Plague-proof Florida and Texas with shaded outdoor classrooms?

Although Florida and Texas did not have significant coronaplague, they did go into full coronapanic, including shutdown of schools even for children under 10 whom the Swiss say cannot be relevant spreaders of infection.

Most schools have a lot of additional land, e.g., a vast parking lot as well as athletic fields. What about building some big palapas on some of this land, with warming lamps in the ceiling, to serve as outdoor classrooms? It could look like this restaurant in Mexico:


Alternatively, a boring American-style aluminum shade and screen structure (“Florida room”).

Either way, if the weather isn’t truly nasty, hold classes outdoors where plague transmission is unlikely. Will it cost a lot to have government-built shade structures? Sure! But it can’t be significant compared to what we’re currently spending as we try to flee in terror from coronavirus.

Obviously this can’t work in the core plague regions of the U.S., i.e., Boston and New York City. But why not in the parts of the U.S. where the weather is generally pleasant from September through May?

(Maybe extend this a bit farther north with (a) heated seats, and (b) wind barriers that can be raised or lowered as necessary.)

Readers: What’s wrong with this idea? Children in poor countries all over the world learn in some fairly basic spaces, sometimes even under just the shade of a tree. Are Americans so fearful of Covid-19-that they would shut down a school in which 95 percent of the activity is outdoors?


  • “Social Distancing Is Not Enough” (Altantic, one day later this this post): “A Hong Kong paper awaiting peer review found that of 7,324 documented cases in China, only one outbreak occurred outside … The risk of infection indoors is almost 19 times higher than in open-air environments … Every noncontact activity—talking, eating, working out—becomes significantly safer when you take it outside.”
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Massachusetts private school students zoom ahead

The school in our town shut down on the afternoon of March 12. Initially, the school decided that teachers wouldn’t be tasked with any online teaching. This was consistent with my theory that #1 priority for a public school is welfare enterprise for employees and that #2 priority was teaching.

This theory turned out to be wrong. Our email inboxes were flooded with content regarding the school’s heroic efforts to continue providing meals to students entitled to welfare. Could the school add $300/month to the mom’s EBT card and task her with microwaving whatever was purchased from a supermarket? Apparently that would be too challenging, so the school decided that they would have people come in to cook every day (spreading coronavirus to each other?) and then hire drivers in school buses to deliver the food to students, most of whom were located a 30-minute drive away in Boston (part of the METCO program that brings exotic skin colors to the suburbs while relieving wealthy Boston skyscraper owners from paying property tax).

How about the teachers? They email students with some assignments on Monday morning. These review material previously taught. They host a couple of Google Classroom hangout sessions each week, in which the students chat amongst themselves.

Facebook post from the father of an 8th-grade student here in our town (soon to be home to the most expensive school, per student, ever constructed in the United States):

Quarantine Day 30+ in a district with some of the highest teacher salaries in Massachusetts and a future $100m middle school building:

How was your video lesson with your teachers today? Have you guys started learning something new?

Papa, seriously, today we talked about our teachers’ dogs, dogs other teachers would love to get, and some other unrelated nonsense. For 45 minutes.

A follow-up:

“Papa, our teachers finally stopped pretending. This week’s science homework is ‘reflect on last week’s homework'”

The 8th grader spends roughly five hours per week on schoolwork, including the video chat. There are no grades.

Maybe things are better in Brookline, a top school district within Massachusetts? “The teachers are useless,” said a friend. “The kids are getting nothing.” His perspective was confirmed by another friend in that town: “Very close to giving up on Brookline schools, which have devolved into about one half hour of Zoom per day. It’s teacher’s union saying ‘you can’t make us teach’ and weak administration and School Committee — and somehow parents just aren’t organized enough even here…” (ordinarily she is a huge believer in the power of bigger government to fix any problem, and a loyal Clinton/Warren-style supporter of unionized labor)

How about high school? I ran into a 10th/11th grade English teacher walking his dog in the during what used to be the school day. He described his current work schedule as “intense.” What hours was he actually online with the students? “12-2 every day.”

What about private school? Friends have 3rd and 6th graders in a local school for intellectually and financially elite children. The teachers transitioned seamlessly and immediately to Zoom, working from 8 am to 2 or 3 pm daily. There are substantial homework assignments afterwards, especially for the 6th grader. Although the children are Zooming ahead, so to speak, academically, a lot of parental effort is required. There are numerous breaks and small tasks that require the mother and father to step in at various points throughout the school day.


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Why are states hiring contact tracers when they have idle teachers and librarians?

From NPR:

In all, 44 states and the District of Columbia now have plans to expand their contact tracing workforce, reaching a total of 66,197 workers — an increase by 30,000 of the number that were planned last week when we first published.

Several states that took our survey are making big efforts to shore up their contact tracing workforces. Notable examples include Louisiana and Kentucky, which are both planning to hire 700 people; Texas, which has 1,150 contact tracers and is hiring another 2,850 to start; and Kansas, which plans to bring on 400.

