Don’t You Be My “Neighbor”

Recently, a co-worker suggested that I look into using the Nextdoor app to try and generate some potential leads for my part-time job.  My company already drops paid ads on the platform so it was felt that anything I might add would appear seamless and enhance the chances of it being influential.  Not that I needed yet another social media platform, but I’m curious and I admit I had never even downloaded it.  What I learned was that I was particularly late to this party.  Wikipedia explains how this one came to prominence:

Nextdoor Holdings, Inc. is an American company that operates a hyperlocal social networking service for neighborhoods. The company was founded in 2008 and is based in San Francisco, California. Nextdoor launched in the United States in October 2011,[3] and is available in 11 countries as of May 2023.  Users of Nextdoor are required to submit their real names and addresses to the website.[5] However, they do not verify the accuracy of submitted names and addresses.  Typical platform uses include neighbors reporting on news and events in their “neighborhood” and members asking each other for local service-provider recommendations.[25] 

For my business purposes, since its definition of a “neighborhood” is somewhat arbitrary, and as it turns out, an awful lot of active users in mine apparently were nowhere near my actual residence, it wasn’t very helpful.  I continued to get alerts, occasionally drawn by what was attracting attention from its users since I’m ever seeking angles for this space.  When the Kitson’s “discussion” broke, my phone was literally blowing up.

Apparently a regular user was quite upset by the indignity she recently encountered while attempting to shop at an upscale Beverly Hills store called Kitson’s.  The person had apparently missed (as I confess I did) all the hubbub that arose in the summer of 2022 when local media gave substantial coverage to it.  Some of it was reasonably balanced, as was the report from NBC4’s Annette Arreola:

If you want to shop at one popular Beverly Hills boutique, you’ll have to forgo your COVID mask: Kitson LA is banning face masks over fears of robbery and violence.

The owner of Kitson, Fraser Ross, says that he’s made the decision for the safety of store employees, and claims a disturbing trend in that part of Beverly Hills prompted the change.

In July, a smash-and-grab burglary took place at the Chanel store around the corner from Robertson Boulevard, where Kitson is located. Ross says that as a result of the recent uptick in crime, customers will not be allowed to wear a mask when entering his shop.  They claim that individuals have used the face masks to avoid being identified in various situations, including shoplifting, verbal harrassment, and physical assault toward the staff.

The user had apparently only recently come face-to-face (well, face-to-face diaper) with this, and took to Nextdoor to express their resentment and anger, claiming that as an immunocompromised person this was somehow some sort of violation.  Dozens of “neighbors” piled on with expressions of sympathy and suggestions on how this might be able to be elevated to a civil suit.

It would appear these “neighbors” more than likely got their version of this story from how it was reported in the Left Angeles TIMES by Salvador Hernandez.  Please note the tonal differences between this and the NBC4 version:

Fraser Ross, owner of the once-white-hot boutique chain Kitson, is not shy about two things: dropping the names of celebrities who have shopped at his stores and expressing his dislike for the restrictions politicians put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an interview Monday, Ross was interrupted while name-checking a Kardashian, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and taking a dig at California Gov. Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti for implementing pandemic “rules for thee, not for me.”

“There’s a customer coming in with a mask,” he said, “and I need to tell them they can’t come in with one.”

The 58-year-old owner, who admits that he uses political social media posts and store displays to stir controversy and publicity, said the mask ban is different. The move, he insisted, was prompted by employees who are frustrated and fearful of thieves with covered faces targeting the store and others in the neighborhood. The ban applies only to the flagship store on Robertson, located just two blocks from Beverly Hills. The shop is one of five Kitson outlets, but Ross described it as “the big store where all the valuables are.”

“The masks have nothing to do with politics; it’s to protect the assets,” Ross said. “I’m protecting my employees and our assets.”

That’s not to say Ross isn’t proud of the success he’s had with his divisive storefront displays, some of which have gone viral, bringing much-desired attention to his brand — though perhaps not as much as in the early aughts, when Kitson was a must-go for the shopping sprees of the famous, almost famous and hangers-on.

