Monday, March 16th, 2020


Germ Warfare

The next great world war is here. But this time it's not country vs country. It's humans vs a virus. And in this war, the soldiers on the front lines are health care professionals, grocery store employees, janitors, sanitation workers, delivery drivers, and all the others who keep the gears of society turning. The generals are the governors, mayors, principals, and others making the tough decisions to keep us safe; and who keep working for their constituents and students, even as they're dealing with their own health and safety concerns. And then there are the rest of us, the people on the homefront; a term that, in this case, should be taken entirely literally. "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country." What you can do for your country is: stay home, work from home, learn from home, inform and support your neighbors, drop off stuff for older people who shouldn't be going out, wash your hands. Or just do nothing. No one is asking you to jump on a grenade. Right now Uncle Sam Needs You to just sit on the couch and watch TV. It's a vital role and one many of us were born to do. Don't take it from me. Take it from these ordinary Italians who were where we are ten days ago.

+ 16 National Health Care leaders share tips in a very simple and clear op-ed: The best thing everyday Americans can do to fight coronavirus? Stay Home, save lives. (New rule of thumb: Every gathering is a cluster f-ck.)

+ "I am carrying a burden of seeing what we're doing at the hospital, seeing how concerned we are about what we know is coming. But my fellow citizens don't see it. My personal psychic crush is that I've been walking around for the last week seeing what's coming and feeling somehow unable to share that clearly and effectively with friends, family." A Frontline Physician Speaks Out.

+ How one asymptomatic person can change everything. "South Korea managed to avoid a major outbreak with only 30 people contracting the virus ... This changed with the emergence of Patient 31."

+ The CDC said gatherings of more than 50 people should be canceled. (That number is within 49 of optimal.)

+ If you run an organization and are in a position to lead by example, tell your people to work from home. Millions of Federal Workers Still Waiting on Work-From-Home Order During Coronavirus Pandemic. And if you're the mayor of NYC, maybe skip the workout at the public gym.

+ USA Today: People line up to buy guns, ammo amid coronavirus concerns. (I used a war metaphor above, but, sadly, you can't shoot the virus.)

+ "The pastor of a megachurch in South Florida warned his parishioners Sunday that fears of exposure to COVID-19 was a 'demonic spirit,' and he encouraged his parishioners to show up to worship and not heed warnings from officials to avoid crowded spaces." (I encourage these worshippers to say Shabbat Shalom and head back home.)

+ Not finding the right guidance right now? You can always look to the past. Gunnison, Colorado: the town that dodged the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. "A century on, what can we learn from how US mountain community dealt with viral outbreak."


Labs of Steel

"One, it peters out with the weather. Two, everybody gets infected ... Three is a vaccine, which is about a year away. Fourth way is the most likely: We're going to have a few drugs, within a few weeks to a few months, that prevent people from getting infected—like PrEP for HIV—and for treatment." Olivia Messer: Four Ways Experts Say Coronavirus Nightmare Could End.

+ Here's an excellent presentation from Stanford professor of neurobiology and bioengineering Michael Lin on COVID-19 research, hygiene tips, and treatment options.


Covering the Spread

Here's some of the latest: There have been 6,500 deaths worldwide, strong rules and curfews are being set in cities, the Supreme Court is postponing cases (hopefully, local courts will take the cue), the EU might seal borders, Canada enters lockdown mode, Trump tells governors to seek out respirators and other vital equipment on their own, the stock market has a dry cough and fever, Vegas casinos are closing (exactly zero people bet that could happen), and much more. Follow along with NYT, CNN, BBC, and WaPo.

+ "Monday's losses put the S&P 500 and Nasdaq more than 26% below their record highs set in late February. The Dow was 28% under its all-time high from last month. At one point, the Dow was down 30% from its record." CNBC: Dow plunges even after emergency Fed rate cut.


It’s Lonely At the Top

"Expertise has offended Trump ... His circle of loyalists is so lacking in policy expertise that the writing of his speech on the coronavirus from the Oval Office last week was left mainly to his nativist immigration counsellor Stephen Miller and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner." David Remnick in The New Yorker: Trump, Truth, and the Mishandling of the Coronavirus Crisis.

+ David Leonhardt in the NYT: A Complete List of Trump's Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus.

+ "Trump claimed vindication based on a Google clarification that its efforts to develop the website are on track. This in no way contradicts what press accounts reported — that Trump vastly oversold how far along it was. This remains entirely true.
But also note Trump's declaration that, in a larger sense, the media is not being truthful at a time of crisis. Trump is using his megaphone to tell the American people not to trust an institution they must rely on for information amid an ongoing public health emergency, all because that institution held him accountable for his own failures on this front." Greg Sargent in WaPo: Trump's rage at the media takes a dangerous new turn. (The point of this misdirection is also to get the public to fixate on a website when what we really need are tests...)

+ Reuters: "Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the United States, prompting German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine."

+ Politico: Trump finds his MAGA movement fracturing over coronavirus. (Now when you criticize Trump, even the Russian bots are like, "yeah, you gotta point.")

+ "Trump's test for the coronavirus was negative. Yet, from Brasília to Paris, Tehran to Ulaanbaatar, government officials on six continents—cabinet ministers, lawmakers, military leaders, senior policymakers, and health officials—have been infected with numbing speed by the virus. Dozens have gone into quarantine. 'It's reasonable to expect disruptions in public services and government that we haven't even envisioned yet.'" The New Yorker's Robin Wright: How Much Is the Coronavirus Infecting World Leaders and Disrupting Governments?


Daily Dose of Global News

AP: "The first participant in a clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus will receive an experimental dose on Monday, according to a government official ... Public health officials say it will take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine."

+ NYT: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has authorized the country's internal security agency to tap into a vast and previously undisclosed trove of cellphone data to retrace the movements of people who have contracted the coronavirus and identify others who should be quarantined because their paths crossed."

+ "The internet police, as they are known here, have gained power as the Communist Party has worked to seize greater control over the thoughts, words, and even memories of China's 800 million web users. Now, they are emerging as a bulwark against the groundswell of anger over governance breakdowns that exacerbated the epidemic." Muting Coronavirus Anger, China Empowers Its Internet Police.

+ The Atlantic's Ed Yong on The U.K.'s Coronavirus ‘Herd Immunity' Debacle: "The country is not aiming for 60 percent of the populace to get COVID-19, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so based on how badly the actual plan has been explained."

+ Gizmodo: Police in Spain are using drones to tell people to stay in their damn homes. (The people might just be happy to have someone to talk to...)


She, Her

"There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow. I would pick a woman to be my vice president." That promise from Joe Biden was about the only news to come out the latest (and likely last) Democratic primary debate. Politico: The biggest takeaways from the Biden-Sanders coronavirus debate. (The biggest takeaway was that they were smart enough to bump elbows and stand more than six feet apart.)


Weird (G)AL

"But with time, I've come to realize that there's an upside to being different from everyone around you. In fact, a body of social-science research suggests that being an oddball or a social reject can spark remarkable creativity." Adapted from Olga Khazan's upcoming book on this topic: The Perks of Being a Weirdo.


15 Seconds of Shame

The Intercept: "The Makers of TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing app with hundreds of millions of users around the world, instructed moderators to suppress posts created by users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform."


Getting Your Rocks On

Sapna Maheshwari on a clothing item inspired by a YouTube star that has found its way into malls and schools: "Some are wearing them in jest. Others sport them sincerely. But whatever their motivation, teenagers across the country have been going wild for shirts that bear a chaste declaration: 'Virginity Rocks.'" (I just ordered two for me and my wife since we're avoiding germs during the quarantine.)


Feel Good Monday

Generous customer leaves $2,500 tip to help restaurant staff facing income loss during coronavirus shutdown.

+ Finding yourself a homeschool teacher all of a sudden? Here are some resources for learning from home during COVID-19 school closures. (I haven't told my kids about the quarantine yet. I've just been letting them sleep in since last Wednesday...)

+ One benefit of stocking up on groceries is that we're learning which things, even in times of crisis, people won't eat. The Groceries That No One Wants to Panic-Buy.

+ Grubhub has suspended its collection of commission fees from independent restaurants.

+ Bob Shellard isn't allowed to visit his wife in her Connecticut nursing home. So he stood outside her window and held up a sign that said "I've loved you 67 years and still do. Happy Anniversary."

+ Iceland Foods at Kennedy Centre, West Belfast will be opening their store between 8-9am for the just elderly to shop alone.

+ A WWE Smackdown with no one there.

+ Just a horse blowing bubbles. (I say just, but we needed this.)