And the Pendulum Swings to Open Now (Plague, Day 75, May 19, 2020)

This morning, I flipped on CNN before heading out to get some Dunkin Donuts for Ian who needs to gain a pound or two. CNN Anchor, Alisyn Camerota, grilled the Democratic Connecticut Governor about when he was going to open his state.

The Governor was on the defensive saying that hair salons and restaurants were going to open soon. Camerota said that her hair dresser is desperate to get back to work. Neither talked about the virus making people sick and dead.

If CNN anchors and Democratic politicians in the hard-hit Northeast are talking like this, the pendulum has swung. The country is going to open soon. Why?

Small business owners need to get back to work soon, before our economic situation worsens. People are sick of their children. And they are getting bored.

I was so bored this weekend that I created a list of 200 history books for people who need credibility bookshelves for the Zoom meetings. I’m selling the list as a “digital download” on my Etsy shop.

It was pretty fun to make the list. To be honest, that task, which took all Sunday afternoon, was more of a way of procrastinating, rather than boredom. I have to transcribe some interviews, which is about the most boring task possible. Having enough work is not a problem here.

Other boredom activities here include rearranging the office furniture, painting the area around the back patio, and doing a puzzle that is mostly the color blue.

We are loosening up our own protection standards here at home. Jonah is job hunting. We’re shopping at multiple stores looking for semolina flour. My extended family met up on folding chairs on the front lawn. Push up contest, anyone?

Ideally, we would all continue to stay at home until the vaccine is ready, but I don’t think people will wait that long. Teachers and college professors are holding out to their demands to stay home, but the push to get the kids out of the home will be too strong.


67 thoughts on “And the Pendulum Swings to Open Now (Plague, Day 75, May 19, 2020)

  1. “The country is going to open soon. Why?”

    Because the shutdown was not understood to be an indefinite blank check.

    I think it was a great idea to get a breather to protect hospitals, improve treatment protocols, stockpile protective gear (not sure how we’re doing with that…), figure out how to do things more safely, figure out what is and isn’t safe, etc., but “until the vaccine” was never going to be a workable timeline for keeping the economy closed and putting life on hold. In fact, “until the vaccine” is an excuse for continuing government incompetence and refusal to make an effort to do the hard work of figuring out how to improve quality of life safely.

    There are hundreds of thousands of small children who are off-schedule for their normal childhood vaccines and millions of kids who are off-schedule for well-child visits, and there’s substantial health risk in that, too.

    “We are loosening up our own protection standards here at home. Jonah is job hunting. We’re shopping at multiple stores looking for semolina flour. My extended family met up on folding chairs on the front lawn.”

    –Started going to Starbucks drive-thru regularly again.
    –Husband has taken kids for two state park trips.
    –Husband and big kids have started going to 25% occupancy church.
    –Took a walk with my neighborhood BFF. Plan to do more.
    –Took the 1st grader to three testing apts.
    –Will be sending the 1st grader to therapy all summer 6 hours a week as well as any other necessary apts.
    –Haircut for me in June? At least bangs? Dental apts.?
    –Social distancing outdoor get-togethers.

    Husband and 9th grader have been playing tennis with a small group of friends all through the lockdown.

    On the other hand, no plane travel, no summer camp, no summer jobs for teens, no overnight travel or dining-in for us for the foreseeable future, and school is a question mark (our school normally starts in mid/late August).


  2. I’m still upset there’s no national plan beyond yelling at China. Not having easily available PPE by this point is a huge failure.


    1. MH said, “I’m still upset there’s no national plan beyond yelling at China. Not having easily available PPE by this point is a huge failure.”

      And it would be so gosh darn easy.

      All you have to do is tell the US companies capable of participating, “We will sign a contract to pay you a squillion dollars for X amount of equipment delivered over the next 2 years, whether we need it or not.”

      It wouldn’t work immediately (there are problems with lead time and materials), but all you have to do is to promise to pay big and pay as long as the companies are able to deliver–even if we don’t wind up needing it. Also, fast-track regulatory oversight.

      It’s dumb to cheap out over this.


    2. Agreed. This is the problem. We shut down for 2 months, and the government did nothing useful. So now we are pissed off. Some people recognize that the problem is the Trump administration and its deliberate uselessness and corruption. Some do not recognize that and think government just doesn’t work or blame the state governments. This is the big fustercluck of this whole pandemic.


      1. Trump didn’t do that on purpose, just so he could spite states that didn’t vote for him.


  3. Florida is very clearly trying to fake data to hide the extent of the problem. Nebraska is just trying to hide details to protect the packing industry. That we are on the whole moving toward using statistics in a Soviet manner makes it hard to know how to open things with the least risk.


