied by the threat of biological warfare. He worried about enemies carpeting US cities in airborne pathogens. In March 1951, just months after the start of the Korean War, Langmuir published a report in which he simultaneously disparaged Wells’ belief in airborne infection and credited his work as being foundational to understanding the physics of airborne infection.

How curious, Randall thought. She kept reading.

In the report, Langmuir cited a few studies from the 1940s looking at the health hazards of working in mines and factories, which showed the mucus of the nose and throat to be exceptionally good at filtering out particles bigger than 5 microns. The smaller ones, however, could slip deep into the lungs and cause irreversible damage. If someone wanted to turn a rare and nasty pathogen into a potent agent of mass infection, Langmuir wrote, the thing to do would be to formulate it into a liquid that could be aerosolized into particles smaller than 5 microns, small enough to bypass the body’s main defenses. Curious indeed. Randall made a note.

When she returned to Wells’ book a few days later, she noticed he too had written about those industrial hygiene studies. They had inspired Wells to investigate what role particle size played in the likelihood of natural respiratory infections. He designed a study using tuberculosis-causing bacteria. The bug was hardy and could be aerosolized, and if it landed in the lungs, it grew into a small lesion. He exposed rabbits to similar doses of the bacteria, pumped into their chambers either as a fine (smaller than 5 microns) or coarse (bigger than 5 microns) mist. The animals that got the fine treatment fell ill, and upon autopsy it was clear their lungs bulged with lesions. The bunnies that received the coarse blast appeared no worse for the wear.

For days, Randall worked like this—going back and forth between Wells and Langmuir, moving forward and backward in time. As she got into Langmuir’s later writings, she observed a shift in his tone. In articles he wrote up until the 1980s, toward the end of his career, he admitted he had been wrong about airborne infection. It was possible.

A big part of what changed Langmuir’s mind was one of Wells’ final studies. Working at a VA hospital in Baltimore, Wells and his collaborators had pumped exhaust air from a tuberculosis ward into the cages of about 150 guinea pigs on the building’s top floor. Month after month, a few guinea pigs came down with tuberculosis. Still, public health authorities were skeptical. They complained that the experiment lacked controls. So Wells’ team added another 150 animals, but this time they included UV lights to kill any germs in the air. Those guinea pigs stayed healthy. That was it, the first incontrovertible evidence that a human disease—tuberculosis—could be airborne, and not even the public health big hats could ignore it.  

The groundbreaking results were published in 1962. Wells died in September of the following year. A month later, Langmuir mentioned the late engineer in a speech to public health workers. It was Wells, he said, that they had to thank for illuminating their inadequate response to a growing epidemic of tuberculosis. He emphasized that the problematic particles—the ones they had to worry about—were smaller than 5 microns.

Inside Randall’s head, something snapped into place. She shot forward in time, to that first tuberculosis guidance document where she had started her investigation. She had learned from it that tuberculosis is a curious critter; it can only invade a subset of human cells in the deepest reaches of the lungs. Most bugs are more promiscuous. They can embed in particles of any size and infect cells all along the respiratory tract.

What must have happened, she thought, was that after Wells died, scientists inside the CDC conflated his observations. They plucked the size of the particle that transmits tuberculosis out of context, making 5 microns stand in for a general definition of airborne spread. Wells’ 100-micron threshold got left behind. “You can see that the idea of what is respirable, what stays airborne, and what is infectious are all being flattened into this 5-micron phenomenon,” Randall says. Over time, through blind repetition, the error sank deeper into the medical canon. The CDC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

In June, she Zoomed into a meeting with the rest of the team to share what she had found. Marr almost couldn’t believe someone had cracked it. “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is where the 5 microns came from?!’” After all these years, she finally had an answer. But getting to the bottom of the 5-micron myth was only the first step. Dislodging it from decades of public health doctrine would mean convincing two of the world’s most powerful health authorities not only that they were wrong but that the error was incredibly—and urgently—consequential.

While Randall was digging through the past, her collaborators were planning a campaign. In July, Marr and Jimenez went public, signing their names to an open letter addressed to public health authorities, including the WHO. Along with 237 other scientists and physicians, they warned that without stronger recommendations for masking and ventilation, airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2 would undermine even the most vigorous testing, tracing, and social distancing efforts.

The news made headlines. And it provoked a strong backlash. Prominent public health personalities rushed to defend the WHO. Twitter fights ensued. Saskia Popescu, an infection-prevention epidemiologist who is now a biodefense professor at George Mason University, was willing to buy the idea that people were getting Covid by breathing in aerosols, but only at close range. That’s not airborne in the way public health people use the word. “It’s a very weighted term that changes how we approach things,” she says. “It’s not something you can toss around haphazardly.”

Days later, the WHO released an updated scientific brief, acknowledging that aerosols couldn’t be ruled out, especially in poorly ventilated places. But it stuck to the 3- to 6-foot rule, advising people to wear masks indoors only if they couldn’t keep that distance. Jimenez was incensed. “It is misinformation, and it is making it difficult for ppl to protect themselves,” he tweeted about the update. “E.g. 50+ reports of schools, offices forbidding portable HEPA units because of @CDCgov and @WHO downplaying aerosols.”

