Saturday, March 28, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Second Week Edition

Hello from the second week of sheltering in place! San Diegans proved unable to responsibly handle having beaches to visit so our beaches and parks and trails are all now closed. I am very fortunate to have nice, quiet neighborhood streets to walk but a lot of people are not so lucky. I really think the city needs to figure out a way to allow people to get outside. We are in the early days of all of this, so perhaps they eventually will. I am trying very hard to remember that everyone has been thrust into a situation they never expected to be in and that most people are doing their best to manage.

John Scalzi wrote a good post about this moment in time, and how we all need to be patient. We can be sad, and angry, and frustrated and all of those things, too, but we need to be patient. We are in a situation in which the only way to save a lot of lives is to sort of freeze in place as much as we can. The more patience we can all muster, the better we'll all do.

If you read only one link about coronavirus this week, this Ed Yong article is probably the one you should pick. It is clear-eyed about how we got here but also about where we might go next.

Or at least read this part:

I'm seeing a lot of links to various modeling studies about when the peak will be in different states and while I think those are useful, I don't think they are always being shared with the necessary context for average people to interpret them. Like any model, these models are built on a lot of assumptions and extrapolations from what has happened in other areas. There are still many, many unknowns about the virus and the disease it causes. So a model that predicts X number of deaths if we take one course and Y if we take another is probably useful for comparing X an Y, and maybe even for getting an order of magnitude of the two numbers. But it isn't telling us with certainty when the peak number of cases will come and how many people will die.

What we know with certainty is that more people will suffer and more people will die if we don't keep distance from each other. That is also the only part of this that most of us can control. So we're back at patience.

What else can we do? Wash our hands, of course. But also we should probably all be wearing masks when we're out shopping. Here's a post that does a pretty good job (I think) of summarizing the data in an accessible way. Since there is a shortage of masks right now and I believe strongly we should leave the best options to the people most at risk - primarily health care workers, but also I think grocery store workers and people with serious underlying conditions - I have decided to start wearing the cloth masks I bought to help block the dust while cleaning. I wore one for the first time on Thursday, when I went to pick up take out from a favorite local restaurant. I felt vaguely ridiculous but it worked fine.

The key with cloth masks is that they are still single use - you just wash them after use. Are they as good as a N95 mask? Of course not. But I am not getting my face close to a sick person to examine or treat them. I'm just going to the grocery store. I'll still try to stay 6 feet away from other people. The mask, like my use of cotton gloves, is about trying to reduce risk.  Masks also reduce the risk that you'll spread the virus if you are asymptomatically infected, which is a very good thing.

If all of the talk about gloves and masks and wiping down groceries has you feeling a little panicked, you might find this Washington Post article helpful. It explains why we don't need to worry quite so much about those Amazon deliveries, for instance.

Long term, our way out of this mess is through better testing and then through having treatments for sick people and finally having a vaccine.

On the testing front, Abbott has received approval for a new, fast coronavirus test. The good news about this test is that it uses the same machines a lot of doctors and hospitals already have for flu and strep tests, which means it should help ramp up our testing a lot without requiring a lot of new machine purchases. Of course, it still depends on a sample taken with a nasal swab, and those are still in short supply as far as I know.

Here's a story about a company that makes those swabs and how they're responding to the shortage.

On the treatments front: The first place people are looking is at drugs already approved for other diseases, and then at drugs that have at least been through the Phase I safety trials for other indications. Safety trials are important, even in the current situation. If a drug helps treat COVID-19 but kills your liver or kidneys, it isn't really a good thing.

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has been writing an excellent series looking at what's being suggested. Here is his latest post, about some lesser known possibilities.

Lisa Jarvis, at C and EN has an excellent write up about remdesivir, Gilead's drug. Like many antivirals, it is probably most effective given early and there has been some talk about using something like this prophylactically, but it is an IV drug so it isn't a very practical option for either of those uses. The only thing I can think is that perhaps there should be a trial of prophylactic use in high risk medical workers. Of course, trials are now getting underway for treatment of patients, and I hope those turn out well - but read the linked article for why most people in the field don't expect them to be definitive.

