Monthly Archives: June 2020

murder in the chop

A really interesting article on what Amazon is doing to contain Covid.  Some of it is really impressive.  The bottom line for Amazon is that they will lose money if illness spreads through their facilities – they MUST keep people healthy.  Capitalism has dictated that they implement effective means to do that, and it sounds like it’s working.  Automated temperature checks, employees encouraged to get a Covid test free at work every two weeks, cameras monitoring people to make sure they’re six feet apart – that’s the kind of thing that should happen at schools.  But probably won’t.

Meanwhile, a second person has been murdered in CHOP, the “autonomous zone” with no police in Seattle.  One Two teenagers have been murdered and a third is in critical condition (age 14).  You don’t need to be a math whiz to be able to figure out that the death toll here is going to dwarf anything the police would have done pretty quick.   Ultimately, the city of Seattle is responsible for these deaths.   The demands – 50% defunding of police among others – are not only unrealistic but also likely would not lead to a decrease in police violence.  (Justice department-mandated police reforms in Seattle, which seem to be working, have led to a considerable *increase* in budget.)  Reform needs to happen, but defunding is not the answer, at least not in Seattle, and at least not beyond what’s going to have to happen due to the impending economic downturn.

To put the above in perspective, the city of Seattle had only 19 gunshot murders in 2019 and 13 gunshot murders in 2018.  This is not Chicago.  Two teenagers shot dead in three weeks in a 5-block area or so is extremely disproportionate and a big deal.

Other coronavirus thoughts:

1.) The King County DOH just cannot seem to report accurate numbers on number of tests, number of positives, number of deaths, etc.  For example, last week before I went on vacation, I was very alarmed to see (a) a jump in the percentage of positives and (b) a jump in the number of deaths.  For the first, the website reported a few days later that they hadn’t been reporting all negatives the last few days, and the percent positive subsequently fell from 6% back to 2%.  Then, after seeing a large number of deaths, I stopped checking the site for a few days, and during my absence there were -1 deaths.  Really?  I can only assume no one came back to life and they’d flubbed the deaths numbers as well.

2.) The local papers are reporting that “less than 1%” of participants in protests locally tested positive for Covid.  This was meant to be reassuring.  However, on the order of 100,000 people participated in protests.  1% of 100,000 is . . . 1,000.  1,000 positives easily explains the surge we’ve seen in the last few weeks and then some.  Furthermore, recent positives have apparently been focused among young, urban residents.  While I doubt the youthful protesters are particularly susceptible to Covid, I worry about the next generation infections, the people they spread it to.

3.) I read that 20% of Americans have apparently been infected with Covid.  I find this very encouraging.  I can only hope that immunity hangs around for a while, or that at least people are less vulnerable the second time around.

daily covid

I enjoyed my Covid news holiday, but here we go again.  My current thoughts:

1.) When all this started, the WHO was saying COVID had a 3.7% death rate.  That is scary.  Very scary.  Given that number and all the uncertainty, I think it was appropriate for the country to shut down.  We could have been facing millions of deaths.

2.) The CDC’s “best estimate” of the fatality rate of Covid for the US is 0.4% for symptomatic cases. (I will have to do some research to figure out what percent of cases they think are symptomatic.) Source.  In my opinion, it is not appropriate to shut down the country for a disease with a 0.4% fatality rate.  The CDC’s estimate of the flu fatality rate is 0.1%.  So, current best estimate is 4x worse than the flu.  Note that the uncertainty is 0.2% to 1.0%.  For the best estimate, fatality rates by age are:

  • 0-49: 0.05%
  • 50-64: 0.2%
  • 65+: 1.3%

3.) Let’s assume 30% of the country contracts Covid with a 0.4% fatality rate.  This is pessimistic since the fatality rate applies only to symptomatic cases, and some unknown percent are asymptomatic.  We would be looking at 360,000 deaths.  That’s obviously a lot.  But consider deaths from various sources in 2017 (last year I found data):

  • Heart disease: 647,000
  • Cancer: 600,000
  • Other diseases in the top 10: 615,000
  • Accidents and suicide: 217,000
  • Total deaths: 2.8 million

I guess I think a 10% bump in deaths in a year is a terrible tragedy but again, not an acceptable reason to shut down the country.

4.) Smoking causes 480,000 deaths annually in the US, including 41,000 deaths caused by secondhand smoke.  16 MILLION americans live with disease caused by smoking.  Yet, we don’t ban smoking.  But we’re willing to ban people leaving their houses and working and going to school, which will save fewer lives (given current data)?

Again, I think shutting down was appropriate for a disease with a 3 or 4% death rate.  I also support an emphasis on PPE (masks) and unemployment protections for the vulnerable.  But its time for the shutdown to end.

Finally, I continue to think that if things go well, we’ll have a widely available vaccine in a year.  Not sooner.  Furthermore, I think the likelihood of that happening is only about 50%.  It’s quite likely there will be a vaccine which is ineffective for the elderly or just ineffective in general.  Or not safe.  When the polio vaccine was initially tested on 10,000 children, it provided no protection against the disease and nine children died.  Many more were paralyzed.  Why?  Because there was a huge rush to try and prevent this horrible disease (polio).  There is obviously huge risk that excessive rushing could result in similar tragedy with Covid.  So I think we need to be very careful about assuming this is all “temporary” and we can just stay home for six more months and then be rewarded for our patience.

Can I spend a few more days not checking Covid news?  Maybe.

vacation. and covid resurgence.

