Another open thread on the pandemic

by John Q on April 29, 2020

Most of us are six weeks or so into some kind of lockdown by now, so it would be interesting to read some comments on our experiences. From the discussions I’ve had (almost entirely online rather than in person) my perception is that people with office jobs and no kids at home are finding it much easier than might have been expected, but that those with kids at home are finding it every bit as hard as you would think. So far, the impact on those who have lost jobs (or work like conference organization) has been cushioned by income support, in Australia at any rate. Less online discussion with those still working, of course.

Experiences and thoughts?



Ingrid Robeyns 04.29.20 at 9:24 am

Together with my husband, we are homeschooling while trying to keep the essential work done. The kids find it very hard to be confined to their home. One of our sons has autism, and he’s clearly not taking the lockdown very well. There is a Dutch FB group of parents of children with autism, and while there are a few autistic kids who seem to thrive in these circumstances, most are having quite serious mental health challenges (also sometimes what looks like developmental setbacks), which also affect the rest of the family. Our other son is in a school that tries to stick to ‘teaching’ the same curriculum, which means that he has to put in much more energy to get his work done since he has to be much more self-steering and organised then he was before. And, obviously, they are missing their friends terribly.
Around me, the cases I see that make me the most sad are of friends who cannot help their elderly and frail parents, either because they live at the other side of the country, or because they live in a different country, or some other practical reason. I suppose that if your parents live in an elderly home and you worry about their health safety, it must also cause a lot of sleepless nights.
Of course, at a cognitive level we can tell ourselves that we are the lucky ones, since we do not belong to the frontline healthcare workers who are exhausted and at great risk (including the risk of dying). And we do not belong to the 49 million people worldwide who will be plunged into extreme poverty, and who are more likely to die from hunger than from COVID-19. This is all true, and the pandemic has made me all the more grateful that I live in a country with a decently functioning welfare state including a health care system that includes almost all (I am not sure how well the homeless and illegal migrants/refugees are covered). But these insights of one’s own privileges and luck are cognitive, and somehow that doesn’t quite help to stay calm or be less stressed when one is going through another fight with one’s child, or when one desperately feels one would like to spend a day on one’s own…


Moz in Oz 04.29.20 at 9:59 am

I’m kind of benefitting from the lockdown, it means I can work from home all the time rather than having to visit an office full of talkative nuisances. My team have all been working from home a day or so a week for at least a year so we were all set up before the lockdown. We’re also in the middle of a new product release and we’re in an industry that grows at times like these, so it’s more a question of how much I’m willing to work than whether I still have a job. Also luckily there are enough far right lunatics in the company that if I need a meat robot to do something in the office there’s usually one there (they really are, and they have switched from “we should nuke mecca/climate change is a science funding conspiracy/lock up shillary” to “it’s just the flu” without skipping a beat).

By coincidence I quit leasing a hovel in far western Sydney and moved back to my house in the inner west just before the official scare began, so I have no tenants/housemates but was able to do some last minute shopping just before and in the very early stages of the panic buying. So I have been busy outside of work hours rebuilding the garden, mourning my feijoa tree (tenants cut it down!) and dealing with the baby chickens I bought to bulk up the flock. Oh, and the powerline tree-trimming people went down the street so I got a few cubic metres of free woodchips (they entertain the chickens for a year or so then go on the garden as mulch).

I feel extremely fortunate that my main travials have been difficulty buying some of the inner city hipster food I prefer (because of the drought, not the virus) and a few other similarly minor issues.


Pittsburgh Mike 04.29.20 at 11:29 am

My kids are in their early 20s, and are here in Pittsburgh working from their childhood home, since our county has much lower numbers than DC.

So far, we’ve all been able to WFH without any serious problems. The kids’ main concern is: when do things get back to normal, or at least more normal? One was planning to go back to school this fall, and isn’t impressed with the quality of remote learning.

Yet, we’re all pretty horrified by the total lack of planning for the future we see in our leaders. A successful reopening would include frequent tests, and contact tracing and testing when those tests show infections. But it is clear that the testing infrastructure isn’t there, there are few tracing teams and no visible effort to create tracing teams. I read about bluetooth apps to tell you if you were in contact with people with CV, but don’t see them available anywhere. And I see essentially no communication about anything beyond ‘wash your hands.’

This is an amazing failure of leadership. There’s no visible future planning from the local, state or of course the federal levels. The only serious planning discussions for the next phase, that I’ve seen, are communications from Bill Fucking Gates. If Gates had the sense of civic responsibility that Bezos has, we’d be screwed even worse.


Tim Worstall 04.29.20 at 12:29 pm

I work from home anyway and have done for years. I do have this strange urge to want to go shopping. Something I don’t like doing in normal times and avoid when possible. And yet not being allowed to do it (the closedown here is everything but food shops are closed), or perhaps able to, means I’m positively lusting to go do it.


bob mcmanus 04.29.20 at 12:38 pm

umm, okay, can I play? Maybe hold this in queue for a while or delete. I’ll try to not be too long.

Total lockdown, ain’t been off tiny property in two months, preexisting conditions (stage four cancer (it’s ok, 3rd year stable, lots of survivors in that industry), nephrostomy, debilitating chemo side-effects) need maintenance but busy and dangerous hospitals. But it’s ok, I am way past my sell date and these have been my best years, cause Colorado…never mind

A preliminary sketch of an antiethos
Bill Daggett:I don’t deserve this… to die like this. I was building a house.
Will Munny: Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

A time with a visit from the Four Horsemen (and I will bet we see all four) provides the Revelation that both the natural and social worlds can be are maybe should be the…

World Without Justice

Which is not the Unjust World. Marx I think uncomfortably, Schopenhauer & Nietzsche maddeningly, Lenin without ruth, Jesus with Love (?) tried to pull back the curtain and exit Plato’s republican cave of the Just Society. And our enemies think they are seeking the Just Society also.

Feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, protect the weak etc. Don’t worry about the rich shits. Release the prisoners. Break down the walls. It’s not only notables and barbaric nobles who can smash and grab. Don’t seek efficiency or optimal factor productivity. Or safety. Just give and take and social distance.

