Fatal exceptionalism and lack of humility to learn from Asian example
May 13, 2020 11:34 PM   Subscribe

Covid-19, or how the West was undone by its assertion of civilizational difference bordering on provincial narcissism, by Mukul Kesavan "It is as if best practice in policy and civil society behaviour was discounted because it didn’t originate in the West, as if city streets filled with masked citizens represented an assimilation of the individual into the herd. What began as an assertion of civilizational difference turned out to be no more than provincial narcissism."
posted by dum spiro spero (117 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
Looking for mentions of Germany and New Zealand...
posted by Going To Maine at 11:39 PM on May 13, 2020 [4 favorites]


They don’t fit the narrative of “East Good, West Bad” about COVID-19. You’ll also notice no mention of Japan nor North Korea, since they don’t fit the other side of the narrative either.
posted by sideshow at 11:44 PM on May 13, 2020 [20 favorites]


from the article: Even if we discount the fact that East Asian countries were better prepared because they had experienced the existential threat of the SARS epidemic and Europe had not...

Pretty big fact to discount. I think the main reason for the difference in approach to COVID-19 is this fact.
posted by Pendragon at 11:53 PM on May 13, 2020 [30 favorites]


Switzerland
Austria
Slovenia
posted by away for regrooving at 12:09 AM on May 14, 2020


This New Statesman article is a bit contrarian but makes a couple of good points: The problem with our response to Covid-19 wasn’t that we didn’t have a plan – it was the opposite
In 2011, in the shadow of the much-criticised swine flu response, officials prepared a new pandemic plan. It was written with influenza in mind, since that was deemed the most likely threat. The plan adopts the more calibrated approach proposed by Hine. It puts a great stress on the need for “proportionality” and not overreacting. Read it now and you’re struck by how much it seems to have determined the current government’s initial reaction to Covid-19. What became known as the herd immunity strategy is outlined here: the 2011 plan states that “it will not be possible to stop the spread of, or to eradicate the virus”. It declares, “The UK government does not plan to close borders, stop mass gatherings or impose controls on public transport during any pandemic.” There is no mention of social distancing.

The plan emphasises the need to avoid spreading fear, and to encourage people to “carry on with their normal daily lives”. It is sceptical about the value of face masks, banning travel to the UK and closing schools. It finds little evidence that stopping mass gatherings would slow transmission – indeed, it says keeping such events “may help maintain public morale”.

People make plans, but plans exert power over people. Covid-19 is not a flu virus but something new for which we don’t yet have effective medications, and it is more infectious than Sars and Mers, the other two coronaviruses to have emerged since the turn of the century. Faced with the novel problem of an untreatable, highly transmissible virus, the government’s current advisers seem to have found it hard to break with the plan they had – now unfit for purpose – and think anew...

The idea we could cleverly optimise our response to Covid-19 was a dangerous chimera that the government, hypnotised by its own plan, clung to for too long.
Overall it seems like the overriding priority of the British establishment was that after being criticised for over-reacting to swine flu, that they should be absolutely sure not to over-react to the next pandemic threat.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:32 AM on May 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


British Columbia
posted by fatbird at 12:33 AM on May 14, 2020 [5 favorites]


from the article: Even if we discount the fact that East Asian countries were better prepared because they had experienced the existential threat of the SARS epidemic and Europe had not...

Pretty big fact to discount. I think the main reason for the difference in approach to COVID-19 is this fact.
posted by Pendragon at 3:53 PM on May 14 [+] [!]


I can't speak for everyone, but I've lived in Asia for the better part of 2 decades, and I can testify that not all Asians in not all regions think the face mask is great.

However, pre-COVID, in the places where I was, which was mostly megacities, face masks were never absent. You could find a good number, though a minority, of people walking around on any given day in masks, and if you stopped to ask them why, most said "pollution". Anti-mask opinions I heard were to the tune of "that doesn't stop PM2.5, seems like a lot of trouble for nothing". I never got into it then, but air purifier research seems to have proved the mask-wearers right on that front. Any barrier catches at least some.

