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Everything but the dying

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.04.20

The obvious explanations for the lagging death rate are that the current surge is 1. not burning through the nursing homes, 2. younger people have better outcomes, and 3. it's a lagging indicator that takes a couple weeks to show up, and nationally, the current surge began around June 15th. (Yet there keep being these hot takes on whether or not there's something else going on, like Kevin Drum's reader here saying there are rumors among doctors in Italy and India that the virus is weakening. My understanding is that viruses weaken solely because the most deadly strains kill their hosts quickly enough that their spread is reduced compared to other strains, so I suppose that could happen simultaneously in different countries.) And yes, it makes sense that we're better at treating Covid.

I have two real questions, though, not about the lagging death rate:

1. This kind of illness description - awful, persistent, debilitating, but not fatal - what are the statistics for this kind of severity?

2. It's transmitted by airborne droplets. Does that mean it's exclusively transmitted by air, and that surface transimission (fomites!) aren't a concern? Or does it mean that surface transmission is happening in an ordinary, like most viruses, and just not unusually so?


 

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wheeeeeeeee

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.03.20

Good news:

Flying snakes can glide as far as 78 feet (24 meters) without tumbling out of control because they undulate their bodies mid-flight, as if they were swimming through the air. This seems to be a specialized strategy to stabilize their flight rather than an evolutionary remnant of general snake behavior, according to a new paper in the journal Nature Physics.

This part has been known for a while:

Socha found that the snake will push its ridge scales against the tree trunk, using the rough surface to maneuver up to a branch. Then it dangles its body off the end of the branch and contracts sharply like a spring to launch itself into the air. The initial angle of inclination as the snake is hanging determines the flight path. To ensure maximum gliding distance, the snake will suck in its stomach and flatten its body, curving inward like a Frisbee to create lift, undulating its body in an S-shaped motion, which serves to increase the air pressure underneath.

The new part:

For these experiments, Socha et al. used live flying snakes (Chrysopelea paradisi, in this case), placing infrared reflective markers along the body's dorsal surface. They recorded those marker positions as snakes glided through a large indoor arena in Virginia Tech's Moss Arts Center. The trials were conducted inside a four-story black box theater known as the Cube, modified for the snakes' safety.
Socha's team hung black plastic sheeting along the sides and back wall and pulled curtains over the walkway railing. They also covered the floor in soft foam padding so the snakes wouldn't be injured upon landing. They placed an artificial tree covered in fake leaves and vines in the center of the glide arena, with a branch from an actual oak tree serving as a suitable launch branch. They then just let the snakes jump and glide to their hearts' content over nine days, using a 23-camera motion capture system to record the infrared markers.

Video footage at the link.


 

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Semi-Weekly Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 7/3

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.03.20

This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.

Episode 30.


 

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FTCPS

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.02.20

This article is arguing that we should abolish CPS along with the police:

The vast majority of child welfare investigations and removals involve allegations of neglect related to poverty, and black families are targeted the most for state disruption. Just as police don't make communities safe, CPS affirmatively harms children and their families while failing to address the structural causes for their hardships. Residents of black neighborhoods live in fear of state agents entering their homes, interrogating them, and taking their children as much as they fear police harassing them in the streets.
Almost 20 years ago, I wrote a book about anti-black racism in the family regulation system -- Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare. Since then, "racial disproportionality" has become a buzzword in child welfare research and policymaking. Despite numerous reforms, the system has not changed its punitive ideology or racist impact. The foster industrial complex can't be fixed; it must be abolished.

The first parallel that jumps out at me is that I can observe my initial reaction, having never considered this before, and my mind immediately went to the most brutal, awful stories of child abuse and thought "what about them?" Which is, of course, parallel to the knee-jerk reaction of "But what about the most deadly criminals and murderers?" of considering the Abolish the Police movement. So I think - just as we don't want serial killers roaming around - we must assume that the Abolish CPS phrase is really "divest and invest" and that no one is intending to abandon the most abused kids - but the current system seems to be doing a pretty good job of it. (Foster care in Texas is deadly and horrific, and Texas has spent an enormous amount of money fighting a lawsuit to reform the system. Texas lost in 2016 and was ordered to reform the system, so they've been fighting that ruling ever since.)

But I can imagine how services could be peeled off - a huge amount of what parents get in trouble for is basic poverty. If there were a meaningful UBI payment per child, that would go really far to address problems. (I can hear the conservative response in my head already, but it's not worth spilling pixels to give it air.) Meaningful addiction treatment options is the other major category that comes to mind. (And maybe help people swap out alcohol for pot.)

Like demands to defund police, foster care abolition includes diverting the billions of dollars spent on separating children from their families to cash assistance, health care, housing and other material supports provided directly and non-coercively to parents and other family caregivers and care networks...Without attention to the foster industrial complex, however, reform proposals might help to strengthen it -- thereby expanding the carceral state rather than shrinking it.