A person is entitled to the fruit of her labors? A day’s wage earned for a good day’s work? From each according etc?

Who is doing this entitling? We set up these hierarchical systems of rank, privilege, judgement, measure…violence…all of us reaching for a Just World and creating a hellscape instead. The Horsemen aren’t hidden or exceptional…just waiting yet still controlling with the terror and pity of the Unjust World.

But the World Without Justice is also right there. Love has no Pride.


Lafa 04.29.20 at 1:20 pm

While I’m fortunate to be able to work from home (despite the small child-related interferences), I’m professionnally (in human rights law) in contact with a lot of people that are not so lucky : the undocumented refugees that lose the small amount of support brought by private solidarity and are unable to receive any help from the state; the mentally-disabled workers that must continue to come at work because their employers do not trust them to work from home ; pensionned people that need to keep working but are ineligible from the covid-benefits ; the “bad” neighbourhoods that receive even more police attention than usual, despite the fact that the living conditions are often substandard, leading to a surge in fines and penalties ; Roma households without access to tapwater and the difficulties to maintain hygiene standards (+ the disappearance of the informal economy),…

The crisis is felt very keenly by many among the most vulnerable communities, at least here in Western Europe and I fear those challenges will only get more difficult with the coming weeks.


Loud House 04.29.20 at 1:54 pm

My two kids, 7 & 4yrs old, have been home for six weeks and my wife, who’s working on a COVID-19 Vaccine trial, has to be at her computer/phone all day. Our house is small. The kids have very little online time with their teachers. I take care of the kids while my wife works. I get to do the bare minimum for my classes, which are asynchronous now, between 7pm and midnight each night. This may be the least productive time of my career. Oh, and we’re about to move across country for my new job. Fun!


Phil 04.29.20 at 2:15 pm

When lockdown began I was already working from home – shared with a retired partner and two >18 children – and had enough work lined up to keep me busy, so I didn’t expect any major change, as long as none of us fell ill (which, touch wood, we haven’t). I’m still busy, but finding it extraordinarily hard to get started on anything either in the morning or after lunch – self-discipline without motivation is tough, and stress seems to eat motivation at the root. (The stress, that is, of living through (a) a pandemic which (b) is being handled appallingly badly by my country’s government and (c) causing an economic slowdown of unknown extent and magnitude which (d) is also being handled appallingly badly by the said government, with (e) particular reference to its effects on the sector in which I work – and (a) and (c) alone would be quite bad enough.) As a result, when I do get down to work time is short, and it feels as if I’ve got far too much on.

Very minor issues in the scheme of things, but I wanted to share.


Omega Centauri 04.29.20 at 3:19 pm

One of the luckier ones. Able to switch to WFM, although its not as productive, I seem to be getting by. At 68 I’m in a high risk group, so I expect I’ll be in WFH home longer than the gneral workforce. The child at home is a 30y/o musician. Its surprising how much of his work (maybe 50%) he has been able to continue in WFH fashion. But, he’s always been interested in internet opportunities. My other two sons are programmers so WFH was something they were capable of.
So we are all making enough income that we are able to save, since there is little other than takeout food to spend it on. And we are getting along OK. The suburban pop density is low enough that I can take daily bikerides, which are improved because automobile traffic is so low.

Unlike Mike, I live in the Bay Area, and the government response has been largely dictated by county and state-level health people. The governor gives daily briefings and is more than willing to turn the mike over to the medical types.

I keep an open messenger conversations with my two sisters who live in purple states (slight democratic margin), one is a rural MD, and the other works for county level public health. Neither of these states seems to have turned the corner towards decreasing new infections. Even California hasn’t convincingly done that, even if the Bay Area seems to be in the early stages of winding down the new cases.


John Little 04.29.20 at 5:02 pm

We had planned to move from Los Angeles, California, to near Portland, Oregon, at the beginning of this year long before any idea of a pandemic surfaced. Since I felt that looking for work would be too onerous, I decided to retire a year before my 66th birthday just before we moved this past January. Needless to say, those decisions proved very fortunate. Since I’m now stuck at home, but with a budget that is very doable, I’ve decided to indulge a passion of mine. After all, I have plenty of time on my hands now.


RobinM 04.29.20 at 5:47 pm

Being almost a Luddite (in, of course, the more positive sense as advertised by E.P. Thompson), I’m surprised to find myself relieved to be living through a pandemic while still being able to communicate easily and even visually with friends and family. What would it have been like to be thoroughly cut off from the rest of the world?

Being retired, I too find that sheltering in place in northern California differs very little from my pre-pandemic life. I am, however, very grateful to those who do deliver necessities, and further grateful that my partner enjoys spending a lot of her time doing on-line shopping.

I do miss my regular walks with a friend because they almost always led to us having quite vigorous political debates. Debating on line—as is often demonstrated even on such well-behaved sites as this—too often degenerates into mutual incomprehension and ill feeling, so he and I have sort of given up on that.

What else? I worry more than usual about my daughter’s family in Melbourne because she and her husband are both doctors, but am somewhat relieved that Australia seems to be handling the crisis at least as well as we so far seem to be doing in the Bay Area.


Anarcissie 04.29.20 at 6:12 pm

For me, the withdrawal from the world into almost total isolation has been something like a religious retreat at a remote monastery. It has given me a chance to review and reset my course in life, and to refocus on what is important to me rather than the obscuring minutiae of daily life. But on the other hand, of course, it has come at a high price. And I don’t know where I’ll be when we come out of the tunnel or back from the woods. I assume it’ll be a different world. Our great leaders, of course, are still shadow-boxing, and all kinds of improbable fantasies and theories are taking wing.

For another view, which is not mine but one which I can sympathize with, here’s the animator Nina Paley’s thoughts about it:


Priest 04.29.20 at 8:13 pm

I live in Atlanta, Georgia, and the disparity between the actions taken at local levels vs. statewide has been awful. The CDC is right here, and the governor was loathe and late to give lockdown orders, leaving mayors, county health departments and school systems, etc. to issue guidance and restrictions in piecemeal fashion. And now the governor has already allowed more business to “re-open”, and local officials do not have the authority to enforce tighter restrictions in their jurisdictions.