By the way, if you saw stories about Gilead getting an orphan drug designation for remdesivir and the stories were framed as this being done for pricing reasons... the actual reason was to speed the regulatory process. They were trying to figure out how to get to larger scale distribution as quickly as they could and have withdrawn that status now that the FDA has other ways for them to do that.

You may have seen news stories about Mt. Sinai in NYC trying plasma treatment - basically, treating patients with the plasma of recovered people. Here's a tweet about a very small, preliminary test of that in China (you can click through to get to the JAMA article if you'd like):

There are people working to isolate antibodies from the blood of recovered patients, too. The idea there is to find a really good one (i.e., one that is strongly neutralizing against the virus), and then make that particular antibody at scale to give as a drug. Note that any antibody drug is going to be an IV drug, too. Here's a tweet from a researcher at The Broad Institute in Boston who is working on this.

I know some biotechs are working on this, too - one has put out a call for recovered patients here in San Diego to volunteer their blood.

I found this thread about what an experienced infectious disease science journalist did and did not predict very useful:

New Zealand has gone to a shelter in place order similar to ours here in California. There is a campaign there to put teddy bears in your windows for kids out walking with their parents to find. I find that delightful.

Still in NZ, this article on how feijoas can get you through lockdown made me laugh because I think feijoas are terrible and they are just about the last thing I'd want to stockpile to get through lockdown. My husband would probably agree with the article, though. As for me, I am eyeing the avocados coming into season on our backyard tree and thinking guacamole is going to get me through. Every time I go to the store, I buy tomatoes, jalapenos, and cilantro... and two bags of tortilla chips.

 Last week, I said I'd try to find non-coronavirus articles to share. This one about a bank in Italy that accepts cheese as collateral is several years old, but fits the bill!

This made me smile:

So did this:

Here's your bunny:
Have a good weekend, everyone! Do whatever you can to build up your patience for the long road ahead of us. For us that means putting out our hammock and walking around our neighborhood. Also probably some more guacamole.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Weekend Reading: The One Week Down Edition

So, we've made it through one week of "sheltering in place." The order to do so only came Thursday night but it changed nothing about how we have been behaving. Once the kids came home from school last Friday, we switched to a "shelter in place"  mode. To anyone who has not yet received a shelter in place order and wonders what it life is like under one - you can try it out without the order! You probably should try it out without the order.

One week down, who knows how many weeks to go.

The timing of California's order totally messing with my grocery shopping plans - I'd planned to make what I hoped would be my last grocery run for two weeks early Friday morning. My Google maps data indicated that would be a relatively empty time in the shop. But when the order came, I knew there would be another run on the shops (like there was after the schools closed) and decided to go that night. The grocery store is ~2 minutes from my house, so I'd say I got there within 10 minutes from when the order was announced. When I arrived, the shop was pretty empty - it was easy to stay several feet away from other shoppers. When I left, there was a crowd. I got some fruit and veggies, which I had not been able to get last week. The produce section was well stocked. But this week, I couldn't get Pumpkin's lactose-free milk.  Or butter (or margarine). Or eggs. Or juice. Or pasta. Or bread. Or flour. Or bagels. And of course, no paper products of any kind.

I don't know how we get out of this mass panic/hoarding response. I actually don't even know how much is mass panic/hoarding, and how much is people trying to buy a little more to limit the number of times they have to go to the shops. My husband also pointed out that a bunch of people who probably usually eat out most meals are now buying from the shops so that is probably also messing things up.

Despite all the shortages, we have enough food that we will be able to wait a couple weeks before shopping again. My decision to start slowly stocking up back in February (which felt a bit silly at the time) turns out to have been a good one. The person who is going to suffer the most is my lactose-intolerant Pumpkin, who likes a bowl of cereal with her lactose-free milk every morning. We'll run out of that this week. I bought some rice milk for her to try (almond milk was also cleared out), but she's skeptical. Last week when I couldn't get her milk, I bought some toaster waffles. I can make bread and she likes toast. She'll be OK, but I was hoping to let my kids eat their normal food as much as possible.

Anyway, let's have some links.

