Open Thread for Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A retired Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) in his garden...

A retired Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) working in his garden…

I didn’t post yesterday because I was too busy with work — all of which I’m doing from home, of course. A number of clients are hurrying to get out various communications related to coronavirus. But I’m not sure what will happen when they’ve said all they can about that. We’ll see.

  1. McMaster discourages groups of 3+ people — But he still won’t go the full “everybody stay at home” route, unlike California and Illinois. What do y’all think about this? Is he underreacting?
  2. What about all those partying punks? — I don’t have a link with this one, because I’m not talking about the kids on spring break in Florida. I heard this morning from someone who lives around the USC campus (no, not Kathryn Fenner — someone else) who is really fed up with the students around her constantly partying. A neighbor keeps calling the cops, and they quiet down momentarily, then resume making jackasses of themselves. (I find myself idly wondering whether any of them are our governor’s tenants, but I have no knowledge that they are.) I guess there’s no cure for stupid at that age.
  3. Senate nears passage of $2 trillion stimulus deal — I’ve got to ask: Are any of y’all paying much attention to this? Are you hanging on every word? Are you heavily invested (other than financially, which I suppose we all are) in whether the Democrats or the Republicans get their way on this? Does it seem like this debate is going on in another universe, one where it’s still 2019 or something? Apparently, some people on Wall Street care, though. News that they’re nearing agreement has caused stocks to recover somewhat today.
  4. Trump says he may soon push businesses to reopen — This is one of those “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” moments… And if reminds me of a separate post I’m thinking about writing, posing the question, “Do you ever get the sense that we’re devolving as a species?”
  5. Fauci on Trump: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down’ — That’s pretty much what I thought the people standing around POTUS at these briefings are thinking.
  6. Seen anything good on TV? — I saw an interesting movie my wife had borrowed from the library (which of course is now closed, so no more of those). It’s called “All Is True,” and it’s about the last three years of Shakespeare’s life, when he retired to Stratford after the Globe burned down. It stars Kenneth Branagh (although it’s hard to recognize him) and Judi Dench. It was interesting. I was particularly fascinated to think that at 49, Shakespeare did actually stop writing. How could he — a guy who had always been so prolific? Had he just said everything he wanted to say? Oh, and last night I started watching that Netflix series about the origins of British football — “The English Game.” Not bad so far…

The English Game

49 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, March 24, 2020

  1. Norm Ivey

    #1&2. I guess those large social gatherings are occurring, but I’m not seeing them. Even the couple of times I’ve stepped into grocery stores, they haven’t been what I would call crowded. The state parks are very busy, but I haven’t large gatherings, just families keeping their distance from others.

    #3. I’m watching this. I’m discouraged, but not surprised. Just decide what you do agree on, pass only that and fight over the rest of it later.

    #4. You couldn’t write a script about a worse crisis to occur while this fool is president. It’s a health crisis, meaning that you have to believe in science and trust the professionals. It’s a never-before-seen crisis which requires a government that can be trusted to provide accurate information. It’s a crisis which requires all of us, including the president, to have empathy and understanding for our fellows. He’s a failure at all three.

    #6. We watched the first couple of episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist last night. There’s less than a dozen episodes all told, but it’s binge-able. It’s fun and serious at the same time. I’ve also been watching the new season of Cosmos, but ti’s not as good as the first season a few years ago.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “I guess those large social gatherings are occurring, but I’m not seeing them.”

      You mean the cool kids aren’t inviting you to their parties?

      Don’t they know that a) You manufacture beer at your home, and b) if invited to a party, you will bring some?

      Reply
      1. Norm Ivey

        The cool kids never invited me. To steal a thought from Doug, social distancing is just a nostalgic trip back to high school…

        Reply
  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Huh. Are y’all seeing a big space between the words “We’ll see” and the first news item?

    I’m looking at the code, and I can’t figure out why it’s doing that…

    Reply
  3. Barry

    Been watching the Spectrum original series Deadly Games about Richard Jewell and Eric Rudolph. It’s 10 episodes.

    My wife and I have greatly enjoyed it.

    Reply
  4. Dave Crockett

    Re: 4. The president can push businesses to reopen all he wants. My tiny consulting business will not resume normal operations until health professionals are all in agreement that it is reasonably safe to do so.

    His last two appearances on TV brought me the the point of simply turning them off before they were finished. The man is SO consumed with proclaiming how great he was up until the virus pandemic, how great he is handling every single aspect of the pandemic personally, and how very quickly the economy will skyrocket in mere months from now. Unadulterated feldercarp.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      … and what a mess he inherited in the pandemic preparedness department. That’s one of his favorite canards.