Fortunately a large number of restaurants and establishments are saying “hell, no.” I know many people that are actively responding or working for the public good, whether in small ways, like hand-sewing and delivering hundreds of cloth masks, cooking and delivering food items in exchange for donations to various relief groups; or large ways like my friends who are health care workers.

Personally I am one of the few still reporting to work at my job at an internationally recognizable media company nominally based in this city, and those of us not working from home will be getting a 20% salary bonus for the duration. I have already been sending out individual “stimulus” payments to people close to me, and will have a greater ability to do so until such time that I can patronize their shuttered workplaces and contribute to their livelihoods in the ordinary fashion.


Doug K 04.29.20 at 8:46 pm

@moz says,
they have switched from “we should nuke mecca/climate change is a science funding conspiracy/lock up shillary” to “it’s just the flu” without skipping a beat

I visited my brother in Western A. and was astonished by this. Why do Aus wingnuts care about Hillary, Hunter Biden, etc ? It’s certainly a strong indicator that many of our problems is the Murdoch press.

At work as usual, hunkered down behind a wall of computer monitors, two work and one home. As an IT support monkey nearly everything I do is online anyway, a headset and VPN to talk to customers, screenshare, and get their error logs etc and we’re good. No slowdown in this job. My wife works on the mainframes, most of the US states (and banks) run mainframes with either Cobol or our software, so that’s been busier than usual.

I keep wanting to go do some volunteer thing to help, then remember I’m 60 and have severe asthma and a history of lung problems.. donating blood is about as much as I’ve managed to do.

Son #2 was on a gap year, hasn’t been able to do any of the volunteer or training he’d planned. At least he’s getting a good rest.
Son #1 is final year of chemistry/biochem and not finding any jobs.. had an interview at Mayo Clinic which got cancelled, spent a couple months working up for the MCAT (med school entrance exam) and that got cancelled. He’s a bit adrift, won’t get a formal graduation ceremony either. His best friend made NCAA swim championships in his senior year, and those didn’t happen either. At some point in May or June we’ll have to drive out to MN to fetch him home. Or, depending on lockdowns, tell him to abandon the furniture and just drive himself home.

Thought I’d be able to get a bit of running in the time of virus, didn’t expect working out to be such a challenge. The pools are closed and I miss swimming badly – at my age a workout that escapes gravity is a great help. The trails are insanely busy and it’s not possible to keep physical distancing on bike rides, I’m not willing to ride on the roads due to injury risks at a time when going to the hospital is so fraught. It’s a beautiful spring day and I’m sitting on a bike trainer in the back yard..

Running is sort of possible but have to run way off trail to keep distance. Every mile gets an added quarter mile or so of running off and back again. Tried the roads but everyone’s sitting in their driveway with kids running around, or out walking, so it’s still a zigzag. Colorado state governor suggested that maybe we could all run just twice a week instead of three or four times, to help with social distancing. This may be the most CO thing ever. So I’m running once or twice a week at best, very very slowly. All my routes have changed, at each fork in the road I take the one less traveled by, and hope it makes a difference.

It was Orthodox Easter a week or two back. Usually we have a lamb on the spit and a hundred people over to help eat it. This year it was a sad little leg of lamb and the three of us, bit lonely. Church was livestreamed from a laptop on the coronavirus altar, masks to the left, hand sanitizer to the right, icons backing us all up we hope (link from my name maybe).

Still living my usual privileged life though, have to be grateful – so far still have paychecks and immediate family is healthy.

Meantime the meat packing workers have been sentenced to work by Trump, and the corporations that fail to protect their workers indemnified against lawsuits.
Oh, your government doesn’t work ?
Have you tried turning it off and flinging feces at it ?
Pandemic 101 says compulsory masks, testing, tracing and isolation. We are going to get none of those, while the Republicans open up their states to prevent paying unemployment insurance. It’s hard to sleep anymore.


Mr Spoon 04.29.20 at 8:47 pm

I’m lucky. My employment is unaffected and my health and life stage mean I am relatively low risk from Covid-19 and its complications. As a polite misanthrope and card-carrying introvert, I feel faintly guilty this is the crisis I have been training for all my life. Imagine not having to shake hands! If anyone has some spare toilet paper, however…


Nick Alcock 04.29.20 at 9:00 pm

@Ingrid Robeyns, presumably your autistic son’s problem is about disruption of routines, including the huge pile of school-related routines? As someone with rather strong Asperger’s, I’ve found the staying-at-home part of lockdown to be rather pleasant — the nasty part is knowing I won’t see my parents again for possibly years, the elimination of markets, local festivals, concerts, etc. (But then I’ve been working from home for nearly a decade now, so there was almost no disruption at all to my working life, and I have no children so that I’m not hit with that part either. I am aware this is a position of the most appalling privilege.)

Honestly, if this had happened in my teenage years I think I’d have been celebrating. No school! That’s like “no hell” except demons treat people better than adolescent boys in a single-sex school treat the people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. I might have been able to learn something instead.


J-D 04.29.20 at 11:30 pm

But these insights of one’s own privileges and luck are cognitive, and somehow that doesn’t quite help to stay calm or be less stressed when one is going through another fight with one’s child, or when one desperately feels one would like to spend a day on one’s own…

In a story where:
I hear you hollering;
I ask you what’s wrong;
you tell me that you stubbed your toe;
and I tell you that stubbing your toe is a minor pain from which you will rapidly recover, that other people are suffering much worse with much less prospect of relief, and that therefore there is no justification for you to holler about stubbing your toe–
–in that story, I am the arsehole.

Stubbing your toe hurts! It doesn’t hurt any the less just because other people suffer worse, and the pain justifies the hollering.

(Also, just to be clear, this is only an analogy, and in a story where I told you that what you are experiencing now should be equated with a stubbed toe, I am again the arsehole.)

It is true that sometimes contemplating how other people suffer worse afflictions than I do makes it easier to get my own afflictions into perspective and therefore to cope with them. When that happens, it’s good. But there’s no reason why it should happen.

The experience you are going through is a naturally and predictably stressful one and it is therefore natural and understandable if you are experiencing stress reactions. The stress isn’t banished from existence and the stress reactions rendered unjustifiable just because other people are experiencing worse stress.


