The Calculation (on the 14th Day at Home)

This morning I woke up with a dreadful thought (after my previous post I have tried to stay positive, remember?). We have 17 million people in the Netherlands. As of today, we have nearly 10,000 people diagnosed with Corona (https://www.rivm.nl/coronavirus-kaart-van-nederland-per-gemeente). We have had Corona for a month now, and have been flattening the curve for two weeks. I read (on https://www.hartvannederland.nl/nieuws/2020/nog-maar-paar-ic-bedden-vrij/) that we have nearly reached the limit of intensive care spots. So we need to keep the curve as flat as it is now. A Harvard professor claimed 40-70% of the world’s population will get Corona (https://www.telegraaf.nl/nieuws/1442932074/harvard-prof-40-tot-70-procent-wereldbevolking-krijgt-corona). Assuming these figures are roughly correct, if we want to continue at the same ‘flattened’ curve, our medicare system can handle 10,000 Corona patients per month. So a safely flat curve will mean 17 million divided by 10,000 is 1700 months = 141 years. That means our great-grandchildren will not see the end of Corona measures. Please tell me something is wrong with my calculations.
I can’t unite this thought with Wuhan being re-opened after a mere 3-4 months. Aren’t they going to re-start the whole epidemic now/? After all, we only need a few Chinese people to get it before a whole pandemic can ensue.

Marc Palmer (@marcpalmerdev) made me feel a little better by saying:

I think the hope is actually “let’s flatten the curve until we get a vaccine”, and I think you missed that a relatively small % of people who get it (~15%?) need hospitalisation. So more like 20 years without needing hospitalisation.

That made me feel a little better. But I am not looking forward to another year of teaching from home.

Sixth Day at Home: Positive things to Covid19

Remember when I said I had to do something to consciously resist dark and depressing thoughts about the whole Covid crisis? Well, I have decided to concentrate on a variety of positive aspects and that works. Here’s a list that I will probably extend in due course. Maybe it will inspire you too.

  • There may be more of a feeling of global solidarity
  • Cash payments may become obsolete, indeed maybe all of them will be contact-less
  • We stay in contact with our elders more
  • We learn to work together and stay in touch with colleagues better
  • We wash our hands more, which is always a good thing
  • Anti-vaccers may now finally shut up (alternatively, millions of people will get autism after summer 2021)
  • The ultra-rich may be a lot less rich – it may be needed to tax them a whole lot more more to enable countries to emerge from this crisis economically
  • Carbon emissions have temporarily decreased a lot
  • The Chinese may stop eating exotic animals (while they’re at it, maybe also rhino horns and other things that supposedly make boners ease to achieve) and licking bats
  • Wet markets may be banned globally
  • Pharmaceutical companies are going to invest into research towards more general vaccines that may work against as-yet-unknown viral strains, or maybe entirely different ways to kill viruses (sound waves? radiation? just thinking out loud)
  • There will be ways to filter fake news from social media much more efficiently
  • Trump and Johnson may conceivably no longer be in a leadership position
  • Romantic consumerism (travelling to distant places) may become socially unacceptable (which includes a lot less CO2 emissions from airplanes)
  • There may be better quality TV shows as shitty new ones can’t be made and they’ll have to resort to reruns of The A-Team, The Knight Rider, Airwolf, Miami Vice and Friends
  • Even Trump can’t avoid non-re-election now (please please let this be true!)
  • Scum birds (seagulls, crows, magpies) are less prevalent in the cities and towns, probably due to much less edible human waste

There are also some things that may change in the near future that I am neutral about, I just think we’ll notice them…

  • Shaking hands may become a thing of the past

Last updated 16 April 2020

Third Day at Home

So the Dutch government has decided to go for the “herd immunity” option, where gradual spread of the virus will eventually prevent the virus from propagating exponentially. What really bothers me, though, is that herd immunity might be attained after several months…or years. Around half the population will need to have gone through a Covid19 infection, meaning a lot of people will need to have gone through the health system. How on earth can that be spread out over a period long enough so we don’t go through the oft-cited maximum capacity limit of the health system? And how is the world going to survive, financially, if nobody is really producing, importing or exporting anything at a large scale for such an extended period of time?
These thoughts irrecovably suck my thoughts into a dark well of despair. I understand climate change deniers ever more – it’s so much nicer to believe that things will really be OK and that no shit has hit any fans, rather than to know the full extent of any bad situation. That’s probably a basic psychological trait of human survival. But I surely hope no important policy makers fall into that category of people.

I read that the EU is investing 80 million euros in the German company that Trump was thinking of buying a few days ago. Reading such a news item gives me something positive to focus on.

