Pandemic blog 35: Updates

What’s going on with some of the topics previously covered?

Slimming: The initial weight loss reported slowed down, but hasn’t stopped, even though I started eating take-out from restaurants in July and have been doing so pretty regularly. Now at about 18 pounds below pre-pandemic weight. Why, I wonder? Is it really just the lunch out at work and the snack at the coffeeshop forgone?

Pandemic elections: 100,000 people in Dane County have already returned their absentee ballots for November. The city is setting up “Democracy in the Park” events where voters can turn in their ballots to city pollworkers; Republicans are trying to have those events declared illegal, because (this is me editorializing) they make it easy and convenient for people to vote whose votes they’d rather not see cast. There is a lot of noise about slowness of the mail, but it’s been fast here, and I mailed my ballot in; received by the clerk in just two days. The underlying worry here is that political actors will try to retroactively have legally cast ballots invalidated after Election Day, leaving voters with no recourse. The fact that mailed-in absentees are expected to be predominantly Democratic (only 44,000 ballots returned so far in Crucial Waukesha County) creates an obvious means of attack. I don’t really think that’ll happen but people are thinking about it under their mental breath.

Writing: The book is almost done! A draft is written, I’m going through and revising and putting in more endnotes now. To me it seems completely different from How Not To Be Wrong, while Dr. Mrs. Q says it seems exactly the same, which seems a kind of sweet spot: I can hope the people who liked the other book will like this one, while feeling for myself that I’m not putting out the same product again and again like a hack.

Impossible Meat: We’re still eating a lot of it! I have absolutely learned to read it as meat and no longer think of it as a substitute. But we’ve converged on using it exclusively in sauces; as a burger, it still doesn’t totally satisfy.

Smart Restart: After the big surge with the opening of classes, UW-Madison shut down in-person instruction for two weeks and put the two first-year dorms where cases were concentrated into isolation. The positivity rate on campus has dropped back down to around 1% and the campus outbreak doesn’t seem to have created sustained exponential growth in Madison’s general population; but it does seem to have brought our daily case load back up to where it was months ago, from which it is, again, only very slowly dropping. When R_0 is a little less than 1, even a brief bump up in prevalence can be very expensive in terms of long-term cumulative case numbers. Now we are starting football again. Is that smart? There won’t be any fans in Camp Randall (which means the economic catastrophe for local businesses of a year without a football season is going to happen unblunted.) Then again, there’s something hypocritical about me saying “Hell no, why take the risk” since I’ve been watching and enjoying baseball. The enjoyment of millions of fans actually does have value. MLB, because lots and lots of money is riding on this, has mostly kept its players and employees from suffering outbreaks. The Big Ten can probably do the same — if it cares to. What I worry about is this. By all accounts, in-person teaching hasn’t been spreading COVID either. But when we had in-person teaching, everyone felt things were more normal, and thinking things were more normal, they relaxed their social distancing, and that generated thousands of cases. There was indirect spread. Will football generate the same?

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4 thoughts on “Pandemic blog 35: Updates

  1. There’s nothing hypocritical about you saying ““Hell no, why take the risk” since I’ve been watching and enjoying baseball.” The huge difference is that the MLB players are *paid* (and handsomely so) while the Big Ten players are not.

  2. JSE says:

    Very good point. MLB players were also given the opportunity to opt out, though if they opted out, they didn’t get paid, unless they could demonstrated elevated risk of serious illness to themselves. I would hope that at the very least our UW athletes are allowed to opt out of the season while maintaining all scholarships, academic support, etc., that they’ve earned.

  3. Richard Séguin says:

    I’m a little worried about UW-Madison football, which I think begins somewhere around October 20. I’m not a football fan myself, but you don’t have to live here very long to have observed that UW football is a huge social ritual, with tailgate barbecues, massive amounts of beer, visits to the favorite bars before and after the game, and dining in big groups in restaurants before and after the game. (Restaurants here typically hit ear shattering decibel levels on game days because of the loud boisterous fans.) No one will be in the stadium, but I’m afraid that there will large backyard barbecues, viewing parties in front of 100 inch TVs, sports bars violating occupancy rules, etc.) We haven’t been challenged yet by the really big holidays, like Thanksgiving, which is just a month after football starts, and brings together extended families. I think that it’s quite possible that our infection rate here will double in the next month or two, and the hospitals will be thrown into crisis mode.

    After having dropped down to my graduate school weight, I’ve actually gained five pounds since March for no apparent reason.

  4. I think the likelihood of a gang of white supremacists showing up early morning November 4 at wherever Dane County is counting votes, taking all the yet to be counted absentee ballots at gunpoint, and dumping them into Lake Monona is actually pretty significant, and in particular higher than the likelihood of any act of the legislature or court case invalidating the ballots.

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