J-D 04.29.20 at 11:42 pm

One of the luckier ones. Able to switch to WFM, although its not as productive, I seem to be getting by.


Working Fr’ Mhome?

(When Humpty Dumpty was explaining what ‘mome raths’ meant, he said that ‘mome’ meant ‘from home’.)


Dr. Hilarius 04.30.20 at 5:22 am

I’ve been on the cusp of retirement and the virus has pushed me very close to closing up shop. I’m a lawyer whose recent work has been representing children in CPS cases and acting as a guardian ad litem for incompetent individuals. The latter often requires going into hospitals and psychiatric facilities. At 67 with multiple risk factors I’ve given up the GAL work. My wife teaches at a major university and has adapted to online teaching, zoom conferences etc. She misses the personal contact with students. My major responsibility is caring for my 97-year old mother who lives alone and who has lost most of her in-home care. There are inconveniences but I’ve lived under much worse conditions. The house is full of books and foster animals in need of care. Thankfully, I can still buy frozen mice and crickets. My fear is the inevitable loosening of social distancing without sufficient testing and contact tracing. One friend of mine, a retired professor of medicine, died early on in the outbreak. It would be nice to have a bit of retirement and not worry about ending up on a ventilator.


Ingrid Robeyns 04.30.20 at 8:14 am

Nick Alcock @16 – yes, it’s certainly the disruption of routine, as well as not seeing his teachers, whom he likes and whom have a good influence on his mental well-being. It’s also smaller things like not cycling so much – his school is 10 km from home – which he cycles to, so that makes 20 km of cycling a day which is excellent for him. We’re enouraging him to keep cycling even though there is no school, but it’s hard without this structure. The other big thing is what to do in his spare time – he liked cycling to the city center, and then hanging around a bit, and then coming home – which is now also not possible.
I can totally understand some people really thriving in this regime – not just a subgroup of people with ASS, but also a lot of introverts.

Some of us are now 24/7 with our family members, now for already 6 weeks, which isn’t always good for family relations. Most people need to be on their own once in a while. Others have been 24/7 on their own, for the same period, not having given or received a single hug in 6 weeks! I think most people like a mixture of the two – and whatever people liked, it is sure that the pandemic has shrinked the option set for all of us.

J-D @17 – yes, you are totally correct. It’s a fine balance: on the one hand one should not deny or downplay one’s higherlevels of stress; on the other hand, I think it can also be healthy to try to put it into perspective by looking at the grander scheme of things.


bad Jim 04.30.20 at 8:52 am

Wait, what, frozen mice? Live crickets, surely.

My schedule has only slightly changed, even though it has become somewhat unstuck, such that I no longer wear a watch. No need to time my arrival downtown to maximize my chance of finding a place to park, since the beach is closed. Farewell to the prospect of pelicans or dolphins, or the parade of visitors. Still, I need to get out and walk, reminding my lungs of their purpose and keeping my heart aware of its limits. Lunch, whether takeout or something from the freezer, arrives at its usual hour, as does the sacred siesta, because I am old, and my raveled sleave of care is ever in need of repair.

The brother who lives near me still puts in time at the warehouse. His adolescent son just got over a few days of mild fever of unknown origin. Hormones, I hope; I’m impatient for him to grow up. Other brother is hunkering down in Hawaii, hostile to visitors; we connect on Facetime. His son is working from home, tech support; his wife, a chemist who used to support the family, is losing her mind taking care of an 11-month old and a 3-year old, whose needs are not in synchrony.

My nice niece Nic, the nurse, is mostly working in a surgical ICU, dealing with boring stuff like trauma and organ transplants, contending with such quotidian concerns as antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not enough PPE, of course, even in one of the country’s best hospitals.


faustusnotes 04.30.20 at 11:36 am

In Japan the lockdown is pretty pathetic, with more and more people returning to work every day, so it’s not an especially noticable challenge to daily living – I could go out right now to a restaurant if I wanted, and sit shoulder to shoulder with some dude coughing on me. But all major gatherings are canceled, all the chain stores are closed, and the entire economy is being held up by small sole proprietor restaurants. Some of the trains are still packed and a lot of people are still working, but most universities have gone online, schools are closed and a lot of people are working from home. Cases are going down and I’m hoping that if it keeps up it will be basically under control in two weeks, without too much hellish disruption.

For me though it’s been perfect because I dislocated my kneecap in late February and have been forced to work from home anyway; at work the following week I pushed for a working from home policy (we public health academics need to lead the way!) and got it, and two weeks ago I went into hospital for knee reconstruction (a medial patellaemforal ligament reconstruction + tibial tubercle transfer, why thanks for asking!) and have been unable to go to work anyway. I spent a week in hospital for which I had to take annual leave but otherwise I’m just benefiting from the sudden switch to working from home, since it would have been very hard to convince my work to allow me to otherwise.

For a month or so my work was super busy with covid 19 work (I have Chinese collaborators on the coal face who I was helping) and one of my colleagues is being absolutely smashed by the pressures of monitoring and evaluation work, but overall for me this lockdown couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

One thing I’ve noticed though is that working from home for extended periods of time absolutely kills my motivation. Are others finding the same thing?


Jerry Vinokurov 04.30.20 at 3:55 pm

I’m a software engineer and my wife is a college professor and we live in Manhattan, so not quite in the eye of the storm but close to it. Overall we’re doing fine, since we can both work from home (especially me; I have a work laptop and remote access to an HPC cluster) and we both have our health. But we also have a 2.5 year old at home, and obviously his day care is closed, so the real challenge has been doing half-day shifts of trading off work and childcare so each of us can get something done. If we’re lucky and he goes to sleep early we can also usually manage an hour or two once he’s down, although some days he wants to stay up until 10 or later, which makes that hard. In general, the worst aspect of this for us has been the mental fatigue and the inability to do any of the things that would normally entertain a toddler; our one outlet is walks to Central Park, which we can pull off with the appropriate social distancing. On the plus side, our son seems to be taking this mostly in stride and is enjoying the amount of time we’re spending with him (we enjoy it too!), so there’s that silver lining.


