Times are grim. They are grim here, and we are in nowhere near as much trouble as many parts of the country. But our cases are up and we've reached the limit on ICU bed space (less than 15% available) that is the governor's new threshold for a stay at home order. I think we'll be under a stay at home order tomorrow. Businesses here are already struggling - there are so many stories about long standing businesses closing for good - and while our county and state have both released some funds to try to help, it is nowhere near enough. We needed federal aid, and Mitch McConnell is instead focused on shielding employers from COVID-related lawsuits. I could maybe see providing such a shield in conjunction with generous aid that allows people to do the right thing without losing everything... but as it is being offered with just a small amount of aid, I think it is a recipe for businesses opening and employees getting sick and dying.
And he hasn't even passed this. Everyone is yelling about what Democrats should or should not accept, and McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate haven't passed a damn thing. There's nothing to accept or reject right now, just a lot of talk. I don't have a clue about why this is how things work now, but does anyone else remember conference committees?
We really have the wrong type of federal leadership for this moment. But lots of people - people in places with far higher infection and death rates than my area has - looked at that leadership and said "yep, that's what we want" and so somehow the rest of us have to figure out how to deal with this.
The stay at home order won't change anything about how my little family is living right now. We'd already pulled back as cases rose - no more going to shops for anything other than essentials! - and have been limiting our restaurant patronage to take out from the beginning.
This week brought us another study showing that indoor dining is just not safe. Masks are off because you can't eat with a mask on. People are talking, because people go to restaurants for a social experience. And people are probably talking loudly due to ambient noise. It is just not possible to make this safe. It is always going to come down to a matter of luck, and with more cases around these days the odds are not with you.
Zeynep Tufecki has a good writeup of the new study, putting in context of earlier studies as well.
The CDC has released new guidelines that match what my personal guideline has been for quite awhile: Don't be indoors with people not in your household without a mask.
You don't want this disease, and you particularly don't want to get sick during a surge - as this story spells out, hospitals are getting overwhelmed and that means people are dying who probably would have lived if they'd gotten the disease earlier, when case loads were lower.
If you're wondering why FDA emergency authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is taking a little longer than approval in other countries, this article explains it. Personally, I think the more thorough review is a good idea particularly since there are non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g., masks, avoiding indoor gatherings) that can reduce spread during the review time. The tragedy, of course, is that so many people refuse to follow advice about non-pharmaceutical interventions.
In recommended listening: Ezra Klein's interview with Kim Stanley Robinson did indeed convince me to read The Ministry for the Future. I am about halfway through it now. I will probably write some more about it when I finish it.
Here are some things that made me smile this week:
This is a really interesting story about diacetyl, the compound that makes Chardonnay buttery but also can cause "popcorn lung."
I want a book of these "where are they now" snippets Jane Austen told her family!
This is delightful: Jane Austen used to regale her relatives with anecdotes about what happened to her characters after their novels ended. (From David A. Brewer’s “The Afterlife of Character”) pic.twitter.com/Oyussw0rqk— Evan Kindley (@evankindley) December 4, 2020
This tweet blew my mind. Someone do some historical studies to find out if it is true!
A lot of really good stuff has been written about the revolution in women’s fashion in the 1920’s — but nothing is as good an explanation as flapper dresses and flat shoes as post-pandemic wardrobe.— jess mcintosh (@jess_mc) December 3, 2020
We’d been inside for 2.5 years of course women weren’t putting that back on.
This made me laugh. My husband also does most of our laundry (although I tend to be the one who folds it). That is probably the only thing I have in common with Angela Merkel.
Merkel is asked (at a tech conf): Do you use smart technology at home or do you switch on the washing machine yourself?— Deborah Cole (@doberah) December 1, 2020
Merkel: My husband does the laundry. https://t.co/j2q1Sal3yL
On discovering that you're a meme:
Here’s a very 2020 thing I just learned about myself: this picture of the 8-year-old, 3rd grade version of me has been a meme FOR YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!— Adrian Smith (@DrAdrianSmith) December 2, 2020
Like, there’s merch and everything. Internet is weird. thread 👇 pic.twitter.com/4oUVjz5FEK
I love little quirks of language like this:
TODAY I HAVE LEARNED that TO EGG, as in 'to egg someone on' is from the Old Norse 'eggja', 'to urge', and has nothing to do with eggs.— Dr Kate Wiles (@katemond) November 30, 2020
This week's bunny looks so cozy! I am a little jealous.
Have a good weekend, everyone!