Week of May 18, 2020

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

Travel

Laurel Chor is a photographer and journalist. She documented her airport transit from Paris to Hong Kong via London in this thread.

Coincidentally, as she was flying to Hong Kong, my family was flying from Houston, Texas to Perth, Australia. Our experience had some similarities but on a much shorter time scale. From the time we stepped off the plane till we arrived in our quarantine hotel room: 3 hours.


Reopening

A clear-headed essay from Erin Bromage on the risks of reopening to quickly.

So now let’s get to the crux of it. Where are the personal dangers from reopening?

When you think of outbreak clusters, what are the big ones that come to mind? Most people would say cruise ships. But you would be wrong. Ship outbreaks don’t even land in the top 50 outbreaks to date.

Ignoring the terrible outbreaks in nursing homes, we find that the biggest outbreaks are in prisons, religious ceremonies, and workplaces, such as meat packing facilities and call centers. Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble.

Some of the biggest super-spreading events are:

  • Meat packing: In meat processing plants, densely packed workers must communicate to one another amidst the deafening drum of industrial machinery and a cold-room virus-preserving environment. There are now outbreaks in 115 facilities across 23 states, 5000+ workers infected, with 20 dead.

  • Weddings, funerals, birthdays: 10% of early spreading events

  • Business networking: Face-to-face business networking like the Biogen Conference in Boston in March.

Erin is Australian and flew there in early March, read about it here.


Weak

Peter Welch of Still Drinking with a few strong words.

It is not virus or the lockdown that has crushed my spirit. It isn’t even facing my worst fear every day, all day. Years ago, I wrote “We cannot dismiss everyone who supports Trump as stupid or evil.” Maybe it was true then, but I regret my words. We may now dismiss them. Personally, since the White House thinks we’re in a “war” against coronavirus, I would like to see a large portion this murder cult hanged for war crimes. I would go to that execution. I would cheer. I would shout for more.

Because I no longer believe I live in a country with greedy assholes, or ignorant people trying to get by the same way I do. I no longer believe that it is my task to better myself and find harmony with people I cannot understand. I believe I live in a country full of dangerously stupid monsters.

This is the only way I can make sense of the world anymore. I’m tired of trying to explain the simplest concepts to people who refuse to understand things like gravity, vaccination, carbon, and that hurting others is bad. If they’re monsters, I can stop trying. Doesn’t understand basic compassion? We don’t expect that from monsters. Tells doctors treating patients to go back China? I would definitely expect that from a monster. Holds up a sign reading “sacrifice the weak” for reasons I can barely fathom. But nobody knows what motivates monsters, and there’s no reason to ask.


Spray

This is from a month ago but the three paragraphs below were arresting. Nicholas Kristof brings the medical crisis to life in a very real way.

For health workers, intubation is nerve-racking because it causes the virus to spray out from the lungs into the air. In this case, the procedure was performed in a room on the edge of the hot zone with negative air pressure, so that the virus would remain in the room. A plastic box was placed over the patient’s head, and the nurse-anesthetist put her arms through holes in the box to perform the intubation.

The patient was put to sleep and paralyzed, and a device was inserted into her mouth to lift the epiglottis and make way for a tube that was passed through her vocal cords about 10 inches down to her lungs. The outside end was then connected to a ventilator, which pumped oxygen in.

Because it would be ghastly to wake up unable to speak with a tube down one’s throat, patients are sedated so that they do not rip out the tube; doctors say that for some reason, Covid-19 patients seem to require more sedation than other patients. To be safe, their hands are also tied down.


Response

Entrepreneur Matt Blumberg wrote a play-by-play of his time leading Colorado’s COVID-19 Innovation Response Team. Very interesting perspective as the crisis unfolded at the state level.


Imagination

Robin Sloan on the strangeness and beauty of using an AI language model as a writer.

He’s also making a video game and chronicling the process each week here.


Bread

Not a single person in the whole production line 🤖.


Risk

Morgan Housel wrote a very personal piece called “The Three Sides of Risk”. Take a little time to read it.

Tail-end events are all that matter.

Once you experience it, you’ll never think otherwise.


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