What are you doing during the quarantine?

March 16, 2020 • 8:15 am

Many places, including Illinois, are still pretending that the coronavirus pandemic will significantly abate in the next two weeks, a possibility I consider, well, very unlikely. (For example, they’ve closed all restaurants and bars in our state, but only till March 31.) But until it does abate, we’re all pretty much confined and restricted, with many people urged to not go out at all. And because of my age, I count as a member of the “susceptible” group.

I couldn’t tolerate squatting for months, if for no reason other than that my ducks need feeding several times a day, and it’s okay to be outside anyway. However, I had planned to travel during this period: a brief trip to Florida to lecture and also a two-week lecturing gig on a mid-April alumni cruise to Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, Morocco, and Portugal. The Florida gig is canceled, and I’m sure that the cruise will be, too, though they haven’t yet given us any information.

In the meantime, I have sufficient food, tons of toilet paper, and a stock of books. (Right now I’m on a Richard Wright kick, reading Native Son with Black Boy on tap.) But I still feel I need to go somewhere, and I am weighing my options. One thought was to rent a car and drive South to the Mississippi Delta. If restaurants remain open, that’s something I might try to do, as I love Southern food. However, many of the civil rights attractions I hoped to see are closed. (PLEASE don’t warn me about risks; I know them.) I’m pretty sure I’ll go stir-crazy if I have to stay put for a long time.

Others, however, are perfectly happy having time off and chilling at home, particularly if they accrue paid sick leave or their emoluments continue due to a kind employer.

I thought I’d post this to ask readers what they’re planning on doing during the Time of Coronavirus.  As I said, we don’t know how long this will last, but I have a strong feeling that our movements will be restricted for a long time to come.

Since most countries are on some sort of lockdown, this thread is directed at everyone.

From GEN [fotoliaxrender/Fotolia]

170 thoughts on “What are you doing during the quarantine?

  1. I work from home anyway and it’s our scheduled Spring Break for the boy.

    So, essentially nothing has changed, except all my work travel has been cancelled and a little trip to visit friends was cancelled.

  2. Irony is the only god. Six months ago, in October, as you (PCCE) were preparing for your Antarctic odyssey, I was forced to cancel a Chile trip because of civil unrest there. I rebooked for late March. Well, it appears that’s not going to happen either.

    What will I do? Read, write, eat, drink, sleep.

      1. No snow here, but miles and miles of logging roads and single track behind gates, starting a mile from my house. I’ll be on my bikes a lot.

    1. We are there, chilling in Chile, and everything is cool. Now the only question is if/when we can get back into the US.

  3. I work at a university and while the students have been sent home to take classes online, faculty and staff are still going in to work. I (and most of the faculty) have been scrambling to convert face to face coursework into acceptable online coursework. I am in charge of bio labs so it is a challenge trying to convert wet labs to an online course.

      1. Plants are tough but we are going into animal dissections next and there are quite a few online dissection videos/presentations available, so that is helpful. Also, HHMI has a lot of good resources for online, interactive labs.

      2. I expect this is going to be a ‘don’t make perfect the enemy of good’ situation for a lot of educators. I certainly wouldn’t allow my kid to have hours and hours of small-words-on-screen time on a regular day, but it looks like most of what his teacher is going to assign him is “go to this web page and do x” type work.

        As an old fogie, for the subjects where it makes sense I’d much prefer they linked me to a bunch of print out worksheets he could do.

        1. Universities are streaming lectures as well and conducting live classes where students can interact.

    1. I too work at a university and the classes have moved to online as of Friday with faculty and staff scrambling. Labs are still open as far as I know (though this changes). For medical students the rotations in most areas have been suspended save for interns and such who have enough safety training that they don’t need supervision. The campus is open but most have gone home and although the libraries are open, they are on reduced hours. Anyone who can work from home has been told to do so. So, I’m working from home and will continue to do all the work that I do in the office at home.

    2. Most of us in my Bio department are teaching from home, using various technologies for live or recorded lectures. WebEx, Camtasia, Google Meet, etc. I already have recorded lectures and am using those.

      I don’t teach labs, but most are either switching to various virtual lab platforms (major publishers are stepping up big-time to provide these for free now (!). Or they are just dropping labs either partly or completely.

  4. Well, I work remotely to begin with. The difference is that I have no travel to meet with customers, which is rather nice. Last week I had a three-day workshop with a customer remotely, which was a bit of a challenge, but they were good sports about it. My daughter who has an internship locally with a software developer is now working from home. I told her I was going to get a water cooler so we could take our breaks together and gossip about the cat.

    1. “gossip about the cat”

      We actually do this. My wife works from home to (separate office downstairs), but she’ll call out “Look what this idiot is doing now” and I’ll run out to see what the cat is doing.

      We’re pretty pathetic.

      1. In our house if someone yells something about “the idiot” it is usually About Trump. The kitties are usually “silly geese” or “lugs”.

        1. Somebody just turned me on to the Met’s doing free nightly encore live opera HD streaming during the coronavirus closure. The link to the site is here.

          Tonight it’s Carmen. So that, at least, is cool.

          1. That link’s not working and metopera.org is really slow BUT I can assure you that when you/I get to it it’s a wonderful production of Carmen, with Garanca and Alagna. Saw it live in the theater. As my dear departed dad would belt out: Toréadore don’t spit on the floor, use the cuspidore, that’s what it’s for🎶🎶

          2. “As my dear departed dad would belt out: Toréadore don’t spit on the floor, use the cuspidore, that’s what it’s for”

            If memory serves me, there was an old Warner Bros. cartoon which did a nice riff on this.

