The Impatient Patient (Plague, Day 158, August 16, 2020)

I’m here. I wasn’t supposed to be. I was supposed to be at a “there” right now. Specifically, I was supposed to be crammed in a cabin in the woods with stinky boys, while listening to the rain fall. For you, that might sound horrible, but for me, it would be heaven. Simply to be at a “there” and not a “here” would have been lovely. I’ve been here for months and months, and it is rather tiresome.

We had to delay our road trip through rural New England, because Ian’s ongoing medical issues have required a tweaking of medication and proximity to a hospital. And because I got a mysterious stomach bug.

Now, I never get stomach bugs. I eat street food from Manhattan without fear. But a couple of days ago, things were not happy down below. And, in times like these, any unusual ailment should be taken seriously. After a thorough review of every questionable medical website written by bots in Manilla, I have learned that some people with COVID never get any other symptom other than gastro-intestinal woes.

I am totally fine. No fever. No cough. It’s just a slight stomach ache, which was more than likely brought on by an especially spicy, rich pot of chili that Steve cooked on Thursday night, combined with rather high levels of stress. But one must be careful these days.

So, we went to Rite Aid for one of those thermometer guns — totally fun toy, btw — and a rapid COVID test. I was totally impressed with the efficiency of the COVID testing in the Rite Aid parking lot. Jonah has already done it there twice — before and after a trip to a lake house with friends.

I made an appointment the night before online. At 11:00 the next day, I stuck a plastic Q-tip up my nose, while still sitting my car, and and handed it over to a nurse who held out a plastic tray with a metal claw. Two days later we’ll get the results.

I am sure that I am fine, but to be careful, I’m holding up in the bedroom for the day with my computer and devices. I’ll make revisions on an essay and reread some old romance novels. I’ll write another blog post and sell some books online. A normal day, in other words.

The windows in my bedroom are open, so I can hear the rain here, too. Most importantly, I can smell the rain.

UPDATE: I am also using the time in my bedroom to finally use all those little sample sized containers of moisturizers and other beauty products. I am exfoliating. Next up, I’m getting a mud-mask. Fun times here.

UPDATE2: I’m fine. The test came back negative. We leave for vacation first thing tomorrow.

54 thoughts on “The Impatient Patient (Plague, Day 158, August 16, 2020)

  1. I bet I could get my finger back far enough without the Q-tip. Lifetime of practice plus six months of not having to worry about co-workers noticing.

    Hope everybody feels better/stays well.

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  2. spouse went to our testing site which is being run by the fire department on friday. They swab you at the site (not self swab). He got the negative result in about 24 hours. Told us the swab was extremely unfun.

    hope you are doing well and get a negative.

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  3. i’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about what a negative means if one is asymptomatic and if you don’t know of a specific exposure. If one had a specific exposure, say day 1, then the range for infectiousness is 2-10 or so days (to get to 95% symptoms, positive tests). But if your exposure is continuous.

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    1. Cranberry said, “Right now, the Red Cross is testing blood donations for Covid antibodies in our area.”

      What kind of positivity are they getting?

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  4. Oh, that sucks. Hope you get a negative soon and are able to take advantage of your holing up time. I just zipped through Louise Penny’s mystery Still Life, and felt like it was summer. Tonight, more relaxing; tomorrow, 2.5 hour training for hybrid/remote teaching, plus a million tiny administrative tasks.

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  5. Here’s a twitter thread on how the Danes reopened in April (it sounds like there have been some changes for the fall).

    https://mobile.twitter.com/DGBassani/status/1294707856462295041

    Some highlights:

    “Denmark’s population is under 6M ppl and schools reopened in Mid April, when daily cases where below 70 and going down. There were ~3,500 active cases in the country at the time.”

    “Only K-5 classes were opened. Older kids had virtual class from home. Kids cohorted in groups of 10/12 with one teacher throughout the day. Government asked families to keep children home when one or both parents did not work, to reduce the number of kids in school.”