Where I'm at now (Bali), there's a patchwork of badly enforced mask regulations, but they're working on that, and you're better off masked than not if the checkpoints decide to stop you. There's also not much of the virus here, so the sense of urgency isn't here like it is in virus hotspots. Four deaths & 300-odd cases and nearly 200 recovered. But if you've ever heard of Bali motor traffic, you know it's mostly riding around on motorbikes behind other motorbikes, some 2-stroke, most 10-20 year-old designs, still others from the 70's still tooling around thanks to the gearheads on the island, or god forbid you get trapped on one of those narrow, hilly roads behind a diesel burning cargo truck caravan, which is guaranteed to happen the instant you get on the highway in Tabanan or west Bulelung. You'll be flossing soot for days. People riding around with full on asbestos-worker respirators were a minority, but common enough, and I certainly never met someone who questioned why they did it. In fact, I found it wise to emulate, albeit with different filters now.

I won't speculate on cultural reasons, but I will say that nowhere in Asia did I go that I didn't see a portion of people wearing masks.

"We don't wear masks" seems like a really dumb tribal identity. If you get why people don't like secondhand smoke, if you've ever considered moving because of air pollution... We have these things that you put on your face that help with that, so why not?
posted by saysthis at 12:40 AM on May 14, 2020 [25 favorites]


Citing "counterexample countries" given an Indian author's essay just proves his point, that Western ideology around covid-19 is so narrow and entitled that the only reaction to criticism is such defensiveness.

Indeed, I live in BC. Take the British Columbia narrative more closely: it's the knowledgeable, privileged public health experts in BC who explicitly pointed out that the Asian Canadian enclaves within the Greater Vancouver Area having done a bang-up job being a huge factor in keeping the spread low from the very beginning. Which again proves Mukul Kesavan's point. And I guarantee you, you do not hear white people acknowledging/recognizing the helpful, collective, actions of the Asian Canadian communities here.
posted by polymodus at 12:41 AM on May 14, 2020 [68 favorites]


Well, in New Zealand, we had even more lead time. We can control our borders easily. And we have a relatively weak, underfunded public health system, so we HAD to go straight to rigorous lockdown while we built up the capacity for contact tracing and testing.

Right now our public health officials are still saying the evidence masks is not clear.

I'm not sure to what extent we learned from East Asian examples but when we first officially went to lockdown was March 21st, by which point there were (for example) 6500 cases in Italy and dozens of deaths. Our cultural references are still US and Europe, so we could learn from them.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:16 AM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


Here in Barcelona, we've been strictly locked down since March 14th, we have 6500 of the 27000 spanish deaths and the economy is absolutely destroyed. And yet, the last couple of days the rules have been slightly relaxed - limited exercise during certain hours, children with one parent during certain hours -and what happens? The streets fill with people not keeping social distance, large numbers not wearing masks, entire families with everyone from grandparents to babies out together, people posting pictures of street parties on Facebook that the cops shut down haha...it's mind boggling. We've seen what works, we've seen what doesn't and yet a large portion of the population here says "I'm going to do whatever I damn feel like".
I'm truly and continuously astonished at the sheer stupidity of people. Look at South Korea. It worked. Spain ignored it and we've 27000 and rising dead to show for it.
posted by conifer at 2:51 AM on May 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


One of the big tells that this is not a Western newspaper is that it says this, which is unsayable in Western journalism:

“But neither Johnson nor Trump had the courage of their convictions, mainly because they didn’t have convictions.”

