Coronavirus Reads, Digest 27
Controversy over India's contact tracing app, as the White House rejects CDC guidelines for reopening the US.
It’s Thursday, May 7th.
We know the symptoms: fever, dry cough, breathlessness, loss of taste. But what does Covid-19 feel like? Like an anvil (a heavy iron) on your chest, to how a car sounds when the engine is sputtering, here are accounts from people who have recovered, on what their symptoms actually felt like.
What It's Like to Have Coronavirus, The New York Times
A helpful clarifier on why everyone is being asked to wear face masks, even if they’re made out of cotton fabric, when going outside. (Everyone barring children under 2, who could risk suffocation if they wear a mask). It may not prevent you from getting the virus, but it drastically reduces the amount of virus particles that come out of our mouths (um, by 99%!). With so many asymptomatic carriers, we have no idea who’s sick. Wear a mask, and you won’t risk spreading it.
The Real Reason to Wear a Mask, The Atlantic
India’s coronavirus cases cross 54,000, and while no new cases have been reported in 13 states, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu continue to see a high rise in cases.
The state of Gujarat has the second highest outbreak after Maharashtra. It has seen a high death rate, calling into question the handling of the situation in the state. Responsibilities of some of the officials have now been shuffled, and the cities of Ahmedabad and Surat are going to be under complete lockdown for a week. Ahmedabad recorded 291 new cases on Wednesday.
After much outrage, Karnataka has reversed its decision on cancelling trains for migrant workers and sending them back to work on construction sites, and has now announced a schedule of trains for helping them return home.
The Times of India has reported inflated bills and large markups by private hospitals for coronavirus testing and treatment, with no oversight or guidelines from the central government.
As the Aarogya Setu “ contact tracing” app continues to battle concerns over security issues (French ethical hacker Elliot Anderson pointed out several issues yesterday), the Noida authority, in Uttar Pradesh, but also part of the Delhi NCR region, has issued a controversial order on downloading it. The order says not downloading the Aarogya Setu app could result in up to 6 months jail time. Pranav Dixit reports that privacy activists say the order is illegal and unconstitutional.
Uttar Pradesh has stepped up punitive consequences for attacking healthcare workers or other “corona warriors” in Noida as well.
India currently continues to rely on an 1897 law, the Epidemic Act of 1897, that was in response to the bubonic plague. This is an outdated law that can be misused, Prosenjit Dutta argues in MoneyControl, and explains why India needs to pass a more apt pandemic preparedness act.
Why India Needs a Pandemic Law Desperately, by Prosenjit Dutta
U.S. and International
President Trump has now said that the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. “is worse than Pearl Harbor or 9/11.” Meanwhile, the White House has rejected the CDC’s recommendations on how to reopen the country.
A new NYT investigation reveals details on how Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner led a White House task force to procure medical equipment and PPE with inexperienced unqualified young staff, and gave them a VIP list of people to give tenders and contracts to. The people on those lists were associates and allies of President Trump with little or no experience with delivering safety gear.
Unfortunately, joblessness claims keep going up, with more than 25% in some American states out of work.
From NYT Interactive, here are some fantastic data based graphs showing that America’s curve is not actually flattening. If you remove the many cities from the data (that have been more strict about social distancing), the number of infections has been consistently climbing.
Opinion | Don’t Be Fooled by America’s Flattening Curve, by Nathaniel Lash.
South Korea got its outbreak down to zero new cases in 60 days. How’d they do it? In The Atlantic, what the world (and especially the US) can learn from South Korea. The strategy can be broken down into three parts:
-Expansive High-Tech Tracing
-Zero Tolerance Isolation (even for mild cases)
What's South Korea's COVID Secret?, by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic
Caste and the Pandemic
Sujatha Gidla, author of an acclaimed memoir on her family’s Dalit history, is also a NYC train conductor. She’s written an Op-Ed about the vulnerabilities and deaths essential workers in New York City are facing.
