Good News or Bad News? (Plague, Day 41, April 13, 2020)

Last Friday morning, I flipped around in my office chair and asked Steve, “I have to write to a newsletter. Do I make it happy or sad?” Steve said, “Make it happy. Nobody wants to read sad stuff.”

So, I wrote a newsletter about nesting in our quarantine homes. It was aimed at the safe, secure places of the still employed and still healthy, whose biggest concern is finding a good use for a can of black beans and half a cabbage.

It wasn’t hard to write a happy post, because things don’t suck in my particular home. Sure, the boys aren’t really being educated at the moment, we’re leaking money, and I haven’t been able to give my mom a hug in a month. But things aren’t THAT bad.

Over the weekend, we had zoom hangouts with extended family. I made a fun Easter dinner for our nuclear family. We tried our hand at making various traditional Italian Easter treats. It was fun and relaxing and I’ll share pictures and info later. (If you click on the Instagram icon on the right, you can see some pictures.)

But outside our middle class bubble, things are pretty sucky. I could keep writing happy little posts about home cooking challenges. Or I could devote my tweets, posts, and newsletter to the problems and force us to confront hard truths outside our igloos. I think it’s going to be “a bit of both.”

So, what’s upsetting me this morning?

New York City schools have closed for the rest of the year. So, schools in all of NY, CT, and NJ will also close through June, too. Kids are learning in some places where they have that magic combination of tech-savvy, child-free teachers, homes with one parent who doesn’t need an income, and high-income communities. Small numbers of kids are getting educated virtually, but more are not. Most are losing skills — academic, social, and behavioral skills — and they’ll never get this time back.

Trump’s going to let the U.S. Postal Service die. For all those who want to drown government in a bathtub, this pandemic is an opportunity. I wonder if the plan for schools is the USPS solution. Let it crash and burn. Let them screw up enough until parents revolt and remove their kids from schools. Let the taxpayers revolt.

If you have college kids, there’s a good chance that there won’t be school in the fall either. Without job opportunities, the only option for our kids is to pile up on online school credits, so they can finish college early and save money.

As millions get handouts from food pantries this week, the farmers are dumping their food supply. (Image above comes from the Boston Globe about surging demand at food pantries.)

Home healthcare workers and nannies are being fired and have no support.

And stupidity abounds. 30 percent of Americans think the virus was cooked up in a lab.

Weirdly enough, tobacco smokers have lower levels of COVID in China than non-smokers. Well, that’s amusing.

I’m terrified that Dr. Fauci will be fired. I’m terrified that they’ll open the economy too soon and more people will die. I’m terrified that if this goes on for another few months, we’re going to have to set up refuge camps for tens of thousands who have no jobs, homes, or food.

So, I’m going to have to do both. I’ll write the fun Easter weekend post tomorrow. And then the day after that I’ll write another unpopular Cassandra post. If you guys can cope with a schizophrenic blogger, that would be cool.

14 thoughts on “Good News or Bad News? (Plague, Day 41, April 13, 2020)

  1. “I wonder if the plan for schools is the USPS solution. Let it crash and burn”

    Isn’t that what happened in New Orleans? You’d know better than me.

    “ Without job opportunities, the only option for our kids is to pile up on online school credits, so they can finish college early and save money”

    My kid has no interest in accelerating college and also no interest in online college. I don’t know what she and others would do if the solution is online college in the fall. She was extracting the full value of the residential experience academically and next year would be a ramping up of that effort, getting to know more faculty, more involvement in the community, . . . .

    I think expensive residential schools need to be thinking about shifting the school year rather than starting online because I don’t think people will simply pay the tuition for online classes. Solutions that might work for elite colleges won’t work for the next tier; state colleges will have their own issues.


  2. My middle-tier state college is trying to figure out some of these questions. My current feeling is that we should have two types of online classes available. Some would stay the same, for people who prefer the way they are now (assignments due weekly, but no Zoom or other face-to-face meeting requirements, comments on discussion boards whenever you can get to them). Others would be for students who need some more structure and contact, so that they would be scheduled at regular times (TTh 1-2:30 or whatever) and the students and faculty would be expected to show up and engage online, via videochat or maybe live typed-in chat.

    We would of course need to ramp up support by providing or renting computers and making cheap internet access available. Would this be appealing to any of the 11d college students out there? Or is it F2F or no college at all, if we have to be online?


    1. My kiddo (whose college is not the parallel to yours) has zoom classes, pre-recorded video lectures, and zoom sections. She says they are working, and in some instances she sees benefits (say, she can ask her questions in one class where the prof doesn’t like to give up lecture time for questions — she asks in chat, and maybe he won’t answer, but at least she got her question out). She is very organized and structured, though. She has her schedule, heads down to her nook every morning (at 7 AM! her college is in the east & she is on the west coast).

      I feel like some structure is necessary as this goes on, for students who would not voluntarily sign up for online classes (my kids do not like them). But, I think this could be the form of a once a week (or possibly even less frequent) meeting?

      And, in my kids case, online classes are clearly not the value added of the school.


  3. “Trump’s going to let the U.S. Postal Service die.”

    I don’t think this is 100% up to him.

    “And stupidity abounds. 30 percent of Americans think the virus was cooked up in a lab.”

