Thoughts on Father’s Day

When lockdown began, all the millennials went home.

They were told not to go home–directly told, in C’s case, by a New York City ER doc overwhelmed by patients and expecting his hospital’s ICU to be overrun. But they went home anyway.

We quarantined our returnee inside the house for two weeks. Separate Corona chair, separate bathroom (door closed before and after use!), a designated seat at the far end of the dinner table, hands off the Nespresso machine and the spoons and forks and everything else a person must touch to feed himself. It felt like an adventure.

(And yes, I’m grateful we have enough space to quarantine another human being. Wish we had enough space for all 3 grown sons, but that’s another story.)

I thought millennials went home because home feels safe, virus or no.

That was true.

What I didn’t realize is that safety is a 2-way street.

A few days ago, I spoke to a 25-year old who told me: “I haven’t let my mother out of my sight.”

As I thought about it, I realized she could have been describing C’s behavior. Only in the past few weeks has he let us out of his sight. For 6 weeks straight, neither Ed nor I left the house for any reason at all apart from a daily hourlong march (or patrol?) around the neighborhood. Every errand that had to be done, C. did, willingly, happily, without having to be asked.

He used to call it “going to the outside world.”

He would return bearing groceries, supplies, and field intelligence. How many masks, how many people in the check out lanes, the wonders of no-traffic in Westchester County. Later in the day, he would walk the neighborhood with us.

Last weekend, C. went to his first small get-together with friends since all of this began. Every one of them said they had spent the initial month of quarantine terrified they would give COVID to their parents, and their parents would die.

I’ve tried to imagine that, and I can’t.

They were terrified they would kill their own parents.

They braved this fear, and they made sure no one else killed their parents. For a young adult, this will be a formative experience, I think. Millennials: the good guys.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Monday, Monday

Yesterday was Monday. 

My college had scheduled a budget town hall for Monday, which I wanted to attend (all bad news there), but first, after I opened the email with the Zoom link, I had to be locked out of my account. 

That was actually kind of fun, it was so normal. Locked out of my accountyes! I remember being locked out of my account! I used to get locked out of my account with some regularity back in the day, and it felt good to be doing it again. This must be what people mean by “stir crazy.”

So I was up for it, but being locked out of my account during quarantine turned out to be different from being locked out of my account in my old life.

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“wrong, wrong, and wrong” and back to the future

Great line from Michael Osterholm in a recent CIDRAP podcast (Episode 4: The Reality of Testing):

-24:13: Last week I was at a meeting online with a prominent foundation in which a world-renowned economist, a Nobel Prize Laureate in economy, proposed that we be able to test 30 to 40 million people a week every week starting next week, and when I shared with him that that was not possible, his first reaction was that I’m part of the problem because I’m such a naysayer because I’m in fact you know always beating down these possibilities.

I like to think of myself just as a lighthouse saying, You know you may be a big aircraft carrier, but if you keep coming at me, buddy, I’m not moving, nor is the shore. 

You do like to see Nobel Prize Laureates forcibly informed that supply chains aren’t actual magic every once in a while. At least, I do.

Another great observation:

-26:38: I have raised on multiple occasions … that testing is not going to be widespread available in this country. Just accept that. … It’s what we first put forward more than 7 weeks ago … we are going to have a collision course with destiny called “reagent availability.”

It’s not about money, it’s about physics…. You can’t create the infrastructure overnight.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong:

-17:22: I’m surely not a stranger to or in any way opposed to contact tracing following a valid and comprehensive testing program. I see none of that here. And yet I worry that the whole country opening or reopening or closing or reclosing, or whichever [way] you want to look at [it], are all based on this testing program.

This is wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I had a funny moment yesterday.

As a nonfiction writer, I became pretty good at vetting experts.

With COVID, I chose Osterholm right away, but I was also following Marc Lipsitch, and had just recently discovered John M. Barry. I trust all three. [6/22/2020 UPDATE: I’ve changed my mind on Osterholm, for a couple of reasons. Still find what he had to say early on important–though he may have been wrong about the future availability of reagent, I don’t know.]