    “Staggered entry times, no contact between cohorts. Parents cannot enter school. Different school doors used for entry when possible. Reserved playground space, with no cross-cohort use of the same area. Most classes held outside whenever possible.”

    “Public Parks were reserved exclusively for children during school hours (8:00-3:30). When seating distance of at least 2 meters, classroom materials cleaned twice daily. Initially, no masks required, but recently cloth masks introduced.”

    Lots and lots of handwashing.

    “Hotels, libraries, museums, conference centres available for schools to allow accommodation of smaller cohorts. Massive community engagement to make this possible. Government working with teacher’s unions to ensure safety.”

    “Still, with all these measures in place, and very low community transmission, Rt went up following the reopening of schools on April 15th. Not concerning, still low (and did not cross 1.0)”

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    1. Some corrections from a twitter person in Denmark:

      https://mobile.twitter.com/Goldammerfeder/status/1295089554697977856

      “Several of the described measures were reduced & K-12 back since end May, no masks”

      “15/04 when schools reopened there were 185 daily cases (Beware: only people with medium to severe symptoms who needed medical attention where tested) When decision was made 06/04, we had 278 daily cases.”

      “K-5 AND graduation classes went back to school 15/04.”

      “Increased hand washing was the first measure to be withdrawn, as some children developed severe eczema after few days, some even ending up with bloody hands.”

      Yeah.

      “There was NEVER a mask mandate in danish schools. Limited recommendation for masks (if e.g. sick on way to isolation) was introduced 04/07. Recommendation for masks in public transport during rush hours 31/07. Children below 12y excluded.”

      It’s an interesting fact that a lot of Americans are hyper-focused on masks, but successful European countries haven’t necessarily been using them as much as we assume.

      I’m actually very pro-mask (at least indoors or in crowded conditions), but there has gotten to be a thing in the US where COVID is seen to be God’s judgement on non-mask wearers and Republicans, whereas absence of COVID is seen as God’s blessing on mask-wearers. It’s kind of the pandemic version of the Protestant Ethic–sickness implies vice whereas health signifies virtue.

      Back to the Dane.

      “10/05 Distancing was reduced to 1m all over Denmark, allowing class mates to move closer and join rooms.”

      “18/05 K-10 returned to school.”

      “27/05 remaining classes returned to school”

      This is VERY interesting:

      “Increase of Rt most likely due to signal effect of reopening schools.
      Biggest increase of infections was observed in age group 13-19y who were NOT back at school. Which caused political discussion, resulting in prioritization of getting them back as well in May.”

      “01/08 distancing rules within classes / cohorts were omitted to enable group work and more normal school routines for pupils. Strict cohorting and distancing in between adults are kept, allowing parents to enter facilities only under certain circumstances.”

      “Since end July / start August significant increase in community transmission, mainly Aarhus area (2nd biggest city, 380k) w/ 100 cumulated cases in 7 days / 100k inhabitants.
      Strict measures on local community level enforced, while K-10 faced no further restrictions.”

      Sounds like vacation travel is probably the guilty party here, rather than school.

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      1. I don’t know anybody who thinks that. Mostly, people think of non-mask wearers as anti-social, not doomed.

        Denmark was able to open schools in May and keep people mostly safe. That’s three months and counting sooner than we have been able. Denmark did this and still has a per capita death rate is about 1/5th of the U.S’s rate, and that ratio is going to shift even more in their favor over the next few months. That’s the result America gets for having no functional leadership. It’s not even mostly punishment because it’s Republicans dumping it on the poor and weaker more often than not.

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  6. I think everyone should be very careful to be measured in guesses and hypotheses about how the virus is behaving, but my guess would be that masking is more important in communities where there are, relatively, a lot of cases and a lot of community transmission (i.e. the US) then in areas where community transmission is relatively low.