If public schools, libraries, and other state government functions are shut down, shouldn’t states have millions of idle people currently on the payroll? Why would they need to hire more instead of just providing some training to a current state worker who doesn’t have a lot on his/her/zer/their plate?

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The government can’t find the 22 million undocumented, but it will find and track every coronafected human inside the U.S.?

The technocracy here in the U.S. seems to be pinning its hopes for beating coronaplague on testing and contact tracing. Example: “Here’s A Way To Contain Covid-19 And Reopen The Economy In As Little As One Month” (Forbes, by a Boston University econ professor). Excerpts:

The solution is PCR group-household testing of all American households every week. Doing so will require running only 6 million tests per week, which is eminently and imminently feasible. … all household members can spit into a single container and deliver or mail that container to a test-collection site with a filled out label detailing all contact information of all household members. … If a household tests negative, each household member would be notified to go to their local pharmacy to receive a green wristband coated to change to red after one week. After one week, everyone in the household would provide a new sample and be re-group tested.

This system is voluntary. But if you choose to have your household tested and receive your green wristband, you’ll be permitted by your employer to return to work, by your teachers and professors to return to school, and by proprietors to enter their restaurants, shops, cafes, etc. You’ll also be allowed to frequent the beach, attend concerts, go to the movies, …

Any household that tests positive will be required by the local board of health to quarantine in place for two weeks and then be re-tested. Households that don’t voluntarily get tested will be free to come and go as they wish. But without their green bracelets, they will have a hard time entering into workplaces and other establishments. Employers who hired the untested could face legal liability. The same holds for any business serving the public who lets someone onto their premises without a green bracelet.

So it will be sort of like the First Amendment free speech guarantee. You can say that you’re opposed to race-based or gender-ID-based hiring (“affirmative action”), for example, but not if you want to get or keep a job/paycheck. Under the new public health regime, even those without jobs will find that what had been their Constitutional rights can be kept only if they never want to leave their house to shop for food, get on an airplane, meet friends at a restaurant, send a child to school, etc.

Let’s assume that the Constitution does not get in the way of building the glorious police state envisioned by the technocrats. Do we think that this can be accomplished successfully by the U.S. government?

Yale estimates that there are roughly 22 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Our government can’t find any of these folks, presumably, because otherwise they would have been deported. Yet now we’re saying that we can leave our houses and go to work if and only if the same government is able to find and then precisely track every American who ever becomes infected with the coronavirus?

And what about those 22 million soon-to-be-Americans whose documentation is not quite in order. Do they answer the phone and open the door to the friendly government testing and tracing agents? Do they supply a biological sample so their DNA can be extracted and parked in a database? Do they give the government agent a list of all places visited, with dates and times, and the names of everyone else who was there?

(It will be like “I live in constant fear that Trump will deport my Latina mother-in-law who lives at 1837 3rd st, LA 90023, blue house. She gets off work at 6.”?)

Is it credible to think that this hyper-efficient government operation will materialize and that Americans, including the undocumented, will cooperate with it?

(How does this play out on Facebook? A rich (via marriage) white woman (Ivy League PhD and college professor) in Manhattan, noting that her neighbors, especially the young healthy ones, were ignoring social distancing directives:

The combination of this protracted, seemingly endless sheltering with the better weather means that unless new regulations are put in place to indicate some sort of progress or at least some sort of action plan on the part of officials to facilitate and catalyze progress (yes, we all know that means more testing, contact tracing, etc), people are just going to break the same old regulations we’ve had for the past two months.

I asked

There are roughly one million undocumented immigrants in New York. Why do they open the door and cooperate with the friendly government testing and tracing agents?

She responds:

it seems you are claiming that undocumented immigrants are responsible for propagating the corona virus.

I clarified:

That wasn’t my claim. In your post you talk about a technocratic solution, testing and tracing, that requires all residents of the city to cooperate with government officials. The residents will supply samples from which DNA can be extracted. The residents will give the government agents detailed information about everywhere they’ve been and everyone they’ve interacted with. My point was that not all residents of NYC may be equally eager to cooperate with this dream of technocratic coronaplague control.

She comes up with a new epidemiology theory:

well, then easy: it’s up to the documented people to comply in order for their “documentary herd immunity” to help protect the undocumented and vulnerable. The terms here are metaphorical as well as literal/ technical.
In any event, the undocumented are largely the ones still hustling out there and, eg, doing the deliveries to keep the lives of many of the documented comfortable and sheltered.

I.e., you can have a substantial share of the population, which is in fact the most likely to contract the coronavirus, be outside of the testing and tracing umbrella, and still eliminate the coronavirus because the people who cooperate (and therefore don’t get infected) will provide a “documentary herd immunity”.)

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Can the positive experience of Hong Kong with clean disposable paper masks translate to Americans using filthy reusable face rags?

I was an early believer that Americans could mask up and #LeaveHomeSaveLives. This belief was substantially based on the positive experience that Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and China have had with keeping various viruses under control. Beginning in May, with coronaplague well past peak in the U.S., a lot of governors began to share my enthusiasm for masks. The Massachusetts face rag order went into effect on May 6.

