Notes on Coronavirus – Testing’s Importance Overstated

coronavirus green

by Ron Roizen

Cable news has been decrying the state and national shortages of coronavirus testing capacity.

But I’m not convinced the shortage is as problematic as it’s touted to be.

Why are tests important in the first place?

Testing’s chief purpose is to distinguish the Ps (positives for the disease) from the Ns (negatives).

Distinguishing Ps from Ns makes possible sequestration, thus in theory protecting Ns from infection.

In the case of coronavirus however transmission of the virus most often originates with asymptomatic people.  And people not experiencing symptoms don’t usually seek out medical testing.  Most transmission, in turn, will derive from Ps not tested and not identified as such.    Continue reading

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Coronavirus – Some Historical and Statistical Context

Float - July 4th parade - 1918 - Wallace

by Ron Roizen

As of today, some big numbers are being suggested for the novel coronavirus’s potential death toll in the United States – ranging from 100,000 to 240,000.  These are merely projections.  And yet they lack, when presented by themselves, appropriate historical or statistical context.

Every year roughly 2.8 million people pass away in the U.S.  In a population of 325 million, 2.8M deaths represents a little less than 1 percent of the total population.  In recent years the U.S. death rate has varied between 0.8 and 0.9 percent of total population per year.

If 240,000 “extra” deaths were in fact to result from this new virus, then total deaths would rise to a little over 3M, an increase of 8.6 percent over the “normal” U.S. mortality count. Continue reading

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Another Sample Chapter from “The Rossi Murder”

Mabel-1.2Below, one more sample chapter from my booklength MS, The Rossi Murder, which is nearing completion but still in search of a publisher.  Very soon after his Shoshone County jury acquitted him for the murder of his young wife’s paramour, Clarence Dahlquist, on October 14, 1916, Herman J. Rossi filed for divorce.  Mabel, in response, filed a change of venue motion with the district court, seeking to have the case heard in Kootenai County, where her husband had relatively less influence and fewer business associates and friends.  Rossi contested her motion.  The documentation associated with this battle provided ample material for the writing of this, the book’s 16th, chapter.  Enjoy!



Although newspaper editors near and far doubtless hoped that their divorce would provide yet another salacious and riveting courtroom drama, actual events took a less public course.  The conflict shifted to behind-the-scenes legal wrangling to which the newspapers were largely not privy.  Mabel’s change of venue (COV) request, made to Judge William W. Woods in Shoshone County’s First District Court, argued three main points:  (a) that she was now a resident of Coeur d’Alene, in Kootenai County, and therefore the place where the plaintiff’s action should be brought; (b) that Herman Rossi had grossly misstated his wealth, his indebtedness, property holdings, and the extent of the couple’s community property; and, finally, (c) that Judge Woods himself had heard too many discrediting things said about her at Herman’s murder trial to allow him to avoid bias against her in the divorce proceedings.  Mabel noted, in particular, that Judge Woods had heard her husband’s testimony saying she was chronically intemperate, that she was “a demon” while intoxicated and frequently assaulted her husband, that she committed adultery with Dahlquist, and that she committed numerous other alleged acts of impropriety and improper relations with him.  And although Mabel had “the utmost respect and consideration” for the honorable judge, “both as a man and as a Judge,” she felt that what Woods’ exposure to these allegations would inevitably become “unconsciously and unintentionally prejudiced against her.…”  She surely had a case.  Continue reading

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Some speculations on Wallace’s general disposition toward historical preservation

Note:  I recently had occasion to speculate about the City of Wallace’s general disposition toward historical preservation.  Below, FYI, is a slightly edited, and truncated, version of my thoughts on the matter.  Comments welcome, as always.

Magnuson plaque


Despite the picture of historical charm and integrity it presents to the outside world, Wallace, as a community, has a mixed and ambivalent attitude toward historical preservation and the town’s history more generally.  The binary quality of local sentiment has a number of roots in local history.  For one, the town has long prided itself on its insularity and even its indifference to the outside world.  This “internality,” if I may call it that, undoubtedly stems in part from Wallace’s once remote and isolated location in North Idaho’s mountainous Coeur d’Alene Mining District.  This internality may subtly undergird, in a cultural sense, a more general disinclination toward sprucing-up the town’s historical story or appearance merely for the sake of outsiders and visitors. Continue reading

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Herman J. Rossi’s other Mabel, the one who saved his skin

Note:  The author has, for the past year, been writing a book about Herman J. Rossi, five-time mayor of Wallace, and his notorious murder of his young wife’s lover in June of 1916.  The following was adapted from Ch. XXI of this draft volume.

