Too soon?

Vaccines slow virus transmission.
Vaccines slow virus transmission.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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Hi Quartz readers,

Last month a team of Canadian researchers unwittingly poured gasoline on the dumpster fire of anti-vax propaganda. The problem? A major statistical error in a non-peer-reviewed study.

In a Sept. 16 paper, scientists from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute claimed that the incidence of heart inflammation in patients as a side effect of Moderna and Pfizer vaccination was 1 in 1,000. In reality, that number was closer to 1 in 25,000. The faulty figure was apparently the result of rushed work: The study’s authors found 32 cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of heart’s outer lining) over two months, which they said occurred among 32,000 administered vaccine doses. In fact, Ottawa had provided over 800,000 doses in that period.

The mishap highlights the dangers of sharing scientific studies that have not been peer-reviewed—known as “preprints”—especially during the pandemic. Proponents of sharing preprints on open-access websites say it allows scientists to compare knowledge quickly during a crisis. But that openness can also enable the spread of incomplete or inaccurate information.

The Ottawa Heart Institute study didn’t attract mainstream press coverage, but that didn’t stop it from going viral. The paper’s false statistic is still being shared by anti-vaxxers and dubious influencers, and has been tweeted more than 15,000 times. Now, anyone who encounters the 1 in 1,000 number online will also need to stumble into articles about the study’s correction. —Lila MacLellan

It’s a drag

“Stagflation is as an old ghost rising from the past, born out of the fears of an older generation and the interest of a new one that has adopted cryptocurrencies for a fair lady.” —Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management

Rising energy prices and supply-chain gridlock have resurrected conversations about stagflation, a period when sputtering economic growth and joblessness coincide with rising inflation. The key question is whether the current jump in prices is fleeting—a catch-up from pandemic shutdowns, bolstered by public spending and central bank stimulus—or something stickier.

Google searches for the term stagflation have spiked amid signs of a global energy crunch.

Talking points

💊  Merck’s Covid pill will be lucrative. The company expects to produce 10 million courses of molnupiravir by 2022.

😷  Long Covid is (emotional) whiplash. A study found that many patients seem to recover, only to experience new symptoms weeks later.

💉  Vaccinated Singapore is seeing cases climb. The country is focused on vaccinations and severe cases over new infections.

💸  US rental assistance is slow going. As of September, states and cities had distributed  $7.7 billion, just 16% of the overall pot.

✈️  A shipping line started its own airline. Disarray in maritime supply chains has created a spike in demand for cargo flights.

😬  Just 15 African countries are at least 10% vaccinated. Almost 90% of high income-countries have met the same target.

🏀  Unvaxxed NBA players will give up game time. San Francisco and New York’s vaccine mandates could impact at least three teams.

India’s mask avengers

Picture this. It’s a hot afternoon, and you’re walking outdoors with a mandatory face mask, sweat trickling into your eyes. You find a brief respite in an indoor cafe with sealed windows, where you are allowed to drop your mask for a cool drink and a blast of air conditioning.

Considering what we know about Covid-19—indoor spaces are riskier than outdoor ones—this defies the logic of wearing masks. But it is precisely how things are playing out in Indian cities, where volunteers can assess hefty fines for people violating the country’s 18-month-old mask mandate.

A screenshot of a tweet complaining about volunteer civil defense workers fining people for not wearing masks while alone in their cars.

Mandate management

Workplace vaccine mandates are less divisive than their critics suggest, but companies can be forgiven for stressing the practicalities. Here are some tips for employers looking to maximize safety and minimize political tension:

  1. Use multiple channels of communication. Share real-world examples of hospitalization and death rates among the unvaccinated.
  2. Acknowledge that change is difficult. Urge employees to remember that most adults have never encountered a vaccination rule in the workplace.
  3. Stay focused on employee health. The key message should emphasize wellbeing, not compliance.
  4. Offer or maintain incentives. It could be a gift card or extra time off—the reward doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective.
  5. Share credible vaccine information. Make sure your trusted sources reflect the diverse population of your staff.

Weekend eating

Remote work is changing US dining habits. As people leave the house less often, weekday restaurant visits are falling (especially on Fridays), while weekend visits climb. The shift is driven mainly by fast-casual restaurants (think: Sweetgreen) and quick-service outlets (think: McDonald’s).

“People who aren’t traveling for business as much as they used to are using…restaurants maybe a little bit more on the weekend, which has been great to see,” says Eugene Lee, CEO of Darden Restaurants, which owns chains like Olive Garden and The Capital Grille. Sunday, once a “throwaway day,” has become a “legitimate sales day in fine dining.”

Dining out climbed dramatically on Saturdays and Sundays, and fell precipitously on Fridays.

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Elsewhere on Quartz

Our best wishes for a healthy day. Get in touch with us at, and live your best Quartz life by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Lila MacLellan, John Detrixhe, Michelle Cheng, and Kira Bindrim.