Saturday, March 21st, 2020


Sophie’s Triage

It's not an easy news Saturday, but there are also good ideas, positive stories, and safety tips. Read on...

"We don't want to do it. We don't think we should have to do it. If we have to do this, then we want to do it in a fair and rational and thoughtful way." In Washington, where the virus hit earlier, state and hospital officials begin to set guidelines "for how to decide who lives and dies if, as feared, the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the state's health care system." This is not what we used to mean by Decision 2020.

+ "Health-care workers seeing at-risk patients were housed away from their families. They wore full-body protective gear, including goggles, complete head coverings, N95 particle-filtering masks, and hazmat-style suits. Could we do that here? Not a chance." Atul Gawande in The New Yorker: Keeping the Coronavirus from Infecting Health-Care Workers.

+ The latest health care updates from Andy Slavitt.


It’s Not a Hoax. It’s Not Just The Elderly

"It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube." ProPublica talks to a respiratory therapist in New Orleans. A Medical Worker Describes Terrifying Lung Failure From COVID-19 — Even in His Young Patients.



In Saturday's White House press conference, President Trump said, "The testing is going very well." Here's the truth. "Health officials in New York, California and other hard-hit parts of the country are restricting coronavirus testing to health care workers and people who are hospitalized, saying the battle to contain the virus is lost and the country is moving into a new phase of the pandemic response."

+ There is some hope on the testing front: FDA approves new test that could detect coronavirus in about 45 minutes.

+ Jeniffer Senior in the NYT: "In a time of global emergency, we need calm, directness and, above all, hard facts. Only the opposite is on offer from the Trump White House. It is therefore time to call the president's news conferences for what they are: propaganda."

+ Business Insider: Trump can't hold his massive rallies because of coronavirus, so he's moved his act to the briefing room. (I know some think this is not the time to call out Trump. It's precisely the time. If we had been louder before, maybe this disaster would be less horrific. If Trump listened to experts, we could have been ready. And every day of mismanagement is another day lost addressing a ticking time bomb. We've stopped hearing from the CDC and experts. Instead we hear the president tout unproven drugs, make false promises, and deny scientific fact. The media must adjust and stop broadcasting this malpractice unfiltered. Covering it live will cost lives.)


Work Ethics

"They have coughs, sore throats, aches and fevers — symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. Yet they are still reporting for their shifts in crowded shipping facilities and warehouses and truck depots, fearful of what will happen if they don't." NYT: ‘Terrified' Package Delivery Employees Are Going to Work Sick. (As I mentioned earlier in the week, my local postman had no idea how to properly protect himself, and his customers, from the virus. One of the big problems is that we don't have enough protective gear for doctors and nurses, let alone deliverers.) Buzzfeed: Costco employees say they're not properly protected to be on the frontlines. And the Port of Oakland longshoremen threaten to walk off job where employers aren't properly sanitizing equipment and facilities. (We're turning our most vital workers into a supply chain gang.)

+ Going to work sick is the most serious employment crisis, but not the most widespread. In NYC, 1,200 airport workers were abruptly laid off with no severance.


Eat, Pray, Gov

Among all the small businesses, Restaurants, bars, and other gathering venues are feeling the most immediate hit. Unlike NBA teams or big companies, they don't have cash to keep paying employees even if they wanted to. Eater: Rent abatement, tax deferrals, and immediate unemployment benefits ... What Restaurants Need Right Now to Actually Survive. The best idea I've heard so far: State governments should contract with restaurants to provide food to health workers, the elderly, etc. It's a win, win, and if restaurants could be given a state's stamp of approval, regular customers would feel more secure about ordering from them. I passed this idea on to Governor Newsom in CA. He forwarded it to the right person at the state level. If you come across great ideas, let me know.

+ Starbucks finally did the right thing for society by closing most of its cafes. But that's gonna be a massive employment hit.

+ Serious eats: Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide. Questions about COVID-19 and food safety, answered.


Help Is On Your Way

I know this a rough edition for a Saturday (and I'm taking the weekend off from the financial crisis). This is not intended to make you feel hopeless, but rather informed. While the challenge is massive, so is our ability to help each other out in ways small and large. Vox: "The fallout from the spread of coronavirus has highlighted how many Americans are one disaster away from physical, emotional, or economic ruin. Now, while many await federal and state assistance, those in more secure financial positions have an opportunity to step up and help." Here's how you can help people who've lost jobs or housing.


Oh That’s Just Brilliant

"I'm in the age group that has a one in seven mortality rate if I get it. If you're not worried, you're not paying attention. But I'm not scared. I firmly believe that the steps that we're taking will extend the time that it takes for the virus to make the rounds. I think that, in turn, will increase the likelihood that we will have a vaccine or we will have a prophylactic antiviral in time to cut off, reduce, or truncate the spread. Everybody needs to remember: This is not a zombie apocalypse. It's not a mass extinction event." Steven Levy talks to Larry Brilliant: The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What's Coming. (Listen to him. This guy had a tougher job living up to his name than Maxwell Smart...)


Who’s Got Next (to Last)?

"A group of Nebraskans with boy-band haircuts and an affinity for Jersey Mike's subs were one of the last teams playing in America. For 48 hours, they didn't have to ponder safe distances or the harsh realities ahead of them. They did not take for granted how lucky they were to get a chance to finish something that hundreds of other teams couldn't." ESPN: Amid coronavirus cancellations, one Nebraska team managed to finish its season on top. Less than two weeks ago, my wife and I were consoling our kids about the cancelation of their basketball championships. Since then, the whole world has changed. (Our kids are still pissed at us though...)


Feel Good Saturday

"I wanted to do something because there's so many millions of Americans that don't have the same privileges that I've been given. They're losing their jobs. They are concerned about paying bills, feeding their family." Meet the mother of two who was first to test coronavirus vaccine.

+ KQED: How These Disabled Activists Are Taking Matters Into Their Own (Sanitized) Hands.

+ Bay Area neighbors still sing and dance. (In a weird way, we've never been closer than we are now that we're all six feet apart.)

+ Happy hour goes online.

+ Americans Drop Kale and Quinoa to Lock Down With Chips and Oreos. (Not to brag, but my son was ahead of his time.)


Something, Something, Something Murder

As you know, the most excellent Damon Lindelof of Lost and Watchmen fame has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. It's fun, it's great, and it gives you something to look forward to other than bad news and cheap puns (wait, who just said that?). Take the weekend to catch up and share the story with others. The archives, with a fancy cover, have come alive: Something Something Something Murder.