Quinn Moreland: Something Must Change After Astroworld (Pitchfork)
Scott has long asserted that his shows are a place where fans can let loose and rage through mosh pits, crowd-surfing, stage-diving, and general mayhem. He is far from the only rapper to borrow specific elements from the punk or hardcore underground, but the Astroworld tragedy underscores how important it is that chaos coexist with an ethos of community and accountability. A mosh pit is a collective, physical release of energy and there is the understanding—unspoken or otherwise—that if someone falls, you pick them back up. This is not to suggest that concertgoers at Astroworld did not try to help those who were fighting to stay upright: people crowd-surfed unconscious bodies to safety even while the crush made it extremely difficult for anyone to lift their arms, and at least one attendee testimonial describes pleading with event staff to stop the show. But footage from the festival also suggests a pervasive “every-man-for-himself” mentality, from the fans who pushed others to the ground to get inside, to those who danced atop an ambulance as it inched through the crowd to help people who were literally dying. It can never be said enough: one person’s good time should never come at the expense of another’s safety.
These kinds of tragedies should lead to a re-evaluation of safety procedures—and in prominent examples, this has been the case. After the Who concert, Cincinnati banned general-admission concert seating for nearly 25 years. Following Roskilde, Pearl Jam took a six-year break from festivals and returned with strict, hands-on safety policies that included the right to “evaluate all operational and security policies in advance, such as design and configuration of barriers and security response procedures in relation to ensuring our fans’ safety,” as well as the ability to stop a show if needed. Roskilde itself implemented preventative crowd safety measures, including a barrier system that divides the audience into separate pens and more intensive training for security workers. This is the level of oversight we need *before* something horrific happens.
James Beckwith: A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death (Kottke)
From January to the end of June, over 500,000 people died of confirmed cases of Covid-19. In order to demonstrate the magnitude of the pandemic, James Beckwith made a time lapse map of each Covid-19 death.
“Each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded. Each day is 4 seconds long, and at the top of the screen is the date and a counter showing the total numbers of deaths. Every country that has had a fatality is included.”
As was the case with the pandemic, the video starts slow but soon enough the individual sounds and blips build to a crescendo, a cacophony of death.
J. Kenji López-Alt: The Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow (NYT)
Food product dating, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls it, is completely voluntary for all products (with the exception of baby food, more on that later). Not only that, but it has nothing to do with safety. It acts solely as the manufacturer’s best guess as to when its product will no longer be at peak quality, whatever that means.
George Packer: We Are Living in a Failed State (The Atlantic)
The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.
When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.
The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.
Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.
The long recovery over the past decade enriched corporations and investors, lulled professionals, and left the working class further behind. The lasting effect of the slump was to increase polarization and to discredit authority, especially government’s.
Trump acquired a federal government crippled by years of right-wing ideological assault, politicization by both parties, and steady defunding. He set about finishing off the job and destroying the professional civil service. He drove out some of the most talented and experienced career officials, left essential positions unfilled, and installed loyalists as commissars over the cowed survivors, with one purpose: to serve his own interests. His major legislative accomplishment, one of the largest tax cuts in history, sent hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and the rich. The beneficiaries flocked to patronize his resorts and line his reelection pockets. If lying was his means for using power, corruption was his end.
Read: It pays to be rich during a pandemic
This was the American landscape that lay open to the virus: in prosperous cities, a class of globally connected desk workers dependent on a class of precarious and invisible service workers; in the countryside, decaying communities in revolt against the modern world; on social media, mutual hatred and endless vituperation among different camps; in the economy, even with full employment, a large and growing gap between triumphant capital and beleaguered labor; in Washington, an empty government led by a con man and his intellectually bankrupt party; around the country, a mood of cynical exhaustion, with no vision of a shared identity or future.
It turns out that “nimble” companies can’t prepare for a catastrophe or distribute lifesaving goods—only a competent federal government can do that. It turns out that everything has a cost, and years of attacking government, squeezing it dry and draining its morale, inflict a heavy cost that the public has to pay in lives. All the programs defunded, stockpiles depleted, and plans scrapped meant that we had become a second-rate nation. Then came the virus and this strange defeat.
The fight to overcome the pandemic must also be a fight to recover the health of our country, and build it anew, or the hardship and grief we’re now enduring will never be redeemed. Under our current leadership, nothing will change. If 9/11 and 2008 wore out trust in the old political establishment, 2020 should kill off the idea that anti-politics is our salvation. But putting an end to this regime, so necessary and deserved, is only the beginning.
We’re faced with a choice that the crisis makes inescapably clear. We can stay hunkered down in self-isolation, fearing and shunning one another, letting our common bond wear away to nothing. Or we can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones; the planeload of medical workers flying from Atlanta to help in New York; the aerospace workers in Massachusetts demanding that their factory be converted to ventilator production; the Floridians standing in long lines because they couldn’t get through by phone to the skeletal unemployment office; the residents of Milwaukee braving endless waits, hail, and contagion to vote in an election forced on them by partisan justices. We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.
