Sunday, May 24, 2020

New York Times: An Incalculable Loss

Link to the 1,000 names, one percent of those who have died in the United States from Covid-19, from February 29 to May 24: An Incalculable Loss.

Some examples, in order by age:

• Torrin Jamal Howard, 26, Waterbury, Conn., gentle giant, athlete and musician

• Ijeoma Afuke, 35, Chicago, Nigerian immigrant studying to become a nurse
• Oscar López Acosta, 42, Morrow County, Ohio, died after being released from ICE detention

• Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, 54, New York City, beloved public school teacher

• Frank Gabrin, 60, New York City, emergency room doctor who died in husband’s arms

• Nancy Ferguson, 77, Chicago, true community activist

• Alan F. Krupp, 83, Newton, Mass., quoted Longfellow and Tennyson from memory

• Margit Buchhalter Feldman, 90, Somerset, N.J., survivor who taught about the Holocaust

• Romi Cohn, 91, New York City, saved 56 Jewish families from the Gestapo

• Joseph Feingold, 97, New York City, architect and Holocaust survivor

• Genowefa Kochanek, 98, Massachusetts, survived the German invasion and occupation of Poland during World War II

• Philip Kahn, 100, Westbury, N.Y., World War II veteran whose twin died in the Spanish Flu epidemic a century ago

• Eve Rudin, 103, Philadelphia, one of the first women of her generation to drive a car

• Luther Coleman, 108, Evergreen Park, Ill., man who seemed to know everything

Friday, May 22, 2020

Spread of COVID-19 in Tompkins County

I live in Tompkins County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York state (I'm currently not there, due to Covid, but I'll be back soon). The number of people who have tested positive for COVID is quite low - 148 out of a total of 8221 tests (as of today, May 22, 2020) - a rate of 1.8%, which i slow. Out of the positive tests, 124 have recovered. (See this chart from the Tompkins County Health Department). There is currently only person hospitalized for Covid, and two people have died in Ithaca of Covid (they were brought here from New York City). The charts in this post are from Covid Act Now, and this is their About page explaining who they are:

One of our 16 ICU beds is currently occupied by someone with COVID, and two are occupied by people with other ailments, leaving 13 unused, so if there a surge of COVID in the county, we do have some capacity to treat people.

Our infection rate, however, which was below 1 on May 4, rose to 1.5 on May 6, and is now about 1.46 (meaning that a person who has COVID is theoretically infection about 1.5 people). An infection rate below 1 means that the number of people who get the virus is steadily decreasing.

COVID Act Now, from which I am getting this information and the charts, says that "the total number of cases in Tompkins County, New York, is growing exponentially." (See chart below). Should we be worrying about this?

On the New York state tracker, the Southern Tier, which includes Tompkins County, has been given the go-ahead to cautiously start opening up, but below is the summary for Tompkins County from Covid Act Now. According to them the overall Covid risk is elevated (the highest level). I just checked all of the other counties in the state that they have sufficient data to give a score to, and Tompkins County has the highest infection rate in the state.

Further information:

The Ithaca Voice, a local online only publication, sends out a Covid-19 brief every day, including the daily report from the Tompkins County Health Department. They include useful graphs along with the TCHD report. These are the two latest ones, from today:

Our highest days of hospitalizations were throughout the month of April, and there's currently only one person hospitalized.

At the beginning, from mid-March up through early April, we had a pretty quick rise in cases, but it's been much slower since then.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothers' Day, May 9, 2020 - Heather Cox Richardson

Today is Mother's Day, as everyone knows. I just read Heather Cox Richardson's daily "Letter from an American," in which she writes about the history of what was originally Mothers' Day (plural, not singular). She presents the origin of Mothers' Day as a struggle for peace, by mothers, after the devastation of the American Civil War and the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. The day did not originate as a glorification of traditional motherhood, but as an entry into the political realm, mobilizing women to oppose war. That's useful to remember today, when at least in the US, Mother's Day (in the singular) is mostly celebrated as a praise for individual mothers and in the public sphere, as a way to extol motherhood and in particular the sacrifices women make as mothers.

