27 Comments

  1. Over here it has already begun. Just in the past two days all 16 German states (“Bundesländer“) have announced that they will be closing school until Easter break. Most of the other states are closing on Monday, but Berlin and Brandenburg were two of the slowest to announce, so they’ve decided to start the closure on Tuesday or Wednesday. What fun!
    P.S. This silly piecemeal decision making is a direct result of American “help” in injecting “states’ rights” into the postwar German constitution. Other countries (such as France) were able to make a uniform decision on a national level.

  2. It’s city level around here. San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley announced their closures today; the first I heard of was on Monday (I forget which city, somewhere slightly further north). Counties are banning assemblies above a certain size, too – that’s piecemeal as well (both when announced and what the limit is).
    And I’m conducting Census training all next week. Whee!

  3. Kilby, I just meant that the virus’s movement into the comics page has begun.

    My wife was sent home for the month, and we have enough food to survive the Siege of Leningrad.

  4. I wonder if this will result in a reduction in Death comics. I can see artists and editors deciding it might be better not to go in that direction right now.

  5. @Kilby: how exactly would it be better if school closings were decided on a federal, country-wide level? Granularity is a good thing, what makes sense in the Alps may not make a lot of sense up in the low country. Here in the States, Mayor De Blasio is arguing to keep the schools in NYC open, because he’s arguing the disruption closing them will cause is greater than the potential benefit at this time, and I think he makes a strong argument; just across the Hudson Bergen County in NJ just closed all schools county-wide, and even though Bergen is one of, if not the richest county in the US, it’s not evenly distributed, and while Alpine with its millionaires and no services and no schools might not be much affected by this, the working class Joes are very much affected by this, suddenly having to stay home with the kids, or arrange difficult to find and expensive baby sitting. And no, the businesses are not being understanding — yesterday I heard from a guy who works for a frigging hospital saying they wouldn’t give him the day off because he suddenly had to keep his three kids (4, 7, and 9) home, and his wife has used up all her sick days, and so when they refused to give him the day off, he told them in that case, yeah, he was sick after all… And this is a frigging hospital!
    I think the more granular you can be, the better you can match local needs.

  6. There were a few hours on Friday when the grandkids (6 and 3.5 yr old) school was going to be closed for 2 weeks, and my daughter’s school was not. My wife has a high at-risk condition, so I was contemplating taking care of these 2 for 2 weeks, without the library, childrens’ museum and other standard entertainment spots to lean on.

    Luckily, all schools in Illinois were ordered closed. But I have great sympathy for the logistic challenge now faced by parents who both work, but whose kids are out of school for the next two weeks and daycare is in shorter supply than normal. There are going to be a lot of kids left to fend for themselves.

  7. This comic seems less a funny joke, and more “a recap of last Wednesday.”

    The kids are both off school for at least the next six weeks. Yesterday we went to an emergency run to the library, and stockpiled up on 100+ books, finishing half an hour before the library closed for the at least the next month.

  8. @Kilby The last time Germany had one guy in charge of everything on a national level…it eventually resulted in a new constitution which called for ‘states’ rights’…

  9. There’s a difference between “unitary state” and ‘totalitarian state.”

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to make blanket statements about whether local, granular decisions are better, or whether state/national decisions are better. Different structures work better in different societies, and in different situations. That said, the rate of spread of disease is controlled by the groups with the highest social activities, so this current situation seems to call for uniform, high-level decisions, not variegated local responses.

  10. We’ve only had a few cases in MO, but they’re going through most of the same steps as elsewhere. For me, I’m mostly concerned with what happens to the NHL season. That’s about the only thing that has direct impact on me. I’m not working or in school.

  11. Of course, “states rights” is just a coded way of saying “I’m a racist and want to own black people”. So…yeah, there you go.

    Delays in quarantined are because governments (the servants of the rich) do not want to disrupt the economy. The rich figure their money will protect them and more deaths for less economic impact is a trade they’re willing to make.