Kenya Evelyn: 'The last flag bearers of an era': how coronavirus threatens a generation of black Americans (The Guardian)
Older black people are more likely to die of the virus that their white counterparts – among those lost are prominent black pastors, performers and civil rights activists.
Coronavirus has claimed more than 45,000 lives in the US as of Tuesday – especially those of older Americans, who represent 91% of all Covid-19 deaths.
Within that vulnerable population, older black people are more likely to die of the virus than their white counterparts. And among those lost are prominent black pastors, performers, and practitioners who lived through struggles for civil and cultural rights in their communities.
Tara Parker-Pope: Help! My Mask Fogs My Glasses (NYT)
As a last resort, you can try pushing your glasses forward on your nose to allow more air to circulate and stop the fog. The downside is that it could distort your vision. “This seemed to work best of all,” Ms. Lamb said. “The only caveat is that it threw off my perception slightly. It might be less disruptive with a lesser prescription.”
Fogging also will be less of a problem as summer approaches and outdoor temperatures get closer to the temperature of your breath.
Juliette Kayyem: After Social Distancing, a Strange Purgatory Awaits (The Atlantic)
Life right now feels very odd. And it will feel odd for months—and even years—to come.
The simplistic idea of “opening up” fails to acknowledge that individual Americans’ risk-and-reward calculus may have shifted dramatically in the past few weeks. Yes, I’d like to go meet some girlfriends for drinks. But I am also a mother with responsibilities to three kids, so is a Moscow mule worth it? The answer will depend on so many factors between my home and sitting at the bar, and none of them will be weighed casually.
Our reentry will be slow. There could be another wave. Adaptive recovery is going to last a very long time—and it will not feel normal at all.
Jennifer Wilson: The Morbid Comforts of Pandemic Playlists (Pitchfork)
Why we are turning to darkly funny music during the coronavirus.
Throughout history, music has been an integral part of how people cope with epidemics. Sometimes, we put them in familiar musical contexts to make them less scary (less “novel,” you could say). While the rest of the world called the 1918 outbreak “the Spanish Flu,” at home in Spain it was often described as “the Naples Soldier” after a song from a popular opera; one of the librettists claimed it was because the tune was just “as catchy” as the disease.
The themes underpinning many of their songs—passion, intensity, body heat—reminds me that art gets much of its meaning from confronting the ephemerality of existence. We want things deeply and quickly because life is, indeed, short. And musicians know that; they usually only get a few minutes per song. Who better to guide us in how to squeeze as much out of life as possible?
Rachel Miller: The Answer to All of Your Social Distancing Loophole Questions Is No (Vice)
Viruses don’t operate by potential carriers’ best intentions. They operate exclusively by our actions.
No in-person first dates or group exercise classes. No jaunts to your parents’ house or trips back to the city where you actually live from wherever you fled to a month ago. No IRL baby showers or walks with friends or spontaneous trips to the grocery store for "just a few things." The place where you are, at this moment, is the place you need to stay. It’s going to be this way intermittently, and maybe even constantly, until there is a vaccine for COVID-19.
But a lot of folks are still approaching coronavirus from a place of, What are my personal odds of illness, and, if I get sick, of surviving the illness? versus, How can I not harm other people?
As much as this hurts, it is also the way one can expect to feel during a crisis. If it felt mostly fine and easy to manage, it wouldn’t be a once-in-a-lifetime, five-alarm public health disaster. Whenever I am feeling particularly frustrated, I find that it helps me to remember that this, in large part, is what a sacrifice is. Feeling awful is not good, but it is right—that is, it is correct. The collective sense of helplessness and sadness and rage and overwhelming desire for things to be different and “normal” again is the grief. The solution—if we can even call it that—is just to sit with your fury and your despair and your fear for a little while.
But if you know, deep down, that your question is just a fresh rephrasing of, “May I be granted one (1) exception to the CDC recommendations in order to be a little less uncomfortable because I think my needs are more important than others'?” The answer is no. Someday the answer will be yes. I’d say I can’t wait for that day, but I can, and I will—because it’s right and we must.
Media-bashing robocalls, chloroquine Twitter trolls, briefing-room propaganda—how the president and his allies are trying to convince America he was right all along.
As reality continues to assert itself in the coming months—whether in the form of rising death tolls, or clinical drug trials, or shifting White House policy—Trump’s information warriors will likely retreat from some of their current positions. (They may also notch a few “wins” as the facts catch up to their narratives.) In the meantime, they are staying cautiously on message.
The public deserves the most complete data available about COVID-19 in the US. No official source is providing it, so we are.