Since she urges people to share her words, I'm doing that here. This is a link to her Substack journal for today
May 9, 2020
Heather Cox Richardson 
If you google the history of Mother’s Day, the internet will tell you that Mother’s Day began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis decided to honor her mother. But “Mothers’ Day”—with the apostrophe not in the singular spot, but in the plural—actually started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced American women that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage. Mothers’ Day was not designed to encourage people to be nice to their mothers. It was part of women’s effort to gain power to change modern society. 
The Civil War years taught naïve Americans what mass death meant in the modern era. Soldiers who had marched off to war with fantasies of heroism discovered that long-range weapons turned death into tortured anonymity. Men were trampled into blood-soaked mud, piled like cordwood in ditches, or transformed into emaciated corpses after dysentery drained their lives away. 
The women who had watched their men march off to war were haunted by its results. They lost fathers, husbands, sons. The men who did come home were scarred in body and mind. 
Modern war, it seemed, was not a game. 
But out of the war also came a new sense of empowerment. Women had bought bonds, paid taxes, raised money for the war effort, managed farms, harvested fields, worked in war industries, reared children, and nursed soldiers. When the war ended, they had every intention of continuing to participate in national affairs. But the Fourteenth Amendment, which established that African American men were citizens, did not include women. In 1869, women organized the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association and the American Woman’s Suffrage Association to promote women’s right to have a say in American government. 
From her home in Boston, Julia Ward Howe was a key figure in the American Woman’s Suffrage Association. She was an enormously talented writer, who had penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic in the early years of the Civil War, a hymn whose lyrics made it a point to note that Christ was “born of woman.” 
Howe was drawn to women’s rights because the laws of her time meant that her children belonged to her abusive husband. If she broke free of him, she would lose any right to see her children, a fact he threw at her whenever she threatened to leave him. She was not at first a radical in the mold of reformer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, believing that women had a human right to equality with men. Rather, she believed strongly that women, as mothers, had a special role to perform in the world. 
For Howe, the Civil War had been traumatic, but that it led to emancipation might justify its terrible bloodshed. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 was another story. She remembered: 
"I was visited by a sudden feeling of the cruel and unnecessary character of the contest. It seemed to me a return to barbarism, the issue having been one which might easily have been settled without bloodshed. The question forced itself upon me, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone know and bear the cost?” 
Howe had a new vision, she said, of “the august dignity of motherhood and its terrible responsibilities.” She sat down immediately and wrote an “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World.” Men always had and always would decide questions by resorting to “mutual murder.” But women did not have to accept this state of affairs, she wrote. Mothers could command their sons to stop the madness. 
"Arise, women! Howe commanded. Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” 
Howe had her document translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish, and distributed it as widely as her extensive contacts made possible. She believed that her Women’s Peace Movement would be the next great development in human history, ending war just as the anti-slavery movement had ended human bondage. She called for a “festival which should be observed as mothers’ day, and which should be devoted to the advocacy of peace doctrines” to be held around the world on June 2 of every year, a date that would permit open-air meetings. 
Howe organized international peace conferences and American states developed their own Mothers’ Day festivals. But Howe quickly gave up on her project. She realized that there was much to be done before women could come together on such a momentous scale. She turned her attention to women’s clubs “to constitute a working and united womanhood.” 
As she worked to unite women, she threw herself into the struggle for women’s suffrage, understanding that in order to create a more just and peaceful society, women must take up their rightful place as equal participants in American politics. 
Perhaps Anna Jarvis remembered seeing her mother participate in an original American Mothers’ Day when she decided to honor her own mother in the early twentieth century. And while we celebrate modern Mother’s Day in this momentous year of 2020, it’s worth remembering the original Mothers’ Day, and Julia Ward Howe’s conviction that women must make their voices heard.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Flowers, and bad news - updated

On a day of bad news, some flowers.

But then the government disavowed the report from its own CDC (WaPo): Government report predicts Covid-19 cases will reach 200,000 a day by June 1, 2020.

In any case, the official government estimate of eventual deaths, which Trump has been talking about, is 100,000 (he recently raised this from 60,000, and we're going to reach 70,000 by later today).

And what is his estimate based on?
The forecast is at odds with remarks made Sunday evening by President Trump, who said the United States could eventually suffer as many as 100,000 deaths. At 3,000 deaths per day and rising, the national total would quickly outstrip that number if the new report is correct.

A senior White House official said the document would not change the White House planning on reopening.

White House officials have been relying on other models to make decisions on reopening, including the IHME model and a “cubic model” prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, led by Trump adviser Kevin Hassett.
People with knowledge of the “cubic model” say it currently shows deaths dropping precipitously in May — and essentially going to zero by May 15.
The IHME projection is incorrect, and has been incorrect for quite a while. They are currently projecting a total of 72,433 deaths in the US by August 4. There will most probably be 72,433 deaths by this Wednesday. I simply do not understand why they have not redone their model to come more in contact with reality.

Their projection for deaths in New York State by August 4 is 24,314. As of today, according to Worldometer, 24,874 people have died in New York.

The "cubic model" was created by economists, not by medical experts and epidemiologists. The death rate in the US will not go to zero by next Friday.

Update - the IHME has just changed their projection.
Projection of total deaths in the US by August 4: 134,475
Explanation of changes:
New projection for New York State: 32,132.

And some more flowers: