One Way To Return To Work and School

Three professors think there is a good way for people to start going back to work and school. Their suggestion is partly based on how long people who get the virus usually become contagious, which is three days on average.

First, the population would be divided into two groups — like our cars were divided into two groups by odd and even license plates when OPEC made trouble in the 1970s and it was very hard to buy gas.

Grouping could be done using the first letter of everyone’s last name, such as A to L and M to Z. Doing the groups that way would give the members of a family the same schedule (of course, there would have to be flexibility to handle special cases).

Each group would then go to work or school on a schedule of four days on, ten days off. Group A to L would start work on a Monday, work four days, then take off ten days. Group M to Z would go to work or school the following Monday, work four days and then take off.

The result would be that people would be at work or school 40% of the time: four days instead of the usual ten every two-weeks (of course, there would have to be flexibility again, one reason being that somebody has to mind the store or the police station on Fridays and weekends).

Working or being educated would still be possible during our ten days “off” at home. The totally unemployed would be working part-time. The point is that we’d be taking a step toward a more normal existence for most people.

When I read the professors’ article, I wondered why they chose a four-day schedule if people are usually contagious after three days. Aside from how four days fits nicely into the fourteen days of two weeks, they believe that getting sick would be unlikely even if people were in close contact and someone became contagious at the beginning of the four days. They did some math:

Models we created at the Weizmann Institute in Israel predict that this two-week cycle can reduce the virus’s reproduction number — the average number of people infected by each infected person — below one. So a 10-4 cycle could suppress the epidemic while allowing sustainable economic activity.

More from the article:

Even if someone is infected, and without symptoms, he or she would be in contact with people outside their household for only four days every two weeks, not 10 days, as with a normal schedule. This strategy packs another punch: It reduces the density of people at work and school, thus curtailing the transmission of the virus.

The cyclic strategy is easy to explain and to enforce. It is equitable in terms of who gets to go back to work. It applies at any scale: a school, a firm, a town, a state. A region that uses the cyclic strategy is protected: Infections coming from the outside cannot spread widely if the reproduction number is less than one. It is also compatible with all other countermeasures being developed.

Workers can, and should still, use masks and distancing while at work. This proposal is not predicated, however, on large-scale testing, which is not yet available everywhere in the United States and may never be available in large parts of the world. It can be started as soon as a steady decline of cases indicates that lockdown has been effective.

The cyclic strategy should be part of a comprehensive exit strategy, including self-quarantine by those with symptoms, contact tracing and isolation, and protection of risk groups. The cyclic strategy can be tested in limited regions for specific trial periods, even a month. If infections rates grow, it can be adjusted to fewer work days. Conversely, if things are going well, additional work days can be added. In certain scenarios, only four or five lockdown days in each two-week cycle could still prevent resurgence.

The coronavirus epidemic is a formidable foe, but it is not unbeatable. By scheduling our activities intelligently, in a way that accounts for the virus’s intrinsic dynamics, we can defeat it more rapidly, and accelerate a full return to work, school and other activities.

The Plan Is To Have No Plan

From Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University:

This is my read on what the government’s guidance and actions amount to…. My purpose in posting it is to challenge the American press to be a lot clearer in its descriptions.

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable.

“The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design— or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives. 

A Terrible List of “Hot Spots”

The New York Times has a long list of the worst virus outbreaks in the U.S. The list includes facilities with 50 or more cases.

Among facilities with more than 150 cases, jails and meatpacking plants predominate (presumably, the virus can survive longer where there’s meat). The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and a few long-term care facilities, such as psychiatric hospitals, also have large numbers of cases.

Most long-term care facilities are relatively small and appear further down on the Times list. However:

Across the country, a pattern has played out with tragic consistency: Someone gets sick in a nursing home. Soon, several residents and employees have the coronavirus. The New York Times has identified more than 6,400 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the United States with coronavirus cases. More than 100,000 residents and staff members at those facilities have contracted the virus, and more than 17,000 have died. That means more than a quarter of the deaths in the pandemic have been linked to long-term care facilities.

