Saturday, March 14th, 2020


Shut Your Pi Hole

I've been reading a lot of experts who say that, in these moments, people like consistency and information.So we'll go 7 days a week on NextDraft until we get out of this mess... Under normal circumstances, most of us on the internet would be exchanging takes about it being Pi day (3.14), but instead, we're talking about shutting down, closing in, hunkering down, and hoarding toilet paper. Spain is set to follow Italy in announcing a nationwide lockdown. Scary? Yes. But there are signs that these lockdowns work (so prepare for one in the US). "China, meanwhile, where the virus first emerged late last year, continued to relax its drastic measures in its hardest-hit region." But before we move on to the world and the big picture, let's talk about you. You shouldn't panic, but trust me, you're not overreacting. If the commander in chief has seemed at times to downplay the risk, it's notable that every commander beneath him is on another page. NPR: The Department of Defense has halted domestic travel for all service members, civilian employees and their families in a bid to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

+ This headline is interesting on a lot of levels. Apple to close US retail stores and all others outside China until March 27th. (That's the American military and Apple, the two most powerful forces in the world, both staying put. So, please, chill in place.)

+ And while physical distancing is advised, helping each other is encouraged. Rays of inspiration shine brighter when times get dark. And there are a lot of them. Rutger Bregman in The Correspondent: Don't forget: disasters and crises bring out the best in people. (Of course, there are also rays of darkness, we'll get to those below. I don't want to get too far off brand!)

+ There are even some positives when it comes to self-quarantining. The Atlantic: Shakespeare Wrote His Best Works During a Plague. (Same for me, but tweets.)


Eat, Pray, Glove

Amanda Mull in The Atlantic: How You Should Get Food During the Pandemic. "Is it safe to order delivery, both for you and for the person bringing you food? Is it safe to go to a grocery store that might be packed with panicked people? How do you support community businesses while social distancing? How do you lessen the burden that you put on people in service jobs? It's time for America to figure out how to feed itself during a pandemic." (As a P.S.A., here's the shopping list my son just texted to me: Sprite, Watermelon Red Bull, Coke, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips, Lucky Charms, Hot Funions, Red Vines, chocolate, and gummies. Seriously, corona has no idea the chemical reaction it's about to be hit with...)

+ Have other questions? Here's a useful site from the Federation of American Scientists (Yeah, it turns out scientists are back in vogue, ya'll.)


Misleading By Example

"'Sometimes it seems like they have literally thrown out the book,' said Joshua Sharfstein, a former top FDA official and Johns Hopkins University professor who is using the CDC manual to teach a crisis communication class. 'We're studying what to do — and at times seeing what not to do — on the same day.'" WaPo: Trump is breaking every rule in the CDC's 450-page playbook for health crisis. (Someone needs to turn it into a picture book, stat.)

+ While yesterday's press conference left modern Americans aghast at the phrase, "I don't take responsibility at all," historians may remember it more for the visuals; a large gathering of leaders and reporters, shoulder to shoulder, with much handshaking all around. Today's was more of the same. Here's the latest: Travel limitations will be extended to the UK and Ireland, domestic travel could be next, Trump has been tested though the results aren't in (which is precisely why he should be in self-quarantine), and the House passed a relief package. Follow along with the NYT, WaPo, CNN, and BBC.

+ The buck does not stop with Trump, but the lying really has to. Wired: Google's not making a nationwide coronavirus testing website. "And the company had no idea the president would say it was." And that "nasty" exchange about the closure of the pandemic office? Let's set the record straight. Beth Cameron in WaPo: I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it. And from 2018: "The top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic has left the administration, and the global health security team he oversaw has been disbanded under a reorganization by national security adviser John Bolton."

+ Derek Thompson: "In the United States, the pandemic has devolved into a kind of grotesque caricature of American federalism. The private sector has taken on quasi-state functions at a time when the executive branch of government—drained of scientific expertise, starved of moral vision—has taken on the qualities of a failed state."

