Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.
Hola quarantine buddies,
In dark, uncertain times I’m often comforted by the words of wise people. No, I’m not talking about scholars and philosophers. I take my solace from my Hollywood heroes. Brandon Lee, as The Crow, famously once said “It can’t rain all the time,” a quote that tends to bubble to my brain when things seem grim.
Here’s another, from Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight: “The night is always darkest before the dawn.” This one’s relevant to me now because things seem to be getting worse when it comes to this coronavirus pandemic.
We’ve been socially distancing in my neighborhood in Mexico by spreading out on the beach. Unfortunately, the government’s shut the beaches down for at least two weeks.
While I’m here with a toddler who doesn’t understand why he can’t go play in the giant sandbox that’s basically his front yard, those who rely on tourists or coastal fishing to make a living are cut off from their only source of income and unsure how they’ll survive.
It feels like night has come as the pandemic begins to hit home for more and more of us.
The US just surpassed both Spain and China in total cases and the exponential growth of the virus looks troubling, to say the least. Experts predict a worst-case scenario that could last over a year and claim as many as 1.7 million lives in the US alone.
But that’s not the whole story. If we practice social distancing on a global scale for just a few months or less, those same experts say those numbers could plummet. And that means we’re in the middle of two curves. One curve shows the exponential growth of the virus as more countries implement higher rates of testing:
The above chart, from Worldometers, is a bit worrisome because it shows a sharp uptick in cases as testing becomes more widespread.
But here’s the second curve (H/t: Live Science), which shows what happens if we practice social distancing and give the disease time to run its course while researchers develop a cure and/or treatment:
Right now things probably seem dark to everyone. Many of you are worried about your loved ones, others are afraid for themselves. Most of us are scared because we don’t know how this is going to affect our ability to pay our bills and feed our families once the quarantine ends. But the dawn will come, as long as we realize we’re all in this together.
And most importantly we just need to stay the course. We’re isolated from one another so that when we do finally win this fight there’ll be more of us left to celebrate.
So wash your hands, stay inside as long as it takes, and pay attention to the scientists and experts. They want this to end just as much as you and I, and they know what it’s going to take to make that happen.
By the numbers
Last week we looked at how long the swine flu and SARS outbreaks lasted versus how long experts predict the COVID-19 pandemic will last.
This week we’re going to take a look at how many people died in the worst pandemic on record, the “Spanish Flu,” and compare that to the current pandemic.
The “Spanish Flu” lasted for nearly 3 years from January 1918 through December 1920.
- 500 million— The number of people estimated to have been infected by the “Spanish Flu.” (US National Institute of Health)
- 50 – 100 million — The number of deaths estimated to have been caused by the “Spanish Flu.” (US National Institute of Health)
- 805,652 — Number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 31 March. (Worldometers)
- 39,554 — Number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of 31 March. (Worldometers)
Tweet thread of the week
I survived coronavirus. Spent nearly 2 weeks indoors + in quarantine as my body fought it off. Yesterday, I took my first steps downstairs, headed straight to my garden + took a deep breath
Wasn’t gonna share this online but I’ve been encouraged to share hope & good news 1/18
— #YellowCupPodcast (@TobiRachel_) March 29, 2020
What to read
Pangolins, good news about mutant strains, and the dangers of improvised treatments…
- Apple and the CDC built a website for COVID-19 information… but it doesn’t seem very helpful.
- The US takes the top spot as its confirmed COVID-19 cases surpass Spain, Italy, and China. (Business Insider)
- Thankfully Trump’s abandoned his plan to re-open the US by Easter. He’s targeting May or June now. (The New York Times)
- Peter Thiel’s Palantir now has access to everyone’s NHS data. Good luck getting your privacy back.
- A man exposed himself to a group of children online in Norway after he “guessed” the password to their school’s web-based classes.
- Here’s why you’re probably not washing your hands well enough:
This is an illustration of the effectiveness of the surgical hand washing technique pic.twitter.com/ANO2Scym0R
— How Things Work (@ThingsWork) March 24, 2020
- Scientists have discovered a species of bats and pangolins (scaly anteaters) may have played a role in the spread of the virus. (BBC)
- Wall Street investors flocked to pour money into $ZOOM… before finding out that it wasn’t the stock for the Zoom conferencing app.
- Good news everybody! Researchers believe the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 is slow to mutate. This means it’ll be easier to find a cure and it shouldn’t suddenly become deadlier. (Business Insider)
- Bad news everybody: Racism towards Chinese people has increased (checks notes)… 900% on Twitter. Is anyone really surprised?
- People are dying because they’re improvising treatments for COVID-19. Don’t take medications, drugs, or chemicals unless a doctor specifically tells you to. (Washington Post)
- No good deed goes unpunished: An astrophysicist got a magnet stuck up his nose while inventing a coronavirus device. (The Guardian)
We know, we know… there are a million articles out there on how to stay sane at home: What yoga moves to do, what sourdough bread to bake, how to pick up a phone and actually call someone… so we’re adding to the noise!
In this section, one of our writers will share one weird internet thing they’ve been obsessing over while in lockdown. Next is from TNW’s own Rachel Kaser:
The simultaneous release of Doom Eternaland Animal Crossingon March 20 was some kind of serendipity. Ordinarily, I doubt either Bethesda or Nintendo would have wanted to compete for the same buyers, but thanks to delays on both games, they wound up with the same slot. I’ve seen games destroy each other by being released too close together — that could easily have happened with Doom and Animal Crossing.
Instead, something wonderful happened. The two fandoms came together harmoniously and created some of the best crossover art I’ve ever seen, and I can’t stop looking at it. The combination of Doom’s guiltless hyperviolence and Animal Crossing’s colorful placidity should not work together as well as it does.
The most delightful combination of the two disparate universes is a pair up (or trade-off) of AC’s Isabelle and the Doom Slayer. I’ve seen them going out on dates, Doomguy teaching Isabelle how to shoot, and Isabelle going on her own demon-slaying spree while Doomguy visits the other AC denizens. You can almost chart a story in some of the fanart. IGN got in on the act by putting their reviews side-by-side with some delightful crossover artwork. Heck, even Bethesda themselves contributed:
will Isabelle be there
— DOOM (@DOOM) February 18, 2020
I’m sure we can all agree 2020 has kind of sucked so far. But these games are a nice little bright spot, and seeing their fandoms get along and create something so weird and brilliant is a delight I badly needed.
See you soon, stay safe
For now, here’s some links to help you identify, combat, and refute misinformation:
- Here’s How to Fight Coronavirus Misinformation (The Atlantic)
- The Coronavirus Disinformation System: How It Works (Bellingcat)
- People’s uncertainty about the novel coronavirus can lead them to believe misinformation, says Stanford scholar (Stanford)
- How to spot coronavirus fake news – an expert guide (The Conversation)