So this week Osterholm’s program, CIDRAP, came out with its first report.

Authors: Osterholm, Lipsitch, Barry.

Plus Kristin Moore, who I hadn’t yet come across.

I have no idea what nonconscious criteria I used to put those three together.


Back to the future

We’re 64 days into lockdown here in New York, and the sun is out. My brain finally feels clear enough to think about education again. Yay!

I’m definitely going back to the classroom in September.  

Assuming classes are held, of course. If they aren’t, Zoom on.

Bad news on viral dose and viral load?

I’ve been harboring hope lockdown might produce herd immunity through milder illness via milder viral “dose.”

That is to say, even under lockdown many of us will still be exposed to COVID-19, but we’ll be exposed to less of it than we would have been if, as in my case, we’d carried on living with a spouse taking the subway 5 days a week.

The freaking subway! Five days a week!

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Known unknowns

Ed read this article earlier today: Sortie de confinement, ou la somme de tous les dangers par Philippe Sansonetti.

Tells me that toward the end the author reports that herd immunity (l’immunité de groupe) to COVID-19 is by no means assured:

Les sujets guéris sont-ils protégés naturellement contre l’infection, qu’ils aient ou non développé ces fameux anticorps spécifiques neutralisants dont on espère tant ? A fortiori, les sujets demeurés asymptomatiques ou pauci-symptomatiques sont-ils protégés et pour combien de temps ? En effet le virus sera demeuré dans ce cas circonscrit à la muqueuse rhinopharyngée, ce qui peut donner lieu à une immunité locale, mais de quelle durée ? De quelle efficacité protectrice ? De quelle capacité à faire transition vers une immunité systémique globalement efficace ? En un mot, l’immunité de groupe offerte par beaucoup de maladies infectieuses et par les vaccins répondra-t-elle aux équations habituelles ?

Google translation: Are the healed subjects naturally protected against infection, whether or not they have developed these famous specific neutralizing antibodies which we so much hope for? A fortiori, are the subjects who remain asymptomatic or pauci-symptomatic protected and for how long? Indeed the virus will have remained in this case circumscribed to the nasopharyngeal mucosa, which can give rise to local immunity, but for how long? How protective is it? What is the ability to transition to globally effective systemic immunity? In a word, will the group immunity offered by many infectious diseases and vaccines meet the usual equations?

Looks like a good opportunity to practice my French.

Social distancing and the 2nd wave

I’m looking at the article I posted a couple of days ago: Public health interventions and epidemic intensity during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

I don’t have the bandwidth to read Hatchett et al closely at the moment … but wanted to clarify that their study does not offer a great deal of hope that we could develop herd immunity via more people infected with milder illness, thus fewer deaths. (It’s the study of immunity in Gangelt Municipality that supports herd-immunity-via-lower-viral-dose/lower-death.)

The authors assume the opposite, in fact: 

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gasstationwithoutpumps on viral load and COVID-19 models

Comment from 4/11:

Models can include viral doses (see Methods of modelling viral disease dynamics across the within- and between-host scales: the impact of virus dose on host population immunity) but you need more information about how the viral load changes with the course of the infection and how contagious people are at different stages. We don’t have that detailed information about SARS-CoV-2, so simpler models have to be used (and we don’t even have all the data we need to set the parameters of even simpler models, which is one reason the predictions have such wide ranges of possible outcomes).

And see:
Know your enemy
Can lockdown produce herd immunity with fewer deaths?

Social distancing and immunity
gasstationwithoutpumps on viral load and COVID-19 models
Social distancing and the 2nd wave
Viral dose, viral load

Social distancing and immunity – German study

First time I’ve seen a researcher suggest we could achieve milder illness and immunity via lockdown:

By adhering to strict hygiene measures it is to be expected that the virus concentration of an infected individual can be reduced to the point that the illness manifests more mildly, with simultaneous development of an immunity. These favourable conditions are not present in a superspreading event (e.g. Karneval meeting, apres-ski bar in Ischgl, Austria). Hygienic measures are expected to have positive effects on overall mortality.

Preliminary result and conclusions of the COVID-19 case cluster study (Gangelt Municipality)

And see:
Know your enemy
Can lockdown produce herd immunity with fewer deaths?

Social distancing and immunity
gasstationwithoutpumps on viral load and COVID-19 models
Social distancing and the 2nd wave
Viral dose, viral load

A stewardess’s folk remedy

A few years ago, one of my sisters talked to a stewardess about viruses on planes. 

The stewardess said she and her colleagues fended off viral infections by using a cue tip Q-TIP (thank you, gasstationwithoutpumps!) to apply Ayr Saline Nasal Gel with Soothing Aloe to their nasal passages. My sister has been using that advice for flights ever since.

Our urgent care center told Ed that saline gels help prevent nose bleeds. I have no idea whether it also creates a barrier to viruses–or, if it does, whether it does so for COVID 19 specifically.

But I’m passing it along.

Let’s go to the dictionary

C is coming to stay with us for the duration. We have two bathrooms and an extra bedroom, so he’ll quarantine there for 14 days. 

I’ll feel better having him here, but he’s a big guy and he’s going to need food. 

Uh oh

I was figuring our bread flour would last another month, but now probably not.

Flour is a challenge, seeing as how my King Arthur order seems to be permanently delayed, and Amazon is out of stock. Looking for information, I found this yesterday in the Washington Post:

“I can absolutely and unequivocally say there is no shortage,” said Robb MacKie, the president and CEO of the American Bakers Association, whose members include packaging companies as well as makers of flour and yeast. “What we have is a demand issue.”

People are baking bread like crazy, and now we’re running out of flour and yeast
By Emily Heil – March 24

Too many customers, not enough stuff…. 

When Ed pointed out that too many customers/not enough stuff is the definition of a shortage we both burst out laughing. Supply-and-demand humor: this is the kind of thing we now find hysterically funny!

Just 4 weeks ago I was talking to a neighbor who grew up in the Soviet Union. I had brought her a loaf of bread and she told me stories of not being able to buy or bake bread in the USSR. She has a memory of her mother one day being finding a hard, dry loaf of rye and how happy they all were to have it. 

This morning I’ve heard from a friend who has one friend dying, another with a fever of 104 who is staying home because the hospitals are full.

So … I’m going to follow my new rule of appreciating each day while I have it.

Cell phones? Did someone say cell phones?

I was planning to write my final post about collecting cell phones in the classroom when coronavirus hit.

Now, mulling the possibility that I may not be in the classroom at all come fall, when the second COVID wave is apparently scheduled to commence, I’m having trouble remembering the urgency I felt on this front before everything changed. Those days when cell-phone saturation was so bad I thought of leaving my job: those were the good days.

It’s not always easy to recognize a good day before it’s gone. 

The one good coronavirus day I’ve had–meaning: a day I knew was a good day while it was happening–was March 14, the first Saturday after NYU sent everyone home. I woke up that morning feeling joy that I was alive and well. 


It was amazing. 

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Coronawinter, part 2

More notes from Joe Rogan’s interview with Michael Osterholm:


  • Primary mechanism for transmission of coronavirus is “just breathing” [ed.: Scott Gottlieb says the virus is “sticky” – sticks to surfaces more than previously thought]
  • Trying to stop influenza virus transmission is “like trying to stop the wind”
  • People are highly contagious before they develop a cough
  • We’re not going to have a vaccine any time soon
  • Kids are like “little virus reactors” [6/22/2020 UPDATE: As I recall, he was talking about kids and the normal colds and flus we experience each winter]
  • Christmas break has a “dampening effect” on flu transmission
  • Infectious Hepatitis A outbreaks in daycare: kids test positive but aren’t sick; parents and day care workers test positive and are sick

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Welcome to the new world



Lecture One

Content: I look in the camera and say, “Is this on? Is this on? Oh, I think it’s on! Wait, it’s not on! No, it is on! How do I share my screen?! I don’t think this is on.”

Ed taught his first online course this morning, preceded by about an hour of what-ifs.

What if their sound goes off?

What if their video goes off?