Pointing the finger

On the doom front, a few earthquakes, no tropical systems at the moment. Nothing different on the pandemic data front: it’s still so screwed up it is hard to draw any conclusions.  Maybe things are getting better.  Maybe we are in the eye of the storm, and a “second wave” is building.  We can’t know that yet here in the US because the data collection and testing is so screwed up. But that isn’t stopping the finger pointing. Bloomberg ran an editorial yesterday entitled “The Pandemic Is Exposing The Limits Of Science.”  The author, Ferdinando Giugliano, tries to draw parallels between the 2008 financial crisis and the SARS-COV-2 pandemic by asserting that the 2008 crisis showed the limits of economics in understanding the economy, and now he asserts the same regarding science and COVID-19.  The editorial entirely misses the point in both cases.

For years, economists had been warning politicians (and business journalists) that there was a coming storm.  Assets were over-priced, there was a well known real estate bubble, and leveraging had created an environment where several major financial firms were exposed to collapse, putting the banking system at risk. Business journalists pooh-poohed the “doomsayers,” and politicians cashed the checks of the financial services lobbyists and smiled.   While it is true nobody knew exactly when the crisis would come, saying “nobody warned us that in Summer of 2008 it would hit” is like saying “well, you may have warned me driving 200 mph was dangerous but you didn’t warn me about the oil patch that caused me to skid off the road and hit a tree at 4:35 Saturday Afternoon.”  That is absurd.

Giugliano writes “But on a range of issues — from containing the virus to prescribing effective treatments — we have seen some scientists and doctors jump to conclusions, only for others to give immediate rebuttals. (The contention over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine is one example.) This seesawing has added to the sense of panic and confusion among ordinary citizens.”  That is infuriating.  The main reasons these became issues is that journalists failed to do proper reporting but in their constant need for “breaking” news it is “reporters” who jumped to conclusions, publicizing preliminary results that had not been peer reviewed.  Scientists are in a catch-22: if we try to keep preliminary results confidential we are accused of a lack of transparency and hiding things from the public.  If we are transparent, reporters grab and publicize raw results and misinform both the public and political readers who don’t read primary publications.  The Hydroxychloroquine issue wasn’t pushed by scientists or doctors.  It was pushed by politicians who were repeating irresponsible “news” articles based on raw, preliminary research.

So I would like to point the finger too.  The middle one.  At journalists and politicians of both parties who can’t be bothered to learn how science actually works, won’t listen to neutral subject area experts, then cherry pick and dramatize raw data and exaggerate uncertainty for their own agendas, placing the blame for a crisis elsewhere instead of where it belongs: on them.

Reopening Georgia: What the data (doesn’t) show

This post should be short.  Instead of trying to figure out what the crappy data indicates, it should be “the data says X so we should do Y.”  While there are a couple of brighter spots, the overall COVID-19 testing, data collection, and reporting in this country continue to be nothing less than a MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT.  Red states, Blues states, forget the tribal poo-flinging.  Perhaps one party is worse than the other, but it’s the difference in degree, not in outcome: both parties have failed. So instead of having good information to make decisions with, we spend lots of time arguing over the “data.”  And if everyone wants to be intellectually honest, based on the “data” we have, you could in fact argue for a range of options from maintaining strict mitigation measures all the way to “why bother, back to normal.”  Which suits the political leadership just fine: if the data were clear, which policies would work best might be clear and they might have to agree on something, rather presenting stark contrasts which keep you angry and divided.

Let’s look at Georgia, since it was the first to “reopen”, and selfishly because I live here.  So instead of having good information on which to base the reopening decision, and thence if the reopening decision was sound, we have to read entrails and cast runes to try to figure things out.  But what it shows isn’t very comforting.  Right now I’m focusing on the reported number of hospitalizations.  Georgia’s data utterly inconsistent.  They are reporting 15 new COVIDI19 hospitalizations yesterday.  But the *total* number of hospitalizations went up by 129.  Factor of 10 discrepancy.  Which is right?  Probably neither one.  So let’s get another thing clear: reporting delays on top of the way the virus progresses through the population, means that trying to figure out the consequences of decisions made two weeks ago is frustrating at best, and potentially a less a waste of time.  But … let’s give it a shot anyway.

