The Plague is Coming, Part 2

The first case of coronavirus is in New Jersey, just two towns away from my 80-year old parents and three towns away from my kid’s high school. We’re about twenty minutes away.

Steve’s trip to Toronto next month was cancelled. My education conference in Florida in May hasn’t been cancelled yet, but I’m waiting for that.

Steve said that this virus is accelerating the movement that was already underway to have more workers work remotely and to have fewer workers attend conferences and traveling to other offices world wide. It will save the company a lot of money, if workers aren’t taking up expensive real estate in Manhattan.

It will save us a lot of money, if he’s here permanently. The parking space near the train station alone costs us $1,200 per year. He won’t miss his 2-1/2 hour daily commute. If there’s a silver lining on this whole mess, maybe that’s it.

We’re starting to think about where in the house Steve will work. Right now, we share an office, but that will get old really fast, if he’s here full time. Maybe we’ll put Jonah in Ian’s room, and turn Jonah’s bedroom into Steve’s office. Not sure yet.

And then what happens if Ian’s school shuts down? Will he have online classes here, too? Will Jonah’s trip in May to Guatemala through his college be cancelled? Will his college shut down?

73 thoughts on “The Plague is Coming, Part 2

  1. Good questions–I found working from home very difficult, even with a dedicated space and reliable internet access–too many distractions and non-work-related time sucks. You seem to balance the home-work continuum much better than I ever did.

    This NYTimes article told me some stuff I didn’t know about how the coronavirus spreads and how relatively simple it is to reduce the likelihood of being infected. Probably good advice for flu, too, which is currently much more likely to lay us low than Covid-19–for now, anyway.

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  2. Governor Baker has asked all schools in the state to cancel international trips. I would certainly not make any travel arrangements that can’t be refunded. And I would buy travel insurance, taking care to establish that the insurance would cover cancellation due to coronavirus effects.

    Of course, we’re on the “very cautious” side of the spectrum. We’re not going to movie theaters, for example. On the other hand, we’re shopping and going to meetings.

    This is disastrous for the travel/tourism industry.

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      1. Asset prices are greatly up, wages are mostly not. I’m assuming there’s a bubble, but if there’s one thing the last recession taught, it’s that bubbles can last a long time.

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  3. Our public schools have cancelled all international trips; one private school cancelled its much touted service learning trips for the rest of year and the summer (a big deal); several private schools are closed and attempting online instruction. Facebook Seattle & Microsoft employees are working from home.

    The county asked all employers who could to let their employees work from home and is following through on that themselves. They asked people not to attend gatherings of more than 10 people. They asked people over 60 and those with health concerns and pregnant women to stay home. But, all of these guidelines are voluntary.

    Seattle Public Schools say they will close individual schools if a staff member or student in an individual school tests + for the virus. But, in Western Washington, we are not testing — the capacity at this moment seems to be 100/tests per day, and the demand is wide spread. So, SPS is making decisions based on an unavailable test.

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  4. A local teen, Avi Schiffman, has developed a site updating COVID counts around the world.

    https://ncov2019.live/data

    Quick and simple to read (seems like a lot of data science/tech people are enjoying this particular challenge).

    Note that Schiffman’s site has the US now as the 5th largest number of deaths (after China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy). We’re 8th on the totals, but, as I’ve said, we aren’t testing for presence of the virus.

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  5. So, before I buy a ticket I should probably check with my mom’s nursing home to be sure they allow visits from travelers.

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    1. Yes. There are practical effects now. The North Carolina case is someone who visited the nursing home in Kirkland — and then traveled home. They aren’t allowing visitors there now, even local visitors.

      I expect to see effects at colleges, too. I think we are at the stage where we will need to manage the pandemic, meaning that there will be widespread infection, but that we try to spread it out so that the cases that require medical attention don’t overload the system. That will have economic consequences, in travel, tourism, restaurants, farming for export. . . .