Ike 04.30.20 at 5:28 pm

For me these five (four? six?) weeks haven’t felt much different from business as usual. My wife and I are both used to working 1-3 days per week, so extending that to 5 days wasn’t much of a change. Even having our 9- and 13- year-old kids at home constantly hasn’t had much of an impact. Luckily we have just enough rooms to be able to each isolate ourselves with our laptops for school or work. Lunch breaks have gotten longer since we now have to cook for four instead of one or two, but then again there’s none of the usual daily hassle of organizing rides for the kids to football or cheerleading practice or whatever, since all of that stuff has been shut down. Of course it probably helps that we haven’t stuck to a policy of complete isolation, so we consider e.g. weekly or bi-weekly trips to the local supermarket okay, even for the kids. Plus living in a “suburban” area (I guess) that’s not densely populated at all, by global standards, we can go for a walk or run or bike ride or just go sit in a park whenever we feel like it, and easily maintain safe distance to other people.

I do wonder a bit whether this two-month period of on-line schooling will have an effect on the kids’ educational achievement, but since the teachers – who keep in touch with us parents via a mobile phone app – haven’t really complained, I guess my girls are doing as well (or as badly!) as their peers in general.


J-D 04.30.20 at 9:59 pm

I keep wanting to go do some volunteer thing to help, then remember I’m 60 and have severe asthma and a history of lung problems.. donating blood is about as much as I’ve managed to do.

One good thing to come out of this situation is that it got me donating blood again. I donated regularly for years and then started having problems with low iron levels. I had medical investigations which ended with my doctor telling me that nothing had shown up and probably I was fine to donate blood so long as I didn’t do it as frequently as in the past. But by then I’d got out of the habit and the reminder messages had stopped coming to me. When I heard there was a need for donors in present circumstances I thought ‘This is it, I really should have gone back years ago’. I expect I’ll keep it up now, although not with the same frequency as in earlier years because of the iron-level issue.

I was interested to discover that the government public health order specifically lists donating blood as one of the acceptable reasons for making an exception to the ‘don’t leave home’ rule.


Socal Rhino 05.01.20 at 4:11 am

Any “essential”people comment on this site?


notGoodenough 05.01.20 at 10:37 am

While it has been a difficult time, I am in many ways very fortunate. I’ve been able to telework these last weeks (mostly finishing a grant proposal and finalising 3 papers I’ve been meaning to finish for a while), and only now am starting to approach the point I may have to physically go in to work again.

My region has been pretty good about it all, and acted fairly fast and decisively. Moreover, my employers are pretty good about safety measures (we have internal distancing rules now in place, and the building is getting disinfected every day). While some PPEs are in short supply (we’ve donated most of ours to the local hospital), we are not too badly off at all. While it is possible I may lose my job next year due to the economic impact, it would hardly be a noticeable tragedy in context.

Although it is not the best situation, it is no-where near as bad as it could have been (the US response, for example, has been far worse) and my sympathies go out to those who are stuck in a terrible situation due to circumstances beyond their control (as usual, it is the poor and disenfranchised who will suffer). One silver lining (if such a thing can be possible amongst all this) is that I am hoping people will start to notice the “invisible work force” a bit more – and maybe develop appreciation for those who keep society ticking over even in a crisis (perhaps a foolish hope, but I am an incurable optimist).

The personal stress of this has been a bit of a wear (I used to go out bike riding most days, so being stuck indoors is an unwelcome change), but fortunately I have a long list of things to catch up on (books I’ve been meaning to read for a while now, etc.) so I am not bored – just missing my countryside a bit.

I feel, as I said, very fortunate to be in this position – and if this is the worst that happens to me, I don’t believe I have any cause to complain.


bob mcmanus 05.01.20 at 3:22 pm

Trying to read the comments to see if anyone is in my situation or close so forgive if I missed you. Everybody else has gone long so I will too. Don’t worry about the cancer it really is true that I retired have the books music internet “trees” dogs roommate better able to go shopping twice a month for an hour in old people’s hour gradually piling up stores for fall wave. Two months ago I was researching suicide cause chemo side effects but doctor said damn why din’t you call me and the new steroids are like Lourdes. Feel guilty about my comfort and happiness.

But haven’t been within 20 feet of a person in two months total shelter in place and wipeing everything down that enters. I have no immune system and like six other high risk factors.

But I got these nephrostomy tubes and bags (cancer is gross deal) that haven’t been changed for five months should be three and the salts are accumulating and my tubes get block which means peeing every 15 minutes 24/7 (I told ya c was gross) with acute not chronic pain and kidney failure. So telemedicined with my woman urologist Wednesday and she said get thee to the hospital now.

I don’t want to go.

Just a 2-3 hour outpatient procedure under sterile conditions with xrays guiding the doctor that does these and not much else at $3750 for him a pop. Nurses are nice. Urologist says hospital safer than Walmart and I think what like I would go anywhere near a Walmart. It’s not safer than shelter in place.

I don’t wanna go.

I was even arguing that if I lost my last kidney and went into dialysis and died at least might have six months instead of three weeks. But they can’t quite adjust to the situation and are thinking we have say 2-5 years and I have thought since February that I wouldn’t make it to Labor Day taking my roommate and dogs with me.

But a) the peeing and pain and lack of sleep are annoying
and b) you won’t believe me but urologist told me hospital was half full and ultra safe.
These people so many people saved my life have always treated me with utmost kindness and respect I don’t deserve and they need work and billings. That’s real.

So I guess I’ll go.

We’ll see in 2-3 weeks. Thought of not coming home cause roommate ya know? Plan has always been to do my Covid-19 in my own bed but since hospital half full? Nah, ain’t getting ventilated.

Y’all want the play-by-play until I can’t type anymore? I’m the guy who’d think it was funny.

I am so freaking scared.


Tom Bach 05.01.20 at 9:39 pm

I am deemed essential and used to comment and still read here. The thing about the lock down that strikes me is how little the managers are asking of the essentials, at least in my experience, about what we need, what we do, or, in general, about operations.