Here's some advice about how to safely grocery shop right now. And here is a post by a virologist about how to decontaminate things you've bought. Figuring out how many of the more extreme steps to take is the hard part. I wear cotton gloves while shopping. Cotton because I'm saving my small supply of vinyl and latex gloves (which I always keep on hand, thanks to some earlier experiences with norovirus) in case anyone gets sick. Cotton won't work if I touch something wet, but I'm not touching anything wet. Also, I learned good glove technique in grad school so I feel reasonably confident I can wear them without making things worse. Gloves on triggers a habit to be aware of where my hands are at all times. My husband never worked in a lab to learn that habit, and opted to go the "hand sanitize often" route when he went shopping last week. I am sure you can find an online tutorial about glove technique if you want one, but most of what I was taught for the situation where you're wearing gloves to protect yourself (as opposed to protecting your sample from you) boils down to: assume your gloves are contaminated as soon as you put them on. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE.

My process is to put the gloves on as I go into the store. NOT TOUCH MY FACE while in the store. Take the gloves off before opening my car door. Get in and immediately hand sanitize (we have plenty of hand sanitizer, also because of earlier experiences with norovirus). Go home, wash my hands thoroughly. Unload the groceries. Wipe down any plastic with a paper towel soaked in household cleaner, which I change frequently. Put everything away. Wash my hands thoroughly. Clean all counter tops and cupboard doors with household cleaner. Wash my hands thoroughly. Change out of my "going to the shops clothes" and put them straight in the wash pile. Shower.

If you're concerned enough to take measures, you should read the two links above as well as this article from Laurie Garrett that I linked to earlier and make your own decisions about what level of precautions you need. My process is by no means perfect, but it was what I settled on as sustainable and yet still risk-reducing.

I haven't been wearing a mask, but will start doing so, partly because none of us can be sure we aren't infected and so it is nice to try to block the spread of any germs we have. Back when it became obvious we'd be cleaning our own house for awhile, I ordered some cloth masks to help me block the dust (which inflames my asthma). Those arrive Monday. I need to look through our fire/earthquake "go bag" and check what masks I have in there. I think they are N95, bought based on recommendations about how to protect asthmatic lungs during fire season. If they are, I will set them aside to donate to my local hospital if our county has a shortage (right now we do not). Here's one of several articles from experts pushing back on the "don't wear a mask" advice. But don't wear a medical mask, and definitely not a N95, unless you are instructed to do so by your doctor.

If you'd like a better understanding of the results of the early clinical trials on potential COVID-19 treatments, Derek Lowe has provided a nice write up. Click back and forward to read more of his posts about the situation.

If you want a summary of the scientific data about why this particular coronavirus is causing so much trouble, Ed Yong has a good one.

This article by Atul Gawande about preventing spread of coronavirus in health care settings is encouraging. Yes, it was a terrible wasted opportunity that we didn't ramp up production of masks and other PPE (as well as ventilators) in January. There were many, many failures in the Trump administration and elsewhere. I am very angry about that. But that article made me feel less despondent about our chances.

This Atlantic article by two public health experts should also give us hope. It feels like we are in a never-ending lockdown, but there is a way out of it even without a vaccine. I don't trust the Trump administration to lead us there, but State Governors and public health systems are starting to fill the gap. That makes me think it will take longer than it should, but we'll get there.

This op-ed by anti-Trump Republican operated Stuart Stevens is an honest reflection about how we got here and although it won't change any minds, it made me feel better to read it.

Here's where I am at: our Federal government failed. We'll need to find out why later, although I think we can all guess the broad strokes of it. Our state and local governments are stepping up in some places, but not in others. I happen to live in a place where the state and local governments are stepping up, for which I am grateful. We're facing some critical shortages. People are trying to fill the gaps. You have probably seen the articles and tweets about distilleries making hand sanitizer. Fashion houses, theater seamstresses, home crafters, and more are stepping up to make masks. Big businesses are starting to respond and ramp up their production of things, too. We should have gotten into an "all hands on deck" response mode faster, but we lacked good leadership. We're getting there now.

I can't fix any of the mistakes that were made, and I don't have any special skills to offer to the response. The best thing I can do now is stay home and keep my little family healthy, both physically and mentally. I can look for ways to help people in my community who are losing income. I can reach out to friends remotely so that we can all feel better. And that's going to have to be enough.