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    2. MH said, “So, before I buy a ticket I should probably check with my mom’s nursing home to be sure they allow visits from travelers.”

      We normally buy our summer air tickets to WA about now, but are delaying the purchase for at least another month. The relatives we’d be seeing are mostly 70ish-95ish, so I want to be cautious. At least two relatives that we’d want to see are medically fragile.

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  6. We got a message from our provost asking us to create “Academic Continuity Plans” for the next few months, using our LMS (Blackboard) more effectively. I foresee lots and lots of students claiming coronavirus-related absences. 😦

    I worry about E catching it. His respiratory system isn’t the strongest thanks to years of being asthma-prone. 😦

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  7. On the lack of testing — my concern level went up with the first case of “community transmission” in California, and then the second, in Washington because that means that the virus is present in the community. I’m now even more concerned because the Washington case was detected incidentally: the case is a teenager, who had been enrolled in the Seattle Flu Study (which enrolls people and sequences their flu viruses). The teen didn’t have any of the known flu viruses, so the study tested him, in house, for COVID-19, which came up positive. Then, the case was confirmed. So, if a teen with flu is testing positive, the likelihood is high that the virus is just present in our community and that other teens also have it (and are actively not being tested).

    That’s not cause for panic, because most of the people with significant illness are older and have underlying medical issues (though some of those issues are common), but it means that we can’t stick our fingers in our ears and hum, certainly not here.

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    1. bj said, “That’s not cause for panic, because most of the people with significant illness are older and have underlying medical issues (though some of those issues are common), but it means that we can’t stick our fingers in our ears and hum, certainly not here.”

      And the good/bad news may be that WA isn’t especially bad (at least compared to the rest of the West Coast)–it may just be that WA researchers have been especially active and vigilant.

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    2. I’ll make the prediction that we are going to see a huge increase in identified cases if we start testing people with flu symptoms. Note that in the beginning, we were only testing people with flu symptoms if they had a connection to Wuhan (and then to Italy and Iran and South Korea and other areas of China). The next question is how many people will require medical care, how many will die, and how much disruption of the economy will be required to contain the demand on medical care & the deaths.

      I don’t think Washington is being especially vigilant in detecting cases because of constraints on how cases are identified and the limits to official confirmation. The Seattle Flu Study was able to detect the case because they had a protocol in place that allowed them to test for the novel virus. Otherwise, they would not have been permitted to test. I believe similar levels of cases are going to be present in every major city.

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    1. I’m actually making a food list right now. There’s another local case, so the shit is going go down soon. They’re running out of toilet paper already. I’m at a SAT prep place with Ian now. After a quick dinner, I’m going to do a massive food shop. Supermarkets are going to be very germ infested and there be problems with food shipments, if truckers get sick,

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  8. That’s interesting. I haven’t seen signs of people buying lots of food yet around this area. Aldi has moved toilet paper to the front of the store, under the cashiers’ eyes. BJs Club had stacks of toilet paper and cleaning supplies at the front of the store, up with the Easter supplies.

    Our oldest kids’ roommates were laughing when she bought food and supplies 2 weeks ago. But that same stuff is getting harder to get in their city this week.
    It probably comes down to the size of the stores, and how easy it is for the stores to resupply the shelves.

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  9. I don’t think this episode will lead to any permanent change in the number of people telecommuting or attending conferences virtually. Widespread remote work and communication have been technologically feasible for years now, but have never caught on. People work and communicate more effectively face to face. One of the amusing things is how futurologists 20 years totally miscalculated the effect of technological advance. They thought everyone would work from home and that office space would be in low demand. Instead, it turns out that what everyone mostly does is shop from home, and retail space has been hammered. As ever, no one knows anything.

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    1. Yes, telecommuting never took off. And after the recession, the people who did have those work from home jobs (mostly women) were the first to be fired. But Steve is in lots of meetings right now with senior people and they’re starting to make serious changes. They really like the idea of shrinking the real estate footprint in NYC.