And as was also widely reported at the time, and is still the case, customers who believed they needed to wear a mask were welcome to schedule a private appointment during off hours.  Anyone with a mindset to spend the kind of markup that a store like Kitson’s imposes for its kitchy inventory would likely welcome the chance to have greater attention and less competition from other eager shoppers, no?   Not in the case of our frustrated Nextdoor user.
Amidst all of this hand-wringing, I began to notice a voice of reason attempting to impart something beyond blind encouragement.  The contrary voice cited numerous examples of specific knowledge they apparently had on the topic.  A debate began to rage that included links to what many considered to be definitive authorities on the subject.  Including plenty of links to “definitive” recaps of research that, among other things, confessed that out of 75 studies conducted on the efficacy of masks against the spread of COVID-19, all but four were unable to yield results that were anything more than “observational”.  In other words, simpletons, covering your mouth HAS to have a material impact.
Except what I learned from this person after making private contact is that they had more than a few qualifications to back up their views. Among them are leadership positions with technology companies, CEO status with startups focusing on this areas and a published author to boot.
In other words, simpletons, way more auspiced than me and, more than likely, you.
As he pointed out in our private exchange:
Most of these Covid deaths are “died with a positive test in the last 90 days” and they never mention that they are using 40 cycle PCR when the standard is usually 18 to 20 cycles.  It picks up levels way too small to become an infection or RNA fragments left over from a previous infection.  “Died from Covid” is zero and anyone with any common sense remembers getting Omicron when it was nothing.  Its even milder now. 
This person is also the parent of a child on the spectrum.  The child was beginning to make significant strides in socialization when in-person learning was shut down and continued to persist even as vaccinations rolled out and the realities of minimal incidence involving children were documented, mostly because of an exceptionally overreactive and angst-ridden teachers’ union.  The impact on this person’s family is as ongoing and significant as anyone who is a purported sufferer of “long COVID”.  And, I dare say, waaay more so that an irate high-end shopper out of touch with current trends.
I also learned the name this person used on Nextdoor was indeed a pseudonym because apparently they have offered their insights previously and apparently drew enough ire from “neighbors” who threatened to out them to their employer.   And what I learned from a little research of my own is that Nextdoor apparently has its oars in these choppy waters via some alliances of their own.  Again per Wikipedia:
Nextdoor partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and American Red Cross to help distribute information related to COVID-19 to local neighborhoods.[51] Nextdoor also partnered with Walmart to allow users at risk of COVID-19 complications to request shopping assistance during the pandemic.[52] Walmart locations and store hours were placed on a “Help Map” where users could post to offer help to others in their neighborhoods.[53] Nextdoor reported an 80% increase in user engagement during March 2020, especially in areas most seriously affected by the virus.   In November 2021, Nextdoor became a publicly traded company.  
Its recent trending, you ask?:
Revenue Increase US$218 million (2023)
Decrease −US$172 million (2023)
Decrease −US$148 million (2023)
Total assets Decrease US$655 million (2023)
Total equity Decrease US$559 million (2023)

Would you be surprised to learn that this person, even after privately offering up their qualifications to offer their views, was handed a two-week ban from the platform?  And after I foolishly defended their right I was slapped with a two-day “jail” term of my own?

And even as this little brouhaha plays out, the TIMES continues to still take whatever opportunity it can seize upon to continue to offer fuel for these kinds of fires.  This past week, they devoted yet another few thousand words to this dramatic discovery, as reported by Karen Kaplan:  Notice the tonality is much the same that it was in the Hernandez piece:

Immunity from vaccines and past coronavirus infections has helped tame COVID-19 to the point that when researchers compared the mortality rates of hospitalized COVID-19 and seasonal influenza patients during the height of the 2022-23 flu season, they found that the pandemic disease was only 61% more likely to result in death.

