We went from 74 new cases of Covid 19 on June 15 to 389 cases on June 26, a five fold increase after several weeks of people partying like it is 2019.
Assuming that nothing changes between now and then, we will exceed the peak of new cases found (1,953) in Michigan back on April 3rd…. by the middle of July.
Certainly, case fatality rates are down, but if disease is not, this leaves us with even larger numbers of people suffering debilitating disease. Some will suffer for years and some of them might die earlier than they would otherwise.
Local bars, restaurants and music venues are opening up and trying to get people to come out like they did before, albeit under new rules. Some places are making a greater effort to protect workers and customers than others.
A local bar discovered that one of their staff tested positive for Covid 19 and, to their credit, shut down operations and tested the entire staff. But the infected staff member could have been infected up to two weeks ago and could have infected other staff, who could have infected customers. Every single person who stepped into that building needs to be informed. Is there a mechanism to do this? Obviously not, but there should be.
Moreover, the public needs to know which establishments have positive cases and when so that people can judge the relative safety of businesses and can act accordingly when they believe that they might have been at risk. This is also not happening but it should be.
People will inevitably say “it is worse everywhere else.” That doesn’t do anything to help a person on a vent. We are in real trouble, we need to act like it.
What will the State of Michigan do about this? Will we have another shut down? What does this bode for the future? Whatever it is, it isn’t good.
So… wear your damn mask. Stay the fuck home. Get carry out. Ignore all these people trying to get you to go out and act like life is the same as before, because it just isn’t.
The risks of covid19 are well known at this point. While we all need to be sympathetic to the need for people to earn a livelihood, a living should not come at the expense of public health and worker safety. This should be a given.
I have seen some businesses who are doing quite well right now. While my sample size is certainly small and my observations subject to my own biases, it is easy to tell apart the businesses who make an effort and the ones who do not.
We should support businesses who 1) require masks without fail, 2) offer masks and gloves to both workers and customers, 3) limit the number of customers in the store at any given time and 4) build plexiglass shields to separate customers and workers.
We should not support businesses who take a lax approach to masks, do not offer masks to customers who don’t have them, allow large numbers of people in the store proportional to size and do not have plexiglass shields in front of the register.
All of these modifications are easy and cheap to implement. There are few occasions where there is any valid excuse for not doing all of them in normal retail and food service industries.
Which bring me to the the point of this post. How can customers know how seriously businesses are taking covid19? Certainly, online review sites like Yelp or Google are going to be helpful, but these do not provide any indication of progress that businesses might make (“evolution”) or provide standards so that we can easily compare one business with another.
Many municipalities provide public record of compliance with health regulations. The New York City Health Department performs unannounced inspections of all restaurants in the five boroughs at least once an year and makes the data public. The public can search for any food provider in the city for any type of violation and even has a grading system. The Washtenaw County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development conduct regular inspections of food service establishments within their jurisdictions and publish the results online. The worst offenders often make the papers.
We need such a system for all businesses to make sure that they comply with efforts to contain the spread of covid19. Consumers have a right to know whether a business is compliant or not BEFORE they make the decision to visit that business. While the logistics of such a system are complicated and likely expensive, they are necessary.
Will this be on our legislature’s agenda? Do local health departments already have the authority to implement such a system? Would businesses push back against cheap masks and plexi? Certainly, there are challenges to implementation, but it isn’t impossible.
A friend suggested recently that I revive my blog, though I seem to notice that my last 20 posts all say something to the effect of reviving my blog… which sort of begs the question of whether this endless revival contradicts the idea that it was ever dead.
Regardless, I used to have a feature called “Movie of the Week” where I would write some sentences about some film that I found particularly impressive. I still watch an inordinate amount of movies, so much so, that the streaming services are almost dead to me; there’s not much left to watch that I haven’t seen that at least *looks* interesting. Open to suggestions though!
MUBI, however, is an endless trove of cinematic gems, adding and taking away films from its catalogue almost daily. Michigan Theater members got three months free during the Covid-19 lockdown, which has been a real life saver right now. So far, I have caught up on some recent Japanese productions that I missed (that I won’t even mention since it just isn’t polite to speak ill of the dead), got to see the Ryuichi Sakamoto doc “Coda” from 2017 (which was superb) and a number of oddball Russian productions that I would have missed otherwise (Beanpole from 2019 is highly recommended).
A standout, however, was “Tehran Taboo,” a German-Austrian production by Iranian born German director Ali Soozandeh. Tehran Taboo is the story of three women and one man, navigating the complex dissonance between strict rules on sex and economic, human and social realities.