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      1. Working remotely is very common for us because most of the people we work for are in other cities. Working from home is also common. Letting people stay home for work some of the time is a very popular perk. Full-time telecommuting is rare but growing from what I see. Not because of the virus but because it’s a good way to retain established employees. Suburbanite colleagues love it because of the huge time savings.

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      2. My company (a national bank) has a lot of telecommuting folks. Most are unofficial, meaning they pop in 1x or 2x a week and work from home the rest of the time. We are switching to hotel seats which means you reserve a cubicle on line if you want to come in and you get a locker for anything you need to keep at the office.
        It used to be you had to be in the office an average of 14 days/mo to get a permanent space. Now it’s 16. Since all the co workers I actually work with are not in my city I only chat with people in other groups when I go in.
        I’ve never met my boss in person. He’s in a different state.
        Some people have a hard time with this if they are used to a lot of face to face interaction. I had a contractor struggle to adjust. He just couldn’t get connected to a bunch of voices on the phone.

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      3. But, it might still be unfortunately true that the people who work from home will be the first to be fired in constrained circumstances, even if they were encouraged to go there to save real estate.

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      4. Shrinking the NYC footprint long-term could just as well involve offices in Jersey City or Parsippany as telecommuting. Having people work from home for a month or six won’t save the Bank any money; you still have to pay rent even if the space if half-empty.

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    2. I do think that remote work continues to evolve. For one thing, it’s part of the 24 hour on call economy.

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  10. Amazon is pushing coronavirus products at me hard.

    And I haven’t really done any prepper shopping on Amazon!

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  11. Our shelves have been restocked — people post pictures of empty shelves of pasta, rice, toilet paper, and then the next day, it’s in the stores. I don’t know if this will continue to be true, but it has been for the last week.

    alcohol hand sanitizer and masks, on the other hand, are gone.

    Amazon, Facebook, Adobe, Microsoft, King county are all working from home. Some 25K or so students have been sent home from school, and the other schools are prepping for closure.

    But, we are the epicenter.

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  12. On a political note, one of my former students (very conservative, Trump loving) posted on FB about the Coronavirus, stating the media was over-hyping it to hurt Trump. The comments on there were very scary to me. One woman flat out said she doesn’t believe there is such a thing as the Coronavirus. A few said it’s no worse than the flu (maybe not too far off), but many others said it’s no worse than the common cold (definitely way off). They all seemed to agree that washing your hands is a good idea, but lots said they’ll be fine, so they’re not changing their activities, they’d go to work, etc. If ~40% of the population (that’s about the size of the Trump base) aren’t really taking proper precautions, it feels to me that we’re totally f’ed.

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    1. I’m not changing my activities yet and I’m not disputing that the disease is real or dangerous. Granted it’s not a local issue yet, but I can’t even remember stop touching my own face (which is the only thing I have tried). I need to earn a living and the risk to a healthy person my age seems negligible.

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    2. I mean, I was already reasonably good at washing my hands. I’ve had emergency food in the house since Trump was elected. I don’t really go to events if I can avoid it because I find it unpleasant to be in a crowd.

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      1. To be fair, I haven’t really changed much of my behavior either, aside from washing my hands in a lot more circumstances and more intensely. However, I also don’t deny that Coronavirus is real and has the potential to f up a lot of stuff – our economy, our health care system, etc. – if we don’t take proper precautions. I presume you’re in that boat too MH.

        On the one hand, maybe we get lucky, and public health officials manage to contain this. If so, I worry that the Trump base will be all – see told you so, it’s the liberal media hyping this. That could end up leading to even higher levels of misinformation, distrust, etc. On the other hand, if we don’t contain this, maybe the base starts to believe in science again, but we’re screwed because we haven’t contained the Coronavirus. Either one is a crappy outcome.

