Boris Johnson responded to the news that a movie chain is closing by urging Britons to go to the movies. Or in British, go to the cinema. But the closure’s only temporary, so presumably your patriotic visit to the cinema can also be temporary.
So can your exposure to the Covid virus.
How does going to the movies fit with the world-beating, Covid-containing rule of six that the government keeps explaining to us? As usual it’s simpler than you moaners are trying to make it sound. You can’t get together with more than six people at your house. Or at theirs. Or at the pub. Or outdoors. You can’t mix socially or go to the movies together. But you can go to the movies with, say, twenty-five strangers if you all happen to go to the same show. And if you happened to meet 24 ½ of your closest friends at the movies by accident, that would be okay because the accidental nature of the gathering keeps the virus from spreading.
Virii are methodical little beasts. Throw a few random moves at them, like running into 24 ½ friends at the movies, and they get confused. Throw popcorn at your friends to remind yourself of what friendship and community used to feel like and the virii will be knocked out of their orbits.
And there’ll be those empty seats between you, which may genuinely help, although more and more evidence is landing on the side of nearly weightless aerosols dancing the virus through the air of enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces, in which case an empty seat may not be enough.
Irrelevant photo: mallow
Masks do help. The question is, will people keep them on in the dark while they eat their popcorn.
Remember that the rule of six is a guideline, not a law.
Or maybe it’s a law, not a guideline.
Oh, hell, no one knows anyway. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy the show.
Scotland’s Covid app isn’t the same as England’s. It’s called Protect Scotland, and–have I mentioned that the apps have glitches? A man downloaded it, picked up a ping, picked up another ping, and–I won’t take you through all the details–eventually figured out that the app thought he could catch the virus through the floor from the guy downstairs. Who must either levitate or be extremely tall and store his phone on his head to get within two meters of the upstairs phone, which (I’m going to assume) doesn’t live on the floorboards.
Or maybe the neighbor stores his phone on a top shelf. And the downstairs phone does live on the floorboards.
Anyway, I keep reading that the apps have glitches, but I wouldn’t have predicted that one.
Speaking of glitches, the one that disappeared some 16,000 positive Covid test results from England’s test and trace system may have been caused by a size limit on the files Excel spreadsheets can accept. Send anything more and it smiles serenely and cuts off whatever’s at the bottom of the file.
Problem solved, at least from its point of view.
Excel’s habits aren’t news. In 2013, it masked a loss of–oh, something like $6 billion from JP Morgan’s books. So yes, this could’ve been predicted.
The test and trace contract, by the way, is up for renewal. Given how expensively it’s been screwed up, I’m going to bet they’ll renew it.
The Bounce Back scheme, which was supposed to help small businesses survive the pandemic, may have been scammed out of £1.9 billion. The government was warned ahead of time–twice–that it was a vulnerable program but decided to go ahead.
And Britain’s five biggest banks will make £1 billion out of it. Legally.
Another £238 million will be spent on work coaches to help people who lost their jobs in the pandemic by coaching them on interviews, CVs, and moving into growing sectors. You know growing sectors, like, um, hang on. Work coaching. That’s a field where they’re hiring.
More evidence is landing on the side of Covid not spreading via contaminated surfaces. Scientists aren’t saying it’s impossible, just that it’s not the root of the spread.
Yes, it’s still worthwhile washing your hands obsessively, and it may be worthwhile disinfecting the groceries and boiling the mail before you so much as look at it, but the real danger is in sharing poorly ventilated spaces with our fellow human creatures.
The London Marathon was supposed to happen last April but it was postponed until October 4 because of the pandemic, and somewhere in between those two dates they decided to make it a virtual marathon. A handful of top runners will follow the marathon’s route and have what used to be called a race.
What do we call it now? I’m not sure. The language tested positive the other day, but it’s a beautiful, beautiful language and it’s only in the hospital because there were some people here who wanted to be cautious. Very, very cautious.
The test’s fake anyway. The virus is a fake.
But with all that hospital equipment beeping, it’s hard to remember words. So never mind what we call it these days. It used to be a race. A very beautiful race.
Where were we?
All the other runners will do their miles wherever they happen to be–Cornwall, Australia, it doesn’t matter–and log their time onto an app, which will take their word for it and give them a medal.
Okay, the app won’t give them the medal. It has humans to do that for it.
This being Britain, a certain number of the participants will run in costume, which could be anything from a tutu to a telephone box. If you’ll click the link, you’ll see someone running in a 10 kilo a rhino costume. That’s 22 pounds, or to put it simply, a shitload of weight to go running in, especially since she has to hunch forward inside there and can’t see very well. And that’s just when she’s in training. On the day of the actual marathon, her husband will be on hand to steer her around trash barrels and gawping kids.
Irrelevant photo: This flower is orange. You’re welcome.
A third of Britain is living with tighter-than-the-national Covid restrictions because of a localized rise in case numbers. And what really matters in all of this is who’s to blame.
Boris Johnson blames the public’s “fraying discipline.” It has nothing to do with the government having encouraged people over the summer to travel, eat out, drink out, get out with their wallets in hand, or with guidelines and laws so murky that Johnson got them wrong when he explained how simple they were. Or with its own advisors (and more recently an MP) breaking them. Or with a heroically useless test and trace system.
The mayor of one affected area, Middlesbrough, said the new measures were based on “factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance. . . . We do not accept these measures.”