Here is a plot of the changes in reported hospitalizations sorted by day of week.  The “X” axis is weeks since March 19th (which were all zeros). The “Y” axis is the change in the total hospitalizations.  Why by day of week?  Because for a variety of reasons of both behavior and reporting, there is a very clear bias in reporting between the days of the week.  So you can’t compare Tuesday to Monday, much less a weekday like Monday to Sunday.  So here I’m just comparing Sundays to previous Sundays, Mondays to previous Mondays, etc.  In theory, if the reopening is causing a spike in dangerous infections (those requiring significant medical care resulting in hospitalization), it should show up in this data.

What we are seeing isn’t comforting.  We have three straight days of relative increases.  And 4 of the last 5 days saw above normal increases (Friday was a draw).  Conclusions?  The trends don’t look good, but again this is very noisy data, so we will have to continue to watch carefully.

What does it mean to you?  If you are re-engaging in everyday life, please be careful.  Maintain your distance where possible, wear a mask when you cant (for others more than yourself).  If you feel any symptoms stay home.  Good hand hygiene is absolutely essential. Minimize contacts with surfaces.   If you go out shopping, please please please DON’T PICK UP EVERY ITEM IN THE BIN!  I’m looking at you, idiot who picked up and examined every bag of mixed veggies at Publix last week!

Hurricane Planning during a Pandemic: A Dangerous Combination

There are currently three tropical systems stalking the earth: Typhoon Vongfong has just swept through the Philippines, causing significant but not catastrophic damage.  There are two “invest” (potential storms), one off Florida, and one in the Bay of Bengal (as of noon, a tropical depression being tracked as IO012020).  Here is the “big picture” for this morning … of these, the one to watch is the one in the Bay of Bengal; it has the potential to be deadly if it hits the highly populated coasts of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Hurricane planning presents difficult issues in the best of times.  While Emergency Managers and politicians don’t like to think of it this way, and often simplistically (and wrongly in my view) present it to the public as a “err on the side of caution with few consequences” kind of thing, in fact when you evacuate an area you are disrupting society, and that carries with it both economic and human life consequences, especially for the elderly, infirm, and at the lower end of the economic spectrum for whom there is little safety net.  If you dig into the mortality statistics, every evacuation has killed people.  The gamble is that you are saving more people than you are killing.

In recent years, with the move away from a “civil defense” approach to emergency management and towards a more “law enforcement” based approach, larger and larger populations are included in evacuations.  I’ve discussed this before: the current philosophy in the US is that you want to get all “non essential” people out of disaster areas until basic services are restored (electricity, streets clear, internet and cable TV back on 😛 ).  In other words, to be blunt, the risk threshold has been changed from “life and limb” to “irritable and inconvenienced.” So emergency managers have fallen in to the habit of pretty widespread evacuations.  I think this is a bad thing in general, but that’s a longer discussion.  In the world with the SARS-COV-2 virus running around, whether that is a good approach or not is irrelevant: it has become potentially deadly.

In a pandemic, you want individuals to severely limit contact with people outside their immediate circle, to avoid spreading the disease.  This is the basic concept behind “social distancing” and limiting travel:  every additional person you come in to close contact with, be it from breathing the same air or touching the same surface, you increase your chances of getting – and spreading – the virus.  This is especially true for travel.  You really don’t want people traveling outside their immediate communities.  Even one person can cause an explosive outbreak, as was seen in the Albany Georgia area.  So you can see how an evacuation is absolutely incompatible with trying to keep a pandemic under control.  Scattering people across the region (and in fact country), traveling by car (which means rest room visits, stopping to eat, and so forth, in multiple locations) staying in crowded shelters or hotels, then bringing them back together a few days or week later, is probably the worst possible thing you could do.

So, what should emergency managers do, and what should the general public do?  My suggestion is to go back to basics.  What is your risk from physical harm?  And for that, we need to go back to the basic rule of thumb with respect to hurricanes: the majority of deaths are from storm surge and inland riverine flooding.  Especially for weaker storms (Cat 1 or 2), wind is not such a direct threat to life if you live in a reasonably well buillt home (although having a tree fall on your house is terrifying, and potentially deadly, we’re talking about overall statistics here).  So the cardinal rule is “evacuate from water, shelter from wind” with the caveat that for mobile homes, almost any winds above tropical storm strength are potentially deadly, so they need to seek shelter.