  12. SingaporeBill, regardless of your politics, could you please tone down the expressions of them so CIDU Bill doesn’t nuke this page?

  13. @ Winter Wallaby – Thanks for making a very important distinction.
    P.S. @ larK – America’s problems have different order of magnitude. Germany is not quite as big as Montana (in area), and has a population just over twice that of California. That said, I think many people over here just don‘t understand that the fundamental purpose of closing schools has nothing to do with protecting the health of students. The real idea is to eliminate (hundreds of) thousands of extremely efficient mixing pools, which would otherwise be able to magnify an infection in any one family to infect all the families of each of the other kids in that class. This issue did not need to be debated and discussed by 16 different states. All that did was to delay the process (by nearly a week).

  14. @Kilby: I still think that granularity is better than nationwide lockstep: imagine hypothetically your region is some remote towns up in the alps where the contagion has not yet been spotted in the wild: other communities shut down everything, good for them, but if you too are forced to shut down now, even though within your communities there is no contagion, you are wasting everyone’s time, adding needless hardship, not actually preventing anything, and then, when the contagion does reach your area, you’ve already used up your effective quarantine time — it will be a lot more difficult to enforce the quarantine to people who have already been under quarantine and are tiring of it. Better to use your resources vigilantly testing and tracking the movement of the contagion and respond accordingly as the data warrants than to just mindlessly do exactly what every single other region in the country is doing. Sometimes delay is a good thing (assuming that you are being vigilant in the meanwhile). I brought up Bergen County NJ, which is much smaller than Germany, as a point of comparison, where I still feel it was inappropriate to force every town within it to shut all schools in lock-step tandem — the towns vary in composition, socio-ecnomic status, and rate of exposure/infection. Let the ones where there is actual exposure shut down, let the others still function until such time. You stay pretty much within your town going to school, going to the library, but you almost certainly leave your town for work; kids not going to school have to be taken care of, so they either go with the parents to work (not every job can be done from home, especially among the poorer), or taken to relatives/friends who more likely are in a different town, or a babysitter, who also might be coming from a different town — so you are actually potentially increasing the exposure of the kids.

  15. Arthur, I was about to apologize for my radical anti-slavery stand when I got what you actually meant. 🙂

    @larK: Covid-19 has people infectious for about a week before they show symptoms. And young people (like the schoolkids you want to keep mixing around in the petri dish called school) may have very mild symptoms but be vectors for passing on the disease. If you wait until you find people with symptoms in your area, you’re f***ed. That first infected one you detect will have been infecting others for a week and they will have been infecting others and so on.

    Learn more about exponential infection and how to flatten the curve, as the kids today like to say: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/

  16. @ SingaporeBill – Thanks for explaining the science better than I could, and for the link.
    P.S. I was about to warn everyone about the paywall, but I discovered that as a public service. the Post has placed their virus-related articles outside of their paywall.

  17. In NYS the school districts are either in a city (such as NYC) or individual communities. When Gov Cuomo first said he was leaving it to the districts it made sense as those of us near NYC were already affected, while the school districts upstate – such as Buffalo – were not affected and can be up to 375 miles away. First one local school district was closing, than another – then our county executive announced that all in the county will close, the next county and recently Gov C closed all in the state for 2 weeks (I think). Schools are setting up to and teaching on the Internet – including distributing computer tablets (guessing Ipads) to those students who do not have. (I am hoping that family members will not take from children in some areas which are rather poor and sell the things for the money.)

    The problem with NYC and actually the other districts closing is two fold.

    Some students qualify for free breakfast and free lunch – and with some of the poorer children that is the only food that they have for the day (in the summer they have pick up stations for the children to continue to get the food) and they do not want to take the food away from the children

    Parents who work and still have to go to work – including those who are on the staff at medical facilities, doctor’s offices, police, fire, emts etc – may or maynot be able to find alternate places for the children to go during the school day. Under the circumstances grandparents and other older family members might not be good choices as the children might carry the virus to them.