In slightly less coronavirus-y news:

One thing this lockdown is showing is just how much our activities pollute the air we breathe.  See, for instance, our SoCal air which is remarkably clean right now. This has been helped by getting some rain this week, but still:

It is probably too much to hope that we'll learn from that and change our behaviors when we get back to whatever the new normal will be, but if we do, we'll need mass transit. Matt Yglesias makes the case that we need to bail out our mass transit systems now.


This made me laugh:

Here's your bunny for the week:
Have a good weekend, everyone! We'll be writing a menu plan that uses some of the odds and ends in our pantry as well as the fresh stuff I was able to buy Thursday night, making oatmeal-chocolate chip bars, and figuring our where to direct some more money to help everyone weather this. Also on the agenda are a walk on the beach, some Chinese lessons over Zoom, and a Google Hangout with my parents and some friends. I hope you find some things that make you happy, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus, Snapshot #2

After I finished work today, I drove Pumpkin down the hill to her friend's house, where she dropped off a box with a gift she'd made inside of it. She left it on the doorstep, not even ringing the doorbell, and then we drove home.

It was like a teenage prank, except it was her wanting to give her friend a gift to cheer her up and this was the safest way.

As we drove down the hill, it seemed like a normal night - people out walking their dogs or just out for a walk, families with kids out for bike rides or playing in the street. But if you paid attention you noticed what was not normal. All the kids were in family groups. No one was playing with friends. The walkers crossed the street when someone approached from the other direction. There were no little clusters of dogs yapping at each other while their owners held their leashes.

San Diego is not on a "shelter in place" order like the San Francisco area is, but life has definitely changed. Our bars and restaurants are closed, serving take out or delivery only. Movie theaters are closed. I don't actually know if all gyms are closed, but I got an email today from the YMCA saying they are closed.

Pumpkin has talked on a video chat with her friends both days this week. Petunia was jealous, so today Pumpkin kept the call open with one of her friends, so that Petunia and the friend's little sister (who is one of Petunia's good friends) could talk. It was nice, and made Petunia very happy. I'll have to work out a way for her to video chat with more of her friends.

My work closed all its offices worldwide today. Many of us had already been working from home. Now everyone is. One of my main clients is in Seattle. They are a couple weeks ahead of us on the work from home thing, and have adopted a culture of "cameras on" in our meetings. Today, I joined them in that. It was fun to see their home offices and they got a kick out of the large collection of LEGO behind me (on top of my husband's desk). Next time, they may get to see my kitchen: My husband and I compare meeting schedules in the morning to work out who gets the office and who moves to the dining room table at different times.

There are news stories circulating saying that taking ibuprofen or other NSAIDs for fever may make COVID-19 worse, and recommending taking acetaminophen instead.  There's a little circle of science/pharma folks on Twitter trying to figure out if there is any data to support this. No one has found any. As close as I can tell, the source is a letter in Lancet describing a HYPOTHESIS about why people with diabetes and hypertension may be at elevated risk. Here is a Twitter thread with the latest, and embedded in it is an earlier thread that led me to that Lancet letter:

Maybe this hypothesis is right, maybe it isn't. But if you don't already have Tylenol in your home, you aren't likely to get it now. We have children's acetaminophen because my kids like the flavor of that better than children's ibuprofen (cherry vs. grape or bubble gum). I found a bottle of acetaminophen and a bottle of acetaminophen PM. Both expired in 2014. Oops.

I started stressing about this yesterday. I went on Amazon to see if I could order acetaminophen but even as I went there I knew I would not be able to do so.  I seriously considered asking my husband to go to the drug store to try to get a bottle, but he rightly pointed out that (1) there was unlikely to be any on the shelves, and (2) an unnecessary trip to the drug store would definitely put us at higher risk. There is no actual evidence that ibuprofen use would do so.

So I wrote "tylenol" on the list of things to look for next time we go to a drug store, but we decided not to make a special trip out.

And I reflected on human nature and fear and how I'm not really any different from the people who went out and cleared the shelves of toilet paper.

