It's a Pandemic, Baby!


  • Worldwide: 121,565
  • United States: 1,080


  • Worldwide: 4,373
  • United States: 31


  • Worldwide: 66,239
  • United States: 8


The Self-Quarantine Manifesto

With no well-studied treatment and a viable vaccine still being out at least another year, the only effective way to keep the Coronavirus epidemic at bay is to give the virus less chances of spreading. The following list of actions, ordered from easiest to implement to most effective in the fight against the pandemic, should serve as a set of loose guidelines for people who wish to join the movement and take action, where the people in charge continue to neglect.

Read the entire Manifesto here: Stay The Fuck Home

World Health Organization recognizes COVID-19 outbreak as a Pandemic

It’s official. Oh yeah, the White House has also ordered the CDC to classify all of its Coronavirus deliberations. That’ll work out great!

The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions have been held since mid-January in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), a key player in the fight against the coronavirus.

Staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls, the sources said.

For Busy People / TL;DR

If all you need is a regularly updated list of answers about the current state of the COVID-19 epidemic, the website Ars Technica has a very well researched (by actual scientists) list of information and frequently asked questions. As of March 11th they are still updating the site once a day at 3PM (US Eastern time, presumably).

Social Distancing

As I write this, organizations in the United States are slowly lumbering towards the cancellation of most large public events and celebrations.

This moves us into phase two of this epidemic which is essentially just managing the damage being caused. Phase one was “containment”, which sought to prevent the few folks known to have the virus from transmitting it to the broad public. Containment has obviously failed as the virus has managed to outrun our best efforts. While the US did not and does not have a great initial approach, it was unlikely any amount of containment would have ultimately worked.

The main issue now is to prevent as many individuals as possible from getting and spreading the virus. The goal now is slowing down the spread of the virus to prevent the medical and healthcare system from being systematically overloaded from the sheer number of patients.

The U.S. has about 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people (South Korea and Japan, two countries that have seemingly thwarted the exponential case growth trajectory, have more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people; even China has 4.3 per 1,000). With a population of 330 million, this is about 1 million hospital beds. At any given time, about 68% of them are occupied. That leaves about 300,000 beds available nationwide.

The majority of people with COVID-19 can be managed at home. But among 44,000 cases in China, about 15% required hospitalization and 5% ended up in critical care. In Italy, the statistics so far are even more dismal: More than half of infected individuals require hospitalization and about 10% need treatment in the ICU.

At a 10% hospitalization rate, all hospital beds in the U.S. will be filled by about May 10. And with many patients requiring weeks of care, turnover will slow to a crawl as beds fill with COVID-19 patients.

Conferences and Large Events

Many large conferences have announced that they will be canceling themselves this year, and at some of the largest outdoor music festivals(Coachella , Stagecoach {both in CA}, Ultra {Miami}, Tomorrowland Winter {Belgium}) have been rescheduled until later in the year or cancelled outright.

Most of the conferences I am personally familiar with are technology-related or technology-adjacent. It seems that most if not all conferences scheduled in March are not going to happen. Some April conferences are already cancelled, and even a few May and June events. Some events like WWDC and Microsoft Build are still on, but will likely be cancelled soon.

  • E3 (Video Games) [June!]
  • Google I/O (Software Development) [mid May]
  • SXSW (Music, Technology, and Film) [March]
  • GDC (Video Games) [March]
  • Seattle ComicCon (Comics, Movies, Gaming) [mid March]
  • Adobe Summit (Tech, Publishing, Media) [late March]
  • Facebook f8 (Software Development) [early May]
  • Mobile World Congress (Mobile phones) [late February]
  • Code for America Summit (Civics, Software Development) [mid March]
  • Internet Freedom Festival (Civics, Internet Culture) [late April]
  • New York Auto Show (Cars) [April]
  • Geneva International Motor Show (Cars) [mid March]

After there having been a couple instances of individuals exposed to the virus attending conferences and subsequently other individuals AIPAC, CPAC—including some members of Congress who went on to spend time in close quarters with the President—it seems unlikely many more will be willing to take on that risk.

Stop going into the office

Many large companies, Google perhaps being the largest, have instructed their employees across all of North America to work from home for the next month.

This is a prudent step but imposes an extreme hardship on all of the contract labor that maintains Google massive buildings, drive them to and front the offices, and keeps their developers humming along with food and impeccable offices. Google is starting a fund to help with this hardship to a small extent:

Google is establishing a COVID-19 fund that will enable all our temporary staff and vendors, globally, to take paid sick leave if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19, or can’t come into work because they’re quarantined,” the company said. “This fund will mean that members of our extended workforce will be compensated for their normal working hours if they can’t come into work for these reasons.

School’s out… forever?

Many prominent college campuses in the United States have informed their students to either not return from their Spring Breaks or to begin packing their belongings immediately and leave the campus.

There has been at least one instance of supposed “rioting” of students at the University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio) after the students there were ordered to begin evacuating the campus.

