battlestar galactica

Red alert, day 22. Lockdown, day eleven. Suffolk has 161 confirmed cases this morning and Tower Hamlets has 287 confirmed cases. The UK has 38,168 confirmed cases (of 173,784 tested), and as of yesterday 3,605 patients have died. Deaths outside of hospital are still not included. The daily Public Health England releases do not have permalinks but there is a link to the archived copies.

There are now more than 1 million cases globally.

The Queen will address the nation and the Commonwealth on Sunday night. Boris Johnson is still self isolating and has not been seen in days. MP Rosena Allin-Khan, a physician, has come off her second hospital shift this week. In an alternate universe, Princess Diana is donning a chic mask to visit patients with her partner Dr Hasnat Khan, and Prime Minister Miliband (David) gives a brief update after his daily 10 am conference call with other G20 leaders including President Clinton (Hillary).

Parliament is in recess and may reconvene as a virtual Parliament. The cabinet is already meeting on Zoom. Johnson accidentally revealed the meeting number in a Tuesday tweet.

To the synonym list of coronavirus, Covid-19, CV19, wuflu (inaccurate), and Miley Cyrus, we can add cooties:

I’ve had a couple of invitations to online seders. I like the idea but don’t see myself preparing a full seder table at my desk, nor can I comfortably eat most of the foods anymore (unless Sainsbury’s has gluten free Passover matzoh).

The lay leader of this week’s online Shabbat service has noted that at the moment we are not even letting in angels, really. Times of plague were also mentioned. The service felt very Battlestar Galactica. Lay leader read a list of reported medical advances and swords-into-plowshares mask and ventilator production efforts as things to be thankful for.

I donated a box of printable overhead transparencies to the Ipswich Makerspace, which was seeking plastic sheets for NHS face shields. They’re printing the frames to hold them on the 3D printer. Overhead transparencies were the medium of instruction when I started teaching in Helsinki. They are very satisfying to write on with a soft marker and I have sometimes handed them out to students with the pens to do so some group writing in class – to rediscover the joy of handwriting and seeing one’s own writing. It wasn’t a regular activity because transparencies are expensive and hard to find these days, and of course we can’t do it now.

Today I taught the last lecture of Language in the UK, mentioning the potential for dissertations on among other things: 1) government communication on the lockdown, particularly the dramatic transition to plainspeak a weak ago Monday; 2) virus and metaphor, based on a historical analysis of debates in the Hansard; 3) multilingual communication by the NHS during the pandemic. There were seven students, Blackboard stayed up, and we even managed to use chat better than before (or at least, responses were not dominated by “can’t hear you”). I forgot to record most of the lecture so I made an asynchronous voiceover track afterwards for posting. It easier than expected and probably had 95% of the content from the first time, minus going out to hand the plastics to the Makerspace folks and washing my hands. I am not actually the best handwasher but had to model good behavior.

Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on battlestar galactica

130,000 ww


Red alert, day 21. Lockdown, day eleven. As of yesterday, Suffolk has 157 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets has 259 confirmed cases. The UK has 33,718 confirmed cases, and as of yesterday 2921 patients have died. Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the New Orleans jazz family, has died, and the city cannot hold a traditional jazz funeral procession for him.

The government still has no credible plan. Johnston Media (JPM) has furloughed 350 staff on its newspapers.

National Express will stop running coaches at the end of the week. This fills me with despair. I would like to go down once or twice more and clean out my office before the handover. I also need to download my paystubs for tax returns from the only-on-site HR system. It would be foolhardy though. I will just have to ask HR to send me the paystubs. US transit systems are running at 31% of capacity.

I stepped out to the shop. There was milk, there was toilet paper, there was canned vegetables, there were even a few packets of pasta. (I needed only the milk but also got a few cans.) People are starting to talk about how frightening it is to leave the house and go to the supermarket.

This week’s entries are only being posted on Friday as I was in a lockdown within the lockdown to finish reading, marking, logging and returning 130,000 words of first-year student work submitted in March. This is why I haven’t replied to your e-mail, participated in your survey, watched your Zoom broadcast, checked into your writing group.

Z first-read half of the papers and did a first cut of grids and grades, which helped enormously, but I still commented extensively as usual. Now bracing for the next batch, between Zoom lectures. Contract ends in a week. Welcome to UK higher education 2020.

Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on 130,000 ww

market down

Red alert, day 20. Lockdown, day ten. As of this morning, Suffolk has 125 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets has 241 confirmed cases. The UK has 29,434 confirmed cases, and as of yesterday 2352 patients have died.

The Edinburgh Festival (August) is cancelled.

Catchey’s fruit and veg stall, the anchor of Ipswich market, is closing for the lockdown because they are having trouble sourcing produce. I thought they were selling local harvests but the stuff actually comes from London’s fruit and vegetable market. That effectively completes the shutdown of the market, which got its royal charter in 1317. Last week it was only Catchey’s, the Lithuanian game meats people, and the bread stall.

Most of the news today is about PPE and ventilators: why politicians who knew the virus was coming failed to order equipment or permitted it to be exported, leaving health workers scrambling now. Apparently Finland is looking OK because of its stockpiles: PPE keeps well in the cold.

The 15-minute antigen test is not going to be practical for thousands and thousands of tests (click for video):

This is a good rundown of tests and their drawbacks:

There were actually some April Fool’s jokes.
Turku becomes Finland’s capital because Helsinki is in quarantine (in Finnish, h/t Camilla).
Scotland is first country to ban alcohol because of COVID-19.

British American tobacco is trying to make a plant based coronavirus vaccine. Not a joke, though it sounds like one – smoking kills your breathing too. Ask me how I know (not myself).

Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on market down

boars take Bergamo

Red alert, day 19. Lockdown, day nine. As of this morning, Suffolk has 116 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets has 225 confirmed cases. The UK has 25,150 confirmed cases (143,186 tests), and as of yesterday 1789 patients have died.

This has been the longest month ever, many commented through social media (“I have now lived through seven decades: the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s, the 2010s, and March”).

The Home Office is extending visas for healthcare workers it was previously trying to get rid of.

An enormous white hospital ship, the USNHS Comfort, is docking in New York. People are crowding to see it. The field hospital in Central Park has been revealed to be the project of a Christian group, not of public health.

Wildlife is returning. Goats are taking Llandudno, boars are taking Bergamo. Turkeys, as in birds, have been spotted in Cambridge, Mass.

Amazon fired a worker who led a walkout over the company’s refusal to shut down and clean its Staten Island warehouse. The company refused to pay workers who were sick or in quarantine. Jeff Bezos is worth $117.3 billion. Relatedly, I learned today that the music site CDbaby has closed its direct music sales – it just feeds mp3s to the Internet giants now.

The US Postal Service may shut down. It was privatized a while ago. The inability of the post office to keep going in an age of deliveries seems like terrible mismanagement, analogous to Sears’s failure to pivot to the Internet. But if they can’t protect the workers either, that’s very bad.

Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on boars take Bergamo

hostile environment

Red alert, day 18. Lockdown, day eight. Suffolk has 100 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets has 195 confirmed cases according to today’s updates. The PM’s puppetmaster Dominic Cummings has self isolated. The UK has 22,141 confirmed cases (of 134,946 tests), and as of 5 pm yesterday 1,408 patients have died. One of these was an ex-BBC presenter whose spouse, also a journalist, I have met, so it is now just a degree of separation away.

Tighter lockdowns are rumored to be coming: the suspension of walks for people without dogs, compulsory masking for food shopping (Austria is already doing this), and then you can’t leave home for anything, food will be delivered. I haven’t been taking advantage of walking rights lately. Too scared.

The UK is arranging flights to repatriate citizens stuck in faraway places, Dominic Raab said in today’s briefing. The Home Office has decided it can continue to carry out right-to-rent and right-to-work checks by video with document scans. These are part of the government’s “hostile environment policy” for immigrants. Yes, it’s really called that and dates back as long as I’ve been here.

A van Gogh painting was stolen in the Netherlands from a museum shut for the pandemic.

Annals of invention: An Australian scientist trying to make a device to keep people from touching their faces inhaled some powerful magnets and had to go to hospital.

The Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre is cancelled. The local paper managed to write a whole story without saying when the Fayre is normally held, but it must be around Advent or the beginning of December. That’s the furthest ahead cancellation I’ve seen so far. Pretty sure we can say goodbye to Ipswich Music Day, Pulse, and maybe Spill, unless they go online.

Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on hostile environment

battleground photos

Red alert, day 17. Lockdown, day seven. As of this morning, Suffolk has 87 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets has 184 confirmed cases. The UK has 19,522 confirmed cases, and as of 5 pm yesterday 1,228 patients have died. Systematic testing has not started yet.

There is a quickening drumbeat of people on Twitter who have lost a relative or know someone who has. A 108 year old survivor of the 1918 Spanish flu has died of the virus in Salford. Most terrifying are the tweets about deaths of healthcare workers. New York papers tell the story of a nurse (Kious Kelly) who suffocated from the virus. The UK has lost its first GP (Habib Zaidi), consultant (Amged el-Hawrani), and first surgeon (Adil el Tayar). Heroes among heroes. At some point the memorial websites will start. The wall of names.

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has just said the lockdown may last six months, vs. three months (twelve weeks) forecast by the PM. NHS volunteers are up to at least 700,000.

One Tweet said “Why is everyone so happy about NHS Nightingale? It’s a death camp.” (That’s the field hospital in the Excel Centre.) New York is building a field hospital in Central Park – it looks like it’s somewhere behind the Met.

Continue reading
Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on battleground photos

getting personal

Red alert, day 16. There are 61 confirmed cases in Suffolk and 129 confirmed cases in Tower Hamlets as of 9 am yesterday (via BBC). The UK has 17,089 confirmed cases in total (120,776 tests) as of 9 am today and 1019 deaths as of 5 pm yesterday (latest Public Health England figures). I have been feeling sickish every other day all week and it may be an unconfirmed case or it may just be pollen season; if I’m lucky, it won’t become urgent to check.

The US has now has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 100,000. “Trump must be happy to be Number One” is the ironic mood on Twitter.

The thing to be furious about today is the political leadership. Britain is furious that the government opted out of the EU equipment procurement effort and then lied about it, badly, like “the cat ate the return envelope.” Half of Twitter is furious that vacuum maker Dyson, whose leader voted Leave and then moved jobs abroad, got an equipment contract and a less well known, established maker of ventilators did not. The other half is applauding Dyson. Parts of the US, notably AOC and those of us who look to AOC for our leadership, are furious with the trillion dollar bailout and nugatory worker coverage.

Mask sewing proceeds apace. My cousin, who has a dental hygienist practice in Toronto (nonessential business), has donated her collection of PPE supplies to a local hospital. Twitter says a medical fetish group has donated its PPE supplies to the NHS. The New Balance running shoe company is making masks. A hockey facemask maker in New Hampshire is making medical shields. JoAnn’s (craft store chain) is selling a mask pattern.

Continue reading
Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on getting personal

let Larry do it

Red alert, day 15. Suffolk has 42 confirmed cases and Tower Hamlets 93 confirmed cases. Westminster has 172 confirmed cases including Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, 55. Health minister and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock is also positive and the country’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty is self isolating. Michael Gove is leading today’s news conference.

(Why can’t it be Larry the cat? Because Larry is a civil servant, that’s why.)

There are now 14,543 confirmed cases out of 113,777 tests. Cases detected in prisons rose by 40% in 24 hours. Expanded testing of frontline workers – it sounds like the fingerprick test – will start over the weekend. There have been 759 deaths. The West Midlands is hard hit.

A temporary mortuary is being set up at Birmingham Airport. Gatwick has closed its North Terminal.

The nationwide clapping for the NHS last night has been declared a success. (I couldn’t hear any when I opened my door though.) Broadband use reportedly fell 10-15% during the clapping. NHS workers posting on Twitter say they would prefer more protective equipment to applause. I saw one estimate that new cases are about to peak in Italy and will peak here in the first week of May.

Continue reading
Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on let Larry do it

things to be furious about

Red alert, day 14. Suffolk confirmed cases up to 35, Tower Hamlets at 71 as of 9 am 25 March. Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets has been closed after people would not keep their distance. A total of 104,866 people have been tested yielding 11,658 positives and 578 deaths.

Massachusetts has 1838 confirmed cases (19,474 tests) and 15 deaths as of 25 March. Finland has 958 confirmed cases (16,000 tests) and three deaths according to YLE yesterday.

I am understanding Defoe’s (reality based fictional) narrator on Journal of the Plague Year better. Collecting statistics is calming, gives the illusion of control.