  5. I remember reading Black Like Me and Native Son almost right after each other. I introduced BLM to my high school classes–but NS? I chickened out–it was a book too Bigger.

  6. I moved to a 46-acre spread in Floyd County, Virginia in early February and made arrangements with your alma mater to telecommute. So I guess I am a bit ahead of the curve for once. Putting together stories about how a university functions with very limted face-to-face contact.

  7. I have three kiddings this week, so I wasn’t going anywhere, anyway. And, after they get here, the newborns need a lot more attention than the older kids, so that would mean that I’d be home more than not, too.

    We are debating whether to close the restaurant altogether, or just do take-out. My partner who does the shopping is going to see what’s available, and if we can’t get supplies, we won’t open at all. We might be able to get some food, but stuff we have to have, like Clorox and paper towels, seems to have vanished.

    If we close altogether, we’ll use this time to get caught up on maintenance stuff in the barn that we haven’t had time for.

    I’m always perfectly happy to be by myself, so psychologically it’s no strain at all.


    1. Yeah. I figure as an introvert that actually prefers social distancing, I’ve been training my whole life for this.

      1. I hear you.

        I had been subjected, as a child, to what I now think of as the “tyranny of the extroverts”.

        I’m trying hard not to smile too much about their current predicament.


      2. Same here, but now I’m finding that where I usually relish staying home to read, knowing that I must do that now is making me want to rebel and go out!

          1. Me four!!! I was practicing social distancing when social distancing wasn’t cool. I’m still hanging out with all my peeps (birds), and they have no idea that anything’s changed.

          2. I’m actually the opposite of a social distancer normally, but do enjoy my quiet times with books. Am going to really miss my zumba classes where we get a great workout and lots of laughs. Usually in a class of 20+ we have people native to maybe 15 different countries, all getting along and having fun.

        1. I could be a hermit, no problem. Unless somebody told me I hadda be a hermit. Then, screw it, I’m goin’ out. It’s a contrarian thing. 🙂

  8. I suspect many who live alone can identify with what you are saying. When you are use to getting out and going places all the time, this can seem very strange. For those of us who are married, living in houses in a neighborhood it does not seem so different. However, I have no kids and that it quite different, I’m sure. The ones I worry about are the low wage folks in the service industry, waiting tables or work at sporting events. Even teachers, do they get paid during this layoff? If a store is closed or put on shorter hours, they are going to lay people off or put them on less hours. My wife’s mother is in an assisted living home and as of yesterday she cannot get in to see her. I was surprised they waited this long to lock down. We will now just get some things she needs and pass them through the front desk to get them to her.

    1. My father is in assisted living as well. Two weeks ago they began limiting visitors, checking for fever, sanitizing your hands etc.
      As of last Tuesday they are on lock down. No visitors. We leave his Ensure and OJ and snacks in the vestibule and they bring it to him.
      My wife cashiers at a grocery. They’ve shortened business hours and are trying to limit hoarding. It’s worrisome but they have brought in extra cleaning crews.


    2. “Even teachers, do they get paid during this layoff?”

      Not totally sure, but teacher aides and substitute teachers definitely do not get paid.

  9. My wife and I are hanging around at home. I am the CEO of a Health IT and Cyber security firm. Through years of business continuity planning and risk mitigation we are able to operate fully for our government and commercial clients remotely and from home. The bigger question we have is the capacity capability of the internet and other communication infrastructure to support the essential activities necessary. I wonder if there will be a limited access to these services forthcoming. Like the gas lines of the 70s or watering access in drought areas over the years. This is currently a limited resource. For those of us that survive we will be entering a new world once again. Whatever resistance to remote work and other similar activities that remain, will be significantly eroded and therefore impact our already impacted social F2F interactions. This will drive the costs of operating government and business lower but increase infrastructure requirements. As the old world curse goes “May you live in interesting times.” Here we are…once again.

    1. Yeah, I’m staying off my university’s VPN because the only thing I need it for is my soft phone & people can reach me other ways. I just don’t want to add to the load unnecessarily as people use remote desktop.

  10. I work at an elementary school and we are on spring break this week with nothing but rumors about when we might return. I had planned on a trip to the backwards state of Oklahoma to visit relatives but being as they are all in their 80’s we agreed to postpone until summer. I guess I’ll stay home, check my work messages, read a lot, maybe get my house in order, go to the gym until they close it, and go for walks around my 1 1/2 acres unless that isn’t allowed either (what, am I gonna infect my oak trees or the squirrels?) which frankly isn’t all that different from any other day. But I will worry greatly over the children not at school. These kids come from poor families with low paying jobs that have no benefits (no sick pay) so these kids won’t get their two free meals a day and the parents will either miss work or lose money on babysitting or lose their jobs to the quarantine. I’m not worried for me, but very worried for them.

    1. I got a box of lens wipes (almost pure isopropyl alcohol) and I think these are good for wiping down surfaces in public places.
      I don’t think people have realized these can be as valuable as hand sanitizer.

  11. I’m teleworking and attempting to push my kid to do his assigned homework.

    I’m guessing my productivity won’t be as high as normal (see: kid), but as long as work is paying me, I owe them at least my best effort.

    1. Yeah I feel bad for some of the parents that also need to work. In Ontario they extended the March break by two weeks so that’s 3 weeks trying to work and have your kids stay out of your way and not tumble down stairs or fight each other.

  12. As a shop-keeper working from home obviously isn’t an option. Should all but essential services be closed, I somehow doubt that shoe shops will be classed essential, it’ll make for a difficult time. I suspect survival as a going concern will be more of an issue than the thought of possibly spending months sitting at home. Interesting times, indeed.

