Coronavirus
May 15, 2020

Andrew Sullivan adds some plague perspective: “Get a Grip”

Sullivan, a columnist with New York magazine (and an early blogger – one of the best before it became too great a burden), provides some helpful perspective for our time by comparing it to year of the London plague (one year before the Great Fire):

Historians now rank the 1665 plague as the worst of that century (though much less severe than the Black Death of 1348). By September, as it peaked, there were 7,000 deaths a week. In COVID-19, the fatality rate is around one percent. In London in 1665, in a matter of seven months, around a quarter of the population perished. The number is vague because so many records were destroyed by the Great Fire of London, which broke out a year later. But it’s still staggering. A rough equivalent today would be 4 million deaths in the New York City metro area this year alone — with no real medical care, and people dropping dead on the streets.

Now imagine that after the deaths of those 4 million, much of Manhattan were to be burned to the ground by a massive and uncontrollable fire. That’s what Londoners had to handle in just two years: a pandemic of far greater scope than ours, and a conflagration that amounted to 9/11 several times over. And it was not the end of the world.

In fact, in just a couple of years, the population of the city had rebounded. The massive fire had killed much of the rodent population that had been spreading the fleas behind the plague. London was rebuilt, stone replaced wood, and Christopher Wren was brought in to design and replace the old Saint Paul’s Cathedral and over a dozen other landmarks of the city to this day.

What must have felt like an apocalypse of plague and fire became, with astonishing speed, a new city, forged anew by communal trauma, and soon to be the most powerful capital in the world. And somehow, Pepys lived through all of it, face-to-face with death, and never stopped living, maintaining a stoic cheerfulness and humor throughout. And today, in the richest country on Earth, with medical technology beyond Pepys’s wildest imagination, and a plague killing a tiny fraction of the population, some are wielding weapons in public to protest being asked to stay at home for a few more weeks and keep a social distance. Please. Get a grip.

Full column here.

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Richard Florida’s observation, in M GEN: “The Harsh Future of American Cities”:

Much of our current aversion to crowds will dissipate with time.

… after the 1918–1919 flu pandemic, it took five or six years until people got comfortable taking trains again but that ultimately they did. “There was short-term adaptation and then no long-term change,” Florida said.

This American Experience episode on the 1918 Influenza pandemic takes that observation about trains to its global conclusion: humanity pretty much forgot about the pandemic altogether.  At least it dropped from the storyline of our 20th-century experience, very much secondary to wars, depressions and social changes.  We know dates like 1914, 1929, 1939, 1967 …  but 1918 not so much.

So which kind of date will 2020 be?

 

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Why is Dermot Ryan’s jig – yes, about Covid-19 – worth listening to?

Clever, very clever.

No instruments but it doesn’t matter.

Reminds us how masterful the Irish are at using a language that we may share but not use half as well.

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PT: As predicted, the rationale for more driving (and priorizing road space for it) is underway – this one from our own Bob on whether to keep the Beach flow way:

 

Bob: This Bloomberg article suggests that the last thing we should be doing is removing road space:

…..The auto industry is already seeing a couple of positive signs in this regard. In the first two weeks of April. Cars.com’s unique visitors bounced back from late-March doldrums. According to a recent survey by the vehicle-shopping website, 20% of people searching for a car said they don’t own one and had been using public transit or ride hailing. They might buy a set of wheels to be safer from a pandemic that could linger well into the year, Cars.com Chief Executive Officer Alex Vetter said.

“Covid has pushed more people who don’t own a car to consider purchasing one,” Vetter said by phone. “The primary reason given was to avoid public transit and because of a lack of trust in ride sharing.”…

PT: Maybe if we try we can beat our previous record for carbon emissions.

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Bob Ransford:

Masked like some furtive bandit, fearful of just being outside the four walls of my home with a compromised immune system, I walk along the waterfront as the sun rises in the early morning, trying to find some solace from weeks of mostly solitary confinement.

There are only a few who disturb their slumber so early on these days that seem like working holidays. How could I not acknowledge those who I pass at an adequate social distance? It’s basic human contact. At very least, it’s an acknowledgement that, if the passerby is not hidden behind a mask, I have nothing really to hide from them. If they, too are masked, a good morning greeting is a kindred-like act, admitting a mutual anxiety, a resignation to a certain desperation to survive. A simple “good morning” or a “have a good day” is a declaration that we are one — we are ALL in this together.

Perhaps it’s also a wishful act. Wishing that we will all continue to be “in this together”, with the “this” being the caring for the planet that we all share. Wishing for a togetherness or mutual resolve to face reality and tackle the big challenges that face us all. A mutual resolve that has long been missing. Could this be the dawn of a new reality?

A simple acknowledgment as we pass by each other.

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