And this is where additional planning needs to take place.  In recent years there has been a trend in coastal counties to not open local shelters.  This should change.  Now.  There is absolutely no reason why, in Chatham County GA for example, there should not be shelters in-county for category 1 and tropical storm purposes. Yes, absolutely, we need to get people off the islands and out of mobile homes.  But sending them far inland is a problem.  In a COVID19 world this becomes more critical, as we really don’t want people having to travel great distances to crowded shelters and exposing themselves to people outside the community – both for their safety and ours.

For Category 2 it becomes a bit dicey but evacuating the county makes sense, and for a direct Category 3 landfall potential clearly the entire county should go, even in a potential pandemic.  Bypassing storms such as we have had in recent years are always tricky.  In all cases, however, the focus needs to be on the potential conditions in the county rather than the conditions in the storm.  Just because it is a Category 2 hurricane offshore doesn’t mean it represents a Category 2 threat to the county.

Special needs populations like the elderly, those with immune problems or other physical issues like needing oxygen, etc., have special considerations.   But, again, evacuate from water, shelter from wind is the cardinal rule, but with the twist that you need to be aware of the potential for longer term power outages as being a threat to life.  If you are in a vulnerable location, by all means get out. In that case, if you have to evacuate, again try to stay in a known environment close to home.  But the normal, usually minimized risks of stress and travel for the elderly are now compounded by the risk from COVID-19, moving the needle a bit more towards staying (if in a secure structure with supplies, considering power needs).

So the basic rules are: if in a flood zone, get out; the risk from the storm is greater than the risk from the virus.  If in a mobile home, same advice.  If in a reasonably well constructed house outside the flood zone, shelter in place up to Category two winds.  By the way, now is the time to do some limb trimming, and if there is a dead/diseased tree nearby, think about that.  Also pay particular attention to cleaning up potential sources of wind blown debris – lawn furniture, that junk in your backyard you’ve been meaning to get rid of, etc.  Don’t wait to the last minute.

In most cases following the advice of your local emergency managers is the best thing to do. Some (hopefully all) are rethinking their plans, such as those in Florida, are publicly and proactively modifying their plans.   Hurricane planning is unpleasant to think about in most years, but the COVID-19 outbreak makes it even more critical that you assess your individual situation and risks, and have a plan as to where you will go and what you will do.   And figure out how much of your carefully hoarded toilet paper to take with you 😛 !

Economic implications of reopening: balancing the damage

It didn’t have to be this way.  SARS appeared in 2003.  Since then there has been a lot of research, and some previous “warning shots” (MERS, 2012) that clearly said “get ready.”  But it’s worse than that: after 9/11, the potential for biological warfare based terrorism was a extensively studied and considered. Money was spent, plans were suggested, little action was taken. So at least three administrations have dropped the ball on pandemic planning (and those plans that did exist were largely ignored).  Even worse was what has happened this year.  We had  over two months of solid intel (and credible reports of more than three) that something bad was on the way.  The present administration did virtually nothing.  The Congress, who gets much of the same intel, did nothing.  Yes, Presidential leadership would have been optimal, and President Trump’s administration Failed, but I didn’t see reports of stacks of legislation being sent to his desk, and much of a response would have had to come from the legislative end of Pennsylvania Ave.  So in short, the Legislative and Executive branches of the US Government, both political parties, failed the American people.  Very little can be argued about that except by die hard partisans.

Next, after the gross under-reaction, there was an arguable overreaction in some ways.  Measured, targeted approaches of shutting down “high contact” activities while preserving other less risky commercial activities were not taken: a one size fits all “shut it all down” approach was the norm – cause in part by the lack of testing and/or plans.  States imposed their will on municipalities, when stronger or weaker measures may have been appropriate depending on the locale. But politics aside, those kinds of targeted actions require technical things that the US just doesn’t have:  a coherent and reliable testing, tracking, and isolation system.

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The looming political and economic crisis (editorial)

I see a lot of people who are viewing the economic impacts of the SARS-COV-2 outbreak as an opportunity for change. Across the political spectrum activists for various causes are practically salivating over the opportunity to use the crisis to implement their favorite agendas.

  • Climate change? Great! The crashing oil markets are the perfect time to act!
  • Social Justice? Great! The economic and health system disparities made clear by the virus are the perfect time to act!
  • Iran? Great! Their weakened state, internal unrest, along with the insulation of a down oil market, make this the perfect time to act!
  • China? Great! Their weakened state, internal unrest, anger over their handling of the the crisis make this the perfect time to act!

