I wrote about the Texas mask mystery


When Gov. Abbott lifted the state’s mandate, liberals predicted disaster. Disaster never came. What does that really tell us?
Explanation 1: Lifting mandates did very little, because masks do very little.

This is the interpretation that conservatives are most excited about, but I'm persuaded by the evidence that masks do important work to block an aerosolized virus.
Explanation 2: Lifting mandates did very little, because weather effects and vaccines were already kneecapping the virus in Texas.

I think this one more, but I think the Texas mask mystery is telling us something a bit more profound about public behavior ...
Explanation 3: Lifting mask mandates in Texas didn’t matter because *the policy change didn't actually change most people's behavior.*

Pro-maskers (esp. in urban aeas) kept their masks on. Anti-maskers kept their masks in the trash.

Gov. Abbott shouted into a void.
This is my big takeaway from the Texas mask mystery:

Across the country, people’s pandemic behavior appears to be disconnected from local policy, which complicates any effort to know which COVID-19 policies actually "work."
You might think that mask mandates, lockdowns, and CDC guidance determine people's pandemic behavior.

But the strongest evidence points the opposite way:

Americans' personal risk assessments are relatively impervious to policy shifts.
The pandemic began as a vast experiment in public health policy.

But it's become a vast experiment in ~individual~ health policy. In the absence of clear national guidance, we've all become our own COVID sleuths; every household its own private CDC.


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More from @DKThomp

17 May
Weeks ago, Gov. Abbott made Texas the first state to abolish its mask mandate and lift capacity constraints for all businesses.

So, what changed?

Nothing. There was ~no effect on COVID cases, employment, mobility, or retail foot traffic, in either liberal or conservative areas.
Some possible interpretations:

1) Individual behavior is more important than state mandates: TX policy change didnt get pro-mask ppl to ditch their mask, and anti-maskers had already ditched theirs

2) Warm weather (& luck) made it less consequential to abolish mask mandates
3) A social influence theory: Liberals were waiting on Fauci/CDC/NYT for permission to de-mask, while conservatives had long ago ditched theirs. Abbott took his cues from the latter, but that meant his edict responded to conservative behavior rather than guide liberal behavior.
Read 4 tweets
14 May
The CDC went from recommending outdoor masking (way too precautious!) to triggering a cascade of indoor unmasking (seems a little early!) in like 17 days without any material change in the underlying science.
I don’t want to be “whatever the CDC says, I’m against” guy. But let’s just agree there is empirically no internal consistency to these positions, it’s just lurching from hyper-neuroticism to YOLO. This might as well be public health guidance by magic eight ball.
The right way to nudge the vax hesitant is to tell people the truth—the vaccines work very well—and let states offer benefits.

It's not to swing wildly toward unmasked indoor spaces in the hopes that it serves as a bankshot to persuade the skeptical.

Read 5 tweets
11 May
I wrote about America's troubling vaccine slowdown


Daily vaccinations peaked the week the FDA paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They're down 40% since. Coincidence?
1. It's the J&J pause—period.

Average daily shots peaked *the very same week* as the FDA announcement on Johnson & Johnson. What's more, daily doses plunged for every age group among non-senior adults, at the same time.
But wait...

Since mid-April, daily vaccinations are down ~40%. The highest-quality surveys don't show any increase in vaccine hesitancy that would explain more that a fraction of that. Something else is going on.
Read 6 tweets
10 May
In the last 20 years, I've gone from being completely obsessed with baseball, to not watching until the postseason, to basically never watching but loving old stats, to yawning from afar as the game disappears into a cloud of strikeouts punctuated by solo home runs.
A theory.

Few years ago, I wrote The Shazam Effect about how the big data revolution in music was leading to more repetitive music and radio playlists


As the industry learned about ppl's tastes, they realized ppl just want the same thing over and over.
What does the Shazam Effect have to do with baseball?

Well, when a handful of cultural producers get "smart" about what works in their industry, the formula gets shared widely, and as strategies homogenize, the entertainment product becomes more boring.
Read 6 tweets
8 May
On overcoming vaccine hesitancy, I've come around to the position of "just pay them"
Will vaxbucks fix all of the vax-hesitancy problems? No.

Will millions of people still refuse the shots? Yes.

Is it sort of moral hazardish to means-test vaxbucks for the no-vax crowd? Kinda.

Will some ppl be *even more sure* that vaccines are a govt conspiracy? Yes.

Even so!
Most plans to overcome vaccine hesitancy cost money, either literally, or in the form of time spent with patients.

If we're going to spend scarce resources on the problem, maybe we should spend the least scarce resource—federal outlays—and give it directly to people.
Read 4 tweets
3 May
Tens of millions of Americans—including 60 percent of young Republicans—say they'll refuse the COVID vaccine.

I spoke to 11 of them. I asked them where their views came from and what might change their minds.

Here's what they told me:

Four themes emerged from our conversations:

1. The "no-vaxxers" never thought the pandemic was a serious threat to them, and they resent the idea that they need a pharmaceutical intervention to get back to a normal life that they never wanted to stop living.
2. Many people I spoke to said they had already tested positive for COVID and felt confident in their natural immunity.

(Since this group took fewer precautions last year, it would make sense that a higher-than-avg share of them would have antibodies.)
Read 10 tweets

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