We are on vacation today.  It’s our first vacation of any kind in about a year, and of course the first since S arrived.  We’re only about 90 minutes from home except that an hour ferry wait made it 2.5 hours.  Frankly, the trip was pretty rough.  When you’re in line for the ferry, you’re inching along at a snail’s pace.  Because you’re moving, the baby has to stay in the car seat.  You can’t pull off and take a break anywhere or you’ll lose your place in line.  And S was fussing and crying and the kids were being annoying.  Yeah.  Finally, after being here a few hours and getting S to bed, I’m starting to feel a bit relaxed.  I don’t think vacationing with a baby is ever really all that relaxing.  We’re probably a couple years at least from a vacation that is in any way truly relaxing.  But still.  It’s good to get out of the house.

Today, my county moves to “Phase 2.”  One 5 person gathering per week is now permitted.  Retail stores can now reopen at limited capacity, and restaurants can open at 50% capacity.  Frankly, I have no interest in going to a retail store or a restaurant or a hair dresser, but I’m glad to see us reopening.  However, I’m mostly depressed because Covid cases and deaths are continuing to surge.  We had another record high number of cases today since early May, and deaths are up the last couple days as well.  The cause is unclear – if the contact tracers know, they aren’t saying.  Cases are apparently up in young people and Seattlites, but are not directly linked to the protests (not that I necessarily trust them to tell us if they were.)  There have been transmissions in households driving it apparently.  But why would there be any change in how Covid is getting transmitted *within* households?  That makes no sense.

I should really stay away from the news and DOH website for a few days.  Tracking this is not helping anyone.  Do I have the willpower to not go to a news website or the DOH website for the rest of our vacation?  I have literally not missed a day monitoring the DOH website since a couple weeks after this started.

covid surge

And . . . here comes the surge.  It turns out that having tens of thousands of people congregate in close proximity all day long, up to 60,000, is not an awesome idea in the middle of a pandemic.  I said in my last entry that numbers were high that day but had otherwise been good.  Well, numbers have been high every day since then, and just jumped again today.  We’ve had (in my county) an average of 57 new cases per day over the last week as compared to 36 the week before, a 60% increase, and today we had 94 new cases, the first time we’ve had that many since the first week of May.

In my opinion, the government has lost the moral authority to impose restrictions.  They’ve permitted gatherings of tens of thousands while simultaneously forbidding people to leave their homes and have gatherings of even five people.  Now, gatherings of five – FIVE – people are permitted but most everything is still shut down.  And leaders are issuing supportive statements about the protests.  I’ve seen photos of socially distant protests elsewhere, but there has been nothing socially distant about them here.  Ug.  I’m just sick of all of this.

Also, apparently the Washington state DOH has been overcounting negative tests, meaning that they’ve been understating the percent positive tests.  Really?  Why are these people so incompetent?

Books by POC – recommendations

Highly recommended books by Black authors:

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie
  • A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince (for kids)
  • Meb for Mortals by Meb Keflezighi (if you’re a runner)
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera

Recommended books by Black authors:

  • Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

Highly recommended books by POC (not Black):

  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
  • The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
  • Chemistry by Weike Wang
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Recommended books by POC (not Black):

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Storyteller’s Daughter by Saira Shah
  • The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
  • I Sweep The Sun Off Rooftops by Hanan Al-Shaykh
  • Wild Swans by Jung Chang
  • Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  • In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  • House of the Winds by Mia Yun
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • The Year of the Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

reckless experimentation

The protests are in some ways an inadvisable, reckless experiment on how large crowds affect the spread of COVID.  While I’ve advocated for opening up – with protections for the vulnerable – I would not and have not been in favor of large crowds: sporting events, concerts, large races, etc.  And protests.

However, so far, the experiment is going well here in Seattle.  We are roughly 12 days out from the first protests, and there has not yet been a spike.  Maybe masks work?  Photos suggest that while no social distancing has been observed at the vast majority of protests, people are wearing masks, and not just on their chins.  Today, the numbers were a little high, but in family.  My hope is that somehow, magically, outdoor large protests are not causing significant Covid spread.  My fear is that since the protesters are large extremely young that they are getting infected left and right but without significant illness and are not bothering to get tested, and that the spread time will double or triple (to 10 or 15 days) before we see the bump, as we wait for the youth to infect older people, who will experience illness and get tested.  (Median incubation is 5 days, last I heard.  If you’ve heard differently, let me know.)  We’ll see.  So far so good.

You may have read about the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone – a no-go zone for police.  It reminds me of the no-go zones that were set up in Belfast during the Troubles.  These zones help young men (and people who care about young men) who were getting harrassed unjustly by police (or the British military as the case might be).  But it’s the vulnerable that suffer in these situations, without government oversight, in the medium or long term.  I highly recommend The Milkman on this topic.

We are planning a very modest vacation this coming weekend.  We’ll be heading to a VRBO on Whidbey, about an hour away, for four nights.  It’s been about a year since our last trip, and I’m really looking forward to it, but also nervous about traveling with the baby.  We will cook at home and bring our own groceries, so it’ll be a socially isolated trip, but it’ll be nice to socially distance somewhere new for a while.


Masks. Again.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Per WHO, masks should apparently have an absolute minimum of three layers, one of which can be cotton, one should be a filter (which can, given lack of options, be cotton), and the third should be polyester.  Are all the quilters going to remake the hundreds of masks they’ve made based on that “WHO-approved patterns” (which had no indication anywhere of WHO approval)?

In any case, I feel like WHO has squandered their last shred of credibility.  Let’s not forget, just recently they were telling us that the fatality rate was 3.7% – now per CDC it’s 0.4%.  Today they can’t decide if it can be transmitted asymptomatically or not.  Frankly, I think our knowledge of coronavirus today is comparable to the understanding of cholera in the mid 1800s.  That is – speculative and with lots of major errors.  But, as with cholera, with a breakthrough likely soon.  Ish.

The mask recommendations are also interesting given the thousands of protesters using single or double layer bandanas.