Shot in Germany and Austria using Persian speaking actors, the film is rotoscoped. That is, the visuals are traced over live actors, in the same vein as Bakshi’s 1978 production of Lord of the Rings. Rotoscoping for Tehran Taboo availed the director of having to film sensitive material in Iran. He could shoot in Germany and then simply draw over the action to create settings that at least “look” like Iran without fear of having the religious police (who are central to the film) arrest everyone involved. Aside from the practical issues the film just looks great and the animated approach brings out the immediacy of the subject matter.
Alrighty, then, there’s my blog post. I win.
Ancestor worship is a common theme in African lore, particulary in the traditional arts. So while people are singing the praises of their dead relatives, I always wanted to ask what to do if my ancestors were horrible people?
I was recently speaking with some people whose parents were refugees from Romania, ostensibly people who were fleeing life under the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, a forgotten piece of Stalinist work who made the lives of Romanians miserable for decades. While Ceaușescu and his government were vile, the people who came to the US were refugees and likely middle class families decended from peasants back home.
The contrast with my and many Americans’ heritage is stark. I am decended from a family of Mitchells, a distinguished Scottish family of wealthy means who decided to take a gamble and invest in agricultural ventures in the Southern United States. The first to come was a man named Thomas Mitchell, my maternal great x 10 grandfather, who arrived in US, fought in the Revolutionary War and set subsequently set up shop for the family business in Georgia.
Thomas, like many Scots who came to the Southern United States, came to profit not only off land and agricultural products that could be exported to Europe, but also off the promise of cheap, forced labor from Africa. Thomas Mitchell was a slaver.
From slave based agriculature, the Mitchell family became extremely wealthy in the South, producing numerous politicians, lawyers, administrators and academics. There is still a county named for the Mitchell family in Georgia.
In 1836, the Mitchell family expanded their land holdings by assembling a militia of 75 men and committing a genocide against the Native American residents of their land “in which all the Indians except five were killed, their arms, campage, etc. falling into the hands of the whites.”
There are others, but the point is, does it make sense to venerate one’s ancestors when they were clearly committing crimes against humanity? The Romanians I spoke with probably have terrible members of their family, but likely have not had their lives shaped by a horrible past.
I am not unique. Just about any white person in the South whose family was their during the 18th and 19th centuries was involved in the buying, selling and use of humans. If they have money now, it is a direct result of slavery and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans in the South. We should never forget, because that’s how we got here, the past that shapes our present. Our current lives were made possible by terrible people doing reprehensible things to other people.
So no, not going to sing any praise songs to my ancestors any time soon. Maybe I’ll do the opposite instead.
A friend of mine hooked me up with a short gig teaching a course in malaria and tropical medicine for Colby College’s JanPlan. Every January, students have the opportunity to study a subject in depth, often with teaching faculty not based at Colby College.
I have long wanted to design an undergrad level course in tropical medicine so took it as an opportunity to do so. We focused mostly on malaria, covering the basics of malaria epidemiology, pathogen and vector biology, prevention and treatment, diagnostics, vector control, health care delivery, international funding for malaria programs, drug and insecticide resistance and elimination/eradication. We even had lectures on basic concepts of epidemiology and infectious disease and talked at length about public health, public health practice and medical ethics. It has been a fairly intense month.
At first, I was a bit concerned that the subject matter would be too broad, particularly for science people, but quickly learned that much of the class were non-science majors, and most were freshmen. This gave me a great opportunity to bring in a wide range of topics that could appeal to just about everyone in the class.
I found this great post on drug shortages that appeared in BMJ today. Among all of the other great gems in it, was this incredibly interesting article on the creation of a mechanical bloodletting device. Jean-Baptiste Sarlandière, a French anatomist and inventor, created the “mechanical leech”, a device intended to extract a controlled amount of blood from the body. Sarlandiere intended the device to replace leeches, which were subject to increasing demand, were becoming expensive, were difficult to cultivate, and were subject to shortages in the Netherlands, who was a large producer of leeches at the time.
A paper was written on the device back in 2009, and within there is a dataset of leech imports and exports to France, which includes data on the monetary value of leeches and public consumption. Of course, I couldn’t resist pulling this data out and doing something with it (despite having better things to do.)