Rossi and City - 1930.jpg

Herman Rossi and the City of Wallace in syndicated article, 26 Aug. 1930

Miss Mabel Price, who was 15 years younger than her groom, married Herman J. Rossi on March 16, 1906 at St. Thomas Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Herman was, at the time, the sitting mayor of Wallace.  Ten years later, Mabel – while husband Herman was away on a political errand in Boise — engaged in a drunken and heedless encounter with musician Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist at the Rossi home in Wallace.  Herman’s shattering discovery of her adultery upon his return home, on June 30, 1916, led to Rossi’s murder of Dahlquist that same evening at the Samuels Hotel in downtown Wallace.  After a weeklong trial, in October, 1916, Rossi was readily acquitted by a Shoshone County jury.  The trial and its dramatic verdict were frontpage news all over the Northwest.  By the time of Rossi’s own death however — 20 years later, on March 12, 1937 — newspaper tributes said nothing of his 1916 murder trial and instead recounted the more the recent courtroom dramas springing from Rossi’s violations of the National Prohibition Act in 1929, for which he was once again ultimately exonerated.

Rossi in 1929 – by now long divorced from Mabel and happily remarried – was once again Wallace’s sitting mayor.  In that capacity he’d participated in an unorthodox taxation scheme that drew revenue for the city’s treasury from liquor sales, prostitution, and gambling in Wallace.  Nearby Mullan’s city government had developed a similar scheme.  In both towns, such taxation was justified on grounds that large populations of young, male, work-parched miners imposed policing and other expenses that required tax revenue from somewhere.  Since city officials did not pocket the money themselves, this reasoning went, taxing the steady and unabated flow of illicit liquor during Prohibition offered a pragmatic solution and as good an idea as any they could come up with. Continue reading

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I Draw the Line at the U.S. Constitution


Okay. I think I get it. In 2016 a significant portion of the American electorate voted to roll a grenade into the Washington, D.C. establishment. They wanted to destroy the liberal consensus, broadly defined, that has exerted some sort of hegemony in the federal government, and the national consciousness, since (let’s say) the 1960s. They wanted to terminate coastal elitism, turn back the regulatory clock, undo almost everything Obama accomplished, seal the nation’s southern border, overrule the rule of PC, and turn their backs on established expertise, whether scientific or otherwise. And Trump was the man to do it. Fortunately for him, he had an opponent, in Mrs. Clinton, who symbolized many aspects of this kind of elite entitlement, even down to her implicit claim that it was time for a woman in the Oval Office.

Given this framing of the reasons for Trump’s election, it was not surprising that he, in turn, would leave a trail of broken norms behind him once he assumed the presidency. He ignored divesting himself of business interests or revealing his income tax returns. He continued to tweet in an undignified manner – for instance, damning and insulting his political adversaries. He attacked the mainstream press calling anything he didn’t like therein “fake news.” He more or less ignored the emoluments clause, sending even military personnel to his hospitality properties and (gasp!) inviting the G-7 to stay at his Florida resort for their next meeting. And on and on and on it went. He didn’t care. Sometimes he didn’t even seem to know or realize that he was violating longstanding rules or codes. When he released the summary notes of his fateful call with the new Ukrainian president he called it “perfect” and didn’t seem to understand that the “favor” he was requesting represented a violation of American election law. Continue reading

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About That “150” Patch

by Ron Roizen

150 patch

NCAA football’s commemorative “150” patch

When does something “begin,” anyway?

NCAA football is celebrating its 150th anniversary this season, marking the occasion with a “150” patch worn, collarbone-high, on uniform jerseys.[1]  By implication, the patch recalls an inaugural contest and an exemplar of the sport – in this case a contest staged between teams representing Rutgers and Princeton on Saturday, November 6, 1869.  The game began at 3 p.m. at the commons between College Ave. and Sicard St. on the Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick, NJ – now the site of a big gym and a big parking lot.  Yet the game shared very, very little with today’s American football.  Wikipedia’s page for the contest notes that it resembled soccer more than today’s sport.  Even the NCAA’s commemorative page for the game concedes that this contest, and the rematch that followed seven days later at Princeton, “looked nothing like what we see Saturdays these days.”[2]

About 100 supporters gathered around the field on that autumn afternoon.  Each team comprised 25 players.  The game’s spherical ball could not be carried or thrown, only forcefully kicked or “dribbled” forward by foot, soccer-style, or batted by the hand or by other means.  There were vertical goalposts at either end of the field but no crossbars.  The goal of play was to kick the ball through the goalposts, thus scoring a single point.  The first team to accumulate six points won.  Following a kickoff, the team with the ball formed a protective shield around the player footing the ball forward.  Defensive players tried to penetrate the shield and, on regaining the ball, formed their own defensive shield.  A score initiated a new “game” or “inning,” with a new kickoff.  Continue reading

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