I’ve spoken with others in the same industry but who work in a different branch and the experience is the same. The people with no idea of how things are going on the day-to-day aren’t asking what we need or how we are coping, they keep telling us what to do and how to do it. The fact that I can, for a variety of reasons, ignore the hopeless nonsense they are broadcasting doesn’t help those who have to do as they’re told. And, I just learned today, that ignoring the operational side of things have led the managers into at least one serious public relations disaster.

So for me the key take away from this experience is that the better paid and more powerful, and not just on the national level, are really really bad at their jobs precisely because of decades or centuries now the world has insisted that leaders are more important that followers a claim that is simply not true. One, which is to say me, hopes that after this mess is over, should it be, that the balance of power will shift from the managerial class to the operational, or working, class.

I am also extremely glad to be working.


Faustusnotes 05.01.20 at 11:50 pm

Bob, I just spent a week in hospital on an elective surgery and I was worried about the same thing but it was just as your urologist said: half empty and stunningly clean. My hospital is a bit of a specialist on preventing in-hospital infections and here in japan we don’t have a massive wave of cases but still, I was very reassured – very good hand hygiene, good counter measures and very few other patients. I spent a week there in a hospital that is a nominated covid management hospital, with the icu right down the hall from my operating theatre, and I was fine!

Unless the official guidance from your health system is to stay away from hospital then I would do what your doctor asks. Also bear in mind that if you are slowly sickening yourself with the delayed treatment and then your counter measures slip and you get coronavirus you’ll be worse off than ever.

Whatever you decide I hope you can weather this god awful storm!


ccc 05.02.20 at 11:05 am

The most disheartining experience during these times is to see the group responsible for the problem without pause continuing the mass atrocities that expectedly cause problems like this in the first place. In some cases even ramping up the violence to intensified, million victim bloodbaths followed by discarding the now economically worthless bodies of the victims as thrash. One could have hoped that the blowback on some in the perpetrator in-group would generate traction to reconsider participation in the root cause activity. But such high hopes seem unwarranted. The only thing to do is to mourn the millions of innocent victims already killed.


Graham D Shevlin 05.02.20 at 10:16 pm

My wife and I have no children, unless you count the 4 narcissists in cheap fur coats who think they own the place.
We are both working from home. I have been working from home or on the road as a consultant for 10+ years. I am in US state government healthcare, which is,I think, going to expand. I have work months out into the future. Mary has an IT co-ordinator job which she loves and is now working from home permanently. She is happy because it has eliminated 2 hours a day of commuting.
Our main worry is that every time we go out, we are surrounded by way too many utter idiots who see no reason to use masks. And then there are the “MAH FREEDOMS!” ranters who appear to want to be subjects in the “how quickly can I be infected if I believe like a compete fucking idiot” competition.
we live in Dallas County TX, where the governor is a business-supported twerp, and I forecast that as Texas tries to ease the lockdown, we will have a surge of cases.
My main worry is my mother, who is 88, lives alone back in the UK, and who has just been admitted to hospital with gall stones. Not a good time to be in hospital anywhere.


Omega Centauri 05.02.20 at 11:18 pm

bob, if you haven’t made arrangements for the treatment, let me offer some logic.
(1) If you get the treatment you have non-zero risk of exposure to the corona-virus (this is what you are afraid of)
(2) If you don’t you risk severe medical complications, this is what your doctor is afraid of.

Now you need to think in terms of the relative risk:
For one, I think the hospital or healthcare facility will be careful to separate non-covid patients from covid patients. My non educated guess would be maybe a 1% chance that you would catch it.
For two, I suspect severe consequences if you don’t get the issue fixed. Toughing it out is probably non-sustainable. Waiting until the general incidence of the virus is say 10% of the current rate is likely to take way too long.


J-D 05.03.20 at 4:19 am

People who have, as I have, read multiple past comments from ccc will be equipped to understand the meaning of the latest one, but I wonder whether it may be cryptic or opaque to those without similar experience.

Just in case there are people who read it and wondered ‘What was that about?’ I offer the following interpretive glossary (and if nobody needs it, there’s been no more harm done than the waste of a little of my time).

‘the group responsible for the problem’: human eaters of meat
‘the mass atrocities that expectedly cause problems like this’: the slaughter of non-human animals to produce meat for human consumption
‘the perpetrator in-group’: human beings
‘the root cause activity’: human consumption of meat


David J. Littleboy 05.03.20 at 4:23 pm

“One thing I’ve noticed though is that working from home for extended periods of time absolutely kills my motivation. Are others finding the same thing?”

No and yes.

I managed to keep up the motivation for 25 years or so (freelance translating) but let my last customer go in February. Of course, that’s different from “working from home”, because I didn’t have a boss or an organization I had to keep happy. But in (what currently passes for) real life, all the things I did have been cancelled, and I’m having serious trouble coming up with the motivation for three (Go, guitar, weight training) of the four things I intend to juggle in retirement. Getting my Japanese back up to speed to play in the fast lane of the Japanese literature world is still happening. The new book on Mishima is being interesting. Gunzo (literary writing) has lots of fun stuff. Shosetsu Gendai (light fiction) is back in print. (For the nonce, I only follow one of the four 500-page monthly literary magazines.) I don’t know squat about France, and so didn’t know if the plot of a serialized story I was thinking of following was nuts or not, but a friend pointed my in the right direction (wiki, of course), and it’s not completely crazy (a translator is asked to translate the marginalia written on a fancy calendar produced by a French department store in the 19th century. (There really were department stores in France in the 19th century; you knew that, but I didn’t,)

My corner of Tokyo is being very quiet. While I’m at the edge of a residential neighborhood, the convenience store I frequent serves the local business community, which consists of a teaching hospital, an economics research institute, and an enormous religious organization. All are on skeleton staff. One of the workers at said convenience store reports that the convenience store in the center of the residential area is doing land office business. My local dentist has forgotten me, but my SO just got a note from them saying that dental care is important for keeping your immune system in shape, so we’d love to clean your teeth. If they’re willing to brave the porcupine needles sticking out of my face trying to be a new month-old beard, I’ll give them a visit…

I was worried that there was going to be a way too large exodus from Tokyo this week (it’s a period dense of national holidays that Tokyoites use to visit their families in the countryside), but it looks like people aren’t being stupid. Some localities are closing incoming roads, especially incoming roads from Tokyo. (Being responsible for road repairs, they can “repair” the roads on whatever schedule they like.)