Cases have managed to double in the majority of cities and towns under the tighter restrictions. I don’t have a start date for that–the restrictions started at different times in different areas–but it ended on September 20.
The best educated guess on why they haven’t been effective is that the rules are confusing and that the communities and their leaders haven’t been involved and don’t support them. Plus that when you try to talk about what’s wrong with the test and trace system the discussion quickly falls off the edge of the English language.
Okay. The expert whose opinion I’m paraphrasing, Chris Ham, said the test and trace system was “still not working well enough.” But I’m channeling what he really thinks. You know I am.
Serious, labor-intensive contact tracing in two Indian states shows that just a few events were responsible for a disproportionate number of Covid infections. It also suggests that, contrary to what’s generally been thought, children transmit the virus quite efficiently, thanks. Every time I read a study about kids and transmission, it contradicts that last one, so let’s not rest too much weight on that frail bridge, just acknowledge that it’s all still preliminary.
Still, this is the biggest epidemiological study of the spread so far.
What they found is that 8% of the people they followed caused 60% of the infections. The things that seem to separate an event from a superspreader event are how close people are to someone who’s infected, how long they’re close, and how good the ventilation is.
Contact tracers followed 78 people who’d been on a bus or train with one lone infected person, sitting within three rows of them for more than six hours, and found that 80% of them had gotten the virus. In lower-risk environments–being in the same room but three feet away–only 1.6% got the virus.
Kids between the age of five and seventeen passed the virus on to 18% of the close contacts in their own age groups. That’s not exactly parallel information–how close, how long, how well or badly ventilated, or what percent of adults passed it on to close contacts –so it doesn’t tell us whether they’re passing the bug along as efficiently as their older, wiser, creakier relatives, but what the hell, it’s information. I thought I’d throw it at you.
The study also doesn’t answer the question of whether any biological factors separate your average infected person from your superspreader.
Back at the start of the pandemic, the British government set up a loan program to help businesses survive. The British Business Bank warned that it was vulnerable to being scammed by people setting up fake businesses.
Actually, not just vulnerable to: at high risk of. The British Business Bank is state owned and was supposed to supervise the program, and it sounded the warning twice.
And surprise, surprise, exactly what they warned of has happened, although I don’t think anyone knows yet how often, or how much money the government’s on the hook for because of it. What I’ve seen so far is anecdotal–the ”someone stole my name to steal money from the government” sort of thing. But I thought you might need cheering up by now, so I wanted to mention it.
A new study of Covid spread and singing is drawing from “faith communities” to find its participants. I’m putting that in quotes because on the one hand it manages to include every religion you can think of and several you can’t, so it’s useful, but on the other hand it sounds so prim and tippy-toed that I want to throw crockery at it. So I’ll use the phrase and disown it at the same time.
I just hate when people do that. Which is why I’m spending more time explaining it than I am talking about the study.
Other than its focus on religious groups, the study’s inclusive: It’ll involve people from a range of heights, sizes, sexes, ages, and ethnicities. Also with and without hairy faces in case any of that affects things. They’ll sing at different volumes, chant, or hum, using assorted face coverings, while lasers measure the aerosols they spray out.
These days I do all my singing from inside the large plastic wheelie bin that the county supplies for green waste recycling. With the lid down. As long as the green waste guys don’t come when I’m singing and the neighbors don’t get together to push me down the hill and into the ocean, it’s perfectly safe.
It seems to be accepted at this point that Covid can catch a ride on the aerosols that we breathe out when we do all those noisy, communicative things that human evolution has given us, but it’s not clear to what extent aerosol-borne germs actually spread the disease.
What is known is that aerosols travel more than six feet–the magic distance that’s supposed to keep us all safe from other people’s germs. The six-foot recommendation was based on the larger particles–droplets–which fall to the ground relatively close to the breathing, singing, humming source. But aerosols can hang in the air for hours. They hold dances up there. They run marathons in rhinoceros costumes.
Okay, we don’t know what they do up there, or how dangerous it is to us. All we know for sure is that ventilation is a good thing. So are air purifying systems.
Mind you, I don’t know what qualifies as an air purifying system and I’m not in a hurry to take any non-expert’s word on it. I do know that open windows work. I also know that in a Minnesota January open windows aren’t as simple a solution as they are in June.
An article in Journal of General Internal Medicine surveyed 28 experts in vaccinology (yes, there is such a thing) and on an average they thought a vaccine would be available to the general public (this would be in the US or Canada) at the earliest in June 2021 but more probably in September or October.
For people at the greatest risk, the soonest would be February but more probably March or April.
But as the great Yogi Berra may or may not have said, “It’s hard to make predictions. Especially about the future.”
Berra also may or may not have said, “I never said half the things I said,” which is why I’m being cautious about attributing that quote to him. Someone will, inevitably, let me know that someone else said it. And they’ll probably be right.
Having Neanderthal genes, as 16% of Europeans, 50% of south Asians, and 0% of Africans do, can make a person three times more likely to need ventilation if they’re infected with Covid.
But Professor Mark Maslin added a however to that: “Lots of different populations are being severely affected, many of which do not have any Neanderthal genes. We must avoid simplifying the causes and impact of Covid-19. . . . Covid-19 is a complex disease, the severity of which has been linked to age, gender, ethnicity, obesity, health, virus load among other things.”