  13. I’ve stocked up at the bookstore and, for what I couldn’t find at the bookstore, at the local library (plus a have a firestick for flicks).

    Hell, things get desperate enough in a protracted quarantine situation, I might even make another run, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, at finishing Finnegans Wake.

    1. I was at the library to pick up a book. I thought, everyone else is hoarding food, I should check out a bunch of books. But then I thought, no, it’s the library, nobody goes here, it’ll stay open. When I got home an hour later I had an email from the library saying they were closed for the duration! I guess I’ll be rereading a lot of books we have laying around the house.

  14. The other question I have is- are we already in recession and heading to depression? Some industries are going to need bail out and how do we pay for that considering the debt we are already in. They have already moved interest rates to zero so they have very little they can do. How low will the market go?

    1. Interest rates are unlikely to help much, as people can’t invest a paycheck they don’t get.

      I guess they may have the knock-on effect of lowering loan rates, which could be useful for businesses (and individuals) who need to pay rent, electricity etc. but aren’t making money.

    2. I think that the economic destruction will be far greater and last much longer than the biological effects. Every time this inept administration announces a move to help, the market tanks – happened again within a few seconds of trading this morning.

      1. If you see the pictures from the ports on the west coast – no container ships there. That is very scary and I cannot even think what that means ahead.

        1. I live in a West Coast port city. Longshoremen have been reporting no work for the last few weeks. However, I have a view of the Port of Los Angeles, and for the last few days, we have been seeing a bunch of container ships coming in. Rumor is that China is loading ships again after having stopped for a time.

      2. “Every time this inept administration announces a move to help, the market tanks – happened again within a few seconds of trading this morning.”

        I take it that most any administration would welcome constructive suggestions for what would help.

        1. Trump keeps trying to boost the stock market. He arm-twists the Fed into lowering interest rates. Of course, the market doesn’t much care because availability of money is not a top priority for most corporations right now. Most are facing a downturn in their business and/or disruption of their supply chains so they are more likely to shrink than grow in the next few months. People also see that Trump continues to lie about stuff that matters most, like virus testing availability and the extent of the pandemic. For example, he just told a bunch of state governors to not look to the federal government to help with supplies.

      1. Considering the economy — any comments on the Tories’ idea for a national ‘chickenpox party’ in Britain? Clearly they think herd immunity for the young and productive and thinning the herd of pensioners is a win-win.

    1. That is the part worrying me. Lots of companies are not going to survive this. The airline industry is going to be in bad shape. Boeing was already in tough shape before this hit.

      1. Boeing will be fine, as long as they pitch a few million in to McConnell’s and Trump’s reelection funds.

        Our rabidly-anti-socialist conservatives will be more than happy to give out large amounts of government bailout money to their corporate donors. As always, it’s the regular folk that are going to have the hardest time.

        1. I think the trump administration will certainly try to use this as an opportunity to funnel more money from the little people up to Trump and friends. But the 2008 financial crisis is still a bad memory for a many people, so there could be a huge backlash if they get too blatant about it. It will certainly be interesting times.

      2. The airline industry was already in bad shape over here in Europe. A lot of airlines will not survive this. In my country, both BA and Virgin are already making noises that they might need help from the government to survive.

        I was in France on Saturday at the end of a skiing trip and it seemed like they were literally closing down the country behind us. We sat in a restaurant in Ouistreham (where the Caen ferry port really is) as the proprietor learned that the government was closing him down for the foreseeable future. The ski resort we had just come from is now closed. Anybody whose business relies on gathering people in a public place – restaurants, cinemas, music venues etc etc – is screwed as are the people who work there and the suppliers and the people who transport people to these places and their employees and suppliers.

        When we finally get around to counting the cost of this crisis, I’d wager more people will die from indirect effects of it than directly from the virus itself.

        1. The last paragraph is an interesting thought, though I doubt it will be the case. It will be hard to determine either the lives saved by limiting contact or the damage caused by it.

          Expect loud internet voices on both sides (all with insufficient data).

        1. I want to do two cruises:

          The Inside Passage from Seattle to Alaska
          Transit the Panama Canal (it’s about the only practical way to transit for most people)

          Otherwise, no interest.

          I don’t like hanging out in hotels.

          I don’t like “beach” vacations.

          Those last two pretty puts me out of the cruise demographic.

          1. We did the first 9 years ago. It was…okay. IMO you go on a cruise to visit the destinations they provide. You tolerate the cruising part as the tiny hotel room you have to rent to visit them.

          2. I did the Seattle-Alaska trip, my only cruise ship experience. Very enjoyable as regards seeing scenery, but not one night of clear sky, on the chance that an aurora might manifest itself. I don’t know that cloudy weather is seasonal in that area.

            I looked forward to the cruise and not having to “strike a lick,” in that I was on a U.S. navy ship for three-plus years, doing my share of being up 24 hours straight. On the cruise I occasionally felt that I needed to be up and about, prepping to stand the mid-watch on the bridge. I felt it was a bit decadent. I think I would more enjoy a trip where I contributed a bit to ship’s work, possibly a Nat’l Geographic trip or something of that ilk.

          3. I’m with you in not being a cruise, hotel or beach person. But my “bucket list” includes a desire to take the Alaska Ferry System from Seattle, WA (or wherever) up to Aleutians, and back. It would take three ferries up and three back. I also hope to have time to take some train trips to view scenery in the U.S. and Canada. If/when this pandemic is over, I have a number of Native American Mound complexes I want to visit. I already have visited many southwestern Native American sites such as Chaco and Acoma. This all presupposes that I’m successful in surviving

        2. Of all the forms of travel a cruise would seem to be the one to avoid above all others at this time. The prospect of being held prisoner in ship moored in a port for weeks on end if the virus is detected on board does not appeal. Then again, like you, I can’t say I find the typical big-ship luxury cruise very tempting in normal times either.