I wish there was less of knee jerk amongst the people here to deny how much Western arrogance has ended up hurting ourselves this time.
posted by ambrosen at 2:54 AM on May 14, 2020 [53 favorites]


The Australian and NZ politicians have had such great effect precisely because they did act on long-held convictions, which were also in accord with widely shared collective values, which was to slam shut the borders at the first signs of crisis. Not all collective values that protect in pandemics are happy ones.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:58 AM on May 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


imo exceptionalism is having an existential crisis all over the interwebz
posted by Mrs Potato at 3:00 AM on May 14, 2020 [7 favorites]


They don’t fit the narrative of “East Good, West Bad” about COVID-19. You’ll also notice no mention of Japan nor North Korea, since they don’t fit the other side of the narrative either.
posted by sideshow


I'm not sure where you're living that you think "East Good, West Bad" has been the narrative of COVID-19.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:15 AM on May 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


One of the big tells that this is not a Western newspaper is that it says this, which is unsayable in Western journalism:

“But neither Johnson nor Trump had the courage of their convictions, mainly because they didn’t have convictions.”


This piece is in the Opinion section of the newspaper. There are plenty of opinion pieces in Western newspapers that say these things -and worse- about Johnson and Trump.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:55 AM on May 14, 2020 [27 favorites]


I'm not sure where you're living that you think "East Good, West Bad" has been the narrative of COVID-19.

I believe sideshow is referring to the narrative of this particular article, not COVID coverage as a whole.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:58 AM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


I remember reading in February results of studies in China on things like comorbidity mortality rates and asymptomatic transmission, and then in April saw similar results presented as new information when studies from the west became available. Not to say confirming research is not significant, but it was striking.
posted by joeyh at 4:28 AM on May 14, 2020 [17 favorites]


TheophileEscargot - 'Overall it seems like the overriding priority of the British establishment was that after being criticised for over-reacting to swine flu, that they should be absolutely sure not to over-react to the next pandemic threat.'

That may have been a factor, as the New Statesman article argues, but I don't think it was the overriding one. I think the laziness, some call it a laissez faire approach, and lack of social responsibility in the UK government was more influential in their decision making. There was also a good dose of exceptionalism in the use of the errant Kings College modelling, which ran contrary to evidence from other countries and the successful counter measures of many countries in Asia. Johnson had been absent from the country, and from government for a good proportion of December and January. He is 'not a details man' so chances of his grasping the science of epidemiology and asking relevant questions of the experts are slim. If they tell him their model says he doesn't need to do anything, then he's not going to argue. He has no understanding of the social responsibility that the role of Prime Minister entails.

Another important factor was the input of the 'nudge unit' and social scientists who, probably encouraged by certain members of the government, pushed the idea that the British public would not be capable of a lock down. A lock down requires cooperation, consideration and a sense of shared responsibility, which are all values at odds with those that are promoted by this government. Indeed they got into power by exploiting and encouraging division in society, just as they did in 2016 with the Leave campaign.

They are a bunch of awful sociopaths who think that the majority of people are as awful as they are. The lock down was going quite well until they started leaking misinformation about the likelihood of lock down relaxation last week. Their ideological blinders have constricted their ability to create a response that is beneficial to the population. Billions of pounds are being thrown around to the benefit of the few, while simple measures like universal income aren't even considered.

The use of care home beds for people who were in NHS care is a good example of the mess that this government has made of dealing with this situation, while spaffing billions up the wall. In the case of care homes, £3.2bn* extra funding has been provided in March and April, where has that money gone?

"The financial information relating to some of the larger for-profit chains is almost entirely hidden from view, with many of the largest for-profit companies having company structures which can include thousands of interlinked companies. This makes it almost impossible to account for where public money ends up,"

Without testing and PPE, moving people into care homes was almost certain to be a disaster. The Tories have just spent the last decade eviscerating public services, and hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result. What we are seeing now is a vivid example of their impact on the most vulnerable in our society.

*Thanks to Mandatory Redistribution Party podcast for doing the research on this. It's a great podcast, which I recommend. The diatribe on care homes is the last 15 minutes of the podcast.
posted by asok at 4:43 AM on May 14, 2020 [20 favorites]


A request: Could everyone who feels prompted to name or list countries that they think are significant for some reason please explain what that reason is? Not all of us are completely conversant on what measures every country has taken, over what timeline, and what the outcome has been.