Many universities announced a move to online-based coursework, but its unclear to me as an outsider if all of these universities have done so:

  • All City of New York and
  • Harvard (Boston-area)
  • Syracuse University (Upstate New York)
  • American University (Washington DC)
  • University of Maryland
  • Rice University (Houston)
  • Yale (Connecticut)
  • Cornell (Upstate New York)
  • Duke (North Carolina)
  • UCLA
  • Michigan State University
  • Columbia University & Barnard College (New York City)
  • Hofstra University
  • Princeton
  • Stanford, San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley, UC David, UC Riverdale, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and effectively all University of California schools.
  • Nearly every University in Washington State
  • Tufts, Seton Hall, Skidmore, Smith College, Julliard, Rutgers, St. Johns… and so many more!

At this time there are likely in excess of 130 universities that have cancelled in-person classes. Forbes has an unusually detailed list of these universities and colleges. It’s almost certain that all public and many private universities will follow this trend. Depending on the length and severity of the pandemic, its even conceivable that students will not report to campus for the fall semester later this year.

There are many unanswered questions about the financial hardship this may place on some students. Many students may be wary of returning back to their home countries, and some may have little to no housing or meal options without their dormitories.

It is also unclear what will happen to students who have courses such as laboratories which cannot be conducted online.

Untold numbers of K-12 school systems all over the country have shut down over instances of adults or children having been possibly exposed and then attending class. The entire school district in Seattle is attempt to transition completely to online classes. Fulton County school system in Atlanta is completely shut down but without any mention of online-coursework.

It seems that the next order effect of all these closing is a child care crisis as parents will be unable to find anyone to take care of their children while they are not in school.

Nursing Homes

A nursing home in Kirkland, Washington was famously the epicenter of one of the largest outbreaks in the United States and has set the entire state of Washington on edge. There are current FIVE such outbreaks at different facilities.

The American HealthCare Association that represents a large number of nursing homes has recommended that all nursing homes in the United States effectively go on lockdown and refuse visitation from family members and friends.

Fun is also Cancelled

Many parades that traditionally happen in March are cancelled in some of the largest cities in the world.

The St. Patrick’s day parades in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and many smaller cities and towns across the country have been cancelled. It seems almost certain that New York City will follow suit but neither have made definitive announcements yet.

Other items being affected

It seems almost certain that as the outbreak continues to grow, especially in the New York area, concerts at the Lincoln Center (Ballet, Opera, Philharmonic, and more) will begin to be canceled or simply streamed online with no one in attendance at the venues. This has already happened in many of Europe’s largest venues.

Business is being impacted

Some of the hardest hit are the local Asian restaurants in the New York Area (and most likely the rest of the nation to some extent). Just today four of the biggest cantonese banquet halls in Brooklyn have shutdown due to declining sales. This comes against a backdrop of flagging sales at many Asian-owned restaurants since the outbreak has been growing.

Racism and Xenophobia also going viral

An abundance of anecdotes by New York City residents show that latent racism and xenophobia has been erupting all over, mostly on the MTA trains.

A viral moment was captured last week where a man harassed, yelled, berated and ultimately sprayed an unknown substance on an Asian man riding a subway car. Since that time, many individuals have come forth with instances of being similarly harassed with racist invective on their rides around the city.

NPR has cataloged many more instances of Asian individuals being targeted due to unfounded fears about COVID-19.

What is The Government doing?

There have been ill effects across wide swaths of business due to the epidemic. So far there have not been large layoffs, and the government is trying to develop approaches to shore up businesses by offering interest-free loans, tax holidays, vaguely defined “stimulus packages”, but there have been very few concrete proposals and virtually none which have been passed by law makers. Even if many of these initiatives get passed, they are really only addressing a few symptoms of the problem and there will be many more, less obvious effects that will not be addressed.

Congress intends to vote on a narrowly tailored set of relief measures that route around “politically sensitive” ideas like tax cuts:

the two parties appeared to be coalescing around the idea of a narrower short-term bill focusing on paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, food assistance and help for small businesses. That would defer what is likely to be a much more contentious discussion over other economic measures, such as tax cuts and rescue plans for affected industries, until after Congress returns from a weeklong recess.

The only concrete actions the United States Government has taken to date is the passage of an 8.5 billion dollar requisition to combat COVID-19, which is likely to be spent in improving testing, providing medical equipment, and other programs and equipment to directly combat the virus and treat its victims. 1.5 billion is going directly to the CDC and its Infections Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund, 3 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, 2 billion set aside for reimbursing Local and State Governments, and 1 billion for the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Development program.

The IRS is delaying the April 15th filing date for “virtually all Americans.”

Other Random Stuff

In the “not terrifying at all” column we have “Georgia setting aside park land to isolate COVID-19 infected individuals”.

“Officials are utilizing an isolated section of Hard Labor Creek State Park where emergency trailers and operations will be separated from the rest of the property,” Kemp’s office said. “To prevent the disruption of ongoing operations, access to this specific part of Hard Labor Creek State Park is strictly limited to official use.”

Republicans were told last week in a closed door briefing that there is a good chance that more than 50% of Americans will be exposed to COVID-19.

Two sources–a member of Congress who attended the briefing and a second person with knowledge of it–described the remarks, made last week, to The Daily Beast. They were delivered by Rajeev Venkayya, the president of the Global Vaccine Business Unit at Tokyo-based pharmaceutical giant Takeda. The member of Congress said the comment was “sobering,” while the second person noted it came during a discussion about how to manage the costs of medical care related to the coronavirus. Venkayya pointed out that widespread access to medical care will be vital, given the likely breadth of the exposure, that source said.