While Jimenez and others sparred on social media, Marr worked behind the scenes to raise awareness of the misunderstandings around aerosols. She started talking to Kimberly Prather, an atmospheric chemist at UC San Diego, who had the ear of prominent public health leaders within the CDC and on the White House Covid Task Force. In July, the two women sent slides to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. One of them showed the trajectory of a 5-micron particle released from the height of the average person’s mouth. It went farther than 6 feet—hundreds of feet farther. A few weeks later, speaking to an audience at Harvard Medical School, Fauci admitted that the 5-micron distinction was wrong—and had been for years. “Bottom line is, there is much more aerosol than we thought,” he said. (Fauci declined to be interviewed for this story.)

Still, the droplet dogma reigned. In early October, Marr and a group of scientists and doctors published a letter in Science urging everyone to get on the same page about how infectious particles move, starting with ditching the 5-micron threshold. Only then could they provide clear and effective advice to the public. That same day, the CDC updated its guidance to acknowledge that SARS-CoV-2 can spread through long-lingering aerosols. But it didn’t emphasize them.

 

That winter, the WHO also began to talk more publicly about aerosols. On December 1, the organization finally recommended that everyone always wear a mask indoors wherever Covid-19 is spreading. In an interview, the WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove said that the change reflects the organization’s commitment to evolving its guidance when the scientific evidence compels a change. She maintains that the WHO has paid attention to airborne transmission from the beginning—first in hospitals, then at places such as bars and restaurants. “The reason we’re promoting ventilation is that this virus can be airborne,” Van Kerkhove says. But because that term has a specific meaning in the medical community, she admits to avoiding it—and emphasizing instead the types of settings that pose the biggest risks. Does she think that decision has harmed the public health response, or cost lives? No, she says. “People know what they need to do to protect themselves.”

Yet she admits it may be time to rethink the old droplet-airborne dichotomy. According to Van Kerkhove, the WHO plans to formally review its definitions for describing disease transmission in 2021. 

 

Yuguo Li, an indoor-air researcher, set out to show that most respiratory diseases spread through aerosols.

Photograph: Yufan Lu

For Yuguo Li, whose work had so inspired Marr, these moves have given him a sliver of hope. “Tragedy always teaches us something,” he says. The lesson he thinks people are finally starting to learn is that airborne transmission is both more complicated and less scary than once believed. SARS-CoV-2, like many respiratory diseases, is airborne, but not wildly so. It isn’t like measles, which is so contagious it infects 90 percent of susceptible people exposed to someone with the virus. And the evidence hasn’t shown that the coronavirus often infects people over long distances. Or in well-ventilated spaces. The virus spreads most effectively in the immediate vicinity of a contagious person, which is to say that most of the time it looks an awful lot like a textbook droplet-based pathogen. 

For most respiratory diseases, not knowing which route caused an infection has not been catastrophic. But the cost has not been zero. Influenza infects millions each year, killing between 300,000 and 650,000 globally. And epidemiologists are predicting the next few years will bring particularly deadly flu seasons. Li hopes that acknowledging this history—and how it hindered an effective global response to Covid-19—will allow good ventilation to emerge as a central pillar of public health policy, a development that would not just hasten the end of this pandemic but beat back future ones

To get a glimpse into that future, you need only peek into the classrooms where Li teaches or the Crossfit gym where Marr jumps boxes and slams medicine balls. In the earliest days of the pandemic, Li convinced the administrators at the University of Hong Kong to spend most of its Covid-19 budget on upgrading the ventilation in buildings and buses rather than on things such as mass Covid testing of students. Marr reviewed blueprints and HVAC schematics with the owner of her gym, calculating the ventilation rates and consulting on a redesign that moved workout stations outside and near doors that were kept permanently open. To date, no one has caught Covid at the gym. Li’s university, a school of 30,000 students, has recorded a total of 23 Covid-19 cases. Of course Marr’s gym is small, and the university benefited from the fact that Asian countries, scarred by the 2003 SARS epidemic, were quick to recognize aerosol transmission. But Marr's and Li’s swift actions could well have improved their odds. Ultimately, that’s what public health guidelines do: They tilt people and places closer to safety.

On Friday, April 30, the WHO quietly updated a page on its website. In a section on how the coronavirus gets transmitted, the text now states that the virus can spread via aerosols as well as larger droplets. As Zeynep Tufekci noted in The New York Times, perhaps the biggest news of the pandemic passed with no news conference, no big declaration. If you weren’t paying attention, it was easy to miss.

But Marr was paying attention. She couldn’t help but note the timing. She, Li, and two other aerosol scientists had just published an editorial in The BMJ, a top medical journal, entitled “Covid-19 Has Redefined Airborne Transmission.” For once, she hadn’t had to beg; the journal’s editors came to her. And her team had finally posted their paper on the origins of the 5-micron error to a public preprint server. 

In early May, the CDC made similar changes to its Covid-19 guidance, now placing the inhalation of aerosols at the top of its list of how the disease spreads. Again though, no news conference, no press release. But Marr, of course, noticed. That evening, she got in her car to pick up her daughter from gymnastics. She was alone with her thoughts for the first time all day. As she waited at a red light, she suddenly burst into tears. Not sobbing, but unable to stop the hot stream of tears pouring down her face. Tears of exhaustion, and relief, but also triumph. Finally, she thought, they’re getting it right, because of what we’ve done.

The light turned. She wiped the tears away. Someday it would all sink in, but not today. Now, there were kids to pick up and dinner to eat. Something approaching normal life awaited.