Thanks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:44 AM on May 14, 2020 [15 favorites]


I remember reading in February results of studies in China on things like comorbidity mortality rates and asymptomatic transmission, and then in April saw similar results presented as new information when studies from the west became available. Not to say confirming research is not significant, but it was striking.

You know on this count I'm going to say I don't think it was crazy for people to approach the initial Chinese results as... sort of tentative. At this point I'm inclined to believe the sort of coverups that have gone on there are probably mostly the same sort of petty stuff that we are seeing elsewhere but it's not like it was totally off the wall to think the government was not being totally forthcoming with information in the early stages of this.
posted by atoxyl at 5:12 AM on May 14, 2020


Though maybe I'm misreading you - the examples you gave aren't so much areas where I think people wouldn't trust the Chinese data, but they are areas where institutions were generally sluggish to respond and possibly arrogant about incorporating "other people's" results into their understanding.
posted by atoxyl at 5:14 AM on May 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


"We don't wear masks" seems like a really dumb tribal identity

That's consistent with it being the position of the exact same really dumb tribalists who have been loudly denouncing face coverings since 2001 because Islam.
posted by flabdablet at 5:37 AM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


Hey, so I'm in Austria, but from the UK. Austria is very much at the heart of the European outbreak, as the skiing party town of Bad Ischgl on the Italian/Austrian border is thought to be a major centre of infection. We locked down early, and hard, with a set of measures that were increased in severity over a weekend (first no businesses, then no bars/cafes, then nothing but the supermarkets). In the areas where the outbreak had been worse, police barriers were put up and curfews were enabled. It was quickly made mandatory to wear facemasks in public, and police were called out to places where people were seen gathering (like my back garden, much to our amusement, thanks overly cautious neighbours). After about two months we are now at a point where cafes will open again BUT it's a hard limit of 20 square metres per customer in every business.

When I compare these strict guidelines to what I see of the UK, and what I hear from my friends back home, I am appalled. At the start of this, I was super worried as I have a previous condition that puts me in a high-risk category, and we were next to the worst hit country. Now, as Austria comes out of the worse points, my elderly family members and my friends are who I am worrying about, because the UK is just not able to deal with reality - unless it comes with a chequebook attached.

And that's really the big difference. Austria made sweeping financial commitments across the board at the start of the crisis, made sure that everyone knew that furloughing was available, and paid out money to pretty much everybody. Austria's approach wasn't perfect, and some people fell through the cracks, but it made it possible to slow transmission of the virus, because the worked to support societal structures. The UK government, to the best of my knowledge, is not doing this stuff, and it is driving people back to work in unsafe conditions in the name of 'the economy'. The main reason for this, like America, is that the current ruling government is not very smart.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:43 AM on May 14, 2020 [26 favorites]


I know one of the reasons why the Australian government response was relatively successful in containing COVID was that the advice they were getting from their Asian neighbours, including the regional division of WHO, contradicted the advice they were getting from the WHO global body, and they listened to their neighbours. The other big reason is that Australia, like New Zealand, is an island nation, so controlling travel is relatively straightforward.

The Australian and NZ politicians have had such great effect precisely because they did act on long-held convictions, which were also in accord with widely shared collective values, which was to slam shut the borders at the first signs of crisis. Not all collective values that protect in pandemics are happy ones.

Which is why I can't agree with this - the New Zealand and Australian government are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and they both took the same approach. Other countries with good records at the start of the pandemic are Singapore (relatively successful), South Korea (relatively successful), Iceland (extremely successful) and Japan (successful at first, but didn't spend the time they bought wisely and is now looking very grim). Being an island nation, and being able to account for all arrivals, has been a clear advantage. Hell, even the UK's cack-handed response took time to prove disastrous (much like Japan).
posted by Merus at 5:51 AM on May 14, 2020 [5 favorites]


America and the UK partially ignored coronavirus even as it was storming across Italy. Not that it's not also Western exceptionalism, but if it were just that, we'd have started running around with our hair on fire once we saw Italy getting slammed.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:02 AM on May 14, 2020 [6 favorites]


Quite a bit of it, I think, is the complete unwillingness of certain influential shitnozzles to believe that a mere foreigners' virus would dare to be so appallingly presumptuous as to infect people who speak only English.
posted by flabdablet at 6:15 AM on May 14, 2020 [25 favorites]




Quite a bit of it, I think, is the complete unwillingness of certain influential shitnozzles to believe that a mere foreigners' virus would dare to be so appallingly presumptuous as to infect people who speak only English.