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  7. I read this from Laura’s twitter from a NYC doctor mom of 4:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/what-weve-stolen-our-kids/615211/

    She writes:

    “One friend, a longtime teacher, told me: “We’re having trouble deciding whether to open schools, because we don’t agree on what schools are. If you’re optimizing for academic learning, a lot of teachers think you should keep kids at home and make remote learning work for more kids. If you’re optimizing for child care, maybe you go for in-person learning in small pods for K–5 while letting grades 6–12 stay at home. If you’re optimizing for giving kids a meaningful social environment, you absolutely need kids to be back in face-to-face environments.”

    “That is probably true, but I’ve never before had to choose. School—fairly or not—has generally fulfilled all those different functions for my kids, and probably yours.”

    That’s very true!

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    1. It also occurs to me that there’s some confusion with regard to school. We talk about two different things as if they were the same problem:

      1. School reopening leading to much larger community COVID spread

      2. School reopening leading to faculty and staff getting sick.

      While #2 is an almost unavoidable risk as long as COVID is on the move, I think that #1 is much more debatable. I think that a lot of decision-makers are imagining that if schools don’t open, parents are going to be keeping their kids in a bubble this fall, which (5+ months in) is extremely unlikely. Most people are laxer with kids than they were in March and April. It’s very likely that whatever solutions that parents work out to deal with remote schooling this fall will not involve isolated home study. There are going to be pods, shared childcare arrangements, tutors, play dates, vacations, grocery store trips, other socializing, etc. So it’s not a question of in-person school presenting a lot of risk, whereas remote education equals zero risk–there’s going to be some level of risk either way, at least on average.

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    2. “We’re having trouble deciding whether to open schools, because we don’t agree on what schools are. If you’re optimizing for academic learning, a lot of teachers think you should keep kids at home and make remote learning work for more kids. If you’re optimizing for child care, maybe you go for in-person learning in small pods for K–5 while letting grades 6–12 stay at home. If you’re optimizing for giving kids a meaningful social environment, you absolutely need kids to be back in face-to-face environments.”

      I like that way of looking at it. It explains a lot. Thanks for sharing it.

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  8. We just had our first day of school. Some notes:

    –I was giving my youngest mask training yesterday. It turns out that COVID hair, sensory sensitivity and masks don’t mix well, but she eventually got it.
    –Worst carpool line I have ever experienced. They needed to do temperature checks and all of the kids needed to arrive via car (no walk-ups). It took 30 minutes for me to get through the two carpool lines, and both kids were technically “late” by the time we got through. We have construction on campus that is blocking our normal carpool lane, and the pick-up carpool line for the elementary school somehow occupied 5 blocks.
    –My 10th grader reports that people were good about masks, but that there was some unavoidable crowding, especially in certain classrooms. As planned, school staggered exit times, made a hall one-way, and limited locker visits. A number of the 10th graders are remote kids. They have a group text chat, which is nice for them.
    –The 10th grader says (I don’t know how accurately) that school has hired a contact tracer (!). In the case of COVID, they will figure out who was in close contact with the sick kid and needs to go do quarantine.
    –Our youngest has been talking for months about her old 1st grade playground club and her plans to restart it or start a new one. Today was the inaugural meeting of Magical Creatures Club. She has two other members and is hoping to recruit more.
    –I see that today was a bad COVID day in our county, after two very moderate days. College is mass-testing students, faculty and staff, so there is a big COVID dragnet underway. Positivity is down, which is good. We’re running about 8-10% positive right now, after a number of weeks in the low 20s.
    –Husband has discovered that there is 1 hour testing available on campus. I don’t know how they are doing it this fast or who is eligible, but you can get the normal nasal swab test and get results back in an hour.
    –Even with the now notorious blow-ups that have been happening, I think that US colleges deserve a lot of credit for innovation and effort in dealing with COVID. I keep hearing of good ideas being implemented by US colleges.

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    1. I like the updates on how its working. There was another article on the Montgomery county daycares at schools: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/pandemic-parents-why-can-child-care-open-in-schools-that-wont-allow-classes/2020/08/18/fad0243c-dc9c-11ea-809e-b8be57ba616e_story.html

      I think Ann (from New Zealand) told us why it might be an OK model — that the teachers will be teaching more kids than the 10 who might be in a daycare classroom and that staffing those classrooms with a teacher who might otherwise be teaching 30 kids (and three classrooms) wouldn’t work.