I'll close this snapshot with one of the nice things about this week. I decided to take a walk every weekday, as long as it isn't raining. I usually do this when I'm working in the office, so I decided I should keep my habit at home. One or both of the kids have joined me each day. It was a beautiful day today, so we stopped as we walked up the hill home and admired the view.

Stay healthy, everyone.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus, Snapshot #1

I saw several tweets going around about keeping a journal right now. The tweets were about a physical journal, but screw that. I've never been able to keep a physical journal going for long. The best I ever did was during our four month "Circle Pacific" trip - I wrote a fairly detailed entry about every day. That was on a laid back, kid-free, long term trip when sitting in a bar for an afternoon catching up on my journal entries seemed like a great way to spend some time. I still jot notes down when I travel, but they aren't extensive. The idea that I'd manage to keep a real journal going now is pretty laughable.

But I like the idea of writing down some of the details about what life is like right now. I refer back to old blog posts a lot to remind myself of details of various times in my life.

If I had to pick one phrase to describe my life right now it would be "mentally exhausting." On the surface, life was going on like normal until Friday, when the announcement came that our schools were closing. But ever since it became clear that COVID-19 would spread here in the US, I have been making a lot of decisions and doing extra planning. I have been doing that without all the information I would like, because the information I really want is just not available.

I wanted to know whether the virus was spreading in the community, but the bungling of the testing situation here in the US made that unknowable until it spread enough to infect someone who got ill enough to be noticed. Or perhaps it had to wait until the testing situation improved enough to allow testing of people without a high-risk travel history. Either way, we had our first reported case of community transmission last week. I suspect transmission had been occurring in the community before that, but I do not know to what extent.

The other thing I wanted to know (and still want to know, to be honest), is how different my risk profile is from someone my age (47) who doesn't have asthma. This is not knowable right now. I spent a lot of time reading various things written by public health experts and doctors and eventually realized I was chasing information that just doesn't exist. The places that have had enough cases to be able to provide that sort of detail have not had the time to analyze their cases in that sort of detail. I am just going to have to make decisions without that information.

Here's a probably incomplete list of the decisions I've had to make in the last month or so, in rough chronological order:

1. Would we still go to the Valle de Guadalupe (a wine region in Mexico, about 2 hours from San Diego) to celebrate my sister's birthday? The trip was planned for the weekend of Feb. 29. (Answer: Yes, we did. It was a lovely weekend and I am glad we went.)

2. Would we send Pumpkin to spend that weekend with a family friend who had just returned from a business trip in Japan? (Answer: No, I canceled that when I woke up Friday morning to the news that Japan had closed its schools. Pumpkin went to spend the weekend with some other friends who were already slated to take Petunia. In retrospect, Japan has done a better job than we have of containing the virus and it would probably have been fine to keep our original plan.)

3. Would we stock up on food, etc? (Answer: Sort of. We had recently done our usual Costco run, so were well stocked on toilet paper and hand soap, anyway. I decided to take the advice to buy a little extra on each shopping trip and so we have a good supply of most of our non-perishable favorites and given what I saw when I went shopping this morning, I'm glad I did that.)

4. Would we still take our planned trip to LA for my husband's birthday? My parents were coming over to watch the kids and we were planning to spend two nights in LA, attending the Keane concert on the second night. This trip was earlier this week - driving to LA Monday, driving home Wednesday. (Answer: Yes, we went. This decision feels questionable. Time will tell if that was an OK decision or not. This was a "big" birthday and my husband has been wanting to see Keane live for years. At the time we went neither San Diego nor LA County had reported a case of community transmission. We had fun. We went to the Broad museum and saw amazing modern art, we had some wonderful food, and the concert was great. We tried to take precautions, keeping our distance from other people and using a lot of hand sanitizer.

LA county reported its first case of probable community transmission while we were there. San Diego country reported its first likely case of community transmission Wednesday night. Realistically, there has almost certainly been community transmission in both counties for awhile now. We can only hope the level was still low enough that we made it through the trip uninfected.)

5. Would we work from home upon our return from LA? (Answer: Yes. My husband's company made that decision for him, and I decided I should stay home, too.)

6. Would we go ahead with a planned visit from one of my best friends, who lives in San Francisco? The visit was scheduled for the weekend of March 21. (Answer: No, my friend and I decided to cancel the visit yesterday. This one really hurt, but we've got a phone call scheduled for Monday and we'll reschedule the visit for a later date.)

