One way in which the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has changed my blogging: I’ve too much to read and not enough wherewithal in my brain to say much about any of it. So, instead, these round-up posts.
“This isn’t a temporary disruption,” argues Gideon Lichfield. “It’s the start of a completely different way of life.”
There’ll be some adaptation, of course: gyms could start selling home equipment and online training sessions, for example. We’ll see an explosion of new services in what’s already been dubbed the “shut-in economy.” One can also wax hopeful about the way some habits might change—less carbon-burning travel, more local supply chains, more walking and biking.
But the disruption to many, many businesses and livelihoods will be impossible to manage. And the shut-in lifestyle just isn’t sustainable for such long periods.
“Infections don’t just attack weaknesses in the human body,” writres Laurie Penny. “They also exploit weaknesses in human society.”
That, as they say on the twitter-dot-com, is a real heckin problem. The collective psychology of neoliberalism encourages self-interest and short-term thinking. It both creates and requires human lives that are organized around the kind of constant insecurity and stress that actively prevent us from thinking beyond the next fiscal quarter. The diseases that are most successful in the coming century will, as always, be the diseases that exploit our major failure modes and popular delusions.
“The lateness of today’s newsletter reflects the fact that time isn’t real anymore,” muses Drew Austin, “and everything is blurring together.”
“Check-lists and rules of thumb, pivot tables and diagrams — techniques, as well as tools — helped usher in world-shrinking improvements to navigation and communication,” notes Anton Howes. “And much the same could be said of healthcare.”
“This is the kind of story that, as a critic, I am loath to write,” laments Mark Lamster: “a response to a national catastrophe in which architecture has no direct role.”
Driving around is a lonely, gut-churning business, because the city is so obviously not itself. What’s missing are people, and not just their physical presence, but their energy. Without people to animate them, buildings and places are just coordinates on a map, empty vessels. A city becomes an archaeological site.
“We’ve known about SARS-CoV-2 for only three months,” reads the subhead on Ed Yong’s biography of the virus, “but scientists can make some educated guesses about where it came from and why it’s behaving in such an extreme way.”
The new virus certainly seems to be effective at infecting humans, despite its animal origins. The closest wild relative of SARS-CoV-2 is found in bats, which suggests it originated in a bat, then jumped to humans either directly or through another species. (Another coronavirus found in wild pangolins also resembles SARS-CoV-2, but only in the small part of the spike that recognizes ACE2; the two viruses are otherwise dissimilar, and pangolins are unlikely to be the original reservoir of the new virus.) When SARS-classic first made this leap, a brief period of mutation was necessary for it to recognize ACE2 well. But SARS-CoV-2 could do that from day one. “It had already found its best way of being a [human] virus,” says Matthew Frieman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.