      But, I’m interested in hearing how your classroom teacher is teaching the remote class (or do they have separate teachers doing the remote teaching?) Or do the remote kids not get live instruction?

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      1. bj said, “But, I’m interested in hearing how your classroom teacher is teaching the remote class (or do they have separate teachers doing the remote teaching?) Or do the remote kids not get live instruction?”

        The idea is that the remote kids can be synchronous or asynchronous, but they are encouraged to be synchronous. I don’t know yet how well it’s going to work. Today was mostly an intro/field day for the upper school.

        The 10th grader also says that a number of kids at school have already had mild COVID. In theory, you could strategically space them out in the classroom…

        I also learned this past week that the public elementary we have a relationship with is moving their aftercare program outside and they were asking for outdoor game donations. I don’t know what their reasoning is, but from what I know about our school, the issue with aftercare is that it mixes different cohorts, so it’s more important to be cautious about distancing with aftercare. (Our school is going to make even small aftercare kids wear masks, because of the mixed cohort issue.)

        Bonus kid story:

        My college freshman has been gaming heavily during the pandemic, in a pretty young Roblox group (mostly 6th grade through high school). She’s on a Discord for her game where the kids (a bunch of whom are not good at school) are so stressed about school starting that there’s talk of starting a school help channel. I don’t know if anything will come of that, but it’s sweet!

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  9. I believe all our independent private schools have decided to begin the year remotely (though some had developed hybrid plans and say they will reevaluate at the end of September). The governor’s criterion of 75 cases/14 days/100K had an effect, I think, on the decision making.

    Don’t know what the religious schools are doing, and there are some academies whose models I don’t really understand that are offering in person learning (know of one, where someone I know stepped out of in person learning because she didn’t feel safe).

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  10. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/coronavirus-updates-us-reports-1300-deaths-2nd-straight/story?id=72489747&cid=social_twitter_abcn

    “Purdue University suspended 36 students for hosting and attending a party amid the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced.

    “The suspensions come a day after Purdue’s president Mitch Daniels said the university “added a provision to the university’s student code that brings the hammer down on off-campus parties that violate social distancing and mask policies.””

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  11. I’m glad you will be able to relax, but I am surprised that someone who has made such a big deal about how careful you’re being is going out, while sick, again. If your immune system is already fighting an infection, then you are more vulnerable and if you infect others with your non-corona illness, they are more vulnerable.

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  12. “I am totally fine. No fever. No cough. It’s just a slight stomach ache, which was more than likely brought on by an especially spicy, rich pot of chili that Steve cooked on Thursday night, combined with rather high levels of stress”

    I’m guessing L has concluded she is not sick or infectious, which doesn’t seem to be an implausible conclusion.

    As time drags on we are all among our own risk assessments about what is dangerous to us and others. Absent the rules, I’m trying to be careful about evaluating others choices. Not that I don’t have opinions — in my FB feed there’s a sudden spate of RV travel of those who have never RVd before as adults which I do not understand.

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    1. bj said, “Not that I don’t have opinions — in my FB feed there’s a sudden spate of RV travel of those who have never RVd before as adults which I do not understand.”

      No hotel room, easier to deal with pets, and the possibility of doing more of your own cooking.

      I totally get the attraction. The only problem is driving the stupid thing.

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    1. bj said, “I once compared life in the time of covid to the chickens and wolves crossing the river problem. XKCD expanded on it for me.”

      Hee!

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  13. We dropped off our youngest at college yesterday. Because it is the time of COVID and because my kid lucked out and got the first move-in time slot, he was the first one in the suite … and the only one there all day. Another kid showed up today.
    It started pouring as we were moving in. Between the humidity and the mask, I couldn’t see for most of the day. Very frustrating when you’re the only one who has a grip on things and the other 2 are ADHD and panicking. “Tell me what you see! I can’t read it!” LOL. With masks it’s also difficult to hear people, and I suspect accents and lots of ambient noise will make it worse (I’m looking at you, campus eatery).
    So far, the empty nest is fine. I told a friend I feel a mixture of glee, guilt, and grief. Now I need to work on prepping classes….