7. Would we continue grocery shopping every week like normal? (Answer: Yes, but I decided to try to switch to less busy shopping times. I also bought some cotton gloves to wear when I am in the store and try hard to keep 6 feet of distance from other people. Today's shopping trip was a mixed bag, though - I went before 8, but the store was already crowded and not everyone seemed interested in keeping their distance.)

8. What will we expect our kids to do while they are stuck here at home and we're trying to work? (Answer: They have some homework from the school and we came up with a list of some extra learning-related things they can do. Other than that, they just have to leave us alone to work.)

9. Will our kids still go to their extracurricular activities? (Answer: No. Several were canceled, and we're going to skip the others but continue to pay for them because we want those people to continue to have money, too.)

10. Will we have our cleaner come as usual? (Answer: No. We've canceled, but are again continuing to pay as if we hadn't. This afternoon, we're cleaning our house ourselves.)

11. What else will we do to help our local community during this time? (Answer: we'll make an extra donation to our food bank. We're going to order some books online from our favorite local bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy.  We're on the fence about ordering in or buying gift cards to support local restaurants - Postmates has set up for contactless delivery, but what I really want to see is my government step in to help those businesses.)

In thinking about my last few weeks, I really think governments need to just make the decisions for people. There is too much individual decision making going on. I felt relief when my county decided to cancel gatherings of more than 250 people, because then I didn't have to decide if we should go to the play we had tickets for today. Decide for people. Shut down bars, mandate restaurants switch to take-out and delivery... Just do it.

Also, someone needs to try to calm people down about grocery stores. The situation we have now with people packing in and panic-buying is not good!

That's my first update. I'll try to post again later in the week with how working from home with two kids and another adult (who is also working from home) is going. How are things going for you?

Friday, March 13, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Big Changes to Our Routine Edition

So... our schools here are closing as of Monday. All events over 250 people are canceled. I'm getting waves of cancelation notifications from my kids' activities. Fun times. In the midst of all of this, my husband and I are trying to work out how we'll handle working from home when we both have a lot of meetings. We've done two days so far with mixed success. (Key lesson: plan out lunchtime better, since the "overflow" meeting room has been the dining room table and that means the other person can't finish their meeting and stroll out and start heating up lunch.) It is going to be interesting to see how we do when we add two restless kids into the mix.

Anyway, I have just a few links for you.

Here's a good explanation of why we had a shortage of coronavirus tests.

And here's a summary of tips from some experts on social distancing. Spoiler alert: they're not really sure what we should all be doing right now, either, but I still found the article useful.

This set of graphics on the South Korean COVID-19 clusters is interesting. Look at Patient 31.

I love the videos circulating of Italians finding a way to have community even during lockdown:

Here's your bunny of the week:
That's all I have this week. I'll try to make a point of reading some non-pandemic content next week so that hopefully I'll have better links to share! Have a good weekend, everyone.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Better Late than Never Edition

This post is going up late this weekend because I was busy on Friday night. I could have skipped my rollerblade and posted instead, I guess, but that's silly talk.

Anyway, I do have some links for you this week:

Zach Carter wrote in the Huffington Post about how Elizabeth Warren has changed the Democratic party. If you, like me, are still mourning her exit from the race, read this and feel a little better.

Connie Schultz wrote a wonderful piece on the pain of how this turned out.

I recommended this in my last post, but it is worth pointing out her, too: I found this Washington Post profile of a white woman in Augusta, GA, who had always voted Republican until Trump really thought-provoking. What would change if women like her truly abandoned the Republican party? What would it take for that to happen?

Ezra Klein wrote a very good piece on the problem with the Sanders campaign treating other Democrats like the enemy.

In recommended listening: I am about 3/4 of the way through this discussion between Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias about what a Sanders or Biden presidency might be like, and I am finding it very useful.

If you, like me, weren't really sure what the big deal was a bout a judge stating the obvious and saying that AG Barr's word can't be trusted, Talking Points Memo has an explainer for us.

This article about what has gone wrong with getting tests for coronovirus is interesting... but I think we won't really know what happened unless the scientists at the CDC and FDA start talking.