Grocery shopping is a concern. The nearest supermarket is a bit of a trek from here, and Masako and I would take two backpacks and a shoulder bag or two and stock up. Very efficient. But most Japanese couples who shop together, shop inefficiently. So there’s now a thing that you are supposed to shop alone. And only once every 3 days. But since kids and husbands are home, housewives (they still have those here) are cooking more and for more people, and the standard modus operandi is to think about what to make for the next meal while you are in the supermarket. As a result, the other shoppers can be painfully slow. And there are many more of them than there used to be.


ccc 05.03.20 at 5:11 pm

J-D is a gatekeeper who polices discussion of certain topics and is prone to misrepresent my views.


J-D 05.03.20 at 10:16 pm

J-D is a gatekeeper who polices discussion of certain topics and is prone to misrepresent my views.

In a previous discussion I observed that a comment you made was irrelevant to the original topic. In this discussion, however, your comment is relevant to the original topic.

I tested my hypothesis that your meaning might be obscure for a reader unfamiliar with your other comments by reading it to somebody I know, and her response tended to support my hypothesis: she didn’t know what you meant. Could you be referring to Chinese actions, she wondered, or to American ones, or to Australian ones? I read her my interpretive glosses and she confirmed that the indicated meaning had not been clear to her.

I accept that if, for some reason, you desire that people not understand your comment, I have done you a disservice by providing interpretive glosses. However, if you do desire that people understand your comment, I have done you a service by letting you know that they don’t.


David J. Littleboy 05.03.20 at 11:59 pm

“is prone to misrepresent my views.”

Dunno if it was a misinterpretation or not, but it was a brilliant deconstruction.

What is it you were actually trying to say???

Exactly a year ago I came down with a hideous influenza-like thing (covid-19 like fever for 5 days followed by a week of ), the next time I talked to my GP, he said. Right. The influenza shot we gave you wouldn’t have worked on that since it was probably something a tourist brought.

Something like 25 years ago, I had to change planes in Chicago, and the insanely enormous scale of the place and the insane number of people using it every day made me think we as a species were suicidal. And airline travel has gone up by 10% every year but one since then. Basically, covid-19 is something that couldn’t not have happened.

Getting on an airplane or cruise ship has always been and is now clearly understood to be seriously suicidal, both at an individual and at a species level. We need to stop. (Ditto for the private car, but since going into an office building is also suicidal, hopefully we’ll start being less ridiculous in our excessive use of cars (easy for me to say; I’ve never bought a car in my life).)

But it’ll take a lot more of Boris Johnson’s ilk getting sick (and recovering to tell the rest of said ilk about it) for us as a species to figure out the stupidity of our ways.


faustusnotes 05.04.20 at 2:08 am

David J. Littleboy, I think I can guess from your description where you are in Tokyo, and I haven’t been there but I guess it doesn’t have a lot of convenient supermarkets? I live in a super local area west of Shinjuku and within my little bubble it’s as if the emergency isn’t happening. Lots of people out in the streets, restaurants open, people clumping together in tiny ramen shops, the whole deal. There are lots of supermarkets here but they’re all inconvenient for me because I can’t walk well after my surgery. This is unfortunate because I have long since forgotten the notion of the big shop, and learnt to shop day to day on the way home from work, as I think most Tokyo people do. I’m one of your annoying shoppers. My sole concession is using a ruck instead of an eco-bag, because I don’t have free hands for carrying things anymore.

I am concerned Japanese people are going to (already have) forget the emergency, and things are going to go pear-shaped in the next few weeks. At least they’ve proven one thing though: masks don’t work, and neither does weak leadership without functioning emergency laws.


ccc 05.04.20 at 9:42 am

@J-D: I see your “interpretive glosses” as attempts to devalue and diminish. If you really wanted to convey the experiences and harms I reported on you would have gone about it quite differently, especially given your track record as gatekeeper here. All evidence I have says you are not open to honest discussion so I see no point in ever talking to you again. My comments do not have you in the target audience.

@David J. Littleboy: if you don’t understand the comment as is then there is no short way to convey it to you. A small first step is for you to watch these


J-D 05.04.20 at 11:43 am

I see your “interpretive glosses” as attempts to devalue and diminish.

But other people do not, and I provided them for their benefit, not for yours.

If you really wanted to convey the experiences and harms I reported on you would have gone about it quite differently, especially given your track record as gatekeeper here.

I suppose it’s possible that the explanations I gave of some of your terms were misinterpretations, but if so you have not explained what other interpretations would have been better. My point before was that your earlier comment would probably make cryptic reading for other readers (and this has since been confirmed); your suggestion that I could have gone about things differently is similarly cryptic. How else would I have gone about it?

All evidence I have says you are not open to honest discussion so I see no point in ever talking to you again. My comments do not have you in the target audience.

Yet you address this comment to me. I’ve observed many people announce their intention of ceasing to participate in an exchange and then not cease, so I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.

if you don’t understand the comment as is then there is no short way to convey it to you.

Well, there you go. If you can’t explain your own meaning, it’s to be expected that nobody will understand it.


Matt 05.04.20 at 1:32 pm

At least they’ve proven one thing though: masks don’t work,

Can you say more about this claim, faustusnotes , in terms of Japan, or more generally? I’ve seen enough claims that are, literally, all over the place for masks, that I don’t have strong credence about most of them. I gather that more places in the US are, or are trying to, make them mandatory for stores or the like. They are fairly rare still in Melbourne, though given our low rates now, that’s probably not unexpected in any case. I’m interested to hear more.


David J. Littleboy 05.05.20 at 12:37 am

FWIW, I found that comment odd, too. Japan has a long history of excessive fondness for masks, most recently due to an own-goal: they replanted their forests with Japanese Cypress, a truly beautiful, fast-growing tree that’s one of biology’s most prolific spore producers. Making spring allergy season torture for many Tokyoites. I haven’t been on the trains recently, but by March 19th (the last time I went out), almost all folks on the trains were wearing masks and the train stations were warning people that they wouldn’t be welcome on the trains without a mask.

