Sunday, April 19th, 2020


The Year of Living Carefully

You can always tell a true Covid-19 expert because they freely admit they don't have all the answers. And you can tell the best Covid-19 journalists because they talk to as many experts as possible and synthesize the information to paint as clear a picture as possible. No one does this better than the NYT's Don McNeil Jr, who has been preparing for this moment for much of his career. His articles are the opposite of the daily press briefings that endanger lives, soil discourse, and make us all feel sick. So here are several excerpts from McNeil's latest piece: Coronavirus in American: The Year Ahead.

+ Liberate This: "If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us." (Translation: Stop gathering public groups to fight each other, and start following best practices to fight the virus.)

+ The Economy: "Most experts believed that once the crisis was over, the nation and its economy would revive quickly. But there would be no escaping a period of intense pain."

+ The Opening: "The gains to date were achieved only by shutting down the country, a situation that cannot continue indefinitely. The White House's 'phased' plan for reopening will surely raise the death toll no matter how carefully it is executed ... 'If Americans pour back out in force, all will appear quiet for perhaps three weeks. Then the emergency rooms will get busy again.'"

+ The Lethality: "We do not know exactly how transmissible or lethal the virus is. But refrigerated trucks parked outside hospitals tell us all we need to know: It is far worse than a bad flu season." (It can be argued that the virus is the leading cause of death in the US right now. But it's plateauing in some areas. What comes next is partly dependent on our behavior and partly dependent on things we can't yet predict about the virus.)

+ The Vaccine: "Dr. Fauci has repeatedly said that any effort to make a vaccine will take at least a year to 18 months. All the experts familiar with vaccine production agreed that even that timeline was optimistic. Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that the record is four years, for the mumps vaccine."

+ The Treatment: It might come sooner than a vaccine. "But even if one were invented, production would have to ramp up until it was as ubiquitous as aspirin, so 300 million Americans could take it daily."

+ The Divide: "It will be a frightening schism. Those with antibodies will be able to travel and work, and the rest will be discriminated against." (And those already discriminated against, will likely find themselves doubly so, especially in an election year featuring the current incumbent.)

+ The Network: "China has used the pandemic to extend its global influence, and says it has sent medical gear and equipment to nearly 120 countries. A major recipient is the United States ... 'This is not a world in which 'America First' is a viable strategy.'"


Kiwi The People

The Atlantic: New Zealand's Prime Minister May Be the Most Effective Leader on the Planet. "They may even think, Well, I don't quite understand why [the government] did that, but I know she's got our back. There's a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy." (Empathissus isn't that dude who fell in love with his own reflection.)

+ "He liked his country breaks. He didn't work weekends. It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago. There was a real sense that he didn't do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be." A big (paywalled) exposé tracks Boris Johnson's failure to take the virus seriously (at least before he got it). Axios has some outtakes.

+ As bad as some leaders have been, only one has trashed and defunded WHO as one of his strategies to deflect blame. Like most of these deflections, this one is based on lies. WaPo: "More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at [WHO] on coronavirus ... and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration."


Reorganized Crime

You're not the only one who's seen your business impacted by supply chain interruptions and stay-at-home orders. AP: Cartels are scrambling: Virus snarls global drug trade. (Who knew they should have been in the hydroxychloroquine business...)

+ "They are providing everyday necessities in poor neighborhoods, offering credit to businesses on the verge of bankruptcy and planning to siphon off a chunk of the billions of euros being lined up in stimulus funds." The Mafia is poised to exploit coronavirus, and not just in Italy.


Mad Mask: Fury Road

"Before we could send the funds by wire transfer, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived, showed their badges, and started questioning me." These days, when chief physicians try to get PPE, it plays out like an action movie. The New England Journal of Medicine (which rarely has pieces optioned by Hollywood): In Pursuit of PPE.

+ And that totally normal thing where a governor arranges secret flights from China to avoid the feds to bring millions of masks and gloves to Illinois.

+ Part of the reason for the shortage: The U.S. sent millions of face masks to China early this year, ignoring pandemic warning signs.


One World Minus One

The Stones, Lady Gaga, Billy Joe Armstrong, Annie Lennox, Kesha, and Sheryl Crow were among the highlights from an around the world One World Together at Home concert to support WHO and celebrate health workers. Meanwhile, you're sitting home and watching a musical coming together for our first responders and hospital workers. And you realize that our leader couldn't possibly be a part of something so meaningful, unifying, and touching. One World Together, minus one. And like so much of this era, it's just sad.


Cruiser Weight

"'He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,' Kristen told me. Early in March Sean Hannity went on air proclaiming that he didn't like the way that the American people were getting scared 'unnecessarily.' He saw it all, he said, 'as like, let's bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.' Eventually, Fox changed course and took the virus more seriously, but the Joyces were long gone by then." The NYT's Ginia Bellafante with a story of life and loss that's about a lot more than the title, and my excerpt, suggests: A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise.

+ "The news that was arriving from home was causing us all a lot of worry and grief ... For us it was a stroke of good luck to be where we were." World cruise, begun before pandemic, nears end of odyssey. (They had no Covid-19 cases. Maybe they should stay onboard and take another lap...)


We Don’t Need Another Hero

"I'm grateful to be acknowledged for the risky work we're doing. Being in an environment where morale is up despite global uncertainty is encouraging. But I have a problem with all this hero talk. It's a pernicious label perpetuated by those who wish to gain something—money, goods, a clean conscience—from my jeopardization." Calling Me a Hero Only Makes You Feel Better. (Unlike restaurants, you can't really tip grocery store workers. One of your fellow readers had a good idea worth spreading: Every time you shop, buy a gift card and hand it over to the checker or bagger.)


Voice Recognition

"Two brothers who've scaled different peaks in the same range, Michael in boxing, Bruce in UFC. A pair of mountain GOATs. The full story, though, is more like a great American saga, not quite rags to riches but close enough, filled with money and guns and fights, foster homes and family mysteries, global plagues and cancerous tumors, Dana White and Donald Trump and James Bond, beer, bourbon, celebrity poker and -- date TBD this fall -- officially licensed bathroom products. If the Buffer brothers' lives were a movie script, it would come back with a note to tone it down about 25%. Yet every word is true. Almost every word." ESPN: The incredible and (mostly) true story of Bruce and Michael Buffer.


Feel Good Sunday

"As states across the country announced stay-in-place orders, many Americans turned to baking as a way to relieve stress, pass long hours at home, and insure themselves against potential food shortages stoked by panic-buying." The Hustle: Everyone is baking — and entrepreneurs are rising up to meet the demand. (Weird, Covid-19 convinced the world to bake and me to stop getting baked...)

+ Quarantined family re-creates 1981 Journey video shot by shot. (My family is recreating the Kurtz scenes from Apocalypse Now...)

+ 10-year-old donates more than 200 gift cards to Chesterfield police officers.

+ Who wouldn't want free coffee from a gorilla? (It's a fair question...)

+ Check out this Rooftop to Rooftop tennis from Italy.

+ And let's give some thought to the rooms and backgrounds performers chose during their One World appearances. (I feel like we need a Go Fund Me to score Matthew McConaughey a new printer...)


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. The first 13 chapters are here.

+ We'll have more chapters this week. In the meantime, if you missed yesterday's edition, there were several interesting stories, and I had some thoughts on the Liberate protests.