Now the same researchers have analyzed data for the the fall and winter of 2023 and 2024. Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, and his colleagues expected to find that the two respiratory diseases had finally equalized.

The VA team examined electronic health records of patients treated in Veterans Affairs hospitals in all 50 states between Oct. 1 and March 27. They zeroed in on patients who were admitted because they had fevers, shortness of breath or other symptoms due to either COVID-19 or influenza. (People who were admitted for another reason, such as a heart attack, and were then found to have a coronavirus infection weren’t included in the analysis.)

The COVID-19 patients were a little older, on average, than the flu patients (73.9 versus 70.2 years old), and they were less likely to be current or former smokers. They were also more likely to have received at least three doses of COVID-19 vaccine and less likely to have shunned the shots altogether.

Yet after Al-Aly and his colleagues accounted for these differences and a host of other factors, they found that 5.7% of the COVID-19 patients died of their disease, compared with 4.2% of the influenza patients.

In other words, the risk of death from COVID-19 was still 35% greater than it was for the flu. The findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

“There is undeniably an impression out there that [COVID-19] is no longer a major threat to human health,” Al-Aly said. “I think it’s largely driven by opinion and an emotional itch to move beyond the pandemic, to put it all behind us. We want to believe that it’s like the flu, and we did — until we saw the data.”

Well, I just saw the data, too.  What I see is that more than 95% of patients 70 years or older didn’t die.  And that a 35% differential was a raw 1.5 percentage point  differential, not necessarily statistically significant.  I used to use tricks like that to make low-rated syndicated TV shows look more successful than they actually were, because anything that compares low bases can produce relative differences that appear to be bigger than they actually are.

But I suppose anything that might offer someone like Patrick Soon-Chiong and his fellow hyphenate support for their campaign is worth throwing out there even if there’s something lost in the details.  Kaplan yet again gave a voice to Dr. Soon-Chiong’s oft-quoted ally in the same piece:

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases specialist at UC San Francisco, said the study results are right in line with what he sees in his hospital.  “COVID continues to make some people in our community very ill and die — even in 2024,” he said. “Although most will not get seriously ill from COVID, for some people it is like 2020 all over again.”

This piece came mere days after yet another lengthy diatribe from our old friend Rong-Gong Lin II that trumpeted this news and, of course, yet another nugget from our specialist:

Two new COVID-19 subvariants, collectively nicknamed FLiRT, are increasingly edging out the winter’s dominant strain ahead of a possible summer uptick in coronavirus infections.

The new FLiRT subvariants, officially known as KP.2 and KP.1.1, are believed to be roughly 20% more transmissible than their parent, JN.1, the winter’s dominant subvariant, said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco.

Yet in continuing to give rise to this topic, even the TIMES is correcting itself.  Kaplan’s piece offered this postscript and, indeed, clarification from the St. Louis camp:

So far, there’s no indication that KP.2 is any more dangerous than JN.1, Al-Aly said.

“Are the hospitals filling up? No,” he said. “Are ER rooms all over the country flooded with respiratory illness? No.” Nor are there worrying changes in the amount of coronavirus detected in wastewater.

“When you look at all these data streams, we’re not seeing ominous signs that KP.2 is something the general public should worry about,” Al-Aly said.

But hey, that’s still two recent links that the moderators at Nextdoor can use to support the worrywarts.

According to my new friend, it’s no surprise that the spikes in Nextdoor’s usage correlated with the rise of the pandemic.  This person has never met any of his debaters and, apparently, many of them still refuse to leave their homes except when absolutely necessary.  Such as trying to shop at Kitson’s.

So I doubt I’m gonna meet anyone else from this platform, and I’m honestly leaning toward deleting it.  My life’s far too complicated and, at times, busy to be bothered with these sorts of hyperlocal “crises”.

But if I do, I’ll be sure to ask if any of them had, perhaps, recently bought some stock in Nextdoor?

Until next time…

Leave a Comment