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    3. Our university’s vp handling emergency planning did the same, oh, it’s the flu and the media is exaggerating. (Fortunately we are planning anyway because not everyone is an idiot.) I pointed out that the Chinese government had shut down a city of 11 million so his beef was with China and not “the media.” I’ve also noticed the people who ta lk about how wonderful and perfect the market is are changing their tune.

      I’m flying today, and brought along clorox wipes and purel. I see a few with masks, but not many.

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      1. That Anonymous 2:33 was me, af.

        A friend’s husband is a big deal in the public health world and posted a message on FB yesterday encouraging his friends in the field to take care of themselves because this is a “marathon” and not a “sprint.” Sounds like it has been an exhausting month. He’s been posting about it since mid-January. Another friend, a doctor in Virginia, posted that she and her staff have locked up the masks because patients were stealing them (and of course pointed out it wasn’t necessary).

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  13. It’s spreading in my county. We have a sizable Asian population, so we thought it would get here that way, but it is being spread through the Jewish community. One guy in Westchester had a kid in a Jewish school here.

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    1. We have both groups in large numbers, but the only local case (unconfirmed) is some guy returning from a cruise.

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      1. Italy seems to be the common thread in this region.

        Oh, and the medical establishment itself (Biogen conference in Boston, Dartmouth-Hitchcock event.)

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    1. bj said, “U Washington is cancelling in person classes for the next few weeks and going online.”

      Wow. I don’t know if anybody mentioned this, but I see that the Seattle Comic-Con convention is being postponed, and Austin’s SXSW is cancelled.

      That’s a relief.

      I finally made it to the grocery store today (TX, medium-sized city). Disinfectant wipes (and some cleaning supplies) looked hit hard, and Purell/hand-sanitizer was completely gone.

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  14. I feel like we’ve seen two different approaches:

    1. La la la, everything is fine! (when the bug is affecting other people far away)

    and

    2. Zombie apocalypse panic mode (when it actually arrives locally)

    It’s like that quote that goes, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” Obviously, coronavirus isn’t really zombie apocalypse, but I feel like there’s been a failure (on the part of a lot of people who ought to know better) to realize that there is substantial middle ground between pooh-poohing it and hysteria.

    The excellent Spotted Toad (@toad_spotted on twitter) describes the following 6 phases of reaction to coronavirus:

    “Stage 1. It’s only in China
    Stage 2. We caught it at the borders
    Stage 3. It’s not spreading here
    Stage 4. It’s fairly mild
    Stage 5. It only kills sick, old people
    Stage 6.”

    One of his readers suggests “Stage 6. There’s no way anyone could have known!” as the final stage.

    There are a lot of different factors leading to the under-reaction. On the one hand, you have conservative people who see it as a media conspiracy to create the environment for Trump to lose the November election. Rush Limbaugh has been fanning those flames. But on the other hand (and often the other side of the aisle), we’ve the people who have been most concerned about anti-Chinese suspicion/racism/etc., as if badthink kills and coronavirus doesn’t. You also have people (and this crosses party lines) in power who are terrified of offending the (very easily offended) Chinese government and/or are terrified of the economic losses possible if we take coronavirus seriously.

    By the way, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to worry about so much of our basic medical supplies and medications being manufactured in China and Europe? This situation has brought it home (to me at least) that there is a case to be made for having stronger domestic manufacturing for this stuff.

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  15. I don’t know if this writer’s math checks out, but she argues that the biggest problem is not fatality rate but our hospitals and supplies being overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/LizSpecht/status/1236095180459003909

    Yet another factor in under-reaction is that we have had a number of false alarms over the last few years, where a scary foreign bug was hyped-up but was ultimately not a big deal.

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  16. Not to be a thread hog, but the overwhelming of healthcare resources seems to be happening already in Northern Italy:

    https://apnews.com/837274f1bab9af1aab12f1b9481b2d62

    “The coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy has so overwhelmed the public health system that officials are taking extraordinary measures to care for the sick, seeking to bring doctors out of retirement and accelerate graduation dates for nursing students.”