But the numbers are the numbers, and Japan is seeing fewer new cases* per day than Massachusetts is seeing deaths. So they are doing something right, it’s just not clear what it is. Masks would be one hypothesis**. Full-scale shutdown isn’t a hypothesis, since they’re doing much less of that, and later, than they should. An act-together national government is also not a hypothesis.

*: Some of those numbers are due to insufficient testing: only folks with severe disease are getting tested. Still, MA, with about half the population of Tokyo proper (1/5 the population of the Tokyo metro area), has a much worse problem than all of Japan. (Although fully half of the MA problem is nursing homes and other elderly facilities.)

**: Other hypotheses include certain vaccinations that were widely used in Japan but not elsewhere conferring slight immunity, not tracking sh*t into one’s home, generally higher levels of personal hygiene.


faustusnotes 05.05.20 at 6:42 am

Matt, in the days before the announcement of the national emergency Japan was seeing 500 cases a day, which was more than 10% increase per day, and just after the emergency was declared this number increased to a maximum of 1000 or so. During that period Japanese people were going about their business but as David J Littleboy notes, almost everyone was wearing masks. It did nothing (or very little) to stop what the local media were calling “overshoot” – a sudden explosion of cases.

What actually worked in Japan before the emergency declaration was a wide range of early measures: temperature testing at airports (in place early January); holding major events behind closed doors or canceling them (first recommended by Ministry of Health on 20th February, and implemented by e.g. the Sumo association the following week); aggressive follow-up and contact tracing of clusters (headed by Dr. Nishiura, I think, an infectious disease expert); and isolation of all cases. It is not true that Japan was not doing enough testing, though of course everyone could have done more.

If you look at the way people use masks you will see that it can be worse than useless. They touch the outside of the mask; lower it when eating and then raise it again after; put it in their pocket or place it on a surface with other things they will likely touch; reuse it until it is no longer effective. This is not how medical staff use masks at all, and for good reason. I think it’s possible that masks are effective for protecting people from your illness (which Japanese have always done) but not for protecting you from others’ illness. Certainly this use of masks means that mildly symptomatic people were likely less infectious in public, which may have slowed things down; but once it hit 500 cases a day Japan was in rapid-doubling mode, heading on the same trajectory as the USA, and that despite almost-universal mask wearing.


ccc 05.05.20 at 11:00 am

@David J. Littleboy: So, did you watch? There is of course more to be said, to discuss and to explain beyond those two investigations. But there is little use doing so if the other is not first willing to with empathy explore the scope of the harms.


ccc 05.05.20 at 11:49 am

@J-D “Yet you address this comment to me.”

You got me! You are very smart.

I have never attempted suicide but have felt the pull at times. If I ever go through with it it will likely be after a seemingly mundane encounter with someone just like you doing just what you do here. You see, clear eyed empathy with the endless number of harmed and violated is one thing to experience. But the juxtaposition of that with most peoples crushing indifference topped by encounters with people like you who go out of their way to revel in that indifference – that just gets to me sometimes. It can momentarily smother all hope and all will to live.

So, I will try my best to not reply to you again, but I may fail and you may win.


Matt 05.05.20 at 12:08 pm

Thanks – that (about the wide-spread use of masks at the time due to allergies) is interesting.


nastywoman 05.05.20 at 9:52 pm


J-D 05.06.20 at 2:49 am


Even if I found it flattering to be told that I was very smart (which I don’t), flattery would get you nowhere.

I would count it as a loss and not as a victory if you committed suicide (if I knew about it). I do not want you to commit suicide. Please don’t.

It is a fact about the world in which we live, a fact known both to you and to me, that it is permeated by horrific suffering. Everybody who continues living in this world, therefore, is finding a way to continue living in a world permeated by horrific suffering, although of course not everybody is aware of it. It is true that one way to continue living in a world permeated by suffering, while being aware of that suffering, is to be (or to become) indifferent to it, but I don’t accept that it’s the only way: it seems to me that some people find ways to be aware of suffering and to go on living without becoming indifferent to that suffering.

You suggested earlier that I had misinterpreted you; I think you have misinterpreted me. I don’t revel in indifference to suffering, and I don’t know what it is that I wrote that you interpreted in that way. (I’m generally not much of a reveller, in anything.)


J-D 05.06.20 at 7:07 am

When ccc referred to ‘the mass atrocities that expectedly cause problems like this’, I interpreted that as a reference to ‘the slaughter of non-human animals to produce meat for human consumption’.

ccc linked to this:

Dominion is a feature-length documentary presenting an uncompromising, damning exploration of the various ways animals are used and abused by humans, particularly in the meat, dairy, egg, clothing and entertainment industries.

Perhaps my misinterpretation was that ccc’s reference was not to the meat industry alone, but to the meat industry among others?


David J. Littleboy 05.06.20 at 4:17 pm

Matt – I seem to have written badly: the allergy problem makes the Japanese familiar with and willing to use masks. The current near universal use of masks is due to covid-19, not allergies.

The article faustusnotes linked to is excellent. (tl;dr: the Japanese are doing enough testing of the right patients to figure out what is going on, even though they’re not doing a lot of tests.) The current public opinion/tv commentary gestalt, though, seems to be that (a) the criteria for who gets tested are too strict (missing some cases and not allowing people who want to get tested tested) and (b) if the criteria were relaxed, they’d not have the capacity and the idiot PM isn’t even trying. The idea of “trying to solve a problem” doesn’t, ever, cross his mind.

By the way, the graphs at this site are excellent and easy to use.

Another excellent article is this one.
Grumble, though. When you test with an imperfect test, then there are four cases: True positive for a sick puppy. False positive for a sick puppy, False positive for a health puppy, and true negative for a healthy puppy. Analyzing these four cases is just simple arithmetic. No need to invoke St. Bayes at all, although everyone else also does that. Sigh. Still, he gets everything right. (And probably works at the private teaching hospital at which my brother in-law studied emergency medicine, my niece is a cardiologist, and I got my other cataract fixed (my eye doc who fixed my detached retina fixed the cataracts in that eye for free, but by the time my other eye needed surgery, he had moved from the teaching hospital next door, to this one, a serious treck away.))

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