    1. MH said, “Florida is very clearly trying to fake data to hide the extent of the problem.”

      I know that that’s the popular lefty conspiracy theory, but would you like to lay it out for us?


      1. MH said, “They fired somebody for refusing to falsify data.”

        So far, details are pretty sparse, aren’t they?

        I expect to see more today, but one of my COVID-19 twitter nerds (@politicalmath) tweeted:

        “I can’t help but think there is a lot more to the Florida data story than meets the eye. I’m deeply suspicious b/c none of the news stories seem capable of explaining in detail what the actual data problem is.”

        “I’m going to dig into this. I think it’s weird that everyone is claiming she was asked to “censor data and manipulate numbers” but no one can say what data or which numbers or how they were to be manipulated.”


      2. A researcher is reporting an order to lie in a dataset. That’s very clear. How are they supposed to explain problems with the data when the whistleblower was fired two weeks ago?


      3. The specific complaint seems to refer to a data field that contained information about when symptoms were first reported for a case. There were a flurry of email concerning that event field and an eventual forced resignation of the data dashboard administrator.

        I think the curation/release of data is not simple and that information can be removed if it is misleading (for example, WA has corrected data because non-WA state individuals were included at some points because their samples were tested in WA labs and the WA data set does not include positive antibody tests, only positive viral tests). But, the data collectors have to be specific and clear about what data they include and why.

        Texas is passing my gut test right now, but I am unsure about Georgia & Florida.


    2. For Georgia, it is the release of a comical graph in which columns were rearranged by number and gave the appearance, mistaken, of decreasing case load. It was a terrible release.–regional-govt–politics/just-cuckoo-state-latest-data-mishap-causes-critics-cry-foul/182PpUvUX9XEF8vO11NVGO/

      For Florida, it is the email sent to researchers by the person who was removed from managing the Florida public reporting dashboard combined with other concerns about transparent data reporting (they are included in the Miami Herald article as links).

      Another example of bad data was the release from the White House of a graph that suggested caseloads were decreasing using a cubic fit to the data. It inspired a series of cubic fits, including one that suggested that the earth would leave the solar system in a few years.

      Nebraska is limiting the release of data from meat packing plants:


      1. Caseloads are decreasing. Andrew Cuomo says so. And deaths are declining, being cumulatively much less than most European countries. Kevin Drum says so.


      2. As of May 17th, according to the Johns Hopkins data set, detected cases:

        daily cases daily deaths
        US 22596 1401
        Brazil 11064 713
        Russia 10481 102
        UK 3562 398
        Spain 1017 134
        Italy 927 192
        Germany 632 56
        France 406 247

        US detected cases are stabilizing, but only decreasing in some locales. I think the numbers are difficult to measure and don’t put a lot of store in them in countries with questionable governments (which I don’t count the US as, in spite of my political leanings). But, our numbers are not good in comparison.


      3. As Kevin Drum noted, counting raw totals, rather than numbers per capita, will make the U.S. look either fabulous or horrible (depending on what you’re counting), since it is five to six times the size of the larger European countries, and will do the same for California relative to other states. In most cases, such analyses–California is the drunk driving capital of America!–are not very illuminating.


      4. There’s a debate about whether per capita or raw numbers matter, and each matters differently for different evaluations. Say, is per capita the important number for epidemic spread? It depends on how people mix.


      5. There are at least two instances where the number and not the per capita number matters 1) in the initial stages of an epidemic when the numbers might be low (and dividing them by a large population make them look even smaller), but the numbers indicate that there has been community spread and likely doubling is going to occur at a number of days based on R0. 2) when the number is what drives the resources. For example, the number of PPE masks one needs, which depends on the number of patients and not the per capita number of patients (of course, both numbers could be expressed in per capita, but they don’t need to be).

        At this point, when we are not in the doubling stage of the epidemic (though the US seems to be at a plateau, to a nicely decreasing decline), the per capita numbers might be relevant. But looking at the current shapes of the death curves, I would not be surprised if the US “catches up”. The US daily death numbers are still lower (per capita) than UK and Belgium, but no longer lower than Italy or Spain. UK looks bad, too, but Belgium’s deaths are on a decline.

        But, I would like to compare ourselves with countries that did better rather than worse, while recognizing that comparing areas is fraught with confounds.


  4. I wouldn’t say teachers like distance learning or want to stick with it in the fall at all! Teaching without the human element and contact with the kids is not very satisfying. We know kids are not learning as well and I think most of us are hoping to return to in school in the fall. It’s hard enough to teach the kids who know us online, to start next year online with a new group without the connections of knowing us first sounds terrible.

