The coronavirus pandemic


in Politics, Psychology, Science

I’ve avoided posting about the SARD-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 outbreak, largely because anything I say is redundant when the news is largely comprised of saturation coverage.

Two stories did stand out today though:

I saw this yesterday: Coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty, Oxfam warns

Still, despite all the claims that this will be transformational and alter life forever, I am skeptical. We tend to engage in hyperbolic discounting, assuming that what’s happening right now is the most important thing in history. At the same time, we have a tendency toward historical myopia, forgetting things soon after they are over or even losing interest before they have ended. I’m not saying there won’t be echoes and cultural callbacks to the pandemic — especially if we do end up physically distancing from one another for another six months or more — but I do suspect that we’ll ultimately weave the memories of this pandemic into what we take to be normal, along with mad cow disease, SARS, AIDS, H1N1, Ebola, and all the other biological risks which have troubled us and altered our lives in recent decades.

For my part, I have been in social isolation since mid-March: probably the longest I have ever gone without intentionally meeting someone.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

. April 9, 2020 at 10:03 pm

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and the world on Thursday | CBC News

. April 10, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Canadians would not have backed strict pandemic measures in mid-January, says official | CBC News

. April 11, 2020 at 2:27 pm

WHO investigating reports of coronavirus patients testing positive again after recovery.

. April 11, 2020 at 9:20 pm

China and the Pandemic: Talking with Historian Timothy Brook

VIDEO: The government is clamping down, but anger grows among the nation’s educated.

. April 11, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Recovered coronavirus patients are testing positive again in South Korea | National Post

. May 18, 2020 at 8:00 pm

America is in a particularly tight spot. Parts of its government responded slowly to the pandemic to start with, and it now faces high levels of infection that are spread across the country. In response, a consensus is emerging among its scientists, economists and public-health officials that a massive increase in testing capacity—creating a system that can test millions of people a day for the virus—will be needed to get the place out of lockdown safely. A testing system of this kind has never been built before. It will be expensive, costing tens, possibly hundreds of billions of dollars in America alone. But it offers a way to return to something approaching normal life with a degree of confidence that the pandemic is under control.

The cost for all this? The Harvard group estimates around $15bn per month and that it would need to be in operation for a year or more, depending on when (and if) treatments and vaccines became available. That price tag may seem eye-watering, but lockdown costs far more. Estimates place the cost to America of the pandemic at up to $400bn a month. Given the alternative, building the largest medical-testing system the world has ever seen is a steal.

. May 22, 2020 at 3:17 pm

No masks allowed: stores turn customers away in US culture war

Shops around the US make headlines for denying entry to those wearing masks as protesters argue against preventative measures in the name of freedom

In the last few weeks a spate of American stores have made headlines after putting up signs telling customers who wear masks they will be denied entry. On Thursday, Vice reported on a Kentucky convenience store that put up a sign reading: “NO Face Masks allowed in store. Lower your mask or go somewhere else. Stop listening to [Kentucky governor Andy] Beshear, he’s a dumbass.”

Another sign was posted by a Californian construction store earlier this month encouraging hugs but not masks. In Illinois, a gas station employee who put up a similar sign has since defended herself, arguing that mask-wearing made it hard to differentiate between adults and children when selling booze and cigarettes.

. May 23, 2020 at 3:37 am
. May 23, 2020 at 3:38 am
Tristan Laing May 23, 2020 at 2:14 pm

I’m not going to take a position on the question of whether the pandemic “will” alter life forever, but I do think it offers us an experience which we can take, if we choose, as instructive and deeply helpful in our endeavours to confront other systems-level problems:

“This context gives us a new opportunity to think about what it means to be “individuals” in a society with deep systemic problems – such as but not limited to, poverty, racism, sexism, and a climate crisis. All of these problems require individuals to act, but none can be solved by individual action. This is not because of some wordplay to be explored between different senses of the term “individual” (i.e. individual as political vs indivdiual as consumerist), but rather because no amount of even “political action” can lead to the resolution of any systemic problem, at least not in any romanticizable sense of political action as “taking a stand”, as “having a new idea”, as “standing up for ones ideas”, etc. Such acts are necessary, but never sufficient conditions even for the resolution of a systemic problem on a small, local scale. Even if the systemic problem were, say, dishes building up in the kitchen of a small group house. Resolving such a problem may require someone to come up with a new idea of how to organize the dishes cleaning work, but ultimately, the problem will only be resolved if the users of the kitchen acquiece and obey the proposed system. Submission to an order us ultimately the only means of social success – as former manager of a large student co-operative system in Ann Arbor Michigan is credited with saying “Any system will work if people believe in it”.”

. May 26, 2020 at 1:58 am

Heraclitus says that we can’t ever step in the river twice; between footsteps the river changes – banks are washed away, new sandbars are formed, now more and later less water flows in from tributaries. But probably more profound is that we are not the same. Our bodies change, our minds change, we are transformed. Experience changes us; time changes us; we know more today than we did yesterday, or at least we hope so.

Anyway, you must define ‘normal’.

Epidemics of all sorts are ‘normal’.

I missed most of the polio scare of the 1940’s and 50’s, but I can remember my mother telling me one hot summer day that we were not going to go to the community swimming pool because there were ‘germs’. Turns out that my parents and their generation were terrified of polio – and with good reason. It was a long wait for a vaccine.

Going back, I had an uncle who died as an infant in 1935 because there were no antibiotics when he got sick. Just a few years later, with penicillin and sulfa drugs he might have survived.

Further back, four of my great uncles/aunts died in a measles epidemic in 1907. My grandfather just barely escaped that epidemic; fortunate for me that he lived and carried on the family. My great-grandmother died in 1917 during the Spanish Flu epidemic, but we don’t know if that was the cause. The family tree is full of large families, often 8, 10, 12 kids; seldom did all of them survive to adulthood.

Vivid in my memory when I was about 7, going to the High School cafeteria where everybody – kids and grownups alike – were given a sugar cube in a paper cup to take. It was the Sabin vaccine against Poliomyelitis.

Not long afterwards, on a visit to the family doctor, the nurse scraped a spot on my shoulder – there is still a small round scar there: smallpox vaccine.

As a child I had measles, mumps, chicken pox – now they tell me to get the shingles vaccine. Oh my.

In 1976, all of us at college lined up in the basketball gym to get the swine flu vaccine. It was supposed to be very deadly to young adults.

To see my grandchildren when they were little, I had to get more vaccinations to ensure I didn’t carry anything into their nursery. To travel overseas I had to get more vaccinations, written down somewhere. That and don’t drink the water.

On a family vacation my daughter hooked me with her fishing line, and I had to get a tetanus booster. That was about 15 years ago, and they tell me its time to get another one, just because.

I’m not to think that my immunity from smallpox is still active after all these decades.

Modern science and modern medicine. Wonder if I would have lived this long without it?

. May 27, 2020 at 5:35 pm

What the oilpatch thinks about the financial aid offered by Ottawa

Billions available, but some of it comes with strings attached

. May 27, 2020 at 7:30 pm

Chinese city plans to turn coronavirus app into permanent health tracker | World news | The Guardian

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