The list seems endless. And all of those forces are interacting in the political process, slowing down economic interventions in the real economy (the Fed and other reserve banks are propping up the markets, but I hope most people realize that the stock and bond markets are no longer much related to the real economy). There’s just one problem: all of the potential for change is potentially delusional.

It seems pretty obvious that the global political and economic system is on the verge of a cascading collapse, probably merely weeks or at best months away. I have discussed this with several colleagues, and while we are coming at it from different directions (some from economics, some from geopolitics) we end up in the same place. And that should give everyone some pause. What will be the trigger? There so many to choose from it’s hard to say. In the US, tens of thousands of small businesses are on the verge of failure. Those businesses all have mortgages, pay rents, pay taxes, buy stuff from other businesses – as do their employees. Once those go, the domino effect (zipper effect, whatever you want to call it) will rapidly lock up or even collapse the entire financial system, especially state and local governments dependent on tax revenues. Consider one small, often overlooked aspect: that welfare benefits are distributed using the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system. That uses debit cards to provide benefits to recipients. What happens if banks stop extending credit and the electronic money system becomes restrictive or locks up? What happens if grocery stores can’t accept EBTdue to their own credit issues or delays in state payments? Millions of people in the US would suddenly be cut off. In areas where the EBT has been disrupted for even 24-48 hours, social unrest (rioting, looting, etc) has rapidly ensued. That these happened in isolated, urban high crime areas means they didn’t capture the public attention, but if that happens nationally … well, it will be ugly. I could terrify you with various geopolitical scenarios as well. Most of these are of “low” probability (some 1 in 5, some 1 in 10), but when you have a bunch of “low” probability events, the chances of one of them happening start to approach 1.0. And they all end up in the same place: something happens that causes the fragile, overly interconnected and over leveraged credit and financial system to go into a death spiral. Once it happens, it will be hard or impossible to stop, given that if any one “trigger” happens, like a string of firecrackers it will set the others off. So that brings us to this:

There isn’t time to use this crisis to craft some wonderful transition to a brave new (Marxist, Progressive, Green, NeoCapitalist, ‘Murican!, Libertarian, whatever) world. We have to stop the collapse at all costs and buy time. Or none of those things will mean anything.  The Congress is set to pass a boost in funding to the Paycheck Protection Program and some other tweaks today.  It is woefully inadequate by an order of magnitude (trillions are needed, not hundreds of billions).  Even re-opening is not likely to help at this stage (even assuming there are not repercussions or fall “second wave”).

If the system collapses, no matter what the trigger, there won’t be any opportunities for change. Yes, we need to move to something more sustainable.  If we get past this crisis that will take on even more urgency because it is doubtful we will get another chance. To use a medical analogy, the patient is in about to go into cardiac arrest; we can worry about diet and exercise when we get the heart beating again.  But for now, we need to stop pushing for the next thing until we can have some confidence there will even be a next thing …

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Analysis: why we have no idea what is going on with COVID19

To continue the previous point that the COVID-19 data is problematic (scientific word for “sucks”), the results over the last few days just reinforces the fact that doing quantitative analysis on something where the quality is so bad is frustrating at best, and misleading at worst.  And that has enormous policy implications.

Why is this? We need to know at least three key values to get a handle on this pandemic:

  1. The number of people who have died from it (how bad is it?);
  2. The number of people who got it and were spreading it (how infectious is it?);
  3. The total number of people who have been exposed to it to a sufficient degree to either beat it or got sick (how far along in the pandemic we are?).

There are some other “great to know” data points, but these are the absolutely essential numbers we need to have at least some level of confidence in to decide things like what mitigation measures are required, if the pandemic is tapering off,, and when (and under what conditions) it is safe to “reopen”.  The problem is we should have almost zero confidence in any of these three numbers.

Take something ‘simple’ like the number of people who have died. Should be simple: someone died from an ACUTE onset respiratory disease.  You test for the SARS-COV-2 virus, and if that is positive, you can call it COVID-19.  This is vital to have nailed down, because that tells us how bad this thing is.  Yet we don’t know that number with any degree of confidence. As noted previously, the testing situation is a nightmare and getting worse, not better.  There hasn’t been enough testing, so in many cases the diagnosis is based only on symptoms.  The testing itself is problematic, and the newer, fast tests are of really dubious accuracy (as bad as only 30% by some studies).  There are no universally applied standards, and no uniformly collected and available data sets, for what is and isn’t a SARS-COV-2 primary cause of death.

