5 Coronavirus-related articles worth your time

Extending humanity's time horizon, Covid-19 symptoms guide, the concept of "the great equalizer", global progress's reverse, and the real Lord of the Flies

It’s been odd sending out newsletters to you guys without really mentioning Coronavirus. Current events, politics, and the sort have never been something I’ve been particularly interested in writing about, but what’s happening right now with COVID-19 is so all encompassing, it’s really affected every aspect of my life, and probably yours too.

Getting past Coronavirus is currently number one on humanity’s hierarchy of needs. Until that happens, almost nothing else really matters. It’s like when the clock strikes dinnertime, and you haven’t had a chance to eat all day. When you’re hungry, it’s impossible to care about what you’re going to wear to Susan’s party next weekend. It’s like that, but worse!

From my experience, the single most important thing I’ve been doing to help myself understand what’s happening is just by reading.

That’s why, rather than me try to get too deep into talking about my own feelings on Coronavirus, I want to send some of the articles that have brought me mental clarity.

Let’s dive in.


The Coronavirus and our Future

Kim Stanley Robinson (science fiction author) for The New Yorker:

And yet: “Flatten the curve.” We’re now confronting a miniature version of the tragedy of the time horizon. We’ve decided to sacrifice over these months so that, in the future, people won’t suffer as much as they would otherwise. In this case, the time horizon is so short that we are the future people. It’s harder to come to grips with the fact that we’re living in a long-term crisis that will not end in our lifetimes. But it’s meaningful to notice that, all together, we are capable of learning to extend our care further along the time horizon. Amid the tragedy and death, this is one source of pleasure. Even though our economic system ignores reality, we can act when we have to. At the very least, we are all freaking out together. To my mind, this new sense of solidarity is one of the few reassuring things to have happened in this century. If we can find it in this crisis, to save ourselves, then maybe we can find it in the big crisis, to save our children and theirs.

“Short term pain for long term gain”. That’s the reason we’re taking such drastic measures to stop Coronavirus: we are doing the hard thing now in order to prevent even worse things from happening later.

Robinson hopes that perhaps, since we can now understand the gradeschool level concept of Planning For The Future, perhaps we can broaden our sights to just a little bit further. Maybe we can make some short term sacrifices (invest money in clean power, redistribute resources more evenly, etc.) to prevent Planet Earth from becoming an uninhabitable fireball in 100 years just so some already rich billionaires can become even more rich than they are right now.

We can hope.


Why Days 5 to 10 Are So Important When You Have Coronavirus

Tara Parker-Hope for NYT:

“With any other disease, most people, after a week of symptoms, they’re like ‘OK, things will get better,’” said Dr. Leora Horwitz, associate professor of population health and medicine at N.Y.U. Langone Health. “With Covid, I tell people that around a week is when I want you to really pay attention to how you’re feeling. Don’t get complacent and feel like it’s all over.”

It’s important to call a doctor if you have shortness of breath or any concerning symptom no matter what day of illness you are on. And don’t panic if you still feel lousy after a week of illness. It’s common for Covid symptoms to linger, and feeling unwell for more than a week doesn’t always mean you need medical treatment.

A lot of good info in here, including a full description of the typical 14-day timeline of Covid-19 symptoms.

Thanks, Dustin, for sending this to me.


The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying

Coronavirus is not “the great equalizer” as the rich and famous seem to think it is. In fact, Covid-19 and the shutdown are disproportionately affecting minorities and people of low-income levels.

Adam Serwer, politics writer for The Atlantic:

The implied terms of the racial contract are visible everywhere for those willing to see them. A 12-year-old with a toy gun is a dangerous threat who must be met with lethal force; armed militias drawing beads on federal agents are heroes of liberty. Struggling white farmers in Iowa taking billions in federal assistance are hardworking Americans down on their luck; struggling single parents in cities using food stamps are welfare queens. Black Americans struggling in the cocaine epidemic are a “bio-underclass” created by a pathological culture; white Americans struggling with opioid addiction are a national tragedy. Poor European immigrants who flocked to an America with virtually no immigration restrictions came “the right way”; poor Central American immigrants evading a baroque and unforgiving system are gang members and terrorists.

Powerful paragraph, but read the whole article.


Covid-19 could reverse decades of global progress

I find myself particularly interested in reading about the longterm effects of Coronavirus. This article by Sigal Samuel from Vox lists 8 different ways our society is getting set back because of everything going on.

Some quotes I found interesting:

Experts are also concerned that we’re going to see surging rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) and that the fight against HIV will probably take a hit because people are not going in for testing. 

And:

According to a new analysis out of King’s College London and Australian National University, it could push an additional 8 percent of our planet’s population into poverty — some 500 million people. That would effectively wipe out three decades of economic development.

And:

We’ve all been told to stay at home, but for millions of people, home is dangerous. “Every year, more than 10 million Americans experience domestic violence, and experts fear that the pandemic and the isolation necessary to combat it could drive those numbers even higher,” Anna North wrote for Vox in March.


The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months

We’ve all read Lord of the Flies. It’s a story that assumes that, when removed from society, children become cruel and animalistic.

But is it really human nature to act like this?

Rutger Bregman writes for The Guardian:

I began to wonder: had anyone ever studied what real children would do if they found themselves alone on a deserted island? I wrote an article on the subject, in which I compared Lord of the Flies to modern scientific insights and concluded that, in all probability, kids would act very differently. 

During his research on the subject, the author discovers an old article from 1966 detailing an account where a group of shipwrecked boys, in fact, didn’t resort to cannibalism. They were able to survive peacefully and work together for over a year before they were rescued.

But “by the time we arrived,” Captain Warner wrote in his memoirs, “the boys had set up a small commune with food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination.” While the boys in Lord of the Flies come to blows over the fire, those in this real-life version tended their flame so it never went out, for more than a year.

In addition to just being a lovely story overall, this made me think about how, when I originally read Lord of the Flies, I wish I would have been more skeptical of the book. It’s in our human nature to work together to survive. When circumstances are grim, people tend to cooperate, stick together, and be even more kind than they are during prosperous times.