Freelancers getting 80 percent of earnings is a done deal announced by the Chancellor today, though there will be many of the newly (like me) and precariously self employed who will slip through the cracks. An expert on Ed Miliband’s podcast with Geoff Lloyd, Things to be Cheerful About, suggests relaxing the means test for Universal Credit to even things out. (Did you know Ed Miliband is still in Parliament, he just doesn’t say anything? He saves it for the podcast. Gordon Brown meanwhile is calling for a world government.)

Some things to be furious about: doctors and nurses still working without proper protection, the US disbanding its epidemic task force after Trump took over, the UK government failing to sign onto an EU program to source more ventilators. It is mysterious how convention centers are being turned into tidy, well equipped field hospitals so quickly. Even more mysterious is why the mortuaries went up first. Carole Cadwalladr wants answers (click through for video).

Continue reading
Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on things to be furious about

still powering down

Red alert, day 13. There are 28 confirmed cases in Suffolk, 70 in Tower Hamlets as of 24 March. There are 24 confirmed cases in the Grampian region of Scotland. One is Charles PAG Mountbatten-Windsor, 71, on public support but also has entrepreneurial food businesses, isolating at home.

There are 9,529 confirmed cases in the UK tonight. 463 people have died. Fewer than 100,000 people have been tested.

I think we might be done with daily briefings in the UK for the time being, at least from the PM. Things are still shutting down one at a time. Construction sites may be next. The lockdown will be enforced, as in with force. Other countries already apply criminal punishments. The US response remains uncoordinated. There are hot spots in New York and Louisiana, for two.

All UK jury trials are closed down and doing any actions by teleconference. Lead story in the Ipswich Star today was a man who broke into Boots and, oddly, stole perfume (did he think it was hand sanitizer?). He was sentenced to a spell in prison by magistrates court a few days later. Sends a message about public order as we regress to early modern standards.

Johnson Press is shutting down free weeklies leaving more communities without a paper. The EAT healthy fast food chain, now owned by Pret, won’t reopen. Off licenses (liquor stores) can remain open as essential businesses. Priorities.

Continue reading
Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on still powering down

special care

Red alert, day 12. There were 22 diagnosed cases in Suffolk and 67 in Tower Hamlets as of 5:30 pm yesterday. The UK has diagnosed 8077 cases and 422 people have died according to the latest Guardian reporting, which really traces back to Public Health England.

The Excel Centre in London and the NEC convention center in Birmingham are being made into hospitals. The NHS now has thousands of volunteers – like police specials.
Ireland has effectively nationalized its healthcare system, which was more privatized.

Britney Spears retweeted someone else’s socialist sentiment and is now inadvertently leading the red brigades.

Martti Ahtisaari has COVID. Angela Merkel is in quarantine, as still is Justin Trudeau. A woman in London died after being refused hospital admission by paramedics.

Adnams Brewery in Suffolk is sending alcohol to the University of East Anglia to be made into hand sanitizer.

I spent the day on a marking lockdown. These were a feature of life before as well. I did not go out and I did not even do Sadie Mac’s yoga hour on Facebook. I did not get through everything I needed to. This entry may be expanded at the weekend.


Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on special care

it’s a wrap

Red alert, day 11. BBC tracker reports 18 confirmed cases in Suffolk and 57 in Tower Hamlets as of 9 am yesterday. Guardian this morning reports 5683 confirmed cases in the UK and 281 deaths. As of 1 pm, 6650 tests, 335 deaths.

Johnson will speak at 8:30 tonight and that’s probably the lockdown. It’s already happening. The Portuguese cafe was admitting one customer at a time, and then closed until further notice. McDonald’s has closed. Greggs has closed. Costa has closed. Waterstones has closed after staff complained of being kept going to work and being exposed. I went to Holland & Barrett (health foods) and the cashier said she was washing and wiping after each customer and she wanted them to close.

Johnson at 8:30 pm: Everyone is to remain home except for infrequent trips to get food and drugs, as well as to seek medical help, care for the vulnerable and once a day for exercise. Police can stop all gatherings of more than two people in public and impose fines.

Nicola Sturgeon at 8:45 pm: The same, in Scottish Standard English.

The message was clear. Somebody must have read the UX Reddit. What I would have added was a light on the horizon – “and the need for the lockdown will be re-evaluated every 14 days” – and some more information on what essential businesses may remain open (see the Indiana governor’s list).

Continue reading
Posted in covid, covid.diary | Comments Off on it’s a wrap