Monday, March 23rd, 2020


Your To Do List

The lockdown has started across much of the country. And it's about to get worse. Over the next week or two, the numbers will go up, in part because we waited to act. That surge is expected. Don't despair. If you're avoiding others, you're doing the right thing and the numbers will eventually catch up with our efforts to ease the burden on health workers who are short of beds, short of personal protection equipment, and short of sleep. Like countries that have turned the corner, we probably need to do more. No one has a better grasp of what it takes to deal with a pandemic than Don Jr. No, not that Don Jr. The NYT's Donald G. McNeil Jr. His latest piece is a public service and a must read. The Virus Can Be Stopped, but Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say. "The next priority, experts said, is extreme social distancing. If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt." (If it were possible to wave a magic wand, we'd pull another leader out of a hat, instead of the one history pulled out of its ... oh forget it, too much news to cover...)


Fed X-Factor

"The only way the markets are going to find sustainable improvement is when the economy is allowed to come back to life." The Fed is throwing everything it has at the economic problem, but until there's an end in sight, it feels like throwing money into black hole. New initiatives are announced, and the market shrugs (or worse). Here's the latest on the financial crisis from CNN.

+ Meanwhile, "Democrats blocked a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill for the second day in a row Monday, as near-pandemonium erupted on the Senate floor with lawmakers venting fury about their failed efforts to address the pandemic's impact on the U.S. economy." (The details of the battle are a familiar, the times are not.)

+ Bezos' nation-state is prioritizing household staples and other high-demand items. So when it comes to nonessentials, Amazon Prime delivery delays are now as long as a month. (We can wait a lot longer than that. Focus on keeping the drivers and warehouse workers safe. While we're at it, we need to keep our sanitation workers safe too.)


It Could Be Worse

Over the past week, I've been thinking about places where extreme psychological pressure is way of life, year after year. And now those places will have the pandemic on top of all the rest. Vice: Syria Confirms Its First Coronavirus Case. "Of course there are many more cases in Syria. You can't have an enormous pandemic in Iran, many cases in Iraq, without having many in Syria. It's there, and it's our worst nightmare." (How do you socially distance in a war zone, or worse, a refugee camp?)


Bull in a China Shop

A goal of calling Covid19 the "Chinese Virus" is to create a cultural war over that language to distract us from the real story: America's lack of preparedness. One of the outcomes of that strategy is bigotry. "As the coronavirus upends American life, Chinese-Americans face a double threat. Not only are they grappling like everyone else with how to avoid the virus itself, they are also contending with growing racism in the form of verbal and physical attacks. Other Asian-Americans — with families from Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar and other places — are facing threats, too, lumped together with Chinese-Americans by a bigotry that does not know the difference." NYT: Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety.

+ Reuters: "Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China."

+ For a little perspective, it's worth noting that the Spanish Flu of 1918 did not originate in Spain. It came from somewhere in North America, possibly Kansas. (Nothing is new in this world; least of all political, messaging strategies.)


Olympic Flame Retardant

"On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know." USA Today with the least surprising news of the day. IOC member says that 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed due to coronavirus pandemic. This is a big deal and sad thing to cancel. But the sooner we officially end the pipe dream of an Olympics this summer, the sooner more people will understand the gravity of the situation and act accordingly.


Circle Jerks

"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!" I'm sparing you the all-caps, but that was a direct quote from our president launched as he watched Fox News. It's not a new trend, but it's an increasingly dangerous one. The NYT's Ben Smith on the failure at the top. "The person who could have stopped the flow of misinformation was Ms. Scott's boss, Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation. But he wasn't paying much attention. The 48-year-old heir to his family's media fortune was focused instead on buying a streaming company called Tubi for $440 million." (HBO's Succession needs to up its game next season.) Rupert Murdoch Put His Son in Charge of Fox. It Was a Dangerous Mistake. (Fox News was a dangerous mistake.)

+ "I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let's try and get it corrected for the next time." Anthony Fauci on leading the country's health message while dealing with his side gig: babysitting. (Let's hope Fauci keeps his gov role. One wonders...)

+ If this is really a war, we need experts. We need former presidents. We need everyone. Right, Mr President? "I don't want to disturb them, bother them. I don't think I'm going to learn much." (Agreed.)

+ One expert the administration should listen to ASAP is the heroic Jose Andres: We Have a Food Crisis Unfolding Out of Sight. America has fed millions through disasters before. Mobilize restaurant workers now. (There are some great programs being developed with Andres' World Central Kitchen. More soon.)

+ Speaking of food, here's another look at Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide. Very helpful. Worth sharing.


This is Your Brain on Bugs

"One thing that can be of great help is being proactive in the face of reality. People who find a role for themselves and any sort of responsibility to assume at this time, or who convert their sorrow and anxiety into the creation of something new, will find that this provides a significant counterweight to the lack of control we are all feeling right now. Obviously, writing this piece serves the same purpose." Merav Roth, head of the psychotherapy program at Tel Aviv University, with a very interesting look at What Happens to Our Mind Under a Mortal Threat. (I hope that is paywall-free, if not, the quote above is the key point.)


From the Looks of Things

An amazing photo collection from the NYT that is at once breathtakingly unthinkable and oddly beautiful. The Great Empty.

+ US cities in coronavirus quarantine, seen from above. And photos from around the world from AP.

+ The many faces of health workers.

+ One of the NYC restaurant world's most devastating weeks.


Feel Good Monday

Cuba said it dispatched a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy ... at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy.

+ Neil Diamond with a new version of Sweet Caroline. (You had me at "Hi everybody.") Hands Washing Hands.

+ Need a break from the kids (err, to enhance your family time)? Audible has a ton of stories and books, streaming free.

+ Three other families and mine played Zoom Bingo the other night. Was fun. It's helpful if someone has a bingo machine hand crank thingy. We got the cards here and printed them out at home.

+ At least 2,000 San Francisco emergency medical workers will begin wearing rings this week that track their body temperature and other vital signs.

+ People are looping videos to fake paying attention in Zoom meetings. (Ah, normalcy...)

+ Yale's most popular class ever is available free online — and the topic is how to be happier in your daily life.

+ If Yale's course doesn't work, try puppies.


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?). Next installment tomorrow. Catch up and share the story with others: Something Something Something Murder.