          1. They would make wonderfully crappy high-rises. I could imagine someone in the ruling family buying a few of the big ones and hoisting them Fitzcarraldo-like to sell as minicondos on a nice view property.

        3. The idea of a cruise doesn’t really appeal to me either*, but my preferences do not determine the economic viability of a thing – nor should they.

          Having said the above, I think the cruise industry is pretty much dead in the water, at least until people’s memories fade, which they will.

          *Except the Antarctic cruise that Jerry went on. That looked totally awesome.

          1. There is one helluva difference between what kind of “cruise” Jerry went on and the type of floating hotel Petri dish cruises everyone else goes on. The Antarctic “cruise” (scare quotes denote my regarding it as not an actual cruise) was about a destination. The ship itself was merely the mode of transport. The princess cruise things are quite different in that they ARE the destination. People on those things don’t care about where they are going, and why should they? They have entertainment, shopping, food, lots of booze, a place to shit and sleep. It’s all inclusive! Sometimes, it even includes norovirus or like today, something new and special! Then, there’s all the lovely waste in the form of garbage, sewage, and CO2 they produce! I mean, you just can’t beat ‘em for negative impacts on the earth, on ports (some lovely crashes from time to time, oil slicks included!), and on immune systems. Holy shit, what a thrill! No wonder they’re so popular! (Please read this in a Lewis Black voice for full effect of how I feel about cruises)

          2. A virus doesn’t really care much whether the passengers are motivated by the destination or the onboard entertainment.

  15. I work in IT and all the work I do is remote anyway so it makes little difference where I’m physically located. I work from home most days. I work in a team of 7 people (4 of them in 3 different US locations, 1 in Germany, 1 in India, and me in the UK). All our communication is electronic and telephone anyway so no change there.

    The biggest impact so far for me is that with so many more people in the company now working from home it’s put a significant load on the network components that manage remote access such as VPN and firewalls.

    That said I really feel for people who work in industries that are directly and significantly affected like travel, hospitality, etc. However I’m not so naive to think that I won’t also be affected, at least indirectly, as this is likely to have such an economic impact on the entire global economy (and a health impact to many people, too). I think we will all be negatively affected in some way. I hope we can find a solution to this soon before it disrupts the lives and health of many more.

  16. No schools for kids. No pools to swim in. No cat liter at the stores. We’re making the cats do their business outside with the coyotes. Still at work, though one case is all it’s going to take to shut that down.

  17. Just my husband and I at home. We are socially pretty isolated as it is, so social isolating won’t be too hard. We will read and watch crappy television.
    I just hope I can manage my anxiety as I see people lose their jobs and the economy tank.
    -so I guess I will try and do some physical activities such as running or cycling.
    I hope this is the end of Trump.

  18. My company hasn’t asked us to work from home yet but have stated that if you can do it then they will support that decision. I’ve never been very good at the ‘working from home’ thing, too many distractions (TV, Internet, books etc…). I’m still going into work therefore and it is a bit of a ghost town here – which I suppose is a form of social distancing so I don’t feel too bad for coming in.

    I think that if community spread in my city starts (we have a handful of cases that were the result of travel abroad) then the hammer will come down and we’ll be sent home.

        1. I think my HR team was listening to that. The email came out seconds after he mentioned that. 🙂

        2. In a twist of irony, I spent the last 18 years of my career working from home.

          Having retired in September, I am no longer required to work from home. 😉

      1. I’ve been working from home for a few years. Actually I get a lot more done at home than I do at the office, there’s less distraction. I close my office door and only come out for coffee and bathroom breaks. Plus I work though what would be my commute time so they get an extra hour or two.
        It helps if everyone, family, friends, neighbors, understand that even though you are physically home you are really at work.

        1. When I work from home I often roll out of bed & start on the computer. It’s part of the reason you won’t see me on camera during conference calls; the other is I have to be on my notebook computer that has a camera & my desktop doesn’t.

  19. Some of our retired-life routines are disrupted; community center closures mean no pick up basketball or any other events; school closures mean no homework help or sporting events with the grandkids; no retired faculty functions; etc. We had a family gathering yesterday, minus our daughter who is self-isolating because of possible exposure to the virus at her work place. We have a shelf at a local flea market to unload “stuff” that we have accumulated over the decades and that the kids don’t want, and the market is still open. We do a lot of outdoor things, so those activities continue. With no Avs, Nuggets and Rockies, I am watching more movies in the evening 🙂 Most distressing is the likely cancellation of the upcoming Eagles concert in Denver.

      1. I have built myself a Dobro-style resonator and two Weissenborn style slide guitars. Now, if I just didn’t have to work from home, I would be expanding my instrument list. I can (sort of) play one song on these: John Fahey’s Poor Boy, which I am pretty sure is Trad./arr. by.

        I love slide (Joe Walsh, Cindy Cashdollar, Sonny Landreth, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow, Greg Leisz, etc.) Some day … gonna learn ….

        1. I have been thinking of using the time to get a lot better at the banjo.
          I built a halfway decent banjo as a project, but never spent time to get past the basics of playing.
          But nobody can be unhappy while playing a banjo.

  20. Writing an album. I want to be the Newton of pop, but I might end up as its Michael Behe.

    My brother made it through the Wuhan corona virus palaver, btw. He’s off in Portugal now with our sister. All Netflixed-out after quarantine & teaching his Chinese students online.