Even if it had started in America the US's failure to act would've probably been the same.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:40 AM on May 14, 2020 [8 favorites]


from the article: Even if we discount the fact that East Asian countries were better prepared because they had experienced the existential threat of the SARS epidemic and Europe had not...

Pretty big fact to discount. I think the main reason for the difference in approach to COVID-19 is this fact.


True for Europe perhaps but Canada definitely experienced the threat of SARS and still failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the initial spread so I am not sure experience is a complete explanation.
posted by srboisvert at 7:52 AM on May 14, 2020 [2 favorites]


The role of "slamming shut" borders is overrated. Most countries likely had dozens of infections before they even contemplated travel restrictions. And it only takes a single infection to start a global pandemic. Contact tracing and quarantine is your number 1 tool.

Australia restricted China travel on Feb 1 when China reported 14,000 cases.

Australia restricted US travel on March 20 when the US reported 17,000 cases.

In total, 0.35% of our overseas origin Covid cases were from China while 15% of our Covid cases were from the US.

Similar to British Columbia then - Scott Morrison has stated “It was the Chinese Australian community that actually protected Australia. They led the way and the broader community is now following.”

Singapore probably can't be counted among countries which handled the crisis well. Australia's peak active cases was about 4,800 infected on Apr 4 and has declined to 611 infected. Singapore's peak active cases looks to be 20,800 on May 12, just a few days ago.

From gold standard to coronavirus explosion: Singapore battles new outbreak

The crisis has laid bare the dizzyingly unequal conditions endured by Singapore’s army of 1 million imported, low-wage laborers who make up a largely invisible underclass in this wealthy nation of 5.6 million.

In one room filled with 10 bunk beds and a couple of small fans bolted to the roof, he found a dozen men sitting on the floor.

“There is no space,” Arnab said. “If one person is infected in the room, that means 19 others are going to be infected. Unless you reduce the numbers, there is no hope that a virus in the dormitories can be controlled.”
posted by xdvesper at 7:55 AM on May 14, 2020 [10 favorites]


Mod note: Comment and a couple replies removed. If you're writing a comment and throwing in a well-what-if comment about "Islamicists" and head coverings and you're not trying to come off as an islamophobic jerk, time to turn that truck around and figure out what you're trying to say and say it a whole lot more clearly. On the other hand if you're actually trying to just be islamophobic on purpose, mind the screen door doesn't hit your ass etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:59 AM on May 14, 2020 [24 favorites]


British Columbia

not that we don't have our provincially narcissistic assholes.
posted by philip-random at 8:02 AM on May 14, 2020


Which is why I can't agree with this - the New Zealand and Australian government are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum

Eh. Are you referring to the fact that Labor (Center-Left) is in government in NZ while the Coalition (Center-Right) is in government in Australia? The left / right parties in Australia largely agree with each other on 95% of issues and seem to need to manufacture division to create election issues, I'm not surprised if their approach would have been largely the same regardless of which federal government was in power. The states also have significant latitude in what restrictions to apply and in fact we saw that it was up to the individual states to decide whether to keep schools open or shut them, and what kind of restrictions to apply. There's essentially 3 major parties, and the two in coalition actually act rather differently at the state level than the federal level, eg the Liberals actually support renewable energy at the state level but are pro-coal at the federal level due to being allied with the Nationals. And none of the states really differed in their Covid response, 3 states were Labor and 3 were Liberal.
posted by xdvesper at 8:08 AM on May 14, 2020 [4 favorites]


"We don't wear masks" seems like a really dumb tribal identity. If you get why people don't like secondhand smoke, if you've ever considered moving because of air pollution... We have these things that you put on your face that help with that, so why not?