I don't have a link for this but I want to say something about the coronavirus situation. I do think that something has gone terribly wrong in our Federal level response, and my guess is that it is going to come down to a lack of ability of political will to force collaboration between the various Federal agencies. Maybe we'll get the story at some point, maybe we won't. But please remember that a large part of the response is being driven by state and local public health employees, who are not incompetent and are not being muzzled by Trump's political desires. They are doing good work to slow this outbreak.

That's all I have because I've been taking a bit of a break from Twitter and reading less.

Here's some bunnies for you:

Wednesday, March 04, 2020


I should be working on book promo tasks, so of course I'm going to sit here and read Twitter and write about politics instead.

To make me feel better: Go pre-order the next Annorlunda book! Nontraditional, by Nan Kuhlman, is a great collection of linked essays about the winding path life takes. It focuses on the author's students at a community college in small town Ohio, and interweaves stories from the author's own nontraditional career path. I think you'll really enjoy it! It will be out next month (although I think Amazon is shipping early, which is an entirely different post I could write....)

OK, so back to politics.

Needless to say, my disappointment with how this year's primary is going continues. I can't really blame people who swung to Biden. Anyone with any sense is frightened by the possibility of a Trump re-election. It doesn't feel like the moment to dream big, even if you're also going to fight hard. I really thought that was what we should do, to decrease the chance of the next Trump. But I can understand why others might have decided to focus on just beating Trump, and everyone's punditing on how best to do that has favored Biden.

The Bernie folks are yelling that Warren should have gotten out and endorsed him, but I think they are wrong in their assumption that all Warren voters would go to Bernie next. I wouldn't, and the polls I've seen indicate that I have a lot of company.

Petunia (who is 10) has been asking me a lot of questions about the election and she wanted to know why Biden is my second choice. I told her that I thought he'd be the next best president if we couldn't have Warren. But the real reason that felt too complicated to explain to her is that I think that the success of either a Sanders or Biden presidency is going to come down to the team they hire. And based on how he has run his campaign, I think Sanders would over-prioritize ideological agreement in his hires.

I also think that in this case, the choice of a running mate might be more politically important than usual, and again, I see no evidence Sanders will factor that into his thinking.

So while I don't think a Sanders candidacy is doomed to fail, I tend to think a Biden candidacy has a better chance of success. More importantly, I think that a Biden presidency has a better chance of success. That is why he's my next choice.

I have no idea what Warren will do. I hope she uses whatever leverage she has to get her anti-corruption ideas into the platform. This administration has been a corruption extravaganza. We really need to fight back against that. I am confident that she'll continue to fight to fix things as a Senator, or from whatever post she lands at next.

I think that progressives would be in a better position if Sanders hadn't run, and had instead supported Warren's candidacy. But a sizeable proportion of Sanders supporters are a bit blind to his weaknesses and refuse to understand why someone like me could not get behind his candidacy. There is a cult of personality in that movement that is not healthy. There is also an over-focus on the presidency. It is good that people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are running for and winning Congressional seats, and I hope that movement continues to build strength in down ballot races. That is how they will build power and ultimately change this country, if they are going to do that.

In some ways, I think a Biden nomination may help change this country more than even Biden recognizes. He's running very much on a "go back to how it was" message, but of course there is no going back. We can only go forward, and Trump has put the country in a place where maybe we can start to see some old political truths break down. There was a long Washington Post profile of a white woman in Georgia who feels politically unmoored by the Trump presidency. I really recommend reading it and trying to do so from a place of empathy for women like the one profiled. As Ezra Klein has been discussing (see any number of his podcasts about his new book), our identities have become more "stacked," so changing your politics really will feel like changing a large part of your identity. I can see why that would be hard to do. However, if enough white women in the South do that and stop voting so overwhelmingly for Republicans, there could be a huge change in the political calculus in this country. I don't pretend to know what that change would mean, but it would be a big change.

In general, I think we should stop trying to game out strategic political actions, and just work for the immediate outcomes we think would be best. It is too hard to predict the reactions to any given action. So I'm back to where I started this primary: committed to supporting the eventual nominee and planning to work for down ballot races.