So the bottom line is that plots like this:

showing the deaths per 10,000 people, are nearly worthless for decision making at this point.  Look at what happened to the New York numbers last week, when they arbitrarily changed their selection criteria.  The other two via questions, how many people have it and are actively spreading it, much less how many have already been exposed and beaten it, are even less usable: no reliable testing, no standardized criteria.  That’s not to say we can’t extrapolate, interpolate, and try to draw some actionable conclusions – we have to do that no matter how bad the data.  I’ts just that this data is way noisier than it should be, and thus the decision making is far more uncertain and risky than it needs to be.

This is the sad and embarrassing situation in the US.  Other western countries like Iceland, Denmark, Germany are in vastly better shape with respect to what is going on.  The US, despite much greater resources, is a mess due to a fragmented political structures (local vs. states vs federal), and the convoluted health care delivery system.

And no reliable information means that decisions are arbitrary and driven by politics, not science.  And before one side or the other claims the mantle of “good science”, that applies to both parties – the shoddy foundation for this sad situation has been laid by administrations of both parties over the last 40 years.  There was an opportunity, after the end of the Cold War, to take care of many social and structural issues that had been subsumed by that conflict.  Instead, both parties squandered the opportunity.  Disasters like this were, and are, inevitable.

Time to be blunt: the data sucks.

Good information is vital for decision making.  With respect to the ongoing pandemic, leaders and internet experts alike in the US are analyzing the numbers, doing projections, making plans, not to mention news outlets scaring the poop out of people with “death counters” and “breaking news” of new numbers.  There is just one problem: all of this is based on numbers that are so noisy they are almost useless. And there are powerful political forces in both “tribes” driving the data in to places it doesn’t want to go – something much easier to do with bad data.

Yes, often you have to work with data that is noisy. Experts do it all the time. But I can’t recall seeing so much analysis, decisions, and opinions rendered on vital subjects on data that is so crappy – often by people with little to no experience in dealing with noisy data.

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Frustration with data and politics; updated charts (15 April 2020)

In many parts of Europe, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Denmark (added to the chart), which took early action, is reopening schools and day care for kids under 11, as it appears their response has things under control.  It is interesting to compare the Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, as each took different approaches to societal restrictions.  I’m sure many papers will be written!  Spain seems to have hit the inflection point of their curve, but while cases are down, the death rate in Italy continues to climb.  This might be a data and recording problem – their system was so overwhelmed deaths are just now being recorded that happened days ago.

In the US, it’s hard to tell what is going on.  Testing and data tracking in this country is an embarrassment for a so called developed country.  Continue reading

Spirit, Speak Comfort To Me!

OK, before someone gets upset I’m not taking the current crisis seriously, don’t misunderstand: this is a serious situation. But there is no cause to lose our sense of humor or be grim. Yes, we must take action, but no, it’s not the end of the world (unless you’re a nurse or doctor, then it might feel like it for a couple of weeks).  I’ll crunch the numbers downthread and it’s not as bad as you might think if you keep perspective.  But do not doubt the sad fact that the US health care system can’t really keep up with a normal flu season; there is no way it can handle a rapid influx of respiratory patients. That is why COVID19 is so dangerous, and why everyone needs to take it seriously, following the CDC guidelines, limit interactions outside your immediate household (aka social distancing), keep strict hygiene protocols, and otherwise doing everything you can to try to slow down the rate of spread. It’s more than likely not about you. It’s about that 1% of so of the population who will get very sick, and may not get enough care because the system will be overloaded.

Here’s the latest analysis.  First, please, please, please, stop obsessing on every blip in the numbers!  They are not “skyrocketing” or whatever inflammatory phrase the media is using at the moment. Second, the absolute numbers don’t matter.  Yes, each and every one is a life, and a tragedy.  But what matters in terms of risk is the denominator: how many people are getting sick and passing away in terms of what size group?  Losing 100 people in Chatham County (pop about 290,000) is very different from losing 100 people in New York City (pop 8.6 million).  Don’t compare them.  It’s mortality per unit population that matters – and how fast that mortality happens.  Please stop feeding the beast by quoting and hyping how many deaths per day without context.  It’s not helpful, and causing people far more stress than is appropriate.

