With more and more people using Zoom to stay in touch or to hold work meetings, a goat farm, Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Lancashire, has figured out a way to make some money during the lockdown. They’re offering a book-a-goat service for Zoom meetings.
Dot McCarthy, who runs the farm, said, “People are just in hysterics because they’ve sneaked a goat into a business meeting and the boss hasn’t noticed.”
You can even choose your goat. Let’s meet three.
“What to expect from Mary: ambivalence, limited attention span, totally fine peeing in front of you.
“What to expect from Lisa: passive aggressive bleating, ferocious hunger, lack of any form of patience or tolerance of anything.”
To be fair, Lisa was pregnant when they wrote that. She has since had two kids and mellowed out a bit.
“What to expect from Bret: all the energy, all the opinions, none of the substance.”
That’s not pure sex-role stereotyping, even if it sounds like it is. Some of the males are described as lovely, with velvety ears, although the ears may not be a big draw on Zoom.
The cost’s £5.99 for a ten-minute cameo.
Other farms offer Zoom alpaca visits.
Containment and testing in poor countries
You’ll forgive me for a couple of hopeful stories about the pandemic, right? Even if they’re not funny?
Senegal’s working on a testing kit that will cost $1 per patient, doesn’t need a lab, and gives a result in less than ten minutes. Using saliva it will detect current infections and using blood, antibodies from past ones. If the trials go well, it should be in use next month.
The country started planning its response to the pandemic in January, closing its borders and doing intensive contact tracing. Because people tend not to live alone, it organized a bed for every Covid-19 patient, either in a hospital or a community clinic. It’s had 30 deaths out of a population of 16 million. That’s in a country whose gross domestic product was $1,546 per capita in 2018. By way of contrast, the UK’s was $46,827 in 2019. The US’s was $62,794.59 in 2018.
Ghana has used community health workers and volunteers to do contact tracing and tests by combining multiple blood samples and only doing individual tests if the pool tests positive. It’s had 31 deaths in a population of 30 million. It’s gross domestic product is $1,807 per capita.
In various parts of Africa, traditional herbal remedies are being investigated, and one, sweet wormwood, has drawn some attention. The Max Planck Institute in Germany is interested in a different variety of the plant and is doing trials on it.
The Indian state of Kerala has 690 cases and 4 deaths. It has a gross domestic product of £2,200 per capita in–oh, hell, some recent year. Their rapid response team met in January. By the time the first case came in on a plane from Wuhan, they met the plane, sending anyone without a fever home to quarantine themselves, hospitalizing the one who was feverish.
A bit later, the virus did spread (somebody had been in Italy and dodged the checks), and they traced hundreds of contacts and before they contained it.
Repeat the story as workers returned home from the Gulf states and as the country went into lockdown and jobless migrant workers began walking home. They found housing and food for 150,000 migrant workers, and when the lockdown lifted they chartered trains to send them home. They’ve supervised the quarantine of 170,000 people and improvised isolation units for people whose homes don’t have inside toilets.
Shreds of hope
People in the U.K. is also working on a ten-minute test, along with a two-minute test, both using saliva to check for current infections. The test that’s in use right now not only has to be processed in a lab but (if you send for one to use at home) asks you to swab your nostrils and, according to someone who used one, tonsils. Or the place where your tonsils used to be.
I do have tonsils but have no idea where they are. I haven’t heard from them in years. They could be living in Argentina for all I know.
Because so many people are as out of touch with their tonsils as I am (sorry–it’s a sad tale but it has to be told), the test may come back with false negatives as much as 30% of the time. And that’s not just the tests people use at home. Some of the official testing centers are handing people a nine-page booklet and telling them to do the swab themselves. So a test that relies on saliva would be a big step forward. Even I know where my saliva is.
A twenty-minute antibody test is also being worked on.
If you get the sense that everything’s being tried simultaneously, you’re probably right. There has to be a way out of this mess.
A new treatment for the most seriously ill patients is also being tested. It’s based on the observation that the people who get sickest are seriously low on an immune system component called T-cells. The idea is to use interleukin 7 to boost T-cell production.
The observation could also lead to a test predicting who will go on to have the most serious reactions to the virus.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been good about staying in touch with my T-cells. I’m doing what I can to patch up our relationship, though, starting with a card and a heartfelt apology. The tonsil thing, that can happen to anyone and they were at fault as much as I was. But the T-cells, that was me. All I can do is hope they accept the apology.
My card end with, “Multiply like hell, you little bastards.”
Who could resist?
Other news, good and bad and goatless
During the potato famine, the Choctaw Nation heard that people were starving in Ireland and sent $170 to the Society of Friends in Dublin, which was distributing food. That would be about $5,000 in today’s money. Sixteen years before, the Choctaw had been forced off their land and relocated to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears and they’d barely begun to rebuild their lives. But they knew starvation and disease and they sent what they could.
Now Ireland is returning their generosity, even if it’s to a different tribe. Some 24,000 Irish donors have given $820,000 to an online fundraiser to buy food and supplies for the Navajo and Hopi reservations, which have been hit hard by the virus. It will go to people who are raising grandkids, have underlying health conditions, or are positive for the virus.
Thanks to Electrica in the Desert for tweeting this one.
A study of 15,000 patients given hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, or one of those drugs combined with an antibiotic found that with any of those four treatments patients were more likely to die in the hospital (1 in 11 compared to 1 in 6 1 in 5, and 1 in 4).
In the face of a rebellion not just from the opposition (which is to be expected) but from its own MPs, the British government has backed away from charging foreign NHS and care workers a yearly fee to use the National Health Service–£400 per family member per year.
The government spent a day or two arguing that of course it was right to charge them, the money goes into the NHS and the NHS needs it, but at a certain point it was just too embarrassing a position to defend. Government officials must be seen to clap for NHS and care every Thursday at 8 pm. Any politician who skips the 8 pm roll call or shows up but looking less than appreciative is liable to be chopped up and added to Larry the 10 Downing Street Cat’s food bowl.
And if that isn’t enough, NHS and care workers already pay taxes, which are what fund the NHS. Many of them are low paid. They’re risking their lives in the pandemic and are holding the NHS and the care system together.
Enough. That’s ended.
Not the roll call and not their role; the surcharge.