      YOU won’t “resume normal operations” prematurely, and I won’t. But think of all the millions who will, who actually believe the things this guy says.

      What a recipe for chaos.

      I’m holding out hope someone will get to him on this and get him to back off, which happens with great frequency.

      But what do his follower go by? What he says on Tuesday, or what he says on Wednesday?

      Reply
        1. Barry

          It’s hard to watch Trump do anything. The man is obsessed with himself.

          I enjoy watching my children make fun of his butchering of the English language. What an embarrassment.

          Reply
  5. Bryan Caskey

    #1 and #4 are related. Here in America, we have this thing called “Federalism”.

    In this instance, the State Governors have the actual police power to decide how to handle a public health crisis. The chief executive of the federal government can persuade and ask state Governors to do things, but ultimately, it’s up to the Governors.

    Having said that, the shelter-in-place orders can’t continue without end.

    The best analogy that I have read for what we’re going through economically right now is a cancer patient getting radiation. The treatment (stay at home and shut down economy) is horrendous — but it might send the cancer into remission while saving the patient’s life. Needless to say, though, it can’t go on forever.

    If you give someone a massive-sized dose of radiation, it’ll kill the cancer but will also kill the person. On the flip side, you can’t just give a single dose of radiation and then send the patient off. A single does won’t have killed the cancer; all you’ll have done is expose the person to radiation needlessly, making him sicker for no good reason. There’s a course of treatment. If you’re not going to follow the course, it’s foolish to start treatment in the first place.

    It seems to me the most important thing is long-term thinking. We need to be thinking past the next news cycle, to months and months out. Instead of just playing the next move ahead, we need to be playing eight moves ahead on the chessboard. Also, I would like the political leadership to announce this in a long-term plan. The American people are smart enough to get it. We all know this isn’t going away next month. Level with us and enlist us in the long term plan.

    Reply
    1. Bob Amundson

      Urban areas that provide a high percentage of GDP are the same areas that are at a very high risk for the community spread of Covid-19. Also, “gig” workers (which could include consultants) may not have any relief from the stimulus package under consideration. One size fits all statements are dangerous, and it is time to use federalism to customize solutions. “It seems to me the most important thing is long-term thinking.” I agree, but I am concerned that is no longer a “value” of many people, businesses, or even governments.

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree. And for once, federalism isn’t the thing.

      What good does it do us if one state does everything right, and the state next to it does everything wrong?

      No state is an island. Except Hawaii, which is a bunch of islands…

      We have to respond to this nationally. As we should also be doing globally, but of course “America First” is getting in the way of that.

      There are few things that I think have to be handled on the national level. Defense and diplomacy, for instance. I also think our healthcare system should be national, to have the scale to make a real system (as in, single-payer) work.

      And a response to something like this needs to be national.

      Reply
      1. Bob Amundson

        Both macro solutions and micro solutions are necessary. Federalism is uniquely prepared to accomplish both if handled correctly. I still have some hope that science will drive both macro and micro responses.

        Reply
        1. Norm Ivey

          Slight correction. School buildings are closed. Teachers will continue to teach and connect with their students. Students will continue to learn.

          Reply
          1. Bryan Caskey

            Oh, thank goodness. Then I guess my wife and I don’t need to stay home to teach our two children then?

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Bryan, did that comment have a little EDGE to it? Is someone starting to experience cabin fever?

              Me, I could shelter in place permanently, and be pretty happy.

              If I ever get to retire, something that is somewhat in doubt, I’m pretty sure I’ll dig it. There is so much that I want to do if I could just get the time. With all the books to read, all the blogs to write, and if I need a break, so much bingeable TV to watch, I cannot imagine being bored.

              The one thing really bad about THIS kind of staying at home is that I can’t do the one BEST thing about retirement — spending time with my grandchildren. It’s so frustrating to know they’re not at school, but I can’t hang out with them…

              Reply
              1. Bryan Caskey

                Yeah, a bit of an edge. Sending worksheets and workbooks home for me and my wife to implement isn’t school – it’s homeschooling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and we are blessed that we have flexible jobs to allow us to do that.

                And under the circumstances, it’s appropriate. Happy to do it. I actually enjoy it.

                But don’t tell me “teachers continue to teach”.

                Reply
            2. Barry

              My wife answered over 100 emails today from students, joined 3 video conferences with students, and had a faculty meeting online.