I can imagine that if you opened any inquiry by asking the parent, "What do you need help with?" the answer you receive is overwhelmingly likely to be a perfectly accurate description of what they need help with. We could start there.

It's a terrifying topic, because children are so vulnerable, and childhood abuse leaves such deep trauma. But our current system is a disaster, and an instinct to fight to keep a cruel system in place should make us pause and check ourselves.

Any other entire government organizations that need to be tossed out on their heads?

(Via one of you, at the other place.)


 

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Guest Post - Bat Signal for Brad DeLong Economic History and Pandemics/Plagues

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.01.20

Bostoniangirl writes: I'm really interested in what the long term effect on our economic structures and social welfare policies might be following this pandemic. For example, one option might be that we all decide, after much suffering, that employment-based health insurance doesn't make sense, and we should all go on Medicare. We could also develop stronger workplace safety rules, enhanced paid sick leave and better pay for essential workers. Or, we might decide that this is a problem for poor people of color, that white people with means can insulate themselves from it, and that people who don't have the means to isolate are expendable. I would, of course, prefer that we choose the path of good government and greater social solidarity, but what's happened historically? And are there lessons that activists could use to nudge things in a better direction?

Google pointed me to a paper arguing that the Black Death killed so many people that workers were able to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions. Is the commentariat familiar with economics history papers or books that could shed some light on how things played out in the past after major infectious disease events?

Heebie's take: That's a good question!

I've had the thought that the infrastructure concerning remote accessibility should not go away after the pandemic, specifically around zooming into events that you can't attend in person. Can't attend the conference because you just had a baby? Present your talk over zoom. Want to stay in school while you recuperate, or managing a condition that means you're stuck in your house? Your teachers should now be skilled in providing synchronous remote learning. Etc. Live speakers should display the zoom closed captioning for people in attendance.


 

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Semi-Weekly Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 6/30

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.30.20

This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.

Episode 29.


 

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Testing

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.30.20

This is a nice breakdown of testing to achieve mitigation vs. testing to achieve suppression.

This part reads like a dream:

For example, frequent, regular testing could be targeted at people in high-risk settings, such as nursing homes, meat-packing factories and prisons. Universities, when they reopen, could test students weekly; schools could test teachers regularly, and hospitals could provide testing not only to employees, but to their families. This approach would also spot many more asymptomatic or presymptomatic cases, people who are infected and could still be spreading the virus even though they haven't developed symptoms.

I remember YouTube clips back in April about how methodically testing had been implemented in Korea and other countries, and trying to imagine it ramping up similarly here. Morning swabs for the kids upon entering school. I knew we'd never reach that kind of organization, but I didn't expect us to quite so thoroughly squander the quarantine prep time.

The other thing that confounds me is the time until you get your results - it's still so shockingly slow here. They have a mobile free testing site that sometimes comes through Heebieville, and gives results in 10-25 days. I believe other places in town are able to get people their results in 3 days. But there are no point-of-care tests. No one is getting their results with any sort of speed that would accomplish meaningful contact tracing.

(Several states have travel restrictions that include requiring Texas travelers to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of arrival. I suppose there's probably some sort of fast-pass testing available for fancy business travelers.)

(Also, I imprinted early on the idea that testing would be free. I realized my error, but these stories of runaway testing costs are still jarring against my baseline assumption that it's madness for tests not to be provided free of charge.)

Also this thing about superspreaders is interesting:

Epidemiologists capture the difference between the flare-ups and the plodding with something known as the dispersion parameter. It is a measure of how much variation there is from person to person in transmitting a pathogen...If Covid-19 was like the flu, you'd expect the outbreaks in different places to be mostly the same size. But Dr. Kucharski and his colleagues found a wide variation. The best way to explain this pattern, they found, was that 10 percent of infected people were responsible for 80 percent of new infections.

And apparently they now have backdated Covid in Italy to mid-December.


 

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Scandals & Detail-mares

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.29.20

This Russian Bounty Hunter scandal is such a great example of the kind of thing that should be an administration-defining scandal, and instead will be relegated to a quirky footnote. Boy did I enjoy that "illusion of stability" thing, back when I still nurtured it. I miss it every day.

Also I'm already having first-day-of-class dreams about the fall. Largely managing all the details and logistics of whether my classes know their zoom codes, if I can easily cast the ipad and use the sensor-pen to show my writing coherently, if the breakout rooms go smoothly, if my own kids are sufficiently well-entertained to leave me alone for the next 90 minutes, while I teach, and what about their own zoom-schooling? etc. The dream itself is actually about the feeling of having too many details to keep track of, and having them turn into detail-sludge that threatens to drown oneself. The last time I had persistent dreams like this was around the stress of moving apartments or houses. From roughly ages 22-30 it was a regular dream, (and then a lot of dreams just generally about living in various odd houses.) And I only moved twice since college: once to Texas to go to graduate school, and once to Heebieville, to our current house.

Maybe this will be one of my more pointless posts.


 

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