Every day, our volunteers compile the latest numbers on tests, cases, hospitalizations, and patient outcomes from every US state and territory.
The fight against the coronavirus won’t be over when the U.S. reopens. Here’s how the nation must prepare itself.
The pandemic is not a hurricane or a wildfire. It is not comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Such disasters are confined in time and space. The SARS-CoV-2 virus will linger through the year and across the world. “Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”
These problems—the continuing testing debacle, the drying supply chains, the relentless pressure on hospitals—should temper any impatience about reopening the country. There won’t be an obvious moment when everything is under control and regular life can safely resume. Even after case counts and death rates fall, the pandemic’s challenges will continue, and will not automatically subside on their own. After all, despite ample warning, the U.S. failed to anticipate what would happen when the coronavirus knocked on its door. It cannot afford to make that mistake again. Before the spring is over, it needs a plan for the summer and fall.
Even in the optimistic scenario, a quick and complete return to normalcy would be ill-advised. And even in the pessimistic scenario, controlling future outbreaks should still be possible, but only through an immense public-health effort. Epidemiologists would need to run diagnostic tests on anyone with COVID-19–like symptoms, quarantine infected people, trace everyone those people had contact with in the previous week or so, and either quarantine those contacts or test them too. These are the standard pillars of public health, but they’re complicated by the coronavirus’s ability to spread for days before causing symptoms. Every infected person has a lot of potential contacts, and may have unknowingly infected many of them.
The U.S. is still a scientific and biomedical powerhouse. To marshal that power, it needs a massive, coordinated, government-led initiative to find the cleverest ways of controlling COVID-19—a modern-day Apollo program. No such program is afoot. Former Trump- and Obama-era officials have published detailed plans. Elizabeth Warren is on her third iteration. But the White House either has no strategy or has chosen not to disclose it.
Without a unifying vision, governors and mayors have been forced to handle the pandemic themselves. Ludicrously, states are bidding against one another—and the federal government—for precious supplies. Six states still haven’t issued any kind of stay-at-home order, while those that moved late, such as Florida, may have seeded infections in the rest of the country.
With COVID-19, I fear that the U.S. might enter the neglect phase before the panic part is even finished. If the current shutdown succeeds in flattening the curve, sparing the health-care system and minimizing deaths, it will feel like an overreaction. Contrarians will use the diminished body count to argue that the panic was needless and that the public was misled. Some are already saying that.
The virus is disproportionately killing people in low-income jobs who don’t have the privilege of working from home, but who will nonetheless be shamed for not distancing themselves. The virus is disproportionately killing black people, whose health had already been impoverished through centuries of structural racism, but who will nonetheless be personally blamed for their fate. The virus is disproportionately killing elderly people, who had already been shunted to the fringes of society, but who will nonetheless be told to endure further loneliness so that everyone else can be freer.
As the rest of the U.S. comes to terms with the same restless impermanence, it must abandon the question When do we go back to normal? That outlook ignores the immense disparities in what different Americans experience as normal. It wastes the rare opportunity to reimagine what a fairer and less vulnerable society might look like. It glosses over the ongoing nature of the coronavirus threat. There is no going back. The only way out is through—past a turbulent spring, across an unusual summer, and into an unsettled year beyond.
Zeynep Tufekci: Keep the Parks Open (The Atlantic)
Public green spaces are good for the immune system and the mind—and they can be rationed to allow for social distancing.
Mental health is also a crucial part of the resilience we need to fight this pandemic. Keeping people’s spirits up in the long haul will be important, and exercise and the outdoors are among the strongest antidepressants and mental-health boosters we know of, often equaling or surpassing drugs and/or therapy in clinical trials.
If pandemic theater gets mixed up with scientifically sound practices, we will not be able to persuade people to continue with the latter.
Even if health authorities close some parks temporarily while they assess and develop evidence-based policies and best practices, they should do so with transparency and a timeline or conditions under which the parks will reopen. That’s the best of all possible worlds: The authorities will preserve much-needed legitimacy, and the public will retain access to the outdoors under sensible conditions that reduce risk while promoting health, well-being, and resilience—and we will certainly need all of that to get through the next many months.
A great start-to-possible-ends overview of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country. Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.
About one in five people in the United States have lost working hours or jobs. Hotels are empty. Airlines are grounding flights. Restaurants and other small businesses are closing. Inequalities will widen: People with low incomes will be hardest-hit by social-distancing measures, and most likely to have the chronic health conditions that increase their risk of severe infections. Diseases have destabilized cities and societies many times over, “but it hasn’t happened in this country in a very long time, or to quite the extent that we’re seeing now,” says Elena Conis, a historian of medicine at UC Berkeley. “We’re far more urban and metropolitan. We have more people traveling great distances and living far from family and work.”
Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose America’s social immune system, and that this system has been suppressed.
After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly.