Second Day at Home

Yesterday I already discovered that a scheduled holiday is entirely different when compared to a forced holiday. The involuntary nature of having to be at home even spoils the potential sense of freedom. And doubly so in an adolescent. My stepson had spent literally the entire spring break lying in bed watching videos on Youtube, but now he insisted upon going outside to play football with friends (something which was utterly impossible to suggest doing during said holiday). He was already bored at 09:00 AM, yesterday as well as today.

Today I spent most of the morning videoconferencing with fellow teachers of English, which starts out like it’s quite a bit of fun but then turns out to be ever so less efficient than meeting in person. Still, we managed to conceive plans for all grades. We need to plan as though things will be back to normal early April, but we also need to keep in the back of our minds that perhaps this entire school year will need to be rounded off with distant learning. How would you objectively decide whether a student is fit to move to the next grade if you can’t really test them? Out-of-the-box thinking is required.
Throughout the videoconference, my wife was sniffling and sneezing in the background. She has that sometimes, and has had it ever since I’ve known her. But in these Corona-suffused times, it does worry me more.

I visited school briefly. There were no children, and only a few colleagues who had chosen to meet face-to-face rather than via Microsoft Teams. I collected some paper-based protocols needed for near-future speaking tests in fourth grade (to be done via Teams) and went back home. The weather was lovely – sunny with a light breeze. In literature and movies, this is the kind of weather accompanying scenes of happiness and joy. It made me think back to the May 2000 Enschede fireworks disaster, where 23 people died and a whole neighbourhood was levelled against a background of blue sky, brightly shining sun and twittering birds.

Yesterday evening I watched some television and marvelled at the advertisements. Obviously, these had been booked in advance of the whole Corona thing, still blithely promoting trips abroad, special supermarket sales and other things that are not on people’s minds at the moment. The insanity of it all could have been complete if Albert Heijn’s regular “Hamsteren!” (Dutch for hoarding) campaign had been broadcast.

I’d like to round off with some good advice I read on Twitter earlier, which I’d also like to impart to you: Behave as if you might be spreading Corona, not as if you’re trying to avoid it.

Stay healthy.

First Day at Home

My wife looked up whether schools were ever closed, nation-wide, in the history of education in the Netherlands. They last were in World War II. And that was primarily because of lack of heating, not national policy. We were curious because, as of today, all schools in the Netherlands are closed due to #covid19. And we’re teachers.

I am not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s reality at the moment. I have 4 exam classes that will somehow need to be guided towards the pinnacle of their highschool careers, but I don’t think anyone can even predict whether the exams are even going to happen in the usual month of May. Like Yoda said, “Difficult to see the future is.”

A select group of colleagues (I reckon management and middle management) have been asked to go to work today, probably to make plans for the near future. I already have a OneNote page titled “When school starts again”, full of miscellaneous thoughts of what to do then. How can we determine if children have enough skills/qualities to flow through to their next year, even if they have missed up to 4 months of school? How heavy can next school year’s curriculum be made to allow them to catch up? How can we prevent less autonomous children from falling by the wayside? I have one rather less autonomous stepchild at home, who instead of realising he may need to do something himself now, thinks the summer holiday sure started early this year. Netflix yay!
And even before school starts: How can we replace colleagues who may fall ill, without ourselves toppling over? How can the less tech-savvy colleagues be educated to help students at a distance? How can I do a ‘classical instruction’ for the exam classes? These students would normally have had another 5 weeks of regular school time. We use Microsoft Teams with Skype for Business, but what are the limits?

Still, I am good at seeing the silver lining of any cloud, no matter how big and thunder-laden it may be. When our government communicated these crisis measures, they released a list of ‘crucial professionals’. Teachers – despite decades of below-inflation pay rises and dwindling social status – are on that list. Youtubers, pastors, account managers, advertisement execs, wellness instructors and influencers weren’t 🙂 Also, CO2 emissions in China have virtually disappeared. And there’s a lot less traffic on the road: This morning, there was 13 kilometres of traffic congestion in the whole country. I think that’s the lowest since what is reckoned to be the first official one, on 29 May 1955 (not counting the ‘autoloze zondagen’ – Car-free Sundays – which we had in the 1970s).

Because I am basically a black-souled pessimist, however, I’d like to round this bit off with what I consider is an absolute lowpoint of the whole Corona virus crisis: That harmful White House halfwit, Donald Trump. He even outdid Boris “take it on the chin” Johnson. After first suppressing Corona infection statistics to increase his chances in the oncoming presidential election, the Orange One recently proposed to buy a German company that is allegedly making headway in the creation of a Corona vaccin. If there is any such thing as karma, he and his family will suffer before their time is out.

These are times for great leaders to grow to their full potential. I hope ours have what it takes.