    The issue I see is more about liability and district/state level planning of how to get kids back to school safely. No one wants to put numbers on what “safely” means and for sure no one can afford what it would take for kids to remain 6 feet apart. My school is already desperately overcrowded at over 2000 students and there are some really tough decisions that will need to be made to get kids back in school. Those aren’t going to happen at the teacher level. (What to do about high-risk teachers when/if we return is a whole extra issue. Maybe we need to let families choose between online learning and in-school for their own children and facilitate both options. It would be a lot easier to do that in advance than on-the fly but again requires some higher level decision making.)


  5. I’ve heard a number of other teachers echo Dana’s comments to the letter. I get frustrated when people put the weight of the solutions to systemic, big problems on their individual classroom teacher, or on the grocery store worker, or the counter person (or the meat packing point employee).

    Teachers, for example, can’t be individually responsible for managing 6 foot distancing of kindergartners (if that turns out to be one of the recommendations). They would spend their day policing distance, not teaching and it would be terrible for everyone.


  6. I think what happens next will depend on what people like Laura and Amy and others do. If those with the ability and resources to stay home start to venture out, start to accept that risk of infection is part of life now, one that we manage, we’ll start to gradually open up

    And, I have always understood that the “stay at home” was to flatten the peak and not overwhelm hospitals, which we have done in WA, though not in NJ & NY. The next goal was to use that time to make progress towards not a vaccine (which was always a year away at even the most miraculous of circumstances) but to develop test/trace/isolate capacity and PPE expansion (masks, gloves, cleaning, . . . .). Do we have test/trace/isolate capacity? maybe in WA. Do we have sufficient PPE — no. And I remain horrified by that failure.

    We, a high resource country, seem to be following the path of low resource countries into “harm reduction” (Leanna Wen’s characterization). Which, I guess, means that we are a low resource country (unlike S. Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, Iceland, Norway, . . . .).


    1. “We, a high resource country, seem to be following the path of low resource countries into “harm reduction” (Leanna Wen’s characterization). Which, I guess, means that we are a low resource country (unlike S. Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, Iceland, Norway, . . . .).”

      I don’t think that that division is correct. There are poorer countries (like Vietnam) that are doing quite well and richer countries (like Sweden or Belgium) that have done poorly.

      Above a certain level of development, it’s more a question of will and mobilization than resources.


    2. But like Sweden, France, Italy, the UK. It’s easy to cherry pick countries with good results, but hard to identify much in the way of different policies that explains those results.


    3. There is an active difference in policy with re-openings here versus those other countries (though I don’t know about UK). We are backing into the Sweden model (which I think would be appropriately considered harm reduction). Other countries are trying to test/isolate.

      I think harm reduction is not an unacceptable model. For example, it is possible that we cannot attempt the China/Singapore/Korea approaches. China is authoritarian, Singapore regulates heavily and expects its population to follow, and Korea also expects compliance. And, they used resources to enforce isolation (including delivering food, door to door checks, etc.). If we can’t or won’t do those things, we are left with harm reduction, because, we cannot close our economy down for a year (and certainly not forever).

      But, we are opening up at national levels at 7X the next highest OECD country (the UK).

      Epidemiology (and biology) are messy, and any simplistic explanation of the best approach is flawed. But we can try to be knowledgeable about the approaches and their results (even if we will only know a couple of years down the road).


      1. I absolutely disagree that we’re backing into the Swedish model, because a key element of the Swedish model is the idea that we can trust the public to take the correct harm reduction actions.

        I live about a mile from the mall in this story, and I can tell you that the listed behaviors are 100% true. My local Nextdoor is up in arms about the Yankee reporter who came down to “follow us around like a creepy stalker” and “make us look like selfish rich hicks”, and one of the quoted ladies in the story has her feelings hurt about being misquoted, but nobody is denying that the observations are globally true. People are mad because you’re being a judgey Karen if you disapprove of them exercising Their God-Given Freedoms to not wear masks.

        Yes, we’ve got to open back up. There’s no other way out of the economic harms because it’s clear the government won’t do more. But instead of the public spontaneously taking the right harm-reduction precautions, we’re just collectively throwing caution to the winds and pretending the pandemic is over and none of this is necessary. It’s infuriating.


      2. Yeah, I may be biased in my characterization by the fact that I live in Sweden in the US (ie the place where people waited patiently for the light to change before continuing to cross the street during their first ever super bowl win celebration).