It’s hard to imagine the suffering that’s going on behind closed doors (including the doors of houses and apartments).

Marion Correctional Institution — Marion, Ohio 2268
Pickaway Correctional Institution — Scioto Township, Ohio 1655
Smithfield Foods pork processing facility — Sioux Falls, S.D. 1095
Trousdale Turner Correctional Center — Hartsville, Tenn. 1037
U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt — Guam 969
Cook County jail — Chicago, Ill. 940
Cummins Unit prison — Grady, Ark. 911
Lakeland Correctional Facility — Coldwater, Mich. 821
Bledsoe County Correctional Complex — Pikeville, Tenn. 585
Harris County jail — Houston, Texas 488
Neuse Correctional Institution — Goldsboro, N.C. 480
JBS USA meatpacking plant — Green Bay, Wis. 348
G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility — Jackson, Mich. 347
Lansing Correctional Facility — Lansing, Kan. 336
Triumph Foods meat processing facility — St. Joseph, Mo. 295
Butner Prison Complex — Butner, N.C. 266
Sterling Correctional Facility — Sterling, Colo. 260
Paramus Veterans Memorial Home — Paramus, N.J. 256
Trenton Psychiatric Hospital — Trenton, N.J. 247
JBS USA meatpacking plant — Greeley, Colo. 245
Parnall Correctional Facility — Jackson, Mich. 243
American Foods Group meat processing facility — Green Bay, Wis. 241
JBS USA meatpacking plant — Grand Island, Neb. 230
Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women — St. Gabriel, La. 216
Shelby County jail — Memphis, Tenn. 205
Westville Correctional Facility — Westville, Ind. 200
Stateville Correctional Center — Crest Hill, Ill. 196
Hackensack Meridian Health Nursing and Rehab Care Center — Hackensack, N.J. 190
Franklin Medical Center prison hospital — Columbus, Ohio 185
Christian Health Care Center — Wyckoff, N.J. 183
The Harborage nursing home — North Bergen, N.J. 181
Tyson Foods meatpacking plant — Waterloo, Iowa 180
Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center II — Andover, N.J. 176
Redwood Springs nursing home — Visalia, Calif. 174
Central Detention Facility — Washington, D.C. 172
Lincoln Park Care Center — Lincoln Park, N.J. 168
PruittHealth Palmyra nursing home — Albany, Ga. 167
Tyson Foods meatpacking plant — Columbus Junction, Iowa 166
Soldiers’ Home — Holyoke, Mass. 163
Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing — Gallatin, Tenn. 162
JBS Beef Plant — Cactus, Texas 159
Dillwyn Correctional Center — Dillwyn, Va. 158
Northern State Prison — Newark, N.J. 158
California Institution for Men — Chino, Calif. 154
Perdue Farms meat processing facility — Cromwell, Ky. 154
Brookdale Paramus assisted living facility — Paramus, N.J. 153
George Beto Unit prison — Tennessee Colony, Texas 153
JBS USA pork production facility — Worthington, Minn. 151

A president who was reluctant to force the production of protective gear was willing to force meatpacking plants to stay open. Why? On one side are giant corporations who want to continue business as usual and millions of voters who would be affected by a shortage. On the other is a low-paid workforce mostly made up of people — immigrants, Latinos and African Americans — who don’t matter to the president at all. Q.E.D.

The 78 (?) Quarantine Players Present Three Speeches from Shakespeare

From The Guardian:

In celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe we invited the general public to join leading actors in performing three of Shakespeare’s iconic speeches from their place of quarantine: As You Like It, Hamlet and The Tempest. More than 500 people from around the world submitted and a selection of those performances have been edited together here….

It’s excellent, although not being British or Shakespearean, I watched with closed captions [CC] on.