+ "The Trumpian response to covid-19 has been compared to the Soviet government's response to the accident at the Chernobyl power plant, in 1986. For once, this comparison is not far-fetched." The New Yorker: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Fuels Trump's Autocratic Instincts. (Like they needed more fuel...)

+ And a particularly ominous tweet blast from the past. Trump on Jan 27: "We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus. Very few cases reported in USA, but strongly on watch. We have offered China and President Xi any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!" (China's Jack Ma is donating supplies to the US.)


Glove in the Time of Corona

Among the pieces of advice I've gotten from friends who know about such things, there's this. If you have face masks and rubber gloves, you might want to consider donating them to your local hospital. They could be running low. Nick Kristof: "A hospital in Seattle area has sent out a note to staff, shared with me, suspending elective surgery and warning that 'our local COVID-19 trajectory is likely to be similar to that of Northern Italy.' The hospital is down to a four-day supply of gloves." And former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: "They also don't have enough personal protective equipment. The doctors and nurses are having to reuse masks which they know is risky but they have no other choice. They are worried about running out of gowns and gloves as well."


Ask an Expert

David Ho, who was once named Time's Person of the Year for his AIDS research contributions, is working on Covid19 now at Columbia U. Here's a brief outtake from his interview with Rachel Maddow. Long story short, this story's gonna be longer than we'd like.

+ "You may have seen graphs that look like this. It shows how far behind Italy we are tracking in days and how our trajectory compares. The US and every country that hasn't taken better preventive measures like S Korea and Japan is directly on course." Andy Slavitt, who you should definitely be following on Twitter, with an update on Covid19 and the healthcare system.


Testing, Testing

NPR: "The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new test from the giant pharmaceutical company Roche that could represent a major breakthrough."

+ "They needed the tests so urgently, they obtained special diplomatic permission to bypass customs by sending a private jet to our lab to pick them up." I Make Coronavirus Test Kits for a Living—We Are All Working in a Frenzy.


Hope This Idea Doesn’t Jump The Shark

NYT: As Europe Shuts Down, Britain Takes a Different, and Contentious, Approach. "Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain once said his political hero was the mayor in the film 'Jaws,' praising him for defying mass hysteria to keep the beaches open after a constituent is eaten by a shark. As the coronavirus now stampedes across Britain and much of the world, Mr. Johnson is heeding the same principle, spurning the mass closures that have become commonplace across Europe and gambling his political future on a more restrained approach." (Editor's note: He's gambling juuuuust a little more than his political future...)


Stamp of Disapproval

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was adopting the rule change in December, but critics have called on the department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule." Thankfully, a judge found this to be the monstrosity it is, especially right now. Judge Blocks Rule That Would Have Kicked 700,000 People Off SNAP.


Brothers Grim

"On March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced, brothers Matt and Noah Colvin set out in a silver S.U.V. to pick up some hand sanitizer ... Over the next three days, Noah Colvin took a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes, mostly from 'little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods,' his brother said. 'The major metro areas were cleaned out.'" Then Amazon cracked down on a-holes price gouging customers, and the plot was foiled. But you still can't find the sanitizer. NYT: He Has 17,700 Bottles of Hand Sanitizer and Nowhere to Sell Them. I think we all have an idea of where he should stick them.

+ UK Student Suspended After Selling 'Squirts' of Sanitizer to His Classmates. (Being suspended from school is a reward right now...)


Feel Good Saturday

If you missed yesterday's edition, check out Weekend Whats, which includes a playlist of songs all about being alone, avoiding others, and keeping your hands to yourself (so basically the same soundtrack I listened to before corona...)

+ One lesson we've all learned already is that the internet is pretty damn good after all. And since we all need a break and to blow off some steam, there are memes. Lots of memes.

+ NBA Stars Are Helping Pay The Salaries Of Stadium Workers During The Coronavirus Shutdown.

+ Cornershop giving away face-masks, antibacterial hand gel and cleaning wipes to elderly.

+ McDonald's is selling a new Big Mac with four patties.

+ Pandemic Advice from Wu Tang Clan. (My addition: Bring da Ruckus ... but use gloves and leave it at the door.)