              She’s not out of school.

              Reply
            3. Norm Ivey

              Parents across the state are dealing with a sudden and unprecedented change in their routines and demands on their time, but the teachers aren’t at fault for that. I understand and empathize with your frustration.

              I hope that parents can also appreciate what teachers have suddenly been asked to do. I can provide some context for what’s expected of teachers in my district. Your mileage may vary.

              With almost no warning, teachers were asked to produce 10 days worth of lessons that did not introduce new content and which, at the elementary level, had to be in the form of paper packets. Middle and high schools, because the students all have devices assigned to them, were able to deliver digital lessons, but still, no new content or summative assessments. Teachers are expected to keep regular office hours and respond in short order to requests for help while also taking steps to get up to speed on using technology to provide instruction.

              Internally, the understanding was that if we went beyond the 10 days we would then develop new material to be sent home. In RSD2, that includes sending home devices for students as young as kindergarten. Most teachers at all levels have some experience in using technology to augment instruction, but very few have the skill set to immediately start teaching in an e-learning format. Many of those teachers are also in your position–having to help their own children with work that has been sent home as well.

              I hope that as we go forward you’ll begin to see more direct involvement from your child’s teachers and that the experience will continue to be and become even more positive for you. Believe me, they miss their kids and want nothing more than to provide them with the best instruction they can under the circumstances. Teachers are still hard at work every day.

              Reply
              1. Bryan Caskey

                Norm,

                Thanks for your thoughts and detailed answer. First, I love our children’s teachers. Our son who is in second grade has the best teacher I could ask for. He has blossomed this year, as we have worked with her to keep him busy since he’s more advanced. She is giving him third and fourth grade lessons rather than just teaching everyone the same. She’s amazing. If they had nominations for teacher of the year, I would vote for her. She did a Zoom meeting with him and some classmates today for about 10 minutes.

                The same goes for our daughter in K-5. Her teacher is fully of love, energy, and passion for the children. She’s everything you could want in a Kindergarten teacher.

                None of this is anyone’s fault. It’s a global pandemic that has found its way to our doorstep. My only point was that school (the physical act of the children being in the school) which is not an insignificant thing, is out until May 1. That’s all. It’s extremely disruptive to normal life. School is now at home. That’s just a fact, and it’s a stubborn one.

                Reply
          2. Barry

            Correct Norm. Every teacher I know ( and I know a bunch since my wife is one) is teaching and handling numerous emails and questions from students about assignments.

            Correction: some of the emails are from parents trying to teach at home that can’t follow simple directions.

            Reply
            1. Bryan Caskey

              Every parent I know (and I know a bunch since my wife are parents) are making schedules, teaching, and handling numerous questions from our children about assignments – all from home while also balancing work.

              Reply
            2. Bryan Caskey

              That’s not been my experience with the teachers in my district, who are great and doing all they can.

              I’m not being down on the teachers-y’all are way defensive.

              Reply
                1. Barry

                  I’m not going to waste my time typing it out. Just isn’t worth it to have Brad kick me off the site.

  6. Randle

    Regarding your first question: I still think the governor isn’t being aggressive enough. Everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve heard says the same thing: Act aggressively, decisively and comprehensively if you want to get a handle on a pandemic. This piecemeal approach doesn’t work. We know what works; we just have to have the will to do it.
    There is a website, covidactnow.org, that predicts when hospitals in various states will be overwhelmed, depending on what actions the government takes. You click on your state to get the projections and a point of no return to prevent hospital overload. With three months of social distancing, the site estimates more than 70 percent of the population will be infected, 77,000 will die, and hospitals will be overwhelmed by April 24. With three months of shelter-in-place, 3 percent would be infected, 2,000 will die, and the hospital overload date is “outside the time bound.”
    I really don’t want to be locked up for a long period of time, but if this site’s guesstimate is close to reality, I guess I’ll stay home.

    Reply
  7. Randle

    Regarding your first question: I still think the governor isn’t being aggressive enough. Everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve heard says the same thing: Act aggressively, decisively and comprehensively if you want to get a handle on a pandemic. This piecemeal approach doesn’t work. We know what works; we just have to have the will to do it.
    There is a website, covidactnow.org, that predicts when hospitals in various states will be overwhelmed, depending on what actions the government takes. You click on your state to get the projections and a point of no return to prevent hospital overload. With three months of social distancing, the site estimates more than 70 percent of S.C. will be infected, 77,000 will die, and hospitals will be overwhelmed by April 24. With three months of shelter-in-place, 3 percent would be infected, 2,000 will die, and the hospital overload date is “outside the time bound.”
    I really don’t want to be locked up for a long period of time, but if this site’s guesstimate is close to reality, I guess I’ll stay home.