    “The region of Lombardy is the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, registering the first positive test of the northern cluster and now counting at least 1,254 of Italy’s 2,036 cases. Alarmingly, 10% of Lombardy’s doctors and nurses cannot work because they tested positive for the virus and are in quarantine, the region’s top health official, Giulio Gallera, said Monday.”

    “Hospitals in hard-hit Lodi and Cremona were so overwhelmed at times last week, with more sick people arriving than could be accepted, that they closed their emergency rooms and new patients were taken elsewhere.”

    “Still, the north’s intensive care sections of hospitals are still able to handle their case loads, the head of the national Civil Protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, told reporters Monday evening. Some 9% of people diagnosed with the COVID-19 need intensive care, Borrelli said.”

    “Regional authorities have asked Lombardy’s hospitals to reduce by 70 percent their planned or elective surgeries, to free up ICU beds for virus patients.”

    “To confront the strains, the civil protection force has erected 283 triage units in tents outside hospitals and other facilities in the hard-hit regions, to provide protected environment for patients to be assessed and treated.”

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  17. I need to earn a living and the risk to a healthy person my age seems negligible.

    The different personal postures about its danger reflect upbringing. From the Black Knight’s “It’s only a scratch,” to great anxiety. There are many people, especially older men, who will never admit publicly that they are afraid of a virus.

    BUT!

    This isn’t so much a killer of people, although it does definitely kill, as a Killer of Hospitals. This logically follows from an r0 of at least more than 2. Think of the old fable of the rice grains. 9% needing intensive care is a good figure, but if 50-70% of our population gets it, that’s a lot of intensive care. We don’t have enough hospitals beds, let alone intensive care beds, to care for the victims of a COVID-19 pandemic. (Local hospitals have been closing in our area for more than a decade.) In China, it has been estimated that some 20% of victims needed to be hospitalized (a study of 72,000 patients).

    So even if the disease doesn’t kill you, you might die from other health problems due to a lack of urgent care beds.

    If this gets going, we will need more beds. China built hospitals in days (with predictable quality results.) I have an idea–the federal government should rent all the dead and dying malls in the country, to turn them into specialized pandemic hospitals.

    Malls are generally near highways and population centers, surrounded by ample parking, (which also serves as a buffer zone for infection), built to be easily remodeled inside, already possess electricity, delivery bays, waste disposal, heat, air conditioning, etc. There are elevators inside.

    Just don’t round up everyone with a fever and haul them off to the hospital.

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    1. We have a health care system that doesn’t cover everybody and an employment system where huge numbers of people have no paid sicks days and an income distribution such that most of the people with no sick days also have little savings and an administration that has prioritized locking up or out people on the basis of race/ethnicity/religion. There’s no way there will be an effective, coordinated isolation regime. If we promised $100 to everybody with a cough and a fever to hide it and lick door knobs in public buildings, it could hardly be less effective.

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  18. I don’t think it’s possible to square the Trump-voters-are-heedless-coronavirus-spreaders narrative with the widespread disappearance of hand sanitizer, face masks and isopropyl alcohol (needed for DIY hand sanitizer). I live in Central TX and the last time I was at our huge grocery store, there was no hand sanitizer and no isopropyl alcohol available and signs up saying that purchase amounts would be limited. Cleaning supplies/disinfectant wipes are noticeably depleted. If people were expressing more concern than they are with their purchases, it would be a disaster.

    It also all all depends what the baseline was for what people were doing earlier. There is a large minority of non-handwashers among us. On the other hand, a lot of moms are washing hands ALL the time. I don’t know that this is a party-line issue–more of a gender issue, actually. When you’re operating at middle class mom levels of handwashing, there really isn’t a lot of room for doing more, especially in the winter-time when doing so chaps hands.

    https://info.debgroup.com/blog/bid/297508/are-women-better-than-men-when-it-comes-to-hand-washing-practices

    There’s also the issue that most of the current US hotspots for coronavirus are pretty liberal in terms of politics.