The Toddler Strikes Again — Pandemic Edition

From Crooked Media’s informative newsletter:

The T—- administration abruptly removed the doctor who led the federal agency working on a coronavirus vaccine because he pushed back against the administration’s efforts to promote [the president’s] favorite unproven drugs. Now he has become a whistleblower: “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Dr. Rick Bright said he was dismissed as director of [Health and Human Service’s] Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) because he insisted that the government invest funding into scientifically vetted treatments, vaccine research, and critical supplies, and resisted widespread use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus symptoms. (On Tuesday, a panel of experts [at the National Institutes of Health] specifically advised against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of clinical trials.)

Bright believes he was transferred to a smaller role at NIH as an act of retaliation. He said he’ll request an investigation into the politicization of BARDA, including how the administration has pressured scientists to “fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.”

A vague but stunning accusation of political corruption hobbling the government’s response to one of the most deadly crises the country has ever faced….

Remember during Trump’s impeachment,a mere 400 years ago, when we learned that Trump fired an experienced career diplomat because she wouldn’t go along with his corrupt Ukraine scheme? We’ve just seen him do the same thing to a career scientist in a key public health role, in the middle of the worst public-health crisis in our lifetimes. Somebody ask [Republican Senator] Susan Collins if she still thinks T—- learned his lesson. 

Unofficial Advice from Italy (and New Jersey)

Here’s unofficial advice from S. Abbas Raza, who lives in Northern Italy (there have now been more deaths in Italy than China):

• Stay calm but be concerned: this is probably the greatest single challenge the world has faced in our lifetimes. Decisions made in a panic are not good … and don’t keep reading everything about Corona all day every day—I did that for a couple of days and then I couldn’t sleep. It is very important to pay attention to one’s mental well-being at this time, as well as physical.

• It is best to get serious advice and information from reputable scientific sources…. For example:

Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus Resource Page

World Health Organization Coronavirus Resource Page

Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

Harvard University Coronavirus Resource Center

[Avoid the president’s daily “briefing”. He has turned them into campaign rallies. He downplayed the problem for weeks, wasting precious time, and is now bragging and spouting misinformation. Pressure is building to stop televising what he says live, since he’s become a public health risk. For example, here, here, here and especially here.]

• Stay at home. Buy groceries for at least a week at a time (two if you can do that) and then don’t be tempted to run out for that one brand of potato chips you suddenly have a craving for. Now is the time to be disciplined about this. As one doctor advised, behave as if you have the virus and don’t want to give it to others.

• A good way to make a comprehensive grocery list is to walk through each room in your house with a pad and pen and look around carefully and see what you might run out of in the next week or two. This way, I remembered to buy shaving blades when I was in the bathroom looking around, for example, which I would have forgotten otherwise. Same happened with laundry detergent in the laundry room, etc.

• Convince others to take the problem seriously and insist that they cancel plans for socializing, travel, etc. Do this calmly and without getting worked up, otherwise they will dismiss what you say as the product of irrational fear. This will only work if we all do it. Obviously.

• Avoid public transport and walk if you can. Driving a car is also better than public transport, for once.

• The natural tendency is to want to visit one’s parents and other family in a time like this. Don’t. [Use online video] with them and keep in touch more than normal through phone, email, social media, and every way except actually being there. Everyone needs reassurance these days, and it’s nice for people who love you to hear your voice.

• Just in case, make a plan with your family about what you will do if one of you gets sick. Better to do this while calm and healthy than in a panic.

• Use this time to exercise more…, read, do stuff you’ve been putting off that can be done at home. Or just watch TV….

• I’ve also found that keeping the house spic and span helps a lot psychologically to ward off thoughts of disease.

• …. Buy a variety of foods to store as you get sick of eating the same things….

• Be extra kind to everyone and remain patient and avoid emotional outbursts. And stay home if you can!


Also, use disposable gloves whenever possible. And consider a scarf when you have to go somewhere.

And wash your hands! A lot! Because “soap absolutely destroys the coronavirus”.

If you think governments are overreacting, see the graph from a couple days ago in this article. Italy tried to isolate the virus. Now it’s spreading and we are about nine days behind them.