Friday, March 27th, 2020


The Hippocratic Oaf

The Vent is Too Damn High. A plan to hire General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce tens of thousands of ventilators was in the works. But then talks broke down over price. NYT: After Considering $1 Billion Price Tag for Ventilators, White House Has Second Thoughts. It's not just that America failed to prepare for the need-surge for ventilators, masks, gloves, gowns, and hospital beds, it's that, according to the president, we don't really need them now. "I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators ... You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they'll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they're saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'" (Dr Who meet Dr WTF...)

+ "Economists might not be able to say how much an individual person's existence is worth, but they have figured out a way to calculate how much how much the average person is willing to pay to reduce the risk of death — which allows them to put a price tag on the collective value of saving one life." FiveThirtyEight: What Should The Government Spend To Save A Life? (Spoiler alert: It's more than the price of a ventilator.)

+ "Trump isn't facing a political problem he can easily spin his way out of. He's facing a lethal virus. It doesn't give a damn what Donald Trump thinks of it or tweets about it. Spin and lies about COVID-19, including that it will soon magically disappear, as Trump claimed it would, don't work. In fact, they have the opposite effect. Misinformation will cause the virus to increase its deadly spread." Peter Wehner in The Atlantic: The President Is Trapped. (This a very interesting article with the wrong title. America is trapped.)


Tom and Kerry

Is there anything that can bridge the divide between Trump and the Dems? Yes. A jerk Kentucky Congressman named Thomas Massie (known unaffectionately as Mr. No) who held up the stimulus package and, dangerously, forced House members to return to the chamber to vote. John Kerry retweeted the president's hate-tweet with one of his own: "Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity. He's given new meaning to the term Masshole." After the ridiculous delay, the House passed the bill. Meanwhile, Trump had a change of heart (or at least a change of Tweet and a new target of blame) about ventilators, Boris Johnson tested positive, stocks are backtracking, and America has taken over the world in infections. Here's the latest from the NYT.

+ Tired of hearing about bad government leadership? Me too. That's why I've watched and re-watched this interview with Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, in which he explained how the US will expand hospital capacity, in a hurry. (When this is over, I have a bathroom remodel I'd love the Lt General to take a look at.)


Weekend Whats

What to Rock: On Sunday night, Alicia Keys, Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw and more will join Elton John in a televised coronavirus benefit concert, with each artist playing from their own homes. And for the online crowd, Stream Aid, featuring a ton of artists will hit Twitch on Saturday. Need some more "live" music? Austin City Limits has opened its archives.

+ What to Watch: The latest season of Ozark hits Netflix, this time with a new twist: After a couple weeks in quarantine, the Byrde family now seems less dysfunctional than yours.

+ What to Stream: For a good overview of the basics of the virus, staying at home, and staying healthy, watch this video of Steph Curry interviewing Anthony Fauci. (Anthony Fauci just pulled off the greatest co-star upgrade in human history.)

+ What to Read: A very good, fact-based, overview of what we're facing and what it will take to put it behind us. Ed Yong: How the Pandemic Will End.


From Bad to Worse

"In an embattled enclave in Syria, doctors have seen patients die from what looks like the coronavirus but are unable to treat them because they lack beds, protective gear and medical professionals. A refugee camp in Bangladesh is so cramped that its population density is nearly four times that of New York City, making social distancing impossible. Clinics in a refugee camp in Kenya struggle in normal times with only eight doctors for nearly 200,000 people." Where life was already a living hell, The World's Most Vulnerable Brace for Virus.

+ Three unaccompanied immigrant children in US custody have tested positive for the coronavirus.

+ For Abused Women, a Pandemic Lockdown Holds Dangers of Its Own.


Gear and Loathing

"We are being called to jeopardize our own health and safety to treat our community. It is disgusting. I wish more attention would be given to us on the front lines and the situation we face. We live in the richest country in the world and yet we don't have the tools to perform our job safely." Nurses Share Coronavirus Stories Anonymously in an Online Document.

+ "I'm okay. Don't tell Mom and Dad. They'll worry." A NY Nurse Dies. Angry Co-Workers Blame a Lack of Protective Gear.

+ New York Requests 85 Refrigerated Trucks To House The Coming Dead.

+ A teen who died of covid-19 was denied treatment because he didn't have health insurance.

+ New York City is the epicenter today, but New Orleans may become an epicenter that could define the city for generations. The "poverty rate, lack of healthcare and affordable housing, and high rates of residents with preexisting medical conditions may be driving its explosive growth and could make it the next US epicenter of the outbreak." (How the hell did we let Mardi Gras happen?) And Florida, lax about shutting things down, could be in for a big wave of cases. But we don't know that for sure, because of testing shortages.

+ A bleak sign of the times. ‘Refugees' flee Bay Area for Taiwan, hoping to leave coronavirus behind.


Corner Turners?

Hope from the first region to be hit: Where the coronavirus outbreak started in Washington state, officials see hope as cases appear to be leveling off.

+ "A British company behind a 10-minute coronavirus antibody test, which will cost about a $1, has begun sending prototypes to laboratories for validation, which could be a game-changer in the fight against the pandemic." (This is a test to determine whether one has been previously infected.)

+ NYT: Blood Plasma From Survivors Will Be Given to Coronavirus Patients. (Old solution to a new problem. Docs will see if it works. Not sure if it can scale.)


Grocery Chain Reaction

"The company began limiting the amounts of certain products customers were able to purchase in early March; extended its sick leave policy and implemented social distancing measures quickly; limited its hours to keep up with the needs of its stockers; added a coronavirus hotline for employees in need of assistance or information; and gave employees a $2 an hour raise on March 16, as those workers, many of whom are interacting with the public daily during this pandemic, began agitating for hazard pay." Texas Monthly with a story everyone who runs a chain of grocery stores or other essential business should read. Inside the Story of How H-E-B Planned for the Pandemic. "The grocer started communicating with Chinese counterparts in January and was running tabletop simulations a few weeks later. (But nothing prepared it for the rush on toilet paper.)"


Nothin’ But Net Positive

"Globetrotters General Manager Jeff Munn said in a statement Thursday that the organization has lost 'one of the most genuine human beings the world has ever known.'" Harlem Globetrotters legend Fred 'Curly' Neal dies at 77. (Neal may have induced more smiles than any other person of his era.)


Feel Good Friday

The New Yorker: The Group Making Beautiful Quarantine Songs on a Barcelona Rooftop. "Each song requires multiple takes, and hours of preparation. The degree of difficulty increases every day. How many puns can you invent about a pandemic?" (That question falls directly into my wheelhouse.)

+ Group 3D prints masks for healthcare workers in Upper Michigan.

+ After a hospital put out a call for protective gear, three friends developed a product in a few days. Their design is now being manufactured by Ford.

+ 'Inspired by necessity': Madison pediatrician invents barrier to keep providers safe.

+ 3D-printer companies build face shields, masks, and more.

+ A movie theater owner is selling curbside popcorn to pay his employees. (Or, why I wish I lived within walking distance of Fairfax, Va...)

+ Hockey equipment maker Bauer producing protective shields to assist medical staff. (Nice to see so many companies that give a flying puck!)


Something, Something, Something Murder

The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. There are seven chapters so far. Catch up over the weekend.

+ If you're all caught up, here's another story. This one is true. Me, Mom, and The Driveway Plan. A Quarantine Story. It might be better for me if you don't share it.