    Also, while I’m thinking of it, what is the deal with all of the online “jokes” about getting coronavirus and then going to Trump rallies?

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    1. Another thing–people are going to adjust their behaviors according to perceived risk.

      For example, in our family, we’ve gotten very strict about having the kids wash their hands after come in from outings or before eating and I am pulling out my purse hand sanitizer more frequently. We also faithfully get our flu shots. On the other hand, we aren’t yet in a “hot zone,” so we’re still eating out, still going to the cafeteria, and still going to indoor play places (with additional hand washing). If coronavirus is known to be closer to our area or reaches our area, we will revise our family guidelines. Our big kids were planning to go to a large academic event in the Houston suburbs at the end of the month and I’m getting progressively more uncomfortable about having them go.

      This, by the way, is an important reason for widespread testing. Most people will adjust their behaviors if they get new information. So being blase about testing (“it’s endemic”) is a deeply mistaken position. The public needs to know in order to make good decisions.

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      1. One more thing:

        There is a large minority of conservative Americans who are at least low-key preppers.

        So even among conservatives, there’s a bit of a culture clash between the Rush Limbaugh / Donald Trump “everything is FINE” wing and the prepper wing.

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    2. I can wash my hands after sneezing or using the bathroom, but not both. Society needs to let me know which one.

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  19. I think part of the goals of the NPIs (nonpharmaceutical measures, and the terms in the papers for actions like school closings, cancelling meetings and travel, and social distancing) is that they are aimed at dampening the peak of the spread of the virus, so that everyone doesn’t get sick at once, overwhelming the system, and now, when no vaccine is available. They do mitigate individual risk, and, potentially if the virus wasn’t so contagious and hadn’t spread across the world so quickly, might have produced containment. But in the post-containment phase, the goal isn’t to prevent any individual case, but to flatten the curve and produce a vaccine. So if people implement measures based on their individual benefit, the public health goals will be harder to reach.

    NY Times op piece: “The Best Response to the Coronavirus? Altruism, Not Panic: The impulse to secure your safety is understandable but counterproductive.”

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    1. bj said, “I think part of the goals of the NPIs (nonpharmaceutical measures, and the terms in the papers for actions like school closings, cancelling meetings and travel, and social distancing) is that they are aimed at dampening the peak of the spread of the virus”

      The last couple days, we’ve been on spring break, and I’ve had the chance to observe our 1st grader in action. We had to go to some medical settings today (the 1st grader needed some labs done) and I got to observe her almost constant touching-of-things-other-people-touch, paired with constant nose, eye and mouth-rubbing. And no amount of admonitions worked–she’d just forget and do it again a minute later. I don’t think hand-washing can realistically keep up with that. We needed to be out doing what we were doing, but realizing that she does that makes me extremely reluctant to take her to any unnecessary indoor public places going forward. The 1st grader got strep in both January and February and how that happened is less and less of a mystery.

      tldr; Public health admonitions about not touching your face don’t work on little kids (and heck, they barely work on adults) so the more rudimentary recommendations (wash hands and don’t touch face) are going to be less effective when dealing with little kids. Hence school closures.

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  20. And, the prepper philosophy, seems, as far as I can tell, based on individual action and individual self-sufficiency, s0 public health goals might not be particularly well served by the actions of preppers.

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  21. Responses to the virus are state-level issues. Each state has its own set of laws governing quarantine. Of course, we haven’t had to use them for a long time, so no normal citizen knows what his or her rights are (or are not) during an epidemic. We’ve been the happy children covered by herd immunity. We’ve forgotten that diseases can kill.

    https://www.lawfareblog.com/quarantine-and-isolation-authorities-states-affected-covid-19

    So, it depends on how competent you think your local government might be.