One could also envisage a future in which America learns a different lesson. A communal spirit, ironically born through social distancing, causes people to turn outward, to neighbors both foreign and domestic. The election of November 2020 becomes a repudiation of “America first” politics. The nation pivots, as it did after World War II, from isolationism to international cooperation. Buoyed by steady investments and an influx of the brightest minds, the health-care workforce surges. Gen C kids write school essays about growing up to be epidemiologists. Public health becomes the centerpiece of foreign policy. The U.S. leads a new global partnership focused on solving challenges like pandemics and climate change.
In 2030, SARS-CoV-3 emerges from nowhere, and is brought to heel within a month.
Nathaniel Popper and Taylor Lorenz: GoFundMe Confronts Coronavirus Demand (NYT)
Americans are turning to crowdfunding to cover coronavirus-related costs while the government prepares to deliver on its stimulus plan. But most campaigns aren’t meeting their goals.
Between March 20 and March 24, the number of coronavirus-related campaigns on GoFundMe shot up by 60 percent, from 22,000 to 35,000. The stories told on those fund-raising pages convey the breadth of destruction that the new coronavirus has wreaked — grieving families facing costs for funerals that few will be able to attend, food pantries stretched thin, and unemployed artists, bartenders, substitute teachers and manicurists simply trying to survive.
Zeynep Tufekci: Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired (NYT)
To help manage the shortage, the authorities sent a message that made them untrustworthy.
As the pandemic rages on, there will be many difficult messages for the public. Unfortunately, the top-down conversation around masks has become a case study in how not to communicate with the public, especially now that the traditional gatekeepers like media and health authorities have much less control. The message became counterproductive and may have encouraged even more hoarding because it seemed as though authorities were shaping the message around managing the scarcity rather than confronting the reality of the situation.
It is of course true that masks don’t work perfectly, that they don’t replace hand-washing and social distancing, and that they work better if they fit properly. And of course, surgical masks (the disposable type that surgeons wear) don’t filter out small viral particles the way medical-grade respirator masks rated N95 and above do. However, even surgical masks protect a bit more than not wearing masks at all. We know from flu research that mask-wearing can help decrease transmission rates along with frequent hand-washing and social-distancing. Now that we are facing a respirator mask shortage, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that surgical masks are “an acceptable alternative” for health care workers — again, obviously because some protection, even if imperfect, is better than none. In the face of this, publicly presenting an absolute answer — “You don’t need them” — for something that requires a qualified response just makes people trust authorities even less.
Since the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. do say that masks lessen the chances that infected people will infect others, then everyone should use masks. If the public is told that only the sick people are to wear masks, then those who do wear them will be stigmatized and people may well avoid wearing them if it screams “I’m sick.” Further, it’s very difficult to be tested for Covid-19 in the United States. How are people supposed to know for sure when to mask up?
COVID-19 tracker generates summary visualizations of COVID-19 testing results in the US to help inform and communicate the current situation. All testing data are retrieved in real time from the COVID Tracking Project. Their database is updated daily by 5 PM EST, and so are the plots on this page. Resident population of the US in 2019 by state was obtained from Statista.
An interactive visualization of the exponential spread of COVID-19.
A few interesting bits I found interesting to explore:
In nearly every country in the world, when the virus reaches 100 people the number of cases begins to increase by 35% daily.
• At that rate, a country would reach 1,000,000 cases just 31 days after reaching 100 cases.
• The curve flattens with social distancing -- check out Japan, South Korea, and China over time.
There are two different ways to view the exact same data:
• The logarithmic scale shows a great comparison of the magnitude of growth between countries, but less of the human impact.
• The linear scale shows the real human impact -- a growth twice the size is twice the number of real people infected.
Leslie Goldman: The rules of social distancing (Vox)
A lot has changed since this went out, with more and more areas of the country being put on shelter-in-place orders, but this is helpful nonetheless.
Staying home will stem the coronavirus outbreak, but what if you’re healthy — and bored? Is it ethical to go to the gym, get your hair done, or order delivery?
Megan Nolan: Why Do We All Have to Be Beautiful? (NYT)
The message of inclusivity is meant to be helpful, but it can actually do harm.
Challenging social norms about who can be beautiful is vital work, and of course it is true that representations of beauty in the media are pathetically white, thin, able-bodied and hetero, and of course this should change. But somewhere along the way, the message of inclusivity went from “every kind of person can be beautiful” to “every person is beautiful.”
I’m increasingly convinced that this message isn’t only less radical than we might like to believe, but also actively harmful.
Wouldn’t it be freeing to admit that most people are not beautiful? What if we stopped prioritizing pleasing aesthetics above so much else? I wonder what it would be like to grow up in a world where being beautiful is not seen as a necessity, but instead a nice thing some people are born with and some people aren’t, like a talent for swimming, or playing the piano.