Week of April 27, 2020

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:

Masks

Ryan Petersen, Flexport’s CEO, on why we’re experiencing a PPE shortage in the US, the most powerful, richest nation in the world.

The current shortage of PPE is not due to a single cause. It has at least five components: insufficient inventory stockpiles, manufacturing capacity and quality control, international trade compliance, air uplift capacity, and working capital financing. And if we don't plan ahead, we'll have a sixth, involving last-mile distribution.


Silent

Richard Levitan, an emergency doctor who invented a novel imaging system in the 90’s for teaching intubation to other doctors, on what he saw when he volunteered for 10 days at Bellevue Hospital.

We are just beginning to recognize that Covid pneumonia initially causes a form of oxygen deprivation we call “silent hypoxia” — “silent” because of its insidious, hard-to-detect nature.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs in which the air sacs fill with fluid or pus. Normally, patients develop chest discomfort, pain with breathing and other breathing problems. But when Covid pneumonia first strikes, patients don’t feel short of breath, even as their oxygen levels fall. And by the time they do, they have alarmingly low oxygen levels and moderate-to-severe pneumonia (as seen on chest X-rays). Normal oxygen saturation for most persons at sea level is 94 to 100 percent; Covid pneumonia patients I saw had oxygen saturations as low as 50 percent.

Pulse oximeters are inexpensive and instantly show your oxygen saturation, unfortunately, they’re mostly sold out on Amazon now 😢


Essential

Hashem Zikry describes what it’s like on the front-line fighting COVID-19 and how socioeconomic status plays a big part.

“It’s become very clear to me what a socioeconomic disease this is,” Zikry told me. “People hear that term ‘essential workers.’ Short-order cooks, doormen, cleaners, deli workers—that is the patient population here. Other people were at home, but my patients were still working. A few weeks ago, when they were told to socially isolate, they still had to go back to an apartment with ten other people. Now they are in our cardiac room dying.”


Future

A look into the future from Beijing. Unfortunately, I think the outlook might be a lot more bleak given the premature reopening in a lot of state.

After a two-month lockdown that has been, in the words of one law professor, “astounding, unprecedented, and medieval,” the official number of new COVID-19 cases has diminished to almost zero.

As the flowers have started to bloom, the city is starting to look as it does every springtime. The improvement is not sudden. Instead, it’s been a week-by-week process of seeing a few more restaurants and stores operating again, traffic and public transportation usage steadily grow, and folks developing the confidence to go about daily life.


Unequal

Alex Danco is one of my favorite writers.

The next phase will be different. We’ll recognize that the COVID crisis is not equal-opportunity, or in fact a shared experience at all. Every facet of income, health, and opportunity advantage, which was already there before the virus, is going to get magnified five-fold in who gets sick and who goes broke. Our early feelings of common cause and cheerful solidarity are going to get seriously tested. As we sit and wait this out, our collective experience will fracture, and our frustration at the world is going to mutate into resentment towards each other. This is the part we’re really not prepared for.

Post-COVID resentment is going to cut both ways: we’ll become resentful at those who made through better than we did, for obvious reasons, and we’ll also become resentful for people who have it worse than we do – for deeper egotistical reasons.


Farms

Maciej Cegłowski talks to J.D. Scholten, a retired baseball player who’s running for Congress in Iowa’s 4th district, about the rural economy and the toll that COVID-19 is taking.

Here in the fourth district, we’re the second most agriculture producing district in America. But at the same time, we only have two farm-to-table restaurants. Sioux City is the biggest city in a tristate area surrounded by agriculture, and yet we don't have a single co-op or a farm-to-table restaurant. It's kind of mind blowing.

Meanwhile, our farmers aren't making a dime, and our small towns are being gutted. Dollar General is coming and undercutting our local grocer. If they won't provide fresh meat or fresh produce, and farmers aren’t making a dime, you have to wonder—who are we doing this for? That's one reason I'm really hoping there's a spotlight on rural America because of this concentration, because instead of having a bunch of localized companies now there's just one big one in Sioux Falls.If you liked this post, why not share it? Everyone needs a few more interesting things to read.

Pair that with this quick hit from Felix Salmon and things look quite bleak for small farmers in America 😢 There is some optimism though, I like this call for stronger regional supply chains:

Only the government can save small farmers in the short term. But in the longer term, Barber now sees a need for robust regional supply chains — a group of middlemen, milling and curing and packaging raw ingredients and selling them via local supermarkets to consumers. Such a chain would reduce farmers' reliance on restaurants to process their food.


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