Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Keeping yourself informed about COVID-19

Instead of the usual social science data sleuthing, etc. that has normally been my focus, I want to give you all something a bit more informative in hopes that it at least adds to some straight talk and keeps things in perspective as we come to grips with what is potentially a serious pandemic: Coronavirus COVID-19. First, I want you all to bookmark this map hosted by Johns Hopkins. It appears to be about the most up-to-date map of the number of cases per country, and also keeps record of deaths and recoveries. I also recommended last time this link from the Axios website - Coronavirus: The Big Picture. Axios is useful for its brief capsule summaries for those of us who may be on the go. The Axios global map is okay, but seems to be a little behind the other map. Finally, if you go to the Guardian, you will find daily live blogs of the progress of COVID-19 that provide a global perspective (including what is happening in the US). There is also a COVID-19 Tracker specific to the US that is quite accurate and will give you data about how close you are to the nearest confirmed case or cases. As of today, I am about 30 miles from the nearest confirmed case. Yesterday, I was almost 90 miles away.

At the end of the day, I think we need a balance between what has been a largely dismissive response to what is clearly a global health crisis and the sort of unhinged panic that has led to people doing things that are enormously idiotic, like buying a year's supply of toilet paper. The reality is a bit more complex, and we are in a sense blinded by the fact that we have so far been very far behind when it comes to testing. I've been reading that we should be testing 70,000 to 100,000 people per day in order to have some reasonable idea of the number of active COVID-19 cases, and where those cases are most concentrated. That would help considerably when it comes to flattening the curve, given the patchwork healthcare system that we deal with in the US. There are simply not enough ventilators for a worst case scenario, although we might be able to just make do under a much better case scenario.

Other than that just be sensible. If you can stay home, do so. Not all of us have that luxury. I still have to do most of the grocery shopping, and at least this week am required to report to work. I doubt that will be an issue the rest of the semester, though. Also remember that washing your hands, and absent that keeping hand sanitizer available will help a ton. It's so simple that it seems silly to have to state on a blog devoted to academic topics. And yet here we are.

We are in this together. The next few weeks and months will be difficult, and there is no way around it. Let's consider each other. If you're shopping and are in line with a lot of items and see someone with maybe only a few items behind you, let them go ahead. They'll be grateful. Tip drivers who are delivering food from restaurants that have had to limit their services to delivery and pick-up only. Etc. We as a society will be severely tested. In the meantime, hang in there and stay safe.

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