Here is the data, pulled from yet another paper (Alexandre E Baudrimont, Adolphe J Blanqui, et al., Dictionnaire de l’industrie manufacturie`re, commerciale et agricole, Paris, J-B Baillière, 1833–1841, pp. 25–30.):
|Year||Number of leeches imported||Value in Francs||National consumption||Exports||Import export ratio||Value per leech|
Of course, I am fascinated with this. The number of leeches exported from France rose during this period as did the market price of each leech. Though the entire industry would eventually collapse because other medical advances of the nineteenth century would supercede it, it is clear that increased demand and expense led to innovation to create devices to replace it. I don’t know whether the “mechanical leech” led to the development of other medical devices, but would like to think that even batshit ideas like how swamp worms draw out blood to cure any and all medical conditions would lead to the creation of methods which do improve health.
I started this blog way back in 2007, when I was a Masters student at the University of Michigan. At the time, it felt like a good way to get writing out there, and communicate ideas in a public forum. When I was at my peak on this blog (and my life, it seems) I was writing daily, sometimes posting the data analyses equivalent to many (low quality) published scientific papers, writing travel logs, doing interviews, broadcasting psychological traumas, posting photos… it was a good time.
At some point, I lost focus, got busy with other things, got on the wrong track, the right track, it really isn’t clear to me what happened, but I posted less and wrote less. The result was that my writing suffered, because the daily posts provided a great opportunity to keep my writing in shape, and explore interesting scientific topics in depth without worrying about the bureaucratic demands of peer review or research collaborators. While peer review and research collaborations are important, every science needs a forum with which to explore ideas.
Now, though, as I move back into my academic career, I am wondering…. is blogging worth it anymore? I just read Rachel Strohm’s final post . Rachel started blogging about the same time I did, and has since moved on to a fruitful career in development and academia and now lives in Kenya. She has recently stopped blogging, noting that “The development blogging ecosystem is basically dead. ” (I do wonder if her move to Kenya might have killed her motivation for blogging, the same way it killed mine.) I have also noticed that the authors of several blogs I used to read have also moved on.
Strohm offers that direct newsletter updates and Twitter might be a better platform for dissemination blog-like information for people. I think Twitter is a pretty terrible platform for anything at all outside of haranguing right wingers or sending cat videos, so I am not sure that it would do what blogging would have done for me. While I do not have a large Twitter presence, it seems to be a major time suck, with little reward and multiple costs (like blood pressure.)
Newsletters are interesting. Even as a musician, I find that directly engaging people who might be interested in my music is far better than any of the social media platforms, which do their best to make sure that no one ever sees what you do, unless you have a thousand dollar PR budget.
I liked the blogging format. I still do. I think it could still work, but wonder…. do people even read long form writing anymore? Does it have any impact? Is blogging going the way journalism is? What is a good platform anymore? Does writing mean anything at all anymore?
Currently, I am a part of a project looking at climate change impacts on the distribution of tree and grass pollens in the US and associations with allergy and asthma related emergency room visits
As part of that, we are collecting baseline data on symptomatic profiles of patients who are sensitive to tree and grass pollens and are currently undergoing immunotherapy in local clinics.
Our survey is two fold, the first a baseline survey of types of demographics, types of allergies, seasonal sensitivities, general symptoms and lifestyle impacts, the second a three week survey of sleep quality and allergy and asthma related events.
We hope to gather data to see how the ragweed season might impact general health and well being using a coarse raster of predicted pollen distribution.
The survey is being conducted at the University of Michigan Allergy Specialty Clinic and Food Allergy Clinic at Domino’s Farms and will include approximately 50 people.
At least that’s what we hope happens. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to join the Detroit Communities Reducing Energy and Water (use) project, focusing on Parkside, a subsidized housing community in Detroit, MI.
The project aims to help residents make changes to the electrical and plumbing infrastructure of their homes to reduce the energy costs. Residents in poor communities often live in housing that has old, inefficient and sometimes faulty electrical wiring, kitchen appliances and aging or damaged pipes, showers and toilets.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health has a community based participatory research project with the residents of Parkside, the Friends of Parkside, a local advocacy group.
We administered a survey on energy, housing conditions and health to about twenty residents who came to the event. Following the consumption of copious amounts of pizza, the goals of the study were explained to everyone in a group meeting and consent was obtained.
They then moved to another room and took the survey. Many of the residents were elderly, mostly women. All had interesting stories to tell about broken air conditioners, unresponsive maintenance crews, family, friends, kids…. everything you find in these kinds of surveys.
After they were done, they all got some ca$h and were provided with a temperature monitor so that we can better understand what they are experiencing in their homes during these hot summer months. We will then conduct a follow up survey to assess the impact of a home based educational program on energy use and health.
It had been a long time since I was involved in community and I was grateful to be a part of. Some people don’t like this kind of work, I really don’t understand what’s not to like about hanging out with survey respondents who feel invested in the project and their communities.