We Are Not Essential. We Are Sacrificial’, by Sujatha Gidla, The New York Times Opinion
In The Wire, Charu Gupta, K Satyanarayana and S. Shankar describe how social distancing, a scientific method, in India intersects with the history of caste discrimination, and magnifies biases and hierarchies practiced in Indian society for centuries.
“In India, ‘social distancing’ invokes, and mirrors, distinct social histories of preservation and upholding of caste hierarchies. Social distancing has for long been a central principle and key weapon in the coercive regulation of caste. The discriminatory treatment meted out to Dalits (formerly ‘untouchables’) repeatedly bespeaks the ‘social distancing’ followed by savarnas (so-called ‘non-untouchables’) long before the pandemic.”
In the Huffington Post, Swetha Regunathan writes about her immigrant childhood, and the uncomfortability of the strict Brahmin purity rules her parents insisted in their household, but how she’s revisiting them now in a different context. She also discusses a common immigrant child phenomenon, familiarity with isolation. She describes not being allowed to go outside to socialize much, unlike her white American peers, and instead used online worlds as her window to the world.
“For many South Asian late-millennials, or those of us who grew up in the 1990s, the constraints of living under pandemic eerily recall our strict upbringings. We instinctively recognize the pangs of FOMO, as we would watch our more American friends casually go to the mall or the movies, parties and dances, while any of those excursions for me would involve stages of begging, pleading and case-making.
The truth is, in an extremely diverse but also xenophobic middle-class town in New Jersey, “going out” wasn’t always fun, easy or safe. In middle school, my whip-smart best friend ― who wore a hijab ― and I would avoid walking past the bus line, ever vigilant to the many taunts and threats hurled at us. And this was before 9/11. After that day, it became difficult to go outside in my town. I made my parents affix American flags to their car. I hated when my mom wore a salwar kameez or a sari, even to the front porch. And so, sometimes, it was easier to just stay home.
For us children of immigrants, first-generation Americans from traditional families, the lives we led at home were the lives we led with necessary cunning and resourcefulness, elaborate systems to let the outside world in, without breaking any walls –- without going out. The internet was expanding rapidly, and though there was no social media, there was the distinct titillation of a mysterious chat room, likely filled with men of all shapes and sizes, an activity that felt more dangerous and exciting than a shopping trip to Claire’s. There was soft, well-intentioned catfishing on my parents’ desktop through AIM; there were code words and landline ring patterns (two rings followed by a hangup means call him back); there was crush-related whoopee over the phone with my best friend (from the safety of my parents’ car in the garage).”
Coping with the Pandemic
It’s safe to say that most New Yorkers don’t really know their neighbors. This is changing during the pandemic. Here is a beautiful photo essay, the result of a photographer capturing his neighbors, each of them standing at their doorstep, in his Queens building.
Meet The Neighbors, Justin von Oldershausen
There are a lot of accounts on how hard it is to be a parent during quarantine, especially a working parent. But this Atlantic essay by a father describes how he feels that the presence of his son, and attending to him makes his life at this time better than if he was child-free.
Parenting Makes Pandemic Life Better, Not Worse, by Tom McTague, The Atlantic
For me, and I suspect millions of other parents with toddlers, the space that has opened up in our enforced confinement has been filled with the wistful idealism and gentle humor of Pixar, Judith Kerr, Julia Donaldson, and A. A. Milne. I have found myself searching for classic children’s books to share with my son, rediscovering some I’ve read and unearthing others I haven’t. My wife and I have been drawing up lists of old films to relive through his eyes: The Land Before Time, The Rescuers, Lady and the Tramp (the original, of course). Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks have already been ticked off.
...In a lockdown, it turns out, children are a valve. They are very good at increasing the tension, by refusing to sleep or eat or do as you say. But they can also relieve pressure. Perhaps I am just too willing to use my child as an excuse, but I don’t feel like I have to pretend I’m going to read that novel I ordered on Amazon, let alone write one. Having a son also gives my wife and I a daily task that is more than enough on its own, a collective endeavor, a source of fun and amusement—and meaning. Without him, I imagine my wife and I bickering more, cooped up with no obvious time or space to just be alone.