        But, although the absolute disregard described in the article you cite was shocking to me,
        Neither Swedes nor Seattlites are as compliant as stereotyped.


      3. EAB said, “People are mad because you’re being a judgey Karen if you disapprove of them exercising Their God-Given Freedoms to not wear masks.”

        I will never get over the bizarre politicization of masks, especially since early on, it took a lot to get the political and healthcare establishment to start admitting that it could be helpful if the public started wearing masks. I felt like a total outlaw early on, both wearing a mask to the store and mail ordering masks for elderly relatives from Ali Express.

        (Requirements for outdoor masking are mostly pretty stupid, though, unless it’s a very dense setting which shouldn’t be happening if at all possible.)

        There’s been an enormous local effort to sew masks. I was reading recently that our town has a 1,000 volunteers sewing masks.


      4. It’s also interesting to me that many of the countries where they’ve done pretty well – South Korea and Vietnam are given as examples here – are countries where mask wearing is already totally normal. It’s not unusual to see people wearing face masks there outside of a pandemic, for a variety of reasons. We lived in Japan in Spring 2019, and face masks were front and center in every convenience store (due to allergy season). When it’s normal for many people to wear masks anyway, then I suspect it’s not hard to convince people to wear masks now. That doesn’t really bode well for us in this current environment.


    1. Lots of the people pushing for opening here seem to be attributing 100% of the economic cost to the shutdown and none of it to the actual disease.


    2. It is to be noted that opening doesn’t mean people will return. Thus, the interest in all the individual choices that we make.


  7. Here’s an example of what it will take to get the 1st grader to the pool in an ostensibly open state. We want her to go at least once in order to keep up her swimming skills. (We don’t have access to any close salt-water beaches. The local lake is even under the best of circumstances, essentially a big, warm, bowl of germ soup. We get occasional cases of deadly brain-eating amoebae around here, so that’s a nope.)

    Our college gym is closed for the entire summer, so that’s out. My husband is planning to take the 1st grader to a downtown church-run community center that requires gloves and mask. To swim there, you need to arrive dressed in swim attire and mask and gloves. At the pool, you remove mask and gloves, swim, and then put on mask and gloves again.

    I have some reservations about the glove rule (because I suspect that 95% of the public is misusing them in ways that make them pretty pointless), but here we are.

    The climbing gym that my husband is looking into (because of our college gym being closed) is going to require masks to be worn at all times, is not taking cash, will only be open to members and is banning small children. If membership-only doesn’t keep occupancy down to 25%, they’re going to move to a reservation system.

    Meanwhile, my local BFF (who was initially even more careful than me) is kind of over it and they are planning a West Coast road trip. My 9th grader also got an invite to play soccer from a family that was also more careful than us two months ago. I think our family’s current rule is that distanced outdoor socializing and sports are fine, but we said no to the soccer because we felt that soccer would have too much potential for close contact. We are up for socially distanced tennis, badminton, disc golf, walks, runs, etc.

    I haven’t been indoors in a public place other than the grocery or the therapist’s office in two months.


    1. Texas says it is opening up summer camps —

      I think once one decides that test/trace/isolate is not possible — and I think WA is still hoping it is possible, that a lot of individual risk assessments get made individually.

      I have no need in my family for child care/therapy/skill maintenance (like swimming), so these decisions are being made based on what we want, rather than need. I would let my kid play tennis, bike (which he has done), run, hike with a friend (though he’s been busy with school and not asking). My other kid plans a socially distanced get together with one other friend (who is likely to be the friend she’ll get together with).

      I plan to go to a farmer’s market to buy flowers this weekend, though I will not go if it looks too crowded or too many people are not wearing face masks (which are required in our county).


      1. bj said, “Texas says it is opening up summer camps —”

        I just saw that.

        “Gov. Greg Abbott Monday unveiled his plans for an accelerated return to a semblance of normal life Monday, immediately reopening child care centers, Scouting and other youth clubs, as well as massage, tattoo, piercing and other personal services, with a limited reopening of bars, bingo halls and bowling alleys Friday, when restaurants will be allowed to go from quarter to half capacity.”

        “Abbott said that while bars, craft breweries and wine tasting rooms will be limited to 25% capacity, “those capacity limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing.””

        That last bit about outdoor areas is reasonable.

        “With an eye to summer, Abbott also announced that as of May 31, Boy Scout, 4-H, Vacation Bible and all other day and overnight summer camps can reopen, as well as youth sports program, like Little League, at which he said, “parents will be able to spectate as along as appropriate social distancing is followed.”

