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.

Every couple of days, I have felt congested or slightly short of breath, and the last few nights I’ve had fatigue as well. But nothing really concerning, more like a cold that can’t decide whether to settle or not. Getting sick myself is only my third personal worry, after family members and finding work after my Queen Mary teaching contract stops on April 9 (it’s a maternity cover, I was braced for a job hunt but not for an ambient pandemic).

Today Zoom failed us and Blackboard Collaborate was there for us, although I did not try running camera, slides, and microphone all at once, and I failed to enable the switch for chat, in a lecture on heritage languages that would have had really interesting class discussion. Instead it was a raggedy monologue of me trying to remember everything I wanted to say. Monday I get to teach on Skype, which the grad students prefer.

The good news is that it seems my proposals for assessment revision were accepted and the final assignments in both modules have been provisionally done away with. Our school is acting reasonably and not expecting business as usual, a rarity in UK universities to judge from my Twitter stream. There’ll be a final decision on April 3. I phrased it to students as “hold back; park it; if they change their minds you’ll get a longer deadline; anything you’ve been able to do is not wasted as there will be more work like this in future modules.” Only one of my three dissertation students is handing in this Sunday; I expected two were close enough to do it, but fair enough.

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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