Time for some math: deaths from the virus are progressing along what is known as a logistic function.  This type of function was originally developed for use in population growth, but has found it’s way in to many other fields.  In biology, this is sometimes called a carrying capacity curve.  We are entering the scary part of that curve.  Here’s what the curve looks like with data for several areas as of 24 March 2020.  The black line is a theoretical curve that represents an estimate of how things might progress.  The grey line is for comparison, the 2017 H3N2 flu progression speeded up by a factor of 5.  The dots represent actual data as of the totals for yesterday as reported this morning.  Click to embiggen …

 

Of these, China (grey +) and Iran (blue o)  look weird.  I suspect those numbers are “munged.”  But Spain (red dots) and Italy (green dots), which are the farthest along of societies that might resemble the US, seem ok.  (South Korea is even further down the curve, but they took very early intervention, and have more hospital surge capacity than the US, so may not be a good analog).  New York is the cyan triangles that are hard to see because  it’s just starting to creep along the curve – about day 25 or so.  The next 20 days will be very scary – you can see that is the steepest part of the curve, and people will talk about doubling times, and extrapolation the daily rates far beyond the point where they will start to  settle down.

Where will it end?  The latest projections are that the US will see between 50 and 90 thousand deaths.  (2017 saw 61 thousand H3N2 influenza deaths – but over 6 months, not 6 weeks!).  New York will likely see upwards of 5 thousand (currently 200 or so).  Smaller communities will also see a rapid rise in deaths that, without context, will seem terrifying. Expect the health care system to be in crisis, and please do what you can to support the medical community.  This will be horrific for them.  Chatham County, Georgia hospitals, which serve about 400,000 people, will likely see nearly 1,000 respiratory cases, of which 100 may die, all in the next three weeks.  But again, by the end of April, most parts of the country should be at the upper end of the curve, with the deaths per day decreasing.

How soon will we know if that is our future, or something worse?  Italy should be at near their peak.  I expect that by early next week we will see a downward trend in their numbers, followed by Spain 4-5 days later.  If by the 1st of April Italy is still recording 700 or more per day, that will be a source of concern.  Will update the graph this weekend … meanwhile, don’t hoard TP like this guy.

How bad is Italy (ok, one more COVID post this week).

As of the final totals from yesterday, 22 March 2020, there have been 5476 deaths from SARS-COV-2 in Italy. To put that in perspective, in the 2013/14 influenza season, there were 7027 excess deaths due to influenza recorded. In 2014/15, a  20,259 deaths were attributed to that outbreak, while in the worse recent year, 2016/17, 24,981 died from influenza. (from Rosano et al, Int. J. Infections Diseases, Vol 88, Nov 2019, pp 127-134).

Yes, COVID19 is different in how fast cases are coming, but not in whole population mortality. The speed of progression seems to be about 4 and 6 times that of influenza, and that is producing a HUGE strain on the system. But the outcomes have yet to approach a bad influenza outbreak. The present rate of the last three days of 690/day will have to continue for another 28 days to reach the 2016/17 flu season toll. I’d be very surprised if the rates don’t start to drop soon. If they haven’t dropped in Italy in two weeks, maybe then it’s time to worry, but for now, things seem on track for this to be a “flu season in 6 weeks” virus. Catastrophic for the health care system, but not a big deal in whole population terms. In economic terms, that’s a whole different question …

To repeat from yesterday: The US health care system can’t really keep up with a normal flu season; there is no way it can handle a rapid influx. That is why COVID19 is so dangerous, and why everyone needs to take it seriously, following the CDC guidelines, exercising social distancing and hygiene protocols, and otherwise doing everything you can to try to slow down the rate of spread. It’s more than likely not about you. It’s about that 1% of so of the population who will get very sick, and may not get enough care because the system will be overloaded.  Fixating on every up or down tick in the numbers, and chasing down every wild number or wild theory making the rounds is just not sensible or conducive to sanity.  My advice is to be careful, keep watch over those around you, take advantage of the time off as you can, check the news maybe once a day to see if anything has really changed as to what you should do, but don’t drive yourself crazy hitting refresh; this is a slow motion disaster. April will be the cruelest month – but by the last week things should be looking up.

What a fashionable Italian Cat might look like.