        ““Also, professional sports can return on May, the 31st,” Abbott said. “That includes pro-golf, auto racing, baseball, , softball, tennis, football and basketball.”

        “The professional sports won’t be able to have in-person spectators and will have to adhere to special safety standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

        Heck, what isn’t going to be open.

        Schools can run summer school starting June 1. Last I heard, though, our city was planning to not run city camps and youth leagues this summer.

        There are tighter state restrictions in counties around Amarillo and El Paso, with the hot spots being meatpacking.


  8. Good meaning transparent, not good meaning decreasing or fewer cases. Texas detected infections are going up (statewide) and the deaths are hovering at 30+/day (similar to GA & FL).


  9. I just got an email saying that the church community center (a different one) where our local ukulele group meets is staying closed until September.

    The ukulele group is going to continue to meet on Zoom. (I’m not sure how that is going.)


  10. I think where I am at is being comfortable socializing in small groups, mainly family and close friends I would otherwise see regularly. We had a couple of friends over to sit on our deck and eat banana bread (with nutella! I used the recipe!) on Saturday when it was sunny and warm.
    I am not going to be comfortable in a classroom of 40 students in the fall. This kills me. I love classroom teaching.
    I have no idea what’s going to happen with E and college in the fall. I hate that he might be doing distance learning in his first semester/first year. His college is on Long Island, an epicenter. On the plus side, perhaps the epicenter-ness means that he’ll be around a lot of people who had it already.
    S is on her own at this point. We’re all happier when she is in Ithaca.


    1. Wendy said, “I think where I am at is being comfortable socializing in small groups, mainly family and close friends I would otherwise see regularly. We had a couple of friends over to sit on our deck and eat banana bread (with nutella! I used the recipe!) on Saturday when it was sunny and warm.”


      “I am not going to be comfortable in a classroom of 40 students in the fall. This kills me. I love classroom teaching.”

      Even if it were totally safe, the distanced seating arrangements are going to be bad for any kind of discussion-based courses.


  11. “Meanwhile, my local BFF (who was initially even more careful than me) is kind of over it and they are planning a West Coast road trip”

    I was over it yesterday and thought about planning an Iceland trip.


  12. I wonder if business travel isn’t going to take a long term hit. I think lots of people would love a reason to turn a flight into a zoom meeting.


  13. I’m looking over the bookshelf photos and have questions for anyone bored enough to answer:

    How was After the Ice? I’ve had it on my to-buy list for a while.

    Was The Cousins’ Wars as facile as I thought it was? I mean, the whole “American Civil War as English Civil War reprise” is pretty convincing (if unoriginal), but the section on the American Revolution didn’t seem to map at all, so I gave up in that section.

    How’s the writing in Lee’s Lieutenants? The prose in R. E. Lee was pretty nice, but Freeman may have been more enthusiastic about Lee than he was about the rest of the bunch.


  14. Are you selling the pictures of the bookcases as potential backgrounds (in addition to the curated list)? If so, shouldn’t some of them be landscape mode pictures (for people zooming from computers)?


    1. No. I wasn’t even thinking about selling pictures of bookshelves for use as a Zoom background, but I LOVE that idea. Hmmmm. I’m writing a super long article for The Atlantic right now, so book stuff is on hold until I have a workable draft. When it’s done — hopefully Friday — then I’ll clean up that hasty listing. And then make some better pictures of bookshelves. What fun!

      I think I can make a whole business around Zoom bookcases. Lots of workers are never going back to their offices. Steve’s here until 2021 at least. We rearranged furniture yesterday and are thinking about making purchases to make it more comfortable for him.

      Right now, his old monitor doesn’t even have a camera, so his office is going to buy him a new computer. We need a better air condition for the room; right now we have a window unit that will blow right on his neck. His company is starting to think how they will compensate workers for using their home real estate for work purposes.


      1. I miss my office, which has more space and better light than our spare bedroom. I may go back and steal my chair so I’m at least more comfortable.


    2. Fun, and interesting that they are thinking of compensating. I heard those complaints for people who live in smaller places, and, indeed, having to designate a space at home as an office is a big deal if you aren’t living in a big suburban house.

      We’ve always had home offices, since our very first apartment which is kind of interesting. For me, I think because I’ve always done work on the computer at home, since I started graduate school, and back then, there were no laptops.

      Glad you are intrigued by the zoom backdrop idea and that you are working on a long article (which I look forward to reading).


    3. Kid took his desk chair up to his bedroom which has turned into his office. He has a desk in my office, but that didn’t work for the zoom calls/classes, since I also use my office. His sister used the basement space and we haven’t shifted. But, one of the demands of this in home stuff is that everyone needs their own space, because of the calls. Back in the day when we set up our first offices, we only needed the computer, not privacy.


  15. This is not a view I’m endorsing, but it’s only natural to feel, “We gave you two months of our lives. What did you do with it? I’m done now!”

    Again, I’m not endorsing that reaction, but I definitely feel flickers of it, and if schools are closed in the fall and/or COVID-19 is raging in the fall, I’m going to be feeling it more and more.

    On the other hand, the Chinese are at least 6 months into this, and they are still struggling.

    There need to be a lot of COVID-19 questions at the presidential debates. It’s a scandal that it was barely addressed during the Democratic debates.


    1. I think a lot is going to depend on personal feelings of safety. I feel like our state has done something with it, mostly in developing testing capacity and monitoring capacity. I feel like the federal government has mostly squandered the time, with obfuscation, misinformation, unlikely solutions, and mismanagement. And, that is a, from the progressive point of view a Republican playbook response, to use government incompetently and then complain that government isn’t useful. Douthat had a column pointing out that we might be protected against Hungarian style authoritarianism because Trump doesn’t actually want power (as indicated by devolving the response to the states, even when they needed help).

      I can’t imagine what Trump’s debates on COVID could sound like, but then, he said “‘No Puppet. No Puppet. You’re the Puppet’ in the 2016 debates and still won enough votes in the midwest to win the election, so I don’t hold any high hopes for good policy debate on COVID.


      1. bj said, “And, that is a, from the progressive point of view a Republican playbook response, to use government incompetently and then complain that government isn’t useful.”

        On the other hand, you have Florida, which is just as Republican.

        I really recommend reading that article, because it looks like Florida should be a national model for state COVID nursing home management.

        They did all kinds of things that other states should have done or done better: preventing premature discharge of COVID hospital patients, being strict about COVID status for admission to nursing homes, isolation wings, separate COVID nursing homes, temperature checks for nursing home workers, PPE for nursing home workers, etc. (NYS famously forced nursing homes to take COVID positive patients while denying nursing home workers PPE.)

        It sounds like Florida prioritized their nursing homes, whereas a lot of hard-hit states treated them as an after-thought.


      2. “The DeSantis team also didn’t put much stock in dire projections. “We kind of lost confidence very early on in models,” a Florida health official says. “We look at them closely, but how can you rely on something when it says you’re peaking in a week and then the next day you’ve already peaked?” Instead, “we started really focusing on just what we saw.””

        Not a sign of attending to science in my book. Because all models are wrong, but some are useful. It could be that the models he had weren’t useful, but dismissing them on the criterion described here is not good science.

        The monitoring of nursing homes, attempt to limit COVID introductions sounds good, but I don’t think they really succeeded. 938 of the Florida fatalities are attributed to nursing homes, 44%. That’s a bit better than NJ’s 50% (not finding NY’s right now, but it’s in that range). But it doesn’t seem like they’ve stopped the virus in the nursing homes (though the testing and tracing seem like good efforts). I’m presuming that if there is effective control of the virus infections in nursing homes the deaths in that population will be a lower percent of the population.


      3. Hah, quoting Ed Yong (The Atlantics science writer, who I think is awesome)

        “Ed Yong
        May 19
        “Experts”, am I right? One day they’ll say it’s “Monday” but the next, they’ll say it’s “Tuesday”. It’s like what they’re telling us just changes from day to day.”


      4. Re nursing homes in FL: Well, DeSantis has to keep his voters alive.

        I’ve been following the nursing home thing in NY somewhat closely. A lot of people think that the numbers of deaths are underestimated. I am seeing people reporting that death certificates for their loved ones don’t have COVID as a cause of death, which is in direct contrast to a right-wing nut job conspiracy theory that every death is being counted as COVID even if it’s not, so it looks worse than it is (according to them). These people exist and are in my town posting on my town’s Facebook group.

        One thing to realize about NY is that it got bad FAST and early. Another thing to keep in mind is that DeSantis and Republican governors have been getting a lot of PPE and other help while Democratic governors have been having their PPE deliveries stolen from them. Or Republican governors in Democratic voting states (my gov, Charlie Baker, has had deliveries stolen by feds). What a nightmare. 😦


      5. And my general distrust of the republican playbook apples to the feds. I don’t know enough of the detail of governance in every state with a republican governor, to allege the same level of incompetence. I do think republicans are banking on voter suppression in most states governed by republicans, but I don’t have the same broad generalizations about competence, in say, managing the roads.