  21. Between making repeated trips to the stores to find various items as we run out (gone are the days when you can grocery shop by assuming whatever you need will be conveniently located at one store,) I will be indulging the illusion that if I use this time to whittle down my to-do list and better organize my life, I will have time to do something other than work, feed baby, do 800 loads of laundry, wash bottles, do minimal cooking, clean, and wash rinse repeat on the whole routine. I adore the little munchkin, but I find I need this form of kidding myself. Instead of saying “Maybe one day I’ll win the lottery!”, I now say “Maybe one day Ill read a book again!”. I just need another organizer app. Better time management. Maybe a visual reminder of my to do list. It’s gonna happen, really. And now I have quarantine time to work on my to do list! Totally gonna happen. For real this time.

      1. Typically I find that to be true, although with a baby it’s a bit different, as the workload is a matter of sheer volume, not difficulty. So I have no difficulty getting started as everything I have to do is pretty “easy” and even mindless, by itself… there’s just no end to it. At some point I will have to accept that the laundry’s not done or the kitchen is cluttered but I should pick up a book anyways, but at the moment I’m in denial, lol. Setting aside ten minutes for reading would probably be a good idea, actually, while forcing myself to ignore the state of my house, the to do list or the worry that I should be teaching the baby Baby Sign in my spare moments.

        1. I do not have your commitments. Live alone with animal kids. But books on tape are a great comfort when I can’t sit to read. I even take them to bed with me. They usually have a place to indicate how long to run after the current place in the book. I’ll bet they would work while feeding a baby.

          1. That’s a good idea… I used to listen to them all the time when I had a long commute but had closed my audible account awhile back.

    1. I created a small lumber yard at our house, so I can accomplish projects on our home when I’m not working from home (for my employer).

      And, yes, I did the dishes this morning and the laundry (I love machines!). And. later, I will be cooking a YUGE pot of chili. 🙂

  22. I have been working from home since last Wednesday. I stocked up Wednesday on non-perishables before the craziness began. I got some groceries delivered yesterday, with little trouble (a few things were out, mainly TP; but we have enough; not crazy; but enough).

    I was listening to NPR Wednesday morning and I heard a change in voice tone among the experts they were talking to. I went straight to the grocery store. It was a good move.

    We are consuming all the perishables.

    My son is on Spring break and they will be distance-learning after that.

    My wife is a teacher. Her schools are closed. They are developing distance-learning plans right now.

    I am severely restricting contacts for now. I dropped some prepared food at my (aged) Mom’s place yesterday and advised her top leave it until Tuesday before bringing it in from her garage fridge.

    I am seriously concerned about the potential death toll for this one. They have verified community spread in MN (no surprise). I have asthma and am no spring chicken, so I am being careful.

    On a side note, Trump’s speech on Wednesday was insane. I urged my FB interlocutors to compare it to our governor, Tim Walz’s speech declaring an emergency on Friday. Yikes, what a contrast.

    And this is worth a read, Peter Wehner on Trump’s presidency.

    Here’s a choice excerpt:

    Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.

    I also recommend these podcasts from Sam Harris:

    <a href="https://samharris.org/podcasts/190-respond-coronavirus/"How Should We Respond to Coronavirus, with Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, where he directs the Human Nature Lab and is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science.

    Early Thoughts on a Pandemic, with Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security

  23. I’m a freelance family and children’s entertainer and I’ve had all my work cancelled for the rest of the month, and most of it cancelled for the near-term future. I’ll be spending the day assessing the damage, going over my books and trying to figure out a plan for the future. I’m not panicked or depressed, but I’m very concerned and hyper alert! Once things settle down I hope to use the unexpected down time to work on some creative projects, and maybe some extra house cleaning and yard work.

  24. I work in a pharmacy and go back to work tomorrow. Been off for 5 days. I suspect to experience unwise behavior on behalf of sick customers. Instead of sending in a family member (assuming it is an option), they will come in themselves. Better yet, they will bring in the whole gang. I guess my main concern is that a lot of people will continue to act in the same unconscientious way they always do when they are sick. While off I read Why we’re Polarized by Ezra Klein and Permanent Record by Edward Snowden. I was surprised to have liked both books. I probably would not have bothered with them had Tyler Cowen not recommended the first and Daniel Dennett the second.

  25. My wife and I had a trip to Scotland schedule for the 27th. Obviously that ain’t happening. Hopefully by the time October rolls around things will be stabilized enough to go.

    Being a former work-at-home person, now retired, this isn’t so much of a giant inconvenience day-to-day. I still get out to walk. But there will be fewer quick stops at shops for a bit of this or that. And weekly visits with friends at craft breweries will be missed.

  26. My university, like most, has moved all classes online. At first they said exceptions could be made if in-person participation was required. That exception was later revoked, which makes sense; I think it has to be an all-or-nothing policy.

    I am on campus today for some commitments I wanted to deal with in person. Normally I am strictly a train-commuter, but the university has offered free parking for the time being, so I drove to work for the first time in my 19 years here! There is hardly a soul on campus, which is very weird for a Monday morning on our big urban campus.

    To make things more complicated, we are in the midst of a faculty search. Two people have already interviewed in person, but the next three will be virtual visits. I feel bad for anyone interviewing for positions right now; it’s quite stressful enough as it is!

  27. My husband was retiring at the beginning of April and we were going to celebrate by going to Jamaica the day after. Foreign travel isn’t a good idea anymore. I have canceled the vacation and rescheduled for November (hope it’s doable then and thank you, trip insurance) and it’s looking more and more like his company is going to have its employees work from home any day now, which means he’ll be retiring as soon as that happens.

