Friday 13 March, 2020

How to make the show go on

COVID-19 bans on theatres would represent an existential threat to some. It hasn’t happened in London — yet — but Broadway has been closed by the State Governor. So what should US theatres do? Live streaming, of course, says Terry Teachout, Drama Critic of the WSJ.

Starting with the Metropolitan Opera in 2006, a fast-growing number of performing-arts groups have been using digital technology to beam their shows into movie houses on both sides of the Atlantic, and many older performances can also be viewed online….

According to City A.M., a London-based financial and business newspaper, a dozen English theater troupes are hard at work on contingency plans to live-stream their shows should they be closed by the coronavirus.

Writing as someone who was planning to go to a major concert in London on March 17 — but now isn’t, on the grounds that the less I have to do with large gatherings the better for the time being — I wish this was already happening.

Making Mike Pence the Administration’s lead on COVID-19 is really putting the lunatic in charge of the asylum

Wonderful editorial by Holden Thorp, who is Editor-in-Chief of Science:

“Do me a favor, speed it up, speed it up.” This is what U.S. President Donald Trump told the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, recounting what he said to pharmaceutical executives about the progress toward a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Anthony Fauci, the long-time leader of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been telling the president repeatedly that developing the vaccine will take at least a year and a half—the same message conveyed by pharmaceutical executives. Apparently, Trump thought that simply repeating his request would change the outcome.

China has rightfully taken criticism for squelching attempts by scientists to report information during the outbreak. Now, the United States government is doing similar things. Informing Fauci and other government scientists that they must clear all public comments with Vice President Mike Pence is unacceptable. This is not a time for someone who denies evolution, climate change, and the dangers of smoking to shape the public message. Thank goodness Fauci, Francis Collins [director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)], and their colleagues across federal agencies are willing to soldier on and are gradually getting the message out. [Emphasis added]

It’s a terrific editorial, pointing out that “while we don’t expect politicians to know Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism or the Diels-Alder chemical reaction” you can’t insult science when you don’t like it and then suddenly insist on something that science can’t give on demand. For the past 4 years, Trump’s budgets have made deep cuts to science, including cuts to funding for two institutions that are now critical to coping with the virus — the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH.

Now, says Thorp, the president suddenly needs science. Yet three years ago, he declared his skepticism of vaccines and tried to launch an antivaccine task force. And so now he suddenly loves vaccines. What Trump, with his invincible stupidity, always calls to mind is those saloon-bar morons one sometimes encounters who have opinions on everything while knowing nothing about anything. And who can contradict themselves in successive sentences.

Herd immunity sounds good but…

Suddenly (yesterday) the UK government started to talk about “herd immunity” in relation to COVID-19. What it basically means is that if lots of people get the virus and survive it (which is likely for the majority of cases), then we will be in a better state to deal with it in future because those people will have immunity to it. Sounds reassuring, doesn’t it?

Er, perhaps not. Say 60% of the population gets it. That’s 40m infectees. With a 1% mortality rate, that’s 400,000 deaths. So we have to hope that the mortality rate will be a lot less than 1%. No matter how you look at it, this is deadly serious. Herd immunity doesn’t come cheap.

A message to Trump from Jack Shafer

Lovely column from Jack. It begins:

As a self-designated, one-man task force assigned to smother the shifting coronavirus wildfire, allow me to direct my first edict to the president of the United States: Mr. Trump, please stop talking about the virus.

Don’t comment on the number of cases or deaths. Stop congratulating yourself about what a good job you’re doing, and never, ever again claim that you’ve got things “well under control.” Never again compare this virus with the flu. Never again promise that a vaccine is arriving “pretty soon“ or that the virus “will go away,” as you repeatedly have, or that “it’s going to disappear.” Don’t blame the Democrats or the Obama administration or the press for your bungling of the crisis. Don’t say “anybody that wants a test can get a test,” because it isn’t true.

Most everything you’ve said about the virus has been wrong, inflammatory and dangerous. You think you’re making things better, but your steady spew of misinformation is confusing people and making the situation worse. Much worse. In your Wednesday night national broadcast, you stirred irrational fears with your words and your heebie-jeebie speaking style. The markets heard you clearly, which is why they promptly went into the swirly on Thursday morning.

You’re so bad at conveying accurate virus information, you make the Fox News channel sound like the Scientific American

You get the drift?