    In my opinion, it’s not prudent to rely upon “public health” officials to make the right decision, at the right time. As it is in our state, we know people have been infected at the Biogen conference, and yet large meetings have not been suspended. There’s a parade and a f’n marathon looming: https://www.bostonherald.com/2020/03/08/15-new-coronavirus-cases-in-massachusetts-doubling-overnight/

    Reportedly, Massachusetts General Hospital has stockpiled PPE supplies. Unfortunately, MGH is not in charge of the state.

    We have the extra level of fun that local decisions depend on each town’s board of health. Has your town been electing super competent people? Our haven’t. They’re public spirited, nice people, but like everyone else, they’re not infectious disease experts.

    I know many teams are working on a vaccine, but there’s absolutely no guarantee they will find one ever. If I had to guess, maybe a decade? But probably not. There’s no aids vaccine yet, after 40 years of intense research, nor is there a SARS vaccine, after 18 years.

    And there’s the added fact that this is a very, very new disease. No one knows what the long-term outlook might be for survivors. No one knows the best treatments. Some medicines might work, but that has to be established. Oh, and most medicines are produced in China. Oops. And other countries (India) have been forbidding the export of medicines and material because they might need them themselves.

    The only methods that work when there’s a disease that no one has any defenses against are the ancient methods of quarantine. It is not “hoarding” to be prepared to cut off unnecessary social contact, when it’s obviously coming. If people are prepared to exercise social distancing in their everyday life, it might help.

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    1. Cranberry said, ” It is not “hoarding” to be prepared to cut off unnecessary social contact, when it’s obviously coming. If people are prepared to exercise social distancing in their everyday life, it might help.”

      Right. Also, being reasonably well stocked up a) reduces pressure on store supplies b) reduces trips to the store, potentially reducing infection rates (which is especially important if anybody at home gets sick).

      I saw some discussion on Twitter from parents about how they discovered (much to their surprise) that they were already pretty well stocked up, just thanks to preparing for kid winter illnesses. In a pinch, it makes a big difference to have a week’s worth of toilet paper, enough Tylenol and Motrin (in all necessary varieties), a couple cans of chicken soup, a bottle or two of Gatorade, a couple packs of disinfectant wipes, etc. You don’t need to be neck deep in this stuff for it to make a substantial positive difference in quality of life to you, and all the people that you didn’t infect because you went to the store while sick.

      Also, we have to rethink some of our social impulses. This is not a good time to visit grandma!

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  22. Apologies for not being caught up on the thread, but I wanted to share an anecdote.

    My parents own a store in an area of WA’s Olympic Peninsula popular with vacationing Seattleites. As expected, there’s been a surge of visitors from the plague zone.

    Mom (thrilled, 70+, and medically fragile): We’re seeing a lot of tourists.
    Me: Stay away from them.
    Mom: They look healthy!

    I tried!

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  23. Regarding hoarding — in my book, it is hoarding when you grab, using your wealth, access, various forms of capital, more than your “fair” share of resources (quotes, because fair is a complicated word) in a crisis or emergency. Doing your best to care for the people for those closest around you, including children and other vulnerable people for whom you are responsible is wise preparation.

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    1. Empty shelves do not prove hoarding. In our just-in-time world, buttressed by AI, large retailers stock for predicted demand. They do not stock for everyone in a large metropolitan area deciding they need 3 weeks’ supply of toilet paper today. They certainly do not stock for everyone in the country deciding hand sanitizer, surgical masks and toilet paper are this season’s must-haves.

      Toilet paper doesn’t go bad, and there’s a limit to how much a normal household will use. If all your relatives decide to visit, let’s hope they bring their toilet paper.

      TP and hand sanitizer are made in this country, so they’ll restock.

      Far worse are the hustlers claiming this or that product (i.e. colloidal silver, etc.) can protect or cure coronavirus.

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  24. I’m not seeing stores out of tp. The pet store was giving large purse hand sanitzers away with a three dollar donation to a local animal shelter.

    I think the best plan is avoid big meetings, wash hands frequently. Don’t shake hands – I love that, I have arthritis and shaking hands often hurts.