A huge part of the problem is that the fucking Surgeon General spread misinformation about masks right at the start of the virus and now it is out there being endlessly repeated by all the people slightly discomfited by a piece of cloth on their faces. I assume this motivated by the desire to get people to stop hoarding masks so health care workers could have but now that supply chain issues are resolving the lie is coming full circle to bite public health measure attempts in the ass.

Just today I have read about 10 comments from people not wanting to wear mask saying that cloth masks don't offer any protection from the virus and that they only stop you from spreading it. This is obviously untrue in the way that Zeynep Tufekci argued about parachutes. There is absence of evidence rather than evidence of absence. The single study that is repeatedly cited showed no effect in either direction and pointed out that people used the masks improperly or inconsistently. That is not evidence for the ineffectiveness of masks! That's evidence for the ineffectiveness of masks when used improperly. These are very different claims. It is like saying all cars crash because some people crash cars.

But now the disinfo is out there from an ostensibly credible source and everybody with anti-mask sentiment is using as part of their motivated-cognition arsenal to do what they prefer.
posted by srboisvert at 8:09 AM on May 14, 2020 [14 favorites]


True for Europe perhaps but Canada definitely experienced the threat of SARS and still failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the initial spread so

British Columbia has been mentioned already here as a good example. Our chief medical officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, was in Ontario when SARS hit, and clearly, she learned something.

That said, BC was initially caught off guard by Covid-19 with an outbreak at Vancouver area seniors facility in early March. I'm no expert as to why it happened and what may have been done to avoid it, but the response to it was emphatic and effective, so thank all gods (or perhaps more accurately, whoever hired Dr. Henry -- credit where it's due) that she was in a position to act, and unlike way too many other jurisdictions, nobody got in her way.

worth noting, we're now at the brink of a new phase here in BC, a loosening up of restrictions, and very many are worried that this is happening too soon, that economic arguments are now trumping scientific arguments, that things are politicizing and that it will cost lives.
posted by philip-random at 8:26 AM on May 14, 2020 [4 favorites]


The perfect example of this was the ‘expert’ advice dispensed by the WHO and public health specialists on wearing masks. As I write this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised all Americans to wear masks or face coverings. This turnaround comes after months of misleading messaging that suggested that masks were a useless indulgence, that no one but health workers on the front line needed them. It now turns out that this advice was built around managing scarcity: there was a shortage of surgical masks so to keep them available for medical professionals, the general public was misled into thinking that masks didn’t matter.

Yeah, and Fauci himself originally said it "probably won't matter" to wear a mask, bolstering the idea that the virus was unbeatable and inevitable. It took weeks before anyone publicly suggested that someone with the virus and a mask was far less dangerous. And closing trails and beaches will end up being a mistake if vitamin D ends up being a preventive factor. Getting outdoors in direct UV light is the safest way to rendezvous with family members who are isolated elsewhere, with no virus left behind on counters or sink handles.
posted by Brian B. at 8:50 AM on May 14, 2020


The only good thing about the OP - and any article that talks about "The West" or "The East" or any other meaningless, grandiose cultural abstraction - is if it prompts an interesting, thoughtful MetaFilter conversation like this one that actually offers specific facts and insights.
posted by PhineasGage at 9:18 AM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


The response of each country seems to have been determined by many factors, which include cultural, technical, political, geographical, and demographical ones. I believe that it's really the interaction of all those factors, some positive and some negative, that ultimately explains the success or failure of the policies (or lack thereof).

