Weekly Head Voices #191: COVID-19 part 1.

Welcome back everyone! I hope all of you are doing as well as possible.

This edition of the WHV looks back on the two and a bit tumultuous weeks from Monday March 9 to Tuesday March 24.

I am writing this for us here now, but I’m also writing this for readers in a few years' time who might be looking into the more obscure corners of the web for additional impressions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(It is now 7:32 on Tuesday morning, March 24, 2020. Last night we had the rattling national lockdown announcement, and now it’s the morning after.)

The build-up.

All of this escalated quite quickly.

It seems like ages ago, but my first covid-related retweet was on February 27. It was this tweet of the study of the effect of different hand-to-hand configurations on infectious disease transmission (hint: fist bump beats handshake by far):

After that, I started spending more and more time on twitter, which has proven to be a fantastic source of up to date information, if, as always, you apply discipline to the care and culling of your follows.

Since then I’ve been retweeting as many of the important tidbits as I could:

Let’s first get the naming right.

The disease is called coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

See this page on the WHO’s site.

Flattening the curve.

Flattening the curve was, and still is at this point in time, our best hope to get through the pandemic.

Physical distancing is how we do this.

That is, we keep enough physical distance between us and other humans that the virus has almost no chance of transmitting.

The media calls this “social distancing”, but in the age of internet and video and smartphones, the distance does not have to be social!

(March 24, 2018, 7:35: It seems that the WHO has also been using “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing”.)

By doing this, we buy time by ensuring that our hospital systems are not overloaded. Time means that we learn more about the virus, time means that humanity can discover more methods of prevention and treatment.

Remote work is, and should be, the new normal for any industries where this is at all possible.

(Even when we’re not right in the middle of a pandemic, why is remote working NOT the normal-normal?)

At Stone Three it feels like we went from normal to the new remote-normal in an instant.

We recently migrated from GSuite to Office365. Our migration to Microsoft Teams for a large part of the communication has gone pretty well, in spite of Teams showing some technical hiccups in that first week when they onboarded 12 MILLION new users.

Good old-fashioned soap is virus Kryptonite.

See this twitter thread by Palli Thordarson.

Most viruses, including our current nemesis SARS-CoV-2, are “self-assembled nanoparticles” with a “lipid (fatty) bilayer” as the outside shell.

Good old-fashioned soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus simply falls apart.

AMAZING!

We have bars of soap everywhere in my house now, and we vigorously wash hands at regular intervals.

Sh*t gets real in Mzansi.

AfrikaBurn was cancelled on Friday March 13.

This year our theme camp was going to consist of a whole 14 people (9 from NL), up from 7 in previous years.

Everyone on the small BURNIVERSITY WhatsApp group was gutted by this news, but it was crystal clear to all of us that cancelling the burn was really the only defensible position.

State of disaster announcement.

Then on the evening of Sunday March 15, it got a whole lot more real when our president Ramaphosa announced on the television that South Africa was officially in a state of disaster.

The following measures were announced:

  • Travel ban of foreign nationals from high risk countries, including USA and the EU.
  • All foreign nationals who have recently arrived are to be tested.
  • SA citizens returning from high risk countries to be tested and isolated.
  • Gatherings of 100 or more prohibited.
  • Schools closed from March 18.

The text of the full speech can be read on sacoronavirus.co.za.

Before the speech I still had the feeling that I might be over-reacting by starting to work remotely, and suggesting strongly that others do so too, and by considering taking my children out of school.

Those feelings were evaporated by Ramaphosa’s chilling but necessary speech.

National lockdown announcement.

On the evening of Monday, March 23, we were again waiting for an announcement by the president.

Personally, I thought it was going to be all about the measures the government was planning to take to safeguard the South African economy during these times.

Those indeed were announced, and they sound good to me.

However, the president also announced a national lockdown starting at midnight on Thursday March 26 and continuing for three weeks.

All businesses, except those involved in essential services, will be closed.

Everyone, except those involved in essential services, will have to stay at home.

People will be able to leave their homes to buy food or seek medical care.

Outlook.

At this moment (7:52, day after lockdown announcement evening) I am reeling just a little bit.

I think our government and especially the president have been doing a truly stellar job of responding to this crisis. Based on past and recent experience with the government, this did come as a bit of a surprise.

I was pretty happy with how we’d adapted to the physical distancing situation, but then the lockdown announcement happened.

Although I am convinced that this too was the best response, I am worried about how it’s going to impact the economy at large and, far more acutely, how it’s going to impact the businesses and people right around me.

(Like many others, I am super impressed by Ramaphosa’s calm and decisive leadership during this crisis.)

The only thing we can do now, is to do our absolute best.

On a similar positive note, it seems like COVID-19 is teaching humanity a number of important lessons of which I really hope many of them stick:

  1. We don’t really need to travel as much as we do. (sorry airlines, but it’s true.)
  2. It is entirely possible for a great deal more of people to work remotely, and hence spend less time and carbon output on the road.
  3. When we focus right, this internet thing we built can be used for so much good.
  4. Now that we’re all faced with the same enemy, we look a whole lot more similar that we normally do.

I wish you all the best during these times.

Remember: From up close to all the way around the globe, kindness is effective across all distances!

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