    Then we figure out how everything is going to work from now on, but with extra leisure and isolation. We’re old, but at this point have few issues to work around — assuming I can still get food. So I guess the quarantine is timed fairly well for this stage of our life.

    I worry more about my mom, who’s almost 90 and in Chicago area. I’ve told her she can stay with us, but she insists it’s all under control and she’s fine. Knowing her, it probably is and so is she. For now, at least.

  28. Feeling rather depressed re work at present for reasons I cannot go into… but still here! 🙂
    UCL not YET closed & I cannot possibly work from home… apart from anything else, no internet!

  29. The county I live in has closed all public and private schools, and the association I work for has sent us all home to work remotely for an indefinite period. My grandchildren live 6 blocks away and are home from school, but both their parents are considered “essential” workers. My son-in-law is with the police department and has Mondays and Tuesdays off, but that leaves three days of no child care. I had volunteered to cover half of it even though I keep hearing I’m old and should stay away from little ones. My daughter has to work because they are still hearing court cases. I hope they stop that so she can stay home.Otherwise, it’s all good!

    1. “The county I live in has closed all public and private schools . . . .”

      My school system is closed. I’m going to miss repeatedly telling K-2 not to put their fingers in their mouths . . . . and can’t abide the idea of not getting to talk (wear out my voice) so much admonishing certain students about their lack of manners and civil behavior. Fingers-in-mouth at home is not the urgent matter it is at school (a germ factory in any event).

  30. Read, comment on WEIT, listen to music (currently listening to Beethoven’s quartets for the umpteenth time-I hear something new every time), talk with my wife and family, learn to cook some new recipes, walk in the park, sit on a lonely beach, ride my bike, play catch, play chess, take day sightseeing trips to see the daffs and tulips (no traffic!), do chores I’ve been putting off. Life is good, as long as the toilet paper holds out.

  31. Well, we are in a bit of bother here.
    My wife, the physician, started a cough and fever Friday night.
    We drove into town yesterday afternoon, and I got to learn how to set up and test the flu analysis machine, as she did not want to bring a lab tech in on Sunday, and possibly expose them.
    The flu ruled out, she consulted with others up the chain of command, and ended up being asked to drive into the city in the middle of the night for testing.
    We learned that the instant test has an almost 50% error rate, so now we are in real quarantine for probably four days, assuming negative results.
    We have an official logbook for visitors to the house, which there will be none.
    The wife has to have her own bedroom and bathroom, so I am in the guest room now.

    Of course she is not terribly sick, so I think the odds are that it is not Covid. Plus, she has not treated anyone that we know has tested positive. There have been no positive tests in our county, nor in the immediately adjoining ones. But we have to follow the rules. Meanwhile, there is one less physician in our already underserved area. At least for the present time.

    Studying the state of an outbreak is a lot like studying a distant star. A current observation does not tell you the present state of the star. It is a snapshot of the past. Likewise, we will be able to use future data to determine the state of disease progression today.
    But the best we can do to understand the state of things now is to project from the known past trends. Even that is assuming data that does not seem to be available.

    1. This must be very stressful for you and your wife, but it sounds like you are dealing with it very responsibly. I wish her the best for her health!

      1. It feels like training, which is good, I suppose.
        Years ago, I was actually an instructor in chemical, biological, and radiological warfare defense.
        If I ever gave much thought to pandemic at home, I figured that we would be able to stay way ahead of the curve through good hygiene practices and decontamination, combined with the natural advantage of an isolated location.
        But none of that does any good if the wife has to go out and see sick people every day.

        Anyway, keep up and carry on, we have nothing to fear but fear itself… @etc.

  32. I have been binge-reading David Deutsch’s “The Beginning of Infinity”. It is superb though, after the initial dazzlement of the first four or five chapters wore off a little, I did find myself disagreeing with him on some things. Of course it’s highly likely that I just don’t “get” what he’s saying–I will definitely have to re-read this at some point (maybe as soon as I finish!). On the other hand, he completely rejects Bayesian thinking, so who knows.

    I have found it especially illuminatig to compare and contrast TBoI to Sean Carroll’s “The Big Picture”. Their subject matter overlaps a lot, and they disagree on some fundamental matters like ontology and Bayesianism, but agree on others like free will (and I disagree with them on both!). These contrasts have given me lots of stuff to ponder about while in the shower, doing the dishes or watching the end of civilization.

    There’s also a very good companion podcast by aussie Brett Hall, named TokCast, which I’ve also binged on. He has an excellent speaking/reading voice and helps to make Deutsch’s ultra-subtle arguments ‘click’. In a way, that is the only way I know I disagree with what Deutsch is saying! His writing is so strange, simple, and subtle, that it is easy to miss what he’s saying half the time, but having someone else read it aloud and commenting on it helps enormously.

  33. A Jewish atheist driving through rural Mississippi? I am reminded of a line from “Frasier” in response to a fraught situation in one of its episodes, that the Lincolns had brighter prospects when they picked up their theater tickets.
    I suppose if you don’t say too much, and whatever you say comes out with some kind of fake foreign accent to gain sympathy, you just might get a pass.

    1. Ummm. . . I’ve traveled through the South before, and people have been gracious. (I don’t wear a sign saying “Jewish atheist”). And surely you’re joking about the fake foreign accent.

      1. In the past, some Bulgarians spoke English or German in Bulgarian resorts, because some waiters and other service personnel were rude to local vacationers and super polite to those coming from the West.

      2. Yes, joking–mostly. I grew up in the Closed Society during the 60s, oblivious, for the most part,of just how dangerous a place it was for what were commonly referred to as outside agitators. Of course, the Delta these days, while perhaps not the happiest place on earth but almost certainly among the most climatically challenged, seems to be as welcoming to tourists as any theme park.