      6. It is amusing how the media has devoted so much more attention to beaches (especially in Florida) than to nursing homes. I guess stories with pictures of scantily clad young women sell better than stories about sick old folks in beds, but it’s a good illustration of how foolish it is to set your emotional or intellectual priorities based on what’s in the news.


  16. In Ontario we’re just entering Stage 1, where retail outlets that open directly onto the street can be open for business (no malls) with strict guidelines about how many people can be in the store. Most people in my area, which tilts to immigrants, Middle Eastern and mainland Chinese, are wearing masks. The folks who had family in China have been wearing them since February.

    Day camps and day care for non-essential workers are slated to open under strict, new public health guidelines in Stage 2, although we don’t have the guidelines yet so we don’t know which camps will be able to – the City of Toronto cancelled all its day camps, refunded the money, and has said they will offer limited camps with more details to come. I have parents at my (former) workplace emailing to beg us to open a day camp. If we/they do (I am still sitting on the ‘planning committee’ which is the business owner and myself :)), we’ll probably do it in August only and with 1/5 the capacity we were planning, and on a break-even basis, mostly to see how things go.

    Because my MIL is 75+, I am not planning to send my kids to any camps, although my elder son was really, really, really looking forward to being a LIT. If that camp opens with LITs I’m going to have to think about it.

    I’m suffering a little bit of cabin fever, but I’m nowhere near bored. I’ve written min 1500 words on my book each day this week. We have 3 adults (my MIL lives with us) which helps, and 2 kids. The kids go up and down but are generally okay – I was sooooo worried about my older son’s math but my family has stepped in to work with him and I think he’s actually doing better, and his grades so far have gone up in every subject. Our school board is offering voluntary classes over the summer and we’re going to look at that as a way to stay on track.

    My 9 year old is having the harder time but he has a Lego club, a Math club, and a Arts and Craft club on Zoom, all run by us moms, Zoom martial arts classes, and a park across the street with a Great Lakes view, plus local paths along the lake that are open for biking and walking/running, so there are highlights every day.

    Our schools are maybe differently structured than in the US. The consistent message from our school board /and/ from my friends who teach college and university are that they will work to catch the cohort up.

    I think I’m not as worried about linear progress around some things. My younger son had cataracts and nearly missed developing depth perception and couldn’t swim for almost a year between the ages of 3 and 4 because of the eye surgeries and another health issue, and he can swim and is just about confident on a bike now. My older son also learned to ride a bike late because I was on bedrest the critical summer, and we just sent him to bike camp the following year. So for anything not forced into an academic calendar I guess I’m just not that worried. Today anyway.

    This year they are learning power tools and carpentry around the house as well as cooking. They have learned about ramen noodle packs for the first time in their lives too, as a novelty item. 🙂 Critical university dorm skill achieved!!

    I grocery shop once a week for our household and my parents’ household (for things their once a week delivery service didn’t manage) and wipe their food down and they come get it and stand on the lawn at 8 feet and talk. My garden looks better than it has in years but I still have a corner to clear out. Since I’m unemployed we wouldn’t be doing a big trip any time soon anyway. I haven’t even picked up a paintbrush yet but that’s kind of the next possibility, repaint the walls. I’m only hesitating because it seems like a bad time to put particulate in the air.

    I would not feel the same way in October, and I am super worried about this graph:

    Maybe we would have made good homesteaders or something. 🙂


  17. I think we’ve done pretty well with reading and math practice.

    Where things kind of came unglued was introduction of new material, especially in math and spelling. With the math, I think we will eventually be OK (lots of materials out there teaching essentially the same thing), but our school uses an idiosyncratic spelling program with lots of rules and no textbook at home and things are kind of breaking down. (Seriously, I have no idea if spelling words are “rule,” “regular,” or “irregular.”) Hopefully, the 2nd grade teacher is prepared for a lot of cleanup in the fall…

    The other issue was that mandatory school work and just basic survival were initially so time-consuming that we didn’t have time or energy to do much in the way of arts and crafts or creative stuff. Eventually there would have been time, but by then we’d gotten into a routine…

    We have three more days of school left. Here’s what happens next:

    –I need to drop a hammer on the 1st grader’s video game habit and set up all three kids with their summer schedule.
    –We need to sign up the 1st grader with the library summer reading program.
    –We’re getting a busy box for the 1st grader from a local bookseller that I’d like to keep on life support. I plan to order one $30 box a month if this one is a success.
    –The 1st grader does 6 hours of therapy a week starting next week, possibly all summer long.


    1. I think that our spelling program is good–I’m just not qualified to teach it and the videos and the text offered have not really cleared things up.


