Monday, April 13, 2020

Plague Thoughts

1.  The daily numbers about people dying from Covid-19 and about new cases found through testing are useful information, but when they are employed for international comparisons absolute numbers (counts) are not that informative.

That's because countries have quite different population sizes and because there are very few places where we have even an inkling of the TOTAL numbers of individuals who have had the virus, including those who had mild or asymptomatic cases.  Also, the level and type of testing which is done varies wildly.

I am not saying that we shouldn't also report the counts because they are crucial for making sure that the health care systems are prepared.  But relative counts are also needed.  For the most obvious example, the case casualty rate (mortality rate) depends on the total numbers of people who have been or are infected by the virus.  We don't know what those totals might be, except perhaps for countries like Iceland.

2.  Trying to get information on the etiology of Covid-19 is extremely difficult for everyone, even for the experts, because we are talking about a brand new virus.

There is no substitute for proper studies and doing those studies requires data which is not yet available. 

Until we get those studies my advice for us lay people is to take everything we read (about miracle cures or about abandoning all hope and so on) with a big pinch of salt (not real salt!) and to err on the side of caution in how we live our lives.

3.  I watched the Queen's Speech about this pandemic, even though I am not British, and it made me tear up a bit.  Mostly because she demonstrated moral leadership* only a day or two after Our Supreme Leader demonstrated its exact opposite in that face mask debacle:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced new federal guidelines Friday recommending that Americans wear face coverings when in public to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus. The president immediately said he had no intention of following that advice himself, saying, “I'm choosing not to do it."

4.  Domestic violence rates are rising in many countries because of the policies encouraging or ordering people to stay at home.  The reasons for such increases are pretty obvious:  The pandemic causes extra stress, abusers use violence as a release valve for that stress, and the usual targets for that violence are conveniently nearby and unable to easily escape.

On the more positive side, several countries are aware of this extra risk and are working on solutions.

5. What do you do for your mental and emotional health under these very trying conditions?

I have upped my tai chi and qigong practice, baked Finnish cinnamon buns** and fixed a few things that annoyed me at Snakepit Inc, including a broken handrail in the staircase.  I even dragged out my old sewing machine (it's extremely old, bought used and I have had it for a long time) which I used to make lots of face masks and also several new throw pillows for the living-room.

Reading books which have nothing to do with today is also a good escape.  Or if you like to read something vaguely relevant, the Decameron*** might keep you busy for a few days.


*  Whatever your opinions of the monarchy and so on might be, you can't argue that Elizabeth doesn't know what her actual job is and I think she does it quite well.  Trump, on the other hand, cannot stop from centering himself in everything he utters.  Or does.  The latter is the more frightening part of him having all sorts of secret presidential powers.

**  Like cinnamon buns except also flavored with cardamom and, ideally,  with some nib sugar on top.  The way they scent up the whole house while in the oven is wonderful. 

***  I read it as a preteen for the first time (borrowed it from the local library not knowing what it was as I was going through the books methodically in alphabetical order).  It was exciting because of the sexual bits, but even at that age I knew that the sex wasn't described from the woman's point of view.

If you like to read something vaguely relevant but sad, Camus' The Plague might suit you.  I don't recommend it, to be honest, and neither do I recommend spending a lot of time on those online sites where the message is omygodweareallgonnadienow.

That's because protecting our mental health is also pretty important.