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    1. LOL, re-reading that I’m not sure if it’s clear I wear glasses, so that’s why the mask and rain were making me not able to see. My glasses would not stop fogging up. And I can’t see a damed thing without them.

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    2. nose pieces (i.e. the metal clip thingie) & the vistaprint masks have been working OK for me with glasses. I find putting the glasses over the top of the mask can help. But, I wasn’t coping with rain & humidity. I hear that you shouldn’t let your mask get wet in the rain, so might be time to invest in an umbrella.

      And it seems like you’ve experienced the glorious mess.

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    3. Wendy said, “(I’m looking at you, campus eatery).”

      A bunch of Hometown U.’s new airconditioned tents are apparently intended to expand available dining space.

      “So far, the empty nest is fine. I told a friend I feel a mixture of glee, guilt, and grief. Now I need to work on prepping classes….”

      I’ve had two days of the two youngest in school now and while there are a lot of odds and ends, it’s very unfamiliar to have so little responsibility during the day. Or, it’s new stuff, like walking our oldest over the the college student ID place to get a student ID.

      Once I settle in, I may get around to telling the psychologist I work for that I’m available now…Or not.

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    1. I don’t even know what a beer bong is, LOL. I am super square. However, I can tell the difference between a chardonnay and a Riesling, so there’s that. #coastalelite

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  14. Two stories:

    –My husband talked to the college-aged daughter of our 2nd grader’s old pre-k teacher. The daughter said that her mom is planning to teach a completely new curriculum in pre-k–not sharing toys with friends. (This family has had COVID.)
    –My second grader just said, “I LOVE SCHOOL!” apropos of nothing. She hasn’t been this enthusiastic about school since she was in 3-day pre-k.

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  15. Already back. Taught 5 class sessions, including a 2 1/2 hour seminar–three different classes–through zoom this week. Two of my courses have 50 students–that’s the cap, so they’re maxed out–and all 50 showed up. They’re first-year courses, so it doesn’t look like we had much summer melt. Only around a tenth of the student body is in the dorms, very few classes in-person, none in my department.

    Getting students to talk in a 50-seat zoom session is a trick. None of them think you are looking at them! The chat function was handy though. Better than raising hands for getting answers from such a large class. I could post a list of choices and ask them to chat a number from the list–easy way to get quick info.

    I’m utterly exhausted. People told me it was more tiring than being in the classroom, but I didn’t quite believe them. This is despite the fact you move so much less! My motion-sensitive office light turned off on me multiple times during the longer session.

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  16. Maine has just forbidden front of house restaurant staff from wearing normal face shields. No, they must be “inverted face shields.” Require employees to wear cloth face coverings and practice good hand hygiene. It is acceptable for kitchen staff to wear face shields in lieu of masks when the kitchen or weather is warm. Front-of-house staff may wear a face shield in lieu of a face covering only if the shield is designed to be worn inverted, attaching below the face (e.g. as a collar) and open at the top of the shield, with the shield extending above the eyes and laterally to the ears. Face shields that are open at the bottom, directing breath downward, are not acceptable replacements for face coverings for front-of-house staff. (Updated 8/14/20) https://www.maine.gov/decd/checklists/restaurants

    At first I thought this had to be an internet invention, but lo and behold, there it is on the state’s web page. The internet is comparing it to the canine “cone of shame.”

    More interesting, though, is that as far as I can tell, the “inverted face shield” is made by one company. Here is the press release from May, 2020, with a picture, description, and marketing talk: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/05/12/2032198/0/en/ZVerse-Unveils-Innovative-Face-Shield-for-Service-Industry-Workers.html

    Order page: https://www.zverse.com/our-products/

    There are inverted mouth shields on Amazon, but they are much smaller than the Maine state description. Above the eyes, from ear to ear–that’s the Zverse mask.