(peak was April 8; Professor of Epidemiology Donald J. Trump said the plague would be on the decline by Easter; Easter was April 12:

data from the IMHE prophecy site.)

However, since the disposable paper masks that are favored by health care workers and Asian consumers aren’t readily available, Americans are primarily using filthy cotton face rags that they wash periodically and touch all of the time (retrieving from pocket or cupholder, even if not when on face). Facebook post from a humanities professor friend:

After sewing my own three ply face masks, and buying a few not so great ones locally, I just got a pack of masks from a T-shirt company in San Francisco that actually seem quite good. They are three ply (Correction: just realized they are four ply, even better), with two lightweight inner cotton layers, and a heavier (doubled) cotton/poly blend outer fabric, and are big enough to cover the whole face. They also tie on, so feel more secure than having elastic over the ears, and also have a way to easily insert filters too. There’s lots of people selling masks, but these are the best I’ve found so far, so figured I’d pass it along.

Even Shutterfly is selling cloth masks, despite there being no photo customization option:

WHO says that masks work only if the wearers have ready access to the very things that Americans don’t have access to: sinks for handwashing and/or hand sanitizer. This is easy in the Shanghai Metro. Use any station’s clean restroom. But how can it be done in New York City or Boston, the plague centers of the U.S., especially if most places that actually have public restrooms are now closed?

Three questions, then:

  1. Do we think that the governors’ orders to “rag up” will affect coronaplague transmission?
  2. If “yes”, will transmission be reduced or increased by these saliva-soaked occasionally washed rags?
  3. Will there be any way to figure out whether our guess was correct? What data can we look at in June, for example, to figure out if the Massachusetts May 6 “rag up” order had any effect?


  • Danish professor of microbiology explains why we are stupid (ordinary folks will incubate the virus in their warm moist face rag, then touch it, then leave virus on surfaces that others will touch)
  • “I Wear My Face Mask in the Car” (make sure to watch at 2:25 when Bill Gates comes in)
  • My favorite question, from a latter-day female-identifying Socrates… What I don’t get: If masks work, why aren’t we back at work? If masks don’t work, why are we being asked to wear them?
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A typical American hospital during coronapanic

The author of Medical School 2020 gave me an update on his training hospital. They have roughly 1,100 beds. They have admitted 24 Covid-19 patients since the plague began. There are currently 7 Covid-19 patients in the hospital. Residents have been working week-on/week-off due to the shortage of cases from which they might learn. “We’re allowed to do elective surgeries as of this week,” he said, “and I thought there would be a huge backlog, but there isn’t. We’re still not busy.”


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Do countries with better medical systems have higher Covid-19 death rates?

Asked for his theory on why death rates from Covid-19 varied so much from country to country, a Dutch friend said that he thought that countries that had “better” health care systems, in the sense that they were able to keep more “zombies” alive, would end up with a higher death rate. “Nigeria doesn’t have a lot of 90-year-olds on permanent life support,” he pointed out, “so coronavirus is going to have a tougher time killing people there.”

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Update from the Massachusetts License Raj

As in the early decades of Indian independence, all business activity in Massachusetts is forbidden except what is specifically permitted. Our state’s License Raj has released an update: “When can my business reopen?”

Although barbershops can reopen on May 25, flight schools are specifically forbidden from reopening: “TBD – not Phase 1. Comprehensive plan is being developed” (i.e., government officials are spending taxpayer funds on a “comprehensive plan” for an activity in which only a few hundred residents of Massachusetts participate).

The best news for those who are passionate about optimizing health: Medical marijuana shops are still considered “essential” and can conduct business as usual (maybe because stoners are the best at following WHO guidelines regarding proper use of face masks?).

Own a residential summer camp? Your business is finished. We start “Phase 1” on May 25. You’re in “Phase 3,” to which no date is attached. Whale watch boat where all of the tourists are outside in the seabreeze and sun and you can set capacity at any fraction of the Coast Guard max number? You’re done. Phase 3.

The governor and his subordinates did not address the stay-at-home mom’s question that I cut and pasted previously:

What I don’t get: If masks work, why aren’t we back at work? If masks don’t work, why are we being asked to wear them?

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American-style lockdown…

From Atlantic, “Dear Therapist: My Boyfriend Had an Affair and Now We’re Stuck at Home Together”:

I found out during the stay-at-home orders that my boyfriend of eight years has been cheating on me with a co-worker for at least four months (that I know of). He lied to me by saying that he was going out for errands, but he was really meeting with her in a parking lot. She is married.

What do patients get when they swipe their Visa card at the therapist’s office?

And how does he reconcile his love for you with, presumably, having sexual contact with another person during a global pandemic and potentially infecting you with a deadly virus?

(I’m disappointed that the therapist did not ask “Were they both wearing homemade masks?”)

How about an update to “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” for the Cower-in-Place age: “Not All Who Are ‘Running Errands’ Are At Target”?


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