Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.
These are dark days for democracy. It hardly feels like the time to address anything other than the brutal murder of George Floyd and the ongoing horrors occurring in the US, but the COVID-19 pandemic is no less dangerous today than it was a week ago.
In fact, the selfish actions of impeached US President Donald Trump have surely exacerbated the pandemic and arrested the science and technology world’s ability to address the virus at the epicenter of infection: the US.
The STEM world was presented with an opportunity to develop contact-tracing apps and data pipelines for AI systems capable of predicting the spread of COVID-19. It does not appear that there will now be an ethical way to obtain or use this data in the US.
In light of the US government’s continuing violent assaults on peaceful protesters and those attempting to shelter in their own homes, it is of the utmost importance that the global STEM community does everything in its power to protect the privacy of those peacefully protesting until such a time as democracy is restored to the US.
Tens of millions of US citizens — and thousands more around the globe in cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam — have risked their lives and safety during a pandemic to stand in solidarity with peaceful US protesters demanding change from an oppressive government.
Impeached president Trump’s abortion of leadership and pathological lack of empathy have likely placed us on the path to a second wave pandemic that threatens to be worse than what we’ve seen so far.
We can’t assume that we are in for a second wave in the fall. We may be in for a second wave in July. https://t.co/elnBpJKQKX
— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) June 2, 2020
Make no mistake: Impeached president Trump has spat upon the sacrifices made by everyone around the planet who sheltered-in-place, self-quarantined, and socially-distanced for months. And he’s crippled the ability for US STEM workers to do their jobs and fight the virus.
We were supposed to flatten the curve and develop a vaccine. Instead, people are gathering in some of the most massive crowds ever assembled in public squares around the world because the alternative is worse.
We are under duress.
By the numbers
Due to the fact that the bulk of active COVID-19 cases are in the US, current data on the virus is unreliable at best. So we’ll take a look at the timeline for COVID-19 cases so far instead. Source: Worldometers.
154: Days since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan (December 31st
61: Days since COVID-19 cases breached 1,000,000 globally (April 2nd)
36: Days since COVID-19 cases breached 3,000,000 globally (April 27th)
1: Days since COVID-19 cases breached 6,000,000 globally (June 1st)
Tweet of the week
Important.‼️ That severely under-powered study (n=4) that allegedly showed cloth masks were ineffective in blocking SARS-CoV-2? My co-authors argued that it had errors in it (and took a lot of grief for that). It has been *retracted* because of errors. https://t.co/wVVZFTncSA pic.twitter.com/hLg42uKkhp
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) June 2, 2020
What to read
This week we’ll be including links to stories that discuss the ongoing protests and violence in the US. We stand in solidarity with the peaceful protesters. Black Lives Matter.
|*||Human trials have begun for experimental COVID-19 antibodies, this looks promising. (CNN)|
|*||Sickening conspiracy theories surrounding the death of George Floyd are surging online. (The New York Times)|
|*||Impeached president Trump’s lack of leadership is responsible for worsening the pandemic. (Bloomberg)|
|*||Airlines want to keep flying by leaving the middle seat open. How much is that going to raise your ticket prices? (Market Watch)|
|*||Here’s seven ways to protect your privacy while you’re peacefully protesting.|
|*||Here’s even more advice on protecting your digital privacy while you’re protesting. (Vice)|
|*||18 videos showing US police and military forces attacking peaceful protesters, members of the press, and helpless activists. There are hundreds more just like these.|
|*||We’re on course for a second wave of COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know. (The Conversation)|
|*||We thought Sweden had the perfect coronavirus response. We were wrong. (Wired)|
No matter how dark the night becomes, the dawn will come. But the fight promises to be a long one.
It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to play a video game. It’s okay to practice your flute or draw anime characters or binge-watch a really stupid TV show right now. We need to breathe and take breaks so we can endure until the end.
With that in mind, we are going to keep this section going.
In this section, one of our writers will share one weird internet thing they’ve been obsessing over while in lockdown. This week’s comes from TNW’s own Rachel Kaser!
Where I live in Texas, the lockdown has tentatively lifted, but people are still being fairly cautious about going out and doing social activities — myself included. So now that I’ve been spending far more time inside, I’ve found myself enjoying things I would never ordinarily have tried.
In this case, it’s ghost videos. I’m a skeptic about anything paranormal, and don’t really care for horror anything, so this is an entertainment vertical I’ve never indulged in before.
I started watching videos that weren’t ghost-related — I think the original video I watched was about true crime, but apparently that was enough for YouTube’s algorithm to assume I must want to watch “Creepy Ghost Videos That’ll Keep You Up at Night” and other similarly named things.
That led me down the YouTube rabbit hole, and before I knew it, I was a regularly consumer of channels such as Mr. Nightmare (who narrates scary stories of both a paranormal and mundane flavor), Lazy Masquerade (a paranormal and true crime YouTuber), and Nuke’s Top 5 (who’s mostly ghostly content). And until recently, I couldn’t really have told you why I was watching them.
It certainly wasn’t the content bringing me back to these videos. I tried watching other horror YouTubers but they didn’t have the same effect on me. But while I was attempting to sit through an ASMR video (again, boredom does strange things to us), it hit me: These horror YouTubers’ voices and background music, which are clearly intended to be spooky, instead strike me as very soothing and relaxing. One of my favorites on a stressful day is Top5s, the narrator of which has quite possibly the most incongruously calming voice I’ve ever heard.
Take Nuke, the narrator of Nuke’s Top 5, which regularly features ghost videos. Whenever he’s about to play the paranormal money shot, he says “And then things get… truly bizarre” in what I swear is the exact voice my meditation app uses when telling me to breathe in and hold it.
The subject matter does occasionally get in the way of my relaxation — in one Mr Nightmare video, he inserts a scream sound effect at a point in the story when someone screams, which had me throwing my headphones at the ceiling. And I don’t expect anyone else to share my bizarre form of zen. But given the state of the world, I’m glad to have found something that helps me relax, no matter how weird it is.
We’ll be back next Tuesday. And every Tuesday after that until the pandemic ends. Because we’re all in this together.
In the meantime, here’s a few links to help you manage the misinformation as the disease hits its peak:
John Hopkins Univeristy COVID-19 myth vs fact
Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Stay healthy and take care of each other,