If you remember the 1980s, you might recall the early years of the AIDS epidemic. While it was clear fairly early on that the disease particularly targeted gay men and IV drug users (leading to the overnight extinction of what had been a fairly thriving “bathhouse” scene in Minneapolis), government health authorities kept hammering on the line that “anyone could catch it” and “nobody was immune”.
Which was, literally, epidemiologically the truth. Cases of children and suburban housewives coming down with AIDS got wide play in the media, to prove the point.
But eventually the world figured out AIDS was a blood-borne pathogen, spread by behaviors that transferred contaminated blood between people; sharing needles, inadvertent exposure to infected peoples’ blood, and various intimate practices that had a tendency to tear skin.
And so people learned. ER staff masked and goggled and gloved up. Condoms became mainstream. Cities gave out free needles – aggravating to law-and-order types, but it did help slash the infection rate.
Unsaid but unmistakeable? While anyone could get it, the odds moved greatly, almost completely, in one’s favor with a few minor behavioral and prophylactic practices.
So I was in North Dakota over the weekend, taking care of some family business.Here’s a county by county breakdown of the Covid situation in North Dakota as of this past Friday.as of this past Thursday.
Big Left tells us, in a tone usually reserved for devotional prayers and aspirational mantras, that Red America is going to get it. Covid is going to ravage the square states, they say, like a revival preacher winding stems on the Old Testament lesson. “We’re all in this together”, after all.
So let’s take a look at North Dakota’s numbers:
Of the states 74 total Covid deaths as of last Thursday, 62 of them were in Cass County – which is Fargo. Four more were in Grand Forks County.
And, significantly, the counties containing North Dakota’s four Indian reservations – which, conventional wisdom here in the Twin Cities tells us, are the most vulnerable populations in the entire state outside of nursing homes – account for a grand total of six cases, and no deaths.
It’s not lack of testing, in this reddest of states; as of last week, North Dakota has the third highest test per million rate in the country, triple that in Minnesota.
Maybe it’s time to just cut the crap and admit that Covid – and most diseases that spread via aerosol transmission – are particularly transmissible by people breathing the same air, jammed into close quarters for extended times?
Nursing homes, of course – but also bars and restaurants, mass transit, open-plan offices, and other artifacts of high-density urban life?
That’d scotch the attractiveness of any “high density” social investments (the ones that aren’t already plummeting in the wake of this month’s rioting), of course…
…which would jeopardize the gravy train for a lot of transit consultants, urban nonprofiteers, insect farmers, public union employees and other big-state hangers-on.