Red alert, day eight. 13 cases in Suffolk and 33 in Tower Hamlets as of March 19. The first London hospital, in Harrow, has declared itself overwhelmed. There is a “hotspot” in the West Midlands. One employee at a Biogen meeting in Boston may have spread the virus to as many as 97 others. A quarter of a million cases have been confirmed globally and more than 10,000 deaths. Those are, of course, just the people who were tested.
Train schedules are being cut back because there is so much empty stock. Schools will remain open in the UK for children of essential workers, and in Finland for young children of the same (others may also attend). California is on lockdown, whatever that means – like “crackdown” and “hardliner” it is tough sounding journalese that covers a multitude of legal and practical interpretations. New York and Illinois are following.
Both in the US and the UK, leaders have been pushing decisions downward, perhaps out of conviction that the people they have jerked around for the last few years will not follow them. In the US, decisions about closing and working fall to the states. This epidemic will be privatized: a Trump-related company seeks to build for-profit testing centers and startups hone their pitches while hospitals scrabble for marks. It will also be crowdsourced: Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts, one of the last places my mother worked, has asked for volunteers with sewing machines to make masks. Senators have sold stock on knowledge that wasn’t public. In the UK, Boris Johnson’s request to close public life left some wiggle room, to permit insurers to avoid paying out for force majeure.
Both governments have announce bailout plans for individuals. This is good news but probably still not enough. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the UK will make up 80% of lost wages, including for self-employed people and there will be a top-up for the 10% who are unemployed (Woo-hoo!). Some people said this was not enough while others are praising Sunak as a statesman compared with Johnson. It looks like the US version will be a one-time check.
Four of us were at Ipswich Community Radio at 9 am, and the three in the studio for the Friday Breakfast show did our best at self isolating. The USB ports are a bit of a mash point. My playlist was supposed to be chilled out music to get our blood pressure down, but a few uptempo tunes crept in. We’re not having guests till further notice unless we can learn to mix in the Skype software.
Like me, Izzy is working from home and we agreed we are tired of the constant marketing of content and self improvement courses on social media. We’re working! For now. The most pessimistic estimate of this regime, as the Bulgarians used to call it when the water in Plovdiv was cut off, is that it will last not eighteen months but forever. This bug will finally be the one that mutates and attacks without end. Perhaps we’ll end up in the E.M. Forster story “The Machine Stops.”
Outside, gatherings around Cox’s grill truck and other downtown pensioner hangouts continued. In the afternoon Johnson told eating places to close tonight and not open tomorrow. FTSE dropped. Let’s see how Mr Wetherspoons reacts (he has protested that shutting pubs would be “over the top”).
On social media, there is much grumpiness and sadness on social media about parents and grandparents who won’t self-isolate, and also much grumbling about young people who are on spring break in Georgia or Lapland, acting as if they’re immortal. Marshall’s and TK Maxx have closed stores. All supermarkets have instituted new seniors-and-vulnerable-only hours and limits to purchases.
Toilet paper shortage jokes and memes have acquired a life of their own. It took me a while to understand the photo of a cardboard roll suspended in water, as all my own home gardening experiments were soil based.
A FB friend in Dubai posted a photo of an elevator with labels on the floor indicating that four people could enter it and stand one in each corner, facing the angle – rather like urinal users though it did not say that.
This afternoon I taught my second online lecture, greeting the students with inadequate platitudes like these:
This lecture did not go so well as the previous one. By student request, I used Blackboard Collaborate and it kept dropping completely. Not sure if the culprit was traffic on the day or it’s just a more bandwidth greedy app. The department reading group is going to meet on BC next week so maybe that’ll be the test.
I have overcome two big blocks this week: watched myself give a lecture on video, and delegated some marking. Reorienting the home office has been transformative, and not spending hours commuting and recovering from it has been very nice. I would normally be ready for a nap around now (5 pm Friday) but I’m actually pretty wide awake and will do some more.
Now it’s time for some happy clappy Reform folksinging on the Internet. Shabbat shalom!