    Is it so silly to think that it escaped from a Chinese lab through bad procedures?

    The Chinese are restricting publication of research on the virus’s origins.

    “Under the new policy, all academic papers on Covid-19 will be subject to extra vetting before being submitted for publication. Studies on the origin of the virus will receive extra scrutiny and must be approved by central government officials, according to the now-deleted posts.”

    At this point, we really honestly don’t know and the Chinese are acting as if they have something to hide.

    “Two facilities in the city of Wuhan were researching coronaviruses in bats — the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is China’s first biocontainment level-4 facility, inaugurated in 2015. It is still the country’s only one.”

    They’re also opening up the wet markets again in Wuhan. So either the Chinese are being suicidally stupid, or they have reason to believe that the wet markets didn’t cause the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Laura wrote, “Weirdly enough, tobacco smokers have lower levels of COVID in China than non-smokers. Well, that’s amusing.”

    I’ve seen some speculation on that over at Spotted Toad’s twitter.


    1. Is it so silly to think that it escaped from a Chinese lab through bad procedures?

      Yes. Completely silly. It is the fantasy of anti-intellectual fools who are completely unable to read for content.

      Well, you asked…


  4. “ Is it so silly to think that it escaped from a Chinese lab through bad procedures?”


    Also, it wouldn’t matter. We still have to deal with it.

    And, in China they are circulating the conspiracy that it was released from an American lab


    1. Two years ago, the US State Department toured Wuhan Institute Virology and saw a lot of stuff that alarmed them.

      “In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4).”

      “What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.”

      So, do we still think that the lab accident theory is nuts?

      Anonymous (probably bj?) worte, “Also, it wouldn’t matter. We still have to deal with it.”

      Here are some ways that it may be helpful to keep in mind as a strong possibility:

      –It provides an explanation for why the Chinese have been so shady and opaque compared to recent previous outbreaks.
      –It explains why they have been kicking out US journalists and are pivoting so hard to blaming US bioweapons and (as of right now) suddenly scapegoating African residents (and probably other foreigners) in China for the (unexpected!) uptick in COVID-19 infection numbers, after a long period of asserting no new infections.
      –It provides additional reason not to trust Chinese numbers on infections and deaths in China.
      –Going forward, we can be very skeptical about the idea of the Chinese being capable of safely managing the most dangerous kind of biological research unless they start being very, very transparent and very, very cooperative.
      –When the dust clears, it’s probably a good idea to start unraveling our economic enmeshment with China. It’s just too dangerous to keep up this (frankly) abusive relationship. Do we really want to risk this happening again?

      So, yeah, there is a heck of a lot of utility here.

      And lastly, the Chinese have been lying non-stop about COVID-19–why do we suddenly start trusting their official version of events? They need to earn trust, not expect it. Heck, it’s not even trusting their version of events to lean on the wet market story if the Chinese government is currently pushing a US bioweapon story.


  5. Yes, anonymous was me and yes the lab accident theory is entirely nuts and irrelevant. At some point scientific attention to the origin of the virus is useful for how we prepare the next virus, but it is a useless distraction now.

    “When the dust clears, it’s probably a good idea to start unraveling our economic enmeshment with China.”

    It was not China that put us in this situation. We did it to ourselves, with denials, lack of preparation and failures. There is no world in which we can sufficiently isolate from China that would protect us from sheer incompetence in our response. The magnitude of the separation from China that would be required to prevent the spread of a virus would, I suspect, be impossible, requiring, for example that no Americans travel anywhere where the Chinese travel.


    1. Having lived in China and experienced what goes on there first hand, I’ll also note that the behavior of the Chinese government is completely explainable by the fact that they are an authoritarian government scrambling to ensure control in a pandemic and recession. The scapegoating, the expulsions, etc. would happen REGARDLESS of whether the virus was manufactured or not (personally, I don’t think it was, but that’s not relevant here). This is how the CCP operates.


      1. I am no China expert, but, yes, planning our response depending on China for transparency, cooperation, and a concern for American interests seems like an unwise plan. That’s why we have intelligence agencies, and why we should listen to them.


  6. As a Canadian in a province where we almost didn’t get a shipment of masks from the US due to an executive order from the President, I am far less concerned with China, which has generally done its best to maintain supply chains despite lockdowns and closures, and has reciprocated with aid to other countries like sending medical teams to Italy, than with the United States which has shown that it is not a reliable partner even to its closest allies.

    And yes, I do think we are all learning why it’s a good idea to keep some manufacturing local.


  7. “Trump’s going to let the U.S. Postal Service die.”

    I don’t think this is 100% up to him.

    He is not the *only* person to make it happen but he is one of a select few who can. For instance, he supposedly threatened to veto the recent stimulus if it had money to support the USPS.

    What a deranged moron he is.

    On the other hand, doing this will throw about 600K union workers out of work two months before an election. I can’t see that going over well for the orange idiot. Plus, privatizing the USPS will totally screw the rurals. I’d hate to see it go but it would warm my heart for them to reap what they sow.


  8. I used to worry about decisions made with no concern about their impacts on anyone else, but now, I am worried that we really are facing the ends of the American century. And though I have many worries about the dominance of the US in the world, the country I see most likely to fill the vacuum is China.

    Withdrawing funding for WHO in the middle of a pandemic cannot end well.


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