Generally, good responses happened because some (or all) of these factors were aligned in a positive way: 1) Due to recent precedent (SARS, HN1N1), populations took COVID-19 seriously; they understood the importance of masks/social distancing/lockdown. 2) Also due to precedent, there were know-how/procedures in place and ready (masks, tests and their production/implementation). 3) Their governments could take decisions quickly: they themselves believed the threat to be serious; they could use the established procedures; they could rely on their populations. Also, in the case of authoritarian governments in China of Vietnam, they did not have to worry about political opposition or people taking to the streets to protest. 4) Geography (islands & peninsulas) and/or demographics (small populations or populations that could be easily isolated) made implementation easier.

In countries with lesser or poor response: 1) Populations were just not ready to believe it when it came (in many countries, the last large-scale pandemic was the Spanish flu, one century ago), and people who did believe it were not prepared anyway. And many still don't care: at best they consider that the threat is exaggerated ("just a little flu"), at worst that it's a plot by [Liberals/Big Pharma/Bill Gates/5G Operators/The Man] to ENSLAVE THE PEOPLE. 2) Due to the lack of precedent (and interest), procedures were lacking, or had failed to be updated/renewed. 3) Governments cared too late: some did not believe the threat at all, some believed it but not took it seriously enough, or, in democracies, feared a political backlash if the threat turned out to be a dud (which could have been the case); and in any case, procedures were lacking so quick action was difficult and had to be postponed. 4) Actions were made difficult by geography (country size, long borders etc.) and/or demographics (large and/or highly mobile populations). Also, countries with an older population are more at risk.

The cultural element - awareness of the population that a danger is real - remains a major factor. To use a recent example, the 2009 heatwave in Europe resulted in about 70000 deaths. 10 years later, the 2019 heatwave was much less lethal: governments had procedures in place, and populations had learned how to counter it and how to protect the most fragile of them. We could also cite the case of bike helmets in Vietnam: in the mid-2000s, Vietnamese people absolutely refused to wear one (let's say that it was viewed the same way that a Westerner would consider wearing a mask in the street pre-COVID), resulting in heavy road casualties. It took 10 years of enforcement and awareness campaigns to get to a point where 90% of drivers wear them (and cultural shifts are hard: many still don't believe that children are at risk, so you can still see mom and dad riding a bike with their helmet on, and a helmet-less kid sandwitched between them).
posted by elgilito at 9:25 AM on May 14, 2020 [15 favorites]


I doubt that any of my kids would credit the grumbling that persisted for years when wearing seatbelts became mandatory in Australian cars in the 1970s. Same thing. The cultural supertanker is a very slow ship to turn.
posted by flabdablet at 9:58 AM on May 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


*I believe sideshow is referring to the narrative of this particular article, not COVID coverage as a whole.

I'm not sure that's the takeaway of the article's narrative given that the article is obliquely pushing back against so many Western observers who have retreated to racist assumptions of Asian cultures in an explanation as to why tactics in Asian would never work in the West?*

Obliquely? To be more generous, I guess I’d say the article’s takeaway is “Eastern techniques for handling disease good, Western racism about Easterners bad, West handling of disease bad, West bad.” This article isn’t wrong, but it isn’t entirely right.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:04 AM on May 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I wonder just how much more catastrophically bad the Canadian/US outbreak would have been if not for the brilliant NBA shutdown. I know that is what made it absolutely real for me and I was high information, aware and had already been low-key prepping for weeks before then. Without that "Shit just real" signal I'm not sure what would have happened.
posted by srboisvert at 10:05 AM on May 14, 2020 [16 favorites]


Yeah, and Fauci himself originally said it "probably won't matter" to wear a mask, bolstering the idea that the virus was unbeatable and inevitable. It took weeks before anyone publicly suggested that someone with the virus and a mask was far less dangerous.

