Sometimes a Fantasy Is All You Need: The NCAA Tackles COVID-19

A recent article in The New York Times illustrates the magical thinking that prevails in the NCAA, and indeed, throughout much of higher education, on the topic of the coronavirus:

When Kansas State opened the doors to its athletic facilities, welcoming its football players back to campus starting the first weekend in June, administrators breathed a sigh of relief once the first batch of coronavirus tests came back.

The first wave of athletes spent a week in quarantine before voluntary workouts, as all players were required to do, and the scorecard was pristine: 90 tests, zero positives.

Another six players straggled in a day or two later and were swabbed. Again, no positives.

Then by June 12, the final group of 24 arrivals–largely freshmen–was tested. But just a week later, Kansas State shut down its workouts until at least mid-July after two positive cases in that final group morphed into four and then eight before leaping to 14, as nearly half the team needed to be checked again.

With its announcements on Saturday, Kansas State became the first school from a Power 5 conference to shut down football activities. Two other Football Bowl Subdivision schools did the same after outbreaks among their athletes, with Houston making the decision on June 12 and Boise State on Monday.

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Coronavirus Diary (42): Should the Parks Be Closed in Jersey?

Feel free to believe this or not, but just about everyone who knows me well–friends, wives, ex’s–knows of my long history of altercations with the cops. Many of these altercations have taken place during my nocturnal rambles in local parks. Cops often claim that the parks “close,” and are willing to hassle anyone walking in the park “after hours.”* In doing so, they will often (falsely) insist that “there’s a curfew,” and ignore the blackletter of the laws they claim to be enforcing. Continue reading

When Arguments Fail: A Response to Jason Brennan

So far, the BHL crowd has had literally nothing useful–explanatory, action-guiding, otherwise illuminating–to say about the COVID-19 pandemic. They have mostly kept their counsel, and offered up a series of pointless, incoherent, ranting tweets masquerading as the latest wisdom in statistical modeling. Add it all together, and it amounts to less in the way of insight than might be dished up by a just-buried corpse. Continue reading

COVID-19 Narratives (3): A Physician’s View of the Front Lines

[An anonymous submission by a physician at a New York City-area hospital.]

If you wanted to concoct a story of a cruel, vengeful god who plotted to induce madness upon all of humanity, you could not do better than the COVID-19 pandemic. Under normal circumstances, all it takes is a few sensible, simple, commonsense hygiene practices to prevent infectious illness from becoming a major public health problem. As diseases go, the usual suspects are pathogens we know well (influenza, rhinovirus, etc.), whose disease courses tend to follow a familiar and predictable narrative: prodrome, syndrome, convalescence, immunity. Serious illness is an exception to the rule with these players, and it clusters predictably in familiar groups of outlier hosts: the very old, those with severe medical problems, the very young. These individuals are at risk roughly as to how old, close to being newborns, or medically complicated they are. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (34): PPE–It’s Now or Never

It’s really this simple: the clever assholes who’ve spent their time snarking their way through denial or minimization of the COVID-19 pandemic have nothing to offer in the way of solutions to the actual problems anyone is facing right now. At this point, there’s only one solution at the disposal of the average person: ignore such people and render direct assistance to those in need. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (32): Who Does Not Treat Shall Not Eat

All those thought-experiments you might have encountered while studying consequentialism versus deontology in grad school or some intro ethics course are about to become terrible realities in New York City and northern New Jersey within the next few hours. I’m writing this on Sunday night, April 5th. By tomorrow morning, there’ll be no escape in this area from the misery I’m about to describe. The surge is imminent. The minimizers, deniers, and skeptics were wrong. What you’re about to see is the twenty-first century equivalent of a painting by Hieronymous Bosch. Figure out now whether you want to look or avert your eyes. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (31): The Dark Side of South Jersey

When all this is over–whatever that even means–I hope no one tells me that things like this never happened. I know how tedious it is to see another post on this much-belabored issue. But hard experience with the 9/11 celebration rumors taught me that if you don’t rigorously document something in real time, people will deny its existence after the fact. Actually, some will deny its existence as it’s happening, and others will deny its existence no matter how rigorously it’s documented. Unfortunately, not every disease has a cure. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (28): The Fifth Amendment Under Quarantine

The Attorney General (of New Jersey) needs to explain whether the Fourth and Fifth Amendments have literally been suspended in Essex County, where enforcement actions have been stepped up considerably (especially in Newark, Irvington, Orange, and East Orange).

In order to be stopped by the police, there must be reasonable suspicion of the commission of an infraction within the jurisdiction of the officer doing the stop. The mere presence of a person in public cannot constitute reasonable suspicion of any infraction, including Executive Order 107.* So we need to know: do Fourth Amendment strictures still apply, or have they been discarded for the duration of the order? Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (27): COVID-19 and the Banality of Evil

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