  34. We are hunkered down at home with enough supplies to keep us comfortable for a month – except for milk, which we can carefully acquire wearing gloves.

    I am most worried about my sister who is 76 and has some underlying conditions. Her grandson lives with her and attends school. I hope the cancel the school before coronavirus invades it.

    I found this article by David Leonhardt a source of disgust: A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus. He could have taken action. He didn’t.


  35. I am happy to be retired. I can stay home and play with our cats, Brio and Zing. They are pretty much forced to endure my ministrations today as it is raining. (Yes, it does rain in So California.) I’m also thankful that I no longer run my software company as I would have to consider how to operate (or not operate) during the virus outbreak. Now it is someone else’s headache. Also trying not to think about what’s happening with my 401k. I do need to make a supermarket run today so my fingers are crossed that it isn’t too much of a zoo.

  36. It is possible that my son was exposed. A doctor has the symptoms and her son was slightly sick. The son played board games with my son. The mother/doctor is waiting for a test. Too many ifs to really know anything.

    We have been in self quarantine since Saturday. Friendly neighbors did grocery shopping for us – fruits, vegetables, milk. I was planning to have my kids volunteer to the same but things change.

    As a favor to everyone in my situation, please keep politics out of the coronavirus discussions. I am furious that a doctor’s testing was not immediate but I do not want to hear fingering pointing.

    Help your neighbors.

  37. From Bulgaria, Europe: Our government declared state of emergency on Friday. Schools closed, most shops as well, there are queues on the sidewalks in front of grocery shops because the number of customers let inside is limited. We had a meeting at our department this morning – it was weird, everyone in face masks; we agreed how to upload materials for online teaching of students, and we made a schedule to make sure that every day there are 2 people physically present, the rest will work from home.

    I am struggling with the online learning of my kids (I am technically challenged). One of the kids is now on Facebook for this purpose alone. My main concern is my father, who is old and lives alone. I visit him to help him with the meals, and I can easily bring the virus.

  38. I work at one of the world’s leading genome research institutes, just outside Cambridge (the original one, in England). We’ve just been informed that from Friday, we’re expected to work from home. I work in IT, so this is perfectly practical. Some of my lab-based colleagues will still be on site, though, working to sequence the DNA from clinical samples of the virus to track mutations.

    I’m told we’ll also be doing whole-genome sequencing of patients who have been hospitalised by the virus, to see whether any genetic susceptibility factors can be identified.

  39. I’m already a retired homebody who likes to build dioramas alone in my studio, so no big changes lifestyle-wise. I have asthma, so am very scared of getting the virus. My wife works at a grocery store part-time which makes me a little nervous. Grocery stores are about the only thing open around here. We have a freezer and pantry full of food, a couple cases of beer and plenty of t.p., many unread books that need reading and Amazonprime for the t.v. fix. Perhaps it’s time to re-watch The Expanse. Currently reading Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson. Man, that guy could write. Here’s a quote that made me think of Jerry: “A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?”

    Stay safe and healthy Jerry and everyone else here on WEIT. I think we’re heading for an even bumpier ride, but I’m hopeful that the extreme measures of country-wide lock down will keep the corona-curve flat. Time will tell.

  40. David from Blenheim, New Zealand.

    I recently retired so the corona virus lock-down will not affect me too much. I shall keep going to gym and running Parkrun each Saturday.

    The NZ government is banning events with crowds of more than 500! I am not sure how they came up with that figure, plucked it from the ether probably, as it seems high to me.

    My partner Sharron will be affected more than me. In a couple of weeks she is travelling to Australia to visit her niece who has terminal cancer. She is only going for a few days. Now because of government introduced precautions, she will have to self-isolate for two weeks when she returns home. She will probably have to take unpaid time off work to do this mandatory isolation. Now she is in two minds about whether to go or not, but I think she will decide to go. Family is important to her and she may not get another chance to see Rachel her niece.

    I am not sure how self-isolation is supposed to work. What happens if the person is in a relationship or has family etc? Do all those residing in the house with the self-isolation victim have to self-isolate too. If they don’t it seems counter productive? I think it is a knee-jerk reaction from our PM, Ms Ardern, and not thought out. The government is planning an announcement later today so we will know more after that, maybe.

    We also had a Pacific cruise booked in June to celebrate my retirement. It seems that will not be happening as all cruise ships are banned from entering NZ until the end of June. Oh well.

    At least we have Gerry’s excellent blog to entertain us and keep us informed in the bleak days ahead.

    Good luck everybody.

    1. I think the idea is to watch for symptoms because they have varying reports about how long your are contagious while asymptomatic. If you develop symptoms then everyone will need to quarantine. My PM, Trudeau is self isolating because his wife, Sophie, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine (which means separate washroom and living quarters). If he shows symptoms then he will be tested and quarantine.

  41. I played pool in one of Berlin’s pool bars. The full on lockdown starts tommorow so I couldn’t miss it. On Mondays one can play for free. I miss my techno clubs already 🙁

  42. My wife & I were looking forward to your talk in Tallahassee, but of course, it was correct that it had to be cancelled.
    We have a large yard, and a long list of projects to keep us busy.

  43. I live in Kent, UK, and we are fortunate to have lots of English countryside on our doorstep. I went for a longish walk this afternoon, in the first decent weather for ages, and was glad to see that the earth is still going round the sun. Birdsong, flowers, fresh foliage (I came home with a pocketful of wild garlic). I plan to be doing a lot more of this over the next four months. Plus, like everyone else, catching up on my reading, DIY and gardening.