    Reply
  8. Mark Huguley

    Regarding #4, pushing to reopen business before cleared by the nation’s healthcare professionals would be irresponsible. With the coronavirus pandemic, as with all emergencies, we need leaders who put people first. That’s Joe Biden’s place in politics and government …helping people first. Joe Biden has the experience and character necessary to properly offer guidance through steady encouragement. If Joe Biden is anything, he is authentically a person of good will. That’s an essential quality for leaders during a crisis. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated he cared deeply about people. It made a tremendous difference in the nation’s morale. With a president whose opportunities to speak often result in self-praise, we desperately need a leader with genuine concern for others to lift morale. The nation needs the real deal. That’s Joe Biden.

    Reply
  9. Ken

    While serious mistakes were clearly made at the outset in how coronavirus was handled in the US, trying to cloister everyone as we’re doing now may not be much better. Dr. David Katz offered what seems like a more reasonable and balanced approach in an op-ed in the NY Times (and in an appearance yesterday on the PBS NewsHour). Rather than trying to lock everybody down — with the dislocation and disruption (AND prospective health affects: increased depression, economic despair and increased potential for suicide) that produces — focus on those populations (the elderly and those with chronic ill health) that are most at risk (and largely out of the workforce), secluding and/or treating them while releasing most everybody else to go about their daily routines (with a few remaining precautions left in place) so that the bulk can contract the disease, recover and establish herd immunity so we can get this thing past us more quickly. Maybe we are simply dragging out the inevitable.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/2-views-on-balancing-medical-risk-and-economic-pain

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Interesting.

      Sounds like something that might work, except… I have to check on my parents. I run errands for them, and help them with things about the house. I take precautions when I do, but I still worry about the interactions.

      How much more hazardous would those interactions be if I’m out there interacting with other people as I normally do? It seems like it would increase the risk by several orders of magnitude.

      The thing is, we don’t KNOW when we have it, since we don’t get sick for a couple of days.

      Isn’t THAT why we’re staying away from each other?

      Reply
      1. Barry

        I visited a manufacturer today.

        One thing they brought up is that it’s easier for them to limit customer interaction with orders from the government compared to making the rule solely on their own.

        My contact (Head of Safety and security) his view was that if customers perceive them to be playing it too safe, it could actually hurt their business. With a government order, they just place it at the feet of government officials and the pressure is off.

        I thought it made sense.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          A private business doesn’t want to implement restrictive measures for fear that it will anger its customers and cause them to go to a competitor who is NOT following such procedures.

          If the government orders it, the customer won’t blame the business, and also won’t have competitors to run to.

          I seem to recall something similar before Columbia implemented its smoking ban in public accommodations. Some restaurant and bar owners wanted to go smokeless, but were afraid of chasing customers to competition if they did it on their own initiative. They wanted the governmental ban, so that everybody was in the same boat…

          Reply
    2. Randle

      Back in January, I read about a ”surgical“ approach to the coronavirus similar to the one Dr. Katz proposes, and it seemed preferable to the blunt instrument of the Wuhan lockdown, although I did wonder how it would be possible to wall off an elderly population as big as the one in the U.S., while the rest of the country took its chances with an ugly and aggressive disease, and how that population would react to being locked away indefinitely, even for its own good. The economy would surely take a hit: It would kill the cruise ship industry and Florida’s economy, for starters. Britain considered this approach for a while and rejected it as too dangerous, as this article explains.
      https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/03/uk-backed-off-on-herd-immunity-to-beat-coronavirus-we-need-it/.
      Katz says that our “resource-constrained, fragmented, perennially underfunded public health system” can’t protect a broad swath of the public from the virus and proposes that we focus “on testing and protecting, in every possible way, all those people the data indicate are especially vulnerable to severe infection … Those that test positive could be the first to receive the first approved antivirals. The majority, testing negative, could benefit from every resource we have to shield them from exposure.” This is magical thinking. Three months into a pandemic, we still don’t have enough face masks, ventilators and other basic equipment to handle people who have the virus, let alone millions of tests for those who may have it. How are we going to change our underfunded, resource-challenged system in a few weeks time to one capable of testing 50-60 million seniors and protecting them from exposure? It’s not like the rest of the population will just have mild cases of the virus and never need the health care system’s resources: 38 percent of the people admitted to a U.S. hospital with the virus are between 20-54. We would need a far more sophisticated and well-funded health care system for Katz’s proposal to work. And containment is a ship that’s sailed. We’re left with mitigation. Flatten the curve now and buy some time to get back to normal for a while, replenish resources and develop a coordinated national plan for handling future outbreaks.