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    1. Tulip said, ” Don’t shake hands – I love that, I have arthritis and shaking hands often hurts.”

      Our diocese has banned hand-shaking for the sign of peace during Mass as well as made a number of other small (hopefully temporary) changes that will lessen the speed of virus circulation. We started the Sunday before last.

      If you think about it, hand-shaking (especially at a large event) is really gross.

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      1. For us it’s no shaking hands, no holy water at the entrance, and coming in April, classes in Iconoclasm.

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      2. In addition to hand shaking, Italy has poor public health infrastructure, a truly sclerotic bureaucracy that makes government response a challenge and an old population – the majority is over 40 or 50. The age alone may explain why Italy is so hard hit (compared to South Korea).

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  25. OK, I’m reading it:

    “But the fact is that if I increase the supply of medication for my patients, I could well deprive other patients of needed medication, so I reluctantly declined those requests.”

    I wonder if that’s actually true, given that each psychiatric medication is needed by only a sliver of the population and that large metropolitan and coastal areas are currently more affected. Friedman practices in NY, which is getting to be a hotspot–his patients may genuinely need a stash more than, say, Montanans.

    “I can cite you statistics until I am blue in the face demonstrating that your risk of dying from the coronavirus is minuscule compared with your risk of dying from everyday threats, but I doubt you’ll be reassured. For example, 169,000 Americans died by accident and 648,000 died of heart disease in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Sunday morning 19 Americans had died from the coronavirus.”

    *grinding teeth*

    People give Trump a hard time for pooh-poohing coronavirus, but it’s not just him, and not just people on the right. Here’s another one. Has he read nothing about Italy?

    “The lesson for the real world is that health officials should be explicit in telling the public that selfish responses to an epidemic, such as going to work while sick or failing to wash your hands, threaten the health of the community.”

    He provided no stats on the likelihood of turning a non-handwasher into a handwasher through PSAs. It seems to me that putting up additional hand sanitizer kiosks in key locations (and keeping them stocked) is a much better way to nudge the public than just verbal nagging.

    “There is no question that we can all be encouraged to act in the interest of our fellow humans during perilous times. Specifically, public figures need to convey loudly and clearly that we should not go to work or travel when we’re sick and that we should not hoard food and medical supplies beyond our current need — not just give us health statistics or advise about how to wash our hands.”

    I think “food and medical supplies beyond our current need” is pretty vague and debatable as a concept. Would a week or a week and a half of groceries count as “beyond our current needs”? Also, a lot of stores have limits now on purchases of high-demand items.

    As we were discussing earlier, Friedman is using very specific and narrow definition of altruism in the context of coronavirus–he seems to only be thinking about handwashing, not going to work sick, and not “hoarding”, whereas it’s potentially just as beneficial to the community to be stocked up before major catastrophe (so you don’t need to shop when sick or when other more desperate people need the stuff) and to avoid large groups and unnecessary contact with the public.

    For example, it would be very altruistic if the remaining presidential candidates would stop having their @#$%^&* mass rallies, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

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  26. Trump tweeted, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

    Mickey Kaus replied, “Here I am like millions of others doing a lot of inconvenient & disruptive & worse things to protect myself and stop the virus’ spread and Trump seems to be telling me I’m foolish? The disconnect doesn’t make me like him more (and I voted for him).”

    That is an excellent point, and it applies just as much to Friedman’s article.

    We are simultaneously being told that a) coronavirus is not a big deal! and b) to make some fairly substantial personal sacrifices in terms of work, school, travel and major event cancellations.

    I for one am getting really mad about the contradiction. If we the public are being asked to do a lot of inconvenient and expensive stuff (and it’s not just Trump or the GOP), then at least stop gaslighting us about how coronavirus is not a big deal and we’re worried for nothing. It’s abusive and it hurts people’s motivation to comply with burdensome restrictions on their daily life.

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