    Solution seems to be that there will in NYC various schools that will stay open for both for children with no place else to go and for meal pickup in the am and at lunch time and the smaller school districts outside large cities that will do the same – will each have one school open for the same reasons.

    Life has changed in the 102 years since 1918 with mom no longer home to cook and take care of everyone.

  18. And then there is Robert’s infamous sister – she was upset that the schools were closing as her younger daughter (9 yo) would be home with her – and how would she be able to make her daily trip to the gym? (Older daughter 18 and can take care of herself – but has a job and not there to take care of her sister – even if she would agree to.)

    (Have not had a text message from her about her going to her gym and finding it closed – she is totally oblivious to anything beyond herself.)

  19. As to something being done in the entire country – I once tried to explain the expanse/size of the US to an online friend who lives in Nottingham in the UK – Michigan is the 11th largest state in the US – it is also just about the same size as all of the UK.

    What is works for one state or area does not work in another or other states may not be affected the same way (at least yet) just do to the expanse of the country.

  20. I went and built myself a simulator so I could play with some of the variables under discussion here. I wish I could say it definitively proved anything one way or the other, but like real life, it’s complicated; depending on how you set the initial variables, you can prove just about anything. But it’s fun jiggering the variables and seeing what happens.
    If you go to where my CIDU comments scraper is (there is a link to in in the random comments thread), and replace index.cfm in the URL with contagion.cfm, you can play with it. (I’m being coy with the link because I don’t want a clickable link indexed by the various search engines — the thing I build is very rickety and can easily be made to overwhelm my staging server; please be kind, try not to set too large a population with too many interlinks…! And when you’re done, if you click on the “start again” link before leaving, that will clear the your data from the db. …I can’t guarantee that I will leave this up.)

  21. @larK: impressive work; I was wondering about the government’s decision to lock us down for 2 weeks: now it makes sense.

  22. My concern about locking everything down as soon as you can perhaps being unwise because you can only keep a lock down going for so long, and what happens then is now being addressed in the media — and the news isn’t very good:
    View at Medium.com

    Interestingly, the modeller I built (see above) shows exactly the same tendency for merely a delayed exponential peak in the total population lock-down scenario (the one in the middle) as the author of the cited article shows when he runs extended scenarios.

  23. larK: You don’t suddenly one day do a 100% stop of a lock down and social distancing. You slowly phase it out, so that when you get the infections in the future, they come at a rate the medical system can deal with. The lock down also gives people time to adjust mentally to the seriousness of the situation, so that even when there’s no legal regulations, people and businesses are more careful about social distancing.

    Yes, if you assume that two weeks from now all behavior returns completely to normal, then this has indeed probably been pointless.

  24. Funny, that’s what the French government is looking into right now (mentioned on the radio news yesterday evening); the question being how to phase out: by age, by region, after testing, something else ?

  25. Additionally, delaying the infections to the future gives time for medical research to figure out a vaccine, or more conservatively, what treatments work best for a disease that they currently have very little research on right now. Basically, you’re assuming that a possible infection in the future is exactly the same as a possible infection now, and that ignores the entire point of delaying the interactions.

    If you assume that everything is the same in the present and the future, and simply model infection as “there’s a thing that jumps at a certain constant rate from person to person, and the effect of that jump is the same at all points in time,” then you don’t need to build a simulator to see that eventually that thing will jump to every single person on the planet who’s not a hermit (unless the infection completely dies off at some point, which is unlikely). The simulator is pointless. On the other hand, if you (more reasonably) don’t assume that, then the simulator is pointless because it’s ignoring the rationale behind any response to the pandemic.

  26. It might not be clear, but I linked to an article which WordPress decided to display not as a link, but as a weird graphic. Click on the words “A Call to Honesty in Pandemic Modeling” inside that graphic to read the article I link before spouting off.
    (Let me try to disassemble the link, so it might be more obvious:
    https : // medium.com /@wpegden /a-call-to-honesty-in-pandemic-modeling-5c156686a64b
    remove the spaces)

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