    BTW, for the first day I can recall for a very long time, there was not a single contrail in the sky. And the flight path into Gatwick, above our heads, has been almost totally silent. Small mercies, eh?

    1. The walks are the best, aren’t they? We’re lucky to have a nice sized park full of very happy creatures that seem to flourish with the break from city sounds.

  44. For anyone wanting to get further depressed, here’s a running of ramblings from our “Commander in Chief”. What an f’n fool!

    Trump’s response to the coronavirus (his words):

    January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
    February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”
    February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
    February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”
    February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
    February 26: “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
    February 26: “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”
    February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
    February 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”
    March 2: “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don’t think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”
    March 2: “A lot of things are happening, a lot of very exciting things are happening and they’re happening very rapidly.”
    March 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”
    March 5: “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”
    March 5: “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”
    March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”
    March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”
    March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”
    March 6: “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
    March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus.”
    March 9: “This blindsided the world.”
    March 9: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.”
    March 10: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

  45. For me hanging with my two furry friends and as Paul said:
    Doing the garden, digging the weeds
    Who could ask for more

  46. If you do decide to head to the Mississippi Delta, let me know, and I’ll be honored to take you on a tour of all the sites. The new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson is indeed closed for the time being. But if you get the itch to travel there’s plenty of places to visit. Here’s a link to one of my books about this place.


  47. Another retired person from Oregon, USA. 79 years old. Childhood asthmatic. AFIB controlled by a pacemaker. Recently diagnosed with anemia for which I’m supposed to go to an Infusion Clinic multiple times for infusions of iron. We’ll see if this happens.

    Broke my right humerus over Christmas and spent the past 2 1/2 months being cared for by my daughter, a nurse, and doing physical therapy. Now, I am back at home with my son who is renovating the house. There is much to be done and I’m hoping to be energetic enough to help. We intend to remain at home for the most part to avoid spreading any contagion if we get it.

    Being a collector of books all my life, I always have many that I haven’t yet read. So, I definitely will be reading.

    On my road trip yesterday from my daughter’s house, I saw many people at golf courses, restaurants, grocery stores and bars. It didn’t look like social distancing was in effect.

    1. Yikes Re bars & restaurants. It’s closed down here. I was happy theatres finally closed. I was so sick of the emails businesses kept sending about how they are cleaning more. That isn’t going to help if someone coughs on me.

  48. I am a college professor at a medium size community college in the Southeast. Today the college shut down and we are preparing to put all of our classes online. Only essential personnel are allowed in our building. We are taking an entire week to prep for the launch of all online next week. Thus, I will be busy until some time in May when the semester ends. Then I am retiring but have an extensive honey do list that has been building for years. We canceled a May vacation and may not be able to go anywhere until the risk subsides, since like Jerry we are in a high risk group. We will likely not go to any restaurants as well. My wife does not even want delivery. Like Jerry, I have a pile of books to get through. I am currently reading the Moffett book recommended by Jerry, “The Human Swarm.” Although I am a Psychologist I have a heavy biological bias and highly recommend this book. Unlike Jerry, we do not crave the travel and can be perfectly content staying at home until the danger subsides. This will not be a two week event. More likely it will take many months before it subsides. It is better to aggressively shut down the country in order to flatten the curve and hasten the recovery. My guess is that we will fall short and many will die until aggressive action will take place. Unfortunately many small businesses will not survive and people will lose jobs and we may have a recession in segments of the economy.

  49. Spent the Ides of March laying bricks, noting a certain odd quiet in the surroundings.

    Today, 3/16, hauled in more bricks (of which there are never enough), did some tree trimming, and then found this little paper in Nature on the likely elements from the coronavirus that would be used in a vaccine. In general terms I expected something along these lines, but it’s nice to have more specifics. Now I can fill in a few blanks when I hear that “a vaccine is soon to undergo testing.”

    What I have no idea of, and suppose that nobody does, is what dose of the virus is necessary to cause an infection Most of us are used to the notion of a single bacterial cell being enough to start a colony on a Petri plate, but I don’t think it’s that simple to successfully infect a person. And people are notoriously non-standardized, too.

    The closest that I did find was a study that showed (by PCR analysis), that the sicker an influenza patient was, the higher their viral load. Hardly surprising.

  50. Thankfully I am retired, and there is no place I have to be. and live in Vinton County, OH, which has one traffic light, maybe 12,000 people, and is over 70% forested. We did get a MacDonald’s a few years back – have never been there – until then we were the only county in Ohio without one.

    So, what do I do? I am a bird bander, so am capturing birds coming to my feeders, as I have done every winter since 2006-07. Highlights this season, almost over, are 3 Pileated Woodpeckers and a Sharp-shinned Hawk, the latter obviously coming for the birds at the feeders. That takes up the morning, weather permitting. Then I eat, perhaps read a bit, then go out for long walks in the woods, my regular route is about 2.3 miles. Rarely see another person, although I am on a township road (no houses) for part of the way. So, no problem with social distancing here!

    1. “So, what do I do?”

      For the last year or so I’ve been griping that I don’t have sufficient time to pursue and complete my amateur music arranging project. (It’s Musescore 3, free software downloadable from the internet, if anyone suffers a similar compulsion/affliction.) It has forced me to improve my quite modest piano playing skills and knowledge of music theory. Well, it’s 85-90% done, and I have a significant block of time to put the finishing touches on it. While it certainly beats doing it by hand, I sometimes perceive myself a data entry slave laborer. (I wonder if “Alexis, finish this project for me” would work.)

      Leonard Bernstein: “To achieve great things [at least in his case], two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” Which is to say, I gather, that some (most?) people would never get anything done without a deadline.

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