  18. I’m hearing consistently good feedback on the synchronous zoom based K-3 program in the school I know best. But, my kid isn’t involved, so I don’t know how it’s working for the kids overall. But, it seems like the teachers have figured out how to keep most of the kids sufficiently engaged that entertaining the children with minimal parental involvement is happening (so that parents are able to work). There’s a lot of parental support available, though.

    I filled out the survey for my sophomore’s public school, which seems to be prepping for online learning in the fall for most (though maybe they’ll try to serve some children with IEP’s in the schoolhouse).

    Everything is working OK for my kid. I commented on the busywork homework (which my son complains about, but I’m not particularly worried about. It’s not killing his joy). I asked for more individualization (i.e. open ended projects). But, I can see that those projects would be a problem for children who are less motivated and have less support. My kid would thrive with open ended projects in which he designed an experiment, did a history day paper, designed a web site, wrote a blog with essays. If we continue into distance learning next year, I will be more directed about making sure he does some things like that.

    My kid’s high school hosts a self contained program for children with intellectual disabilities that I imagine would be complicated to deliver remotely (and maybe impossible). I am comfortable allocating resources based on equity, but, I don’t want my child to be ignored because his resource needs are few.


  19. I assume there will be a lot of opening and closing over the next year, depending on where the virus hits and how scary it is. We may have state-wide shutdowns or massive self-isolating if we have NYC-level events in any big city in states that are reopening (Atlanta, Miami, Dallas); or we may see specific regions or small towns shutting down. I predict that the meatpacking plants and other places with dangerous working conditions will not be able to keep their data secret, so this will have an impact too. If travel begins this summer, even if it’s at 25% of the level of previous years, I suspect we’ll see more spread nationwide.

    It’s taken massive shutdowns to keep this first wave at under 100,000 deaths. We’ll see how much people care about the next 100,000 – I’m guessing less. Psychologically, absorbing something that has been within an order of magnitude of flu deaths, car accidents, heart disease, etc. is not so difficult if the disease doesn’t affect you personally (as it has not for most people). A lot of people just aren’t scared enough for this to stay at home and take radical measures any more.

    Another interesting issue is how much the spread is contained by the low-hanging-fruit precautions. I now go to the grocery store only once every 2-3 weeks, instead of every 2-3 days (picking up one item for dinner, because the grocery store is right there and it’s easy), and that’s multiplied by millions of others doing the same thing – also for hardware stores and garden shops now, and I assume other kinds of stores later on. If even half of the people reduce their time in public this way, and/or wear a mask, we’re looking at less spread.

    Of course I’m not a psychologist or epidemiologist, but it’s interesting to think about. As someone who studies religion, I also think about churches reopening, and the impact on liturgy and the overall worship experience that the danger of singing may have.

    Glad you used the nutella banana bread recipe, Wendy!


  20. ” A lot of people just aren’t scared enough for this to stay at home and take radical measures any more. ”

    Yes, unless it affects people’s personal feeling of safety, I don’t think the empathetic care for others will be sufficient to keep people constrained. In some countries they are willing to use authoritarian measures (i.e. China), others may use significant compulsion (Singapore enforcement), some may use incentives (Germany’s your company pays you when you are not working), and a few may have greater public willingness to act for others (but, I don’t put high hopes on that even in Sweden or Seattle). People usually act when they have incentives and disincentives.

    I’m intrigued by the older people who make different decisions about their own personal safety. They are clearly at risk personally in a way that isn’t as clear for young people. I know my own 80 year old parent is being fairly risk-averse, but he did want to believe that 80 year olds were only at risk if they had underlying health conditions (which he doesn’t, really). The older people in Avalon, Georgia did not seem very concerned in the article.


  21. ” If even half of the people reduce their time in public this way, and/or wear a mask, we’re looking at less spread. ‘

    See, this is the problem. I think a lot depends on how this virus actually works, and we don’t know yet. For example, check out the measles simulations. The difference between 80% and 95% vaccination is huge:

    With 80% immunization, the virus spreads rapidly across a region, but it doesn’t look like it for the first 3 months. But by 6 months, it is everywhere.


  22. SARS-COVID-2 isn’t as transmittable as measles, we believe, so it shouldn’t be as bad, but I don’t know how the level of herd immunity and trasnmittability interact.


  23. And that’s not to say that decreasing visits to public places, some people wearing masks some of the time, and washing hands doesn’t decrease the spread of the virus. But it might not be enough to prevent spread or spikes if enough people don’t do it.

    That’s what makes this such a hard problem (not just in biology, but policy, politics, psychology, economics, . . . ), especially when there are so many unknowns.


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