    Is it appropriate for a state government to require restaurants to buy face shields from only one provider? After all, normal face shields are quite inexpensive, and available from many providers. But the Zverse shields would be protected by a patent, right? And on Amazon, a normal face shield, such as used in hospitals, costs from $2 to $4 each.

    But a Zverse shield costs $20. Each.

    Is it appropriate for a state government to require all restaurants to pay 5 to 10 times as much for face shields, available from only one supplier, at a much, much higher cost?

    I really think it would be worthwhile investigating how the state came to this decision.

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    1. Cranberry said,

      “I really think it would be worthwhile investigating how the state came to this decision”

      Particularly since it’s not clear at all that it’s a superior design.

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  17. Laura had a link to this thread on the relatively low number of outbreaks in daycare centers:

    My bet is that it’s a lot easier to do isolated cohorts in daycares and elementary school than it is in middle school/high school/college.

    So we may be doing this backwards, in terms of lots of colleges opening up while lots of schools in the same region are closed.

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  18. I just encountered the most 2020 artifact.

    Osh Kosh (the children’s clothing people) just sent me a spam email ad with the header, “Video call in 5? Get dressed in a flash!”” Later on, the text says, “Up to 50% off quick camera-worthy styles.”

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  19. I don’t want to tempt anybody, but boy howdy this is good marketing:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/amelapay/status/1296992677033123841

    A Mexican resort is offering September/October vacations with “complimentary homeschool coordinators.” “Our coordinators will help your children connect online with their teachers and supervise their school routine up to five hours per day while parents relax here.” “Flights between Mexico and Cancun have resumed with no travel restrictions.”

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    1. I’d think it would fall apart, like the Princeton grads plan to rent hotel rooms for remote schooling in Hawaii & Arkansas. They promised a “college” experience with group trips and a room. The hotel in Hawaii looks fab. But it did all fall apart because doing any of this right is really hard. Some people have higher risk thresholds, but everyone gets upset if someone dies and worlds explode if children die.

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  20. I saw my first FB post for a group (elementary/middle school) in my neighborhood yesterday. The mom had arranged a tutor (a math teacher), had two kids and was looking for similar aged kids to group up with.

    Kiddo is in HS, so no need for formal tutoring pods here (family can provide tutoring, kid is pretty self-motivated), so I’m not paying detailed attention. But, it is interesting to see it happening, and not just in the New York Times.

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  21. bj said, “I saw my first FB post for a group (elementary/middle school) in my neighborhood yesterday. The mom had arranged a tutor (a math teacher), had two kids and was looking for similar aged kids to group up with.”

    I have heard that people are doing this on social media, but it seems to me that there have to be way more “arrangements” being set up offline, between people who already know each other through school.

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  22. I haven’t read this yet, but it looks interesting:

    Cornell’s in there.

    It also looks like this is probably the worst year ever to serve as an RA.

    Our mayor sent out a Dear Student letter to all Hometown U. students, telling them not to gather outside in groups of more than 10 people. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any mention of indoor gatherings…

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    1. My idiot daughter is gallivanting around (masked) because she got a negative COVID test after her sojourn to Minnesota. I don’t know about partying. It’s not her scene. But she is socializing a little more than makes me comfortable.

      The parents on the Cornell parents group are very pleased with the way this weekend’s check-in process has been going. The students have to go to the Ithaca Mall (not far from the campus) for COVID testing before they go to the dorms.

      The potential RA strike was averted. The VP of Student Life met with them. Also, it’s a reminder to never mess with labor when your university has a School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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  23. I saw something this evening that was rather sweet and heartening.

    There was a small party of college girls (maybe half a dozen people?) out on the grass having some sort of festive picnic celebration with music. There was a set of balloons spelling out “19” and another set spelling out “20,” so I assume that it was a double birthday party.

    This sort of thing out to be more officially encouraged: small, outdoor get-togethers.

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