Sunday, March 29th, 2020


Dropping F Balms

Reminder: NextDraft is going 7 days a week until we get through this crisis.

"This is Trump's world now: scattered, incoherent, unscientific, nationalist. Not a word of compassion does he have for America's stricken Italian ally (instead the United States quietly asks Italy for nasal swabs flown into Memphis by the U.S. Air Force) ... I have experienced physical shock in recent weeks watching leaders like Angela Merkel in Germany, Justin Trudeau in Canada and Emmanuel Macron in France speak about the pandemic. We Americans do not grasp how insidiously Trump has accustomed us to malignancy. A germophobe, he has spread the germ of untruth. That self-satisfied, nasal and plaintive presidential voice has become a norm. And so merely to hear a sane, caring, scientific response to the virus from other leaders is riveting and reorienting." Roger Cohen with a great essay in the NYT: A Silent Spring Is Saying Something. "I don't blame Trump entirely for America's unpreparedness. The American health care system has long been a colossal study in waste. But I do blame Trump for wasting a couple of months in denialism."

+ "The US response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort. What's happened in Washington has been a fiasco of incredible proportions." The Guardian: The missing six weeks.

+ The most recent uncertainty out of Washington was the call for, and then the calling off, of a potential forced quarantine across three northeastern states. Opposition among experts and administration insiders was unanimous, but more time was wasted and more confusion sown. As Andrew Cuomo explained: "If you start walling off areas all across the country, it would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, antisocial." Here's the latest from the NYT.

+ While one can understand the motivation behind a forced quarantine, I came up with an alternate plan that could be ever more effective. Tell the F--king Truth. My mom often tells me that swearing is a sign of weak writing. She was right until Trump and this crisis. Thankfully, I showed pretty good restraint by only using one swear word in this piece. (But I used it eighteen times.)


Sweet Nothings

We move from the political side of the story to the very personal. Tony Sizemore talks to Eli Saslow about his partner, who was the first person known to have died of covid-19 in Indiana. "She's dead, and I'm quarantined. That's how the story ends. I keep going back over it in loops, trying to find a way to sweeten it, but nothing changes the facts. I wasn't there with her at the end. I didn't get to say goodbye. I don't even know where her body is right now, or if the only thing that's left is her ashes. From normal life to this hell in a week. That's how long it took." 'Anything good I could say about this would be a lie.'


Shutdown Upside

Open for business sooner to save the economy or stay closed and save lives? It turns out that's likely a false choice. Bloomberg: Cities that clamped down early and longer in the Spanish flu outbreak had faster growth once the danger passed. "The cities that implemented aggressive social distancing and shutdowns to contain the virus came out looking better. Implementing these policies eight days earlier, or maintaining them for 46 days longer were associated with 4% and 6% higher post-pandemic manufacturing employment, respectively. The gains for output were similar. Likewise, faster and longer-lasting distancing measures were associated with higher post-pandemic banking activity."


It Can’t Hurt to Mask

Since the early days of this crisis, we've been advised against wearing masks, and to focus instead on hand-washing and social distancing. But, Experts Increasingly Question Advice Against Widespread Use of Face Masks. Of course, there's a problem with the updated advice. There aren't even enough masks for health workers.

+ Here are some tips on how to make an effective face mask at home.

+ Axios: Inside the start of the great virus airlift. "A plane from Shanghai arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Sunday morning carrying an extraordinary load: 12 million gloves, 130,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks, 50,000 gowns, 130,000 hand sanitizer units, and 36,000 thermometers."


We’re Not Grading on a Curve

"Today, if every hospital employee who had a close encounter with a COVID-19 patient disappeared for two weeks, the medical workforce would quickly become depleted. A safe alternative would be to minimize potential exposures by testing everyone who stepped foot in the hospital ... The U.S. does not have that testing capacity. The next best thing might be to require some form of mask and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff, and possibly even patients, presuming that anyone could be a disease transmitter. The U.S. does not have enough medical supplies to do this either." And the shit hitting the fan in NYC and elsewhere is sadly coming to a hospital near you. James Hamblin: The Curve Is Not Flat Enough.

+ "Emergency medical workers are making life-or-death decisions about who is sick enough to take to crowded emergency rooms and who appears well enough to leave behind. They are assessing on scene which patients should receive time-consuming measures like CPR and intubation, and which patients are too far gone to save ... And, they are doing it, in most cases they say, without appropriate equipment to protect themselves from infection." N.Y.C.'s 911 System Is Overwhelmed. ‘I'm Terrified,' a Paramedic Says. (In some cities, citizens are cheering for first responders and health workers at the same time each night. Maybe we should just all cheer nonstop.)


Know Your Enemy

"One day, the parasite ... had an opportunity to expand its realm. Perhaps it was a pangolin, the scaly anteater, an endangered species that is a victim of incessant wildlife trafficking and sold, often secretly, in live-animal markets throughout Southeast Asia and China. Or not. The genetic pathway remains unclear ... More recently, the coronavirus found a new species: ours. Perhaps a weary traveller rubbed his eyes, or scratched his nose, or was anxiously, unconsciously, biting his fingernails. One tiny, invisible blob of virus. One human face. And here we are, battling a global pandemic." Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker: From Bats to Human Lungs, the Evolution of a Coronavirus.


Who’s Got Next?

"By instituting lockdowns and deploying a variety of emergency powers across the country, we are destroying our economy, our social fabric, and our political system. We will never be the same. Whether we change for both the better and the worse, as opposed to the solely catastrophic, will depend on how mindful we remain of the damage we are doing as we attempt to save ourselves from the pandemic." Masha Gessen: In the Midst of the Coronavirus Crisis, We Must Start Envisioning the Future Now.


Democracy Dies in Darkness (And So Do You)

In the span of these weeks, and even this edition, we've seen how great writing and reporting can inform us, move us, empower us, and soothe us. We've also seen it break through the lies in a way that will undoubtedly save lives. Now the question is whether or not journalism itself can survive. The Fate of the News in the Age of the Coronavirus.


Feel Good Sunday

"Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your incredible and unwavering support. Your kind words, messages of encouragement, ideas for perseverance, and orders for books have taken our breath away." Powell's Books rehires over 100 employees after surge of online orders.

+ "When she told her coworkers at the MGH Center for Disaster Medicine the next day, a colleague joked: What about just getting married at the hospital? Her co-workers turned the offhand remark into an actual plan, executed in the midst of exhausting 12-hour workdays."

+ A new program in NY is designed to provide free child care for those on the front lines of the pandemic.

+ America is stocking up on food, thermometers — and hair dye.

+ "People are panic-buying chickens like they did toilet paper." (Hopefully, for a different use case...)

+ Toowoomba schoolgirls stay home to cook meals for health workers.

+ Krispy Kreme giving out free doughnuts to healthcare workers. (That might cause another kind of health crisis, but we can worry about that later.)


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.

+ Meanwhile, if you're a fan of Damon's amazing show Watchmen, you'll definitely like his follow up, Washmen. And when it comes to social distancing, Lube Man was ahead of his time.