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).

The lockdown is likely backed by the coronavirus bill giving the government power to detain anyone who may be infectious, debated in Parliament this week and potentially in force for two years. Also, in buried news, the government took financial control of the railways (via Sathnam Sanghera).

It seems you can have COVID in a form that’s so asymptomatic that you never get sick, but you infect others. It can be one of those silent killer things except then it mainly kills other people. There are folks reporting family deaths on social media now, only no one I know yet. I just got back from an evening walk in the park in which I managed to not get near people (but did see some social groups – people who were clearly walking different dogs chatting). I feel like never leaving the house again.

Already the UK Supreme Court is closed and cases will be tried by videoconference. Public squares are empty. However the Tube is still jammed after schedule cuts. Britons abroad are being asked to return to the UK, not sure why. 7,500 retired medics are coming back to help the NHS. Supermarkets are hiring. Pressure for the government to cover salaries for the self-employed along with employees is growing. I hope the lockdown isn’t a distraction from making sure everyone is covered, and also taking care of the homeless and prisoners.

It’s being reported that the Tokyo Olympics will be delayed a year. Canada pulled its Olympic teams yesterday, which would have instantly been cause to cancel if it were Winter Olympics. On the @AdventureWednesdays (Stacey) group chat last night, people speculated about Burning Man cancelling. It’s in September. So far only group tickets have been sold. The organization doesn’t have a hotel contract, but does pay the federal and state government for use of the playa. The Javits Center in New York is being converted to a field hospital by FEMA.

Some neighborhoods have a code where older and vulnerable people post a green paper in their window to say they’re all right, and change it to a red one if they need help. Some people with young children are using windows to show off their children’s artwork. Soon there won’t be many people passing by to see it.

Two weeks ago, things were normal.


Meanwhile, in higher education:

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I’m not in the REF so I don’t have a cow in this ditch, as the Finns say. (I don’t have a cow on the playa, either.) But it’s clear the REF has had a distorting effect on universities, and the rest of us are part of the damage: the competition for funding and ranking has sucked up time that could have been used for just doing research and teaching, it has increased inequality, etc. During the pay / benefits / conditions / casualization strike that only just ended Thursday – the third strike in two years – many junior and precarious staff valiantly withheld daily teaching labor in hope of solidarity, but I noticed only a few professors resigning from the REF, witholding the contribution departments really care about.

Now that the strike is over, e-mail is back in double volume. Among other things, a student (whom I have met only twice this year) said they have it in their family and they are getting tested. The rest, of course, are keeping the same worried vigil as the rest of us. Topics like the development of calqued syntax in Channel Islands French seem very remote, for all that I managed last week to relate class in sociolinguistics to life chances, and endangered languages to the embodiment of folk medical knowledge. I need to do some more e-teaching experiments and maybe try to, as they say, flip the classroom.

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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