      Reply
      1. Ken

        The director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and current President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, a two-time diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a board-certified specialist in Preventive Medicine/Public Health is engaging in magical thinking?

        As for the allegation that ” It’s not like the rest of the population will just have mild cases of the virus and never need the health care system’s resources” — actually, if the data is correct, only a very small number of those not in an at risk group will need hospitalization. And it’s hospitalization that we’re most concerned about — not a need for more general “health care system resources.”

        Moreover, while public health concerns should be paramount, they cannot be allowed monopolize policy making. Other considerations, such as those mentioned by Katz, must also be taken into account in achieving a better policy balance.

        Reply
        1. randle

          Yes, I think he is engaging in magical thinking, no matter what his credentials are. Katz proposes using a risky strategy based on incomplete data and knowledge of the virus and no vaccine on a large percentage of the population. I am not alone in thinking so. Many of his Yale colleagues, including the dean of the Yale School of Public Health and the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, reject his idea. See “The Wrong Way to Fight Coronavirus,” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/opinion/letters/coronavirus-quarantine.html and this from Yale Insights, “Why isolating older Americans would be a huge mistake in fighting the coronavirus” https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/why-isolating-older-americans-would-be-huge-mistake-in-fighting-the-coronavirus. And we don’t have and will not have in the near future, the government structure, health care resources or workers to test and protect vulnerable populations, as he proposes. We don’t even know exactly who they are, according to recent data.
          While early data from China suggested that COVID-19 would disproportionately affect the old and spare the young, new data from the U.S. and Europe suggests otherwise. The CDC reports that 38 percent of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55. One in five was under the age of 44. Nearly half of the ICU cases were under 65. In Paris, half of the ICU patients were younger than 65, and half of the ICU patients in the Netherlands were younger than 50. With limited numbers tested and differences in environment, lifestyle, demographics and knowledge of the virus itself, it is difficult to make accurate predictions about age groups, so exposing large numbers of younger people to the virus could, indeed, swamp the hospitals.
          Economic concerns are important, and they not being ignored. But as Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, said today: “The sooner we get the spread of the virus under control, people will regain confidence. When they become confident that is the case, they will very willingly open their businesses up, go back to work, the consumer will be spending. I think the first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control and then resume economic activity. … We would tend to listen to the experts. Dr. Fauci said something like the virus is going to set the timetable, and that sounds right to me,” Powell said.
          Perhaps at a later date, we can adopt some of Dr. Katz’s strategies, when we have more facts and the wherewithal to implement them. Now is not the time.

          Reply
          1. Ken

            Nobody is talking about now being the time. In the interview on the NewsHour, Dr. Katz himself said now is not the time. The only person talking short term is the current resident of the White House. And maybe his comments are, as is so often the case, having such a polarizing effect that they are preventing us from having the discussion we need to have and that other countries are having — as I outline in the other thread.

            Reply
            1. randle

              From Katz’s March 20 column:

              “As we battle the coronavirus pandemic, and heads of state declare that we are “at war” with this contagion, the same dichotomy applies. This can be open war, with all the fallout that portends, or it could be something more surgical. The United States and much of the world so far have gone in for the former. I write now with a sense of urgency to make sure we consider the surgical approach, while there is still time.”

              “Such is the collateral damage of this diffuse form of warfare, aimed at “flattening” the epidemic curve generally rather than preferentially protecting the especially vulnerable. I believe we may be ineffectively fighting the contagion even as we are causing economic collapse.”

              “Right now, it is harder, not easier, to keep the especially vulnerable isolated from all others — including members of their own families — who may have been exposed to the virus.”

              “A pivot right now from trying to protect all people to focusing on the most vulnerable remains entirely plausible. With each passing day, however, it becomes more difficult. The path we are on may well lead to uncontained viral contagion and monumental collateral damage to our society and economy. A more surgical approach is what we need.”

              Sounds to me as if Katz was talking about adopting these strategies now. He changes his tune in the PBS interview four days later, most likely because he received so much blowback.

              Reply

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