Fauci's position was:
"When we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,"
The original no mask recommendation was that they didn't want the lower risk general public competing with healthcare workers for PPE. Plus there's the whole public don't even know how to use them properly and they provide very incidental protection in the public's hands if at all. Plus that feeling of protection when using a mask can let people convince themselves to go out for leisure purposes thinking they're protected but further spreading infections.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:20 AM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


Like when I'm absolutely forced to go somewhere I can't social distance I will wear a mask simply because it's the new etiquette and it's the law (governor's order at least) here in Mass. In all other cases I won't be bothering because most of the masks are going to be price gouged or out of stock, not to mention I have a full beard so masks are going to do somewhere between bupkis and didley for me. I'm just not going out for leisure or social reasons at all.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:23 AM on May 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


Vox wrote an article about how refusal to wear masks for Trump and conservatives is a way to show their manliness. This seems like a recent public view, since I have never encountered wearing face masks as demasculating before. In fact, if you asked me this pre-pandemic, I would have thought masks were a little bit "macho", because of the popularity of superheroes.

But I do wonder if part of this perception is because the countries where masks are more commonly worn (even before this pandemic) were usually Asian ones. And that combined with the how Americans usually perceive Asian cultures and Asian/Asian-American men as emasculated or even feminine contributed to this view that wearing face masks is unmanly.
posted by FJT at 11:11 AM on May 14, 2020 [11 favorites]


Just today I have read about 10 comments from people not wanting to wear mask saying that cloth masks don't offer any protection from the virus and that they only stop you from spreading it.

Even if the former were true, wouldn't the latter be enough of a reason to wear a mask?

Then again, I'm a person who believes in society.
posted by Automocar at 11:15 AM on May 14, 2020 [17 favorites]


I have a full beard so masks are going to do somewhere between bupkis and didley for me.

Voila! An example of the perfect being the enemy of the good in action.

Your beard may reduce the effectiveness of a mask's filtering somewhat but there is no reason to believe it completely negates it.
posted by srboisvert at 11:30 AM on May 14, 2020 [16 favorites]


I have never encountered wearing face masks as demasculating before..... and "soyboy" being an insult grants some credence to that.
Maybe it gives a little push but from my experience in construction men often seem to think that "safety" is synonymous with being a.......(begins with a p.) It is remarkably stupid. I watched some kind of documentary on coal mining and the young guys were working away with their respirators hanging around their necks and when asked said they "weren't comfortable" or "got in the way" this with full knowledge of black lung and family members who died were crippled by it.
posted by Pembquist at 11:39 AM on May 14, 2020 [5 favorites]


Maybe it gives a little push but from my experience in construction men often seem to think that "safety" is synonymous with being a.......

One thing that I like about shows like New Yankee Workshop and This Old House is that they are absolutely consistent about using PPE. It definitely has rubbed off on me when I'm working on stuff around the house.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2020 [13 favorites]


Americans, as a rule, hate being forced to do anything, doubly so if it is safety-related. See: seatbelts, motorcycle helmets, ski helmets, the banning of cigarettes in bars. This masks kerfuffle is no different. There definitely is a lot of sinophobia which overlaps, but the fundamental resistance to masks is baked into our culture.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:52 AM on May 14, 2020 [7 favorites]


refusal to wear masks for Trump and conservatives is a way to show their manliness.

I used to see this attitude fairly often in the workplace. An engineer at one place used a chemical to etch some Teflon parts as part of an ongoing production process. I read the MSDS, and suggested maybe he should wear a chemical mask. The stuff was very nasty. He continued to hang his naked face over dishes of the chemical on a bench. Not a stupid guy, but a stupid decision.

See also: Smoking.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:54 AM on May 14, 2020 [4 favorites]


The original no mask recommendation was that they didn't want the lower risk general public competing with healthcare workers for PPE. Plus there's the whole public don't even know how to use them properly and they provide very incidental protection in the public's hands if at all. Plus that feeling of protection when using a mask can let people convince themselves to go out for leisure purposes thinking they're protected but further spreading infections.

Then they should have said that from the beginning, and made, I don't know, an official youtube video or tv commercial about how to wear them as step #1 and made it real clear when the public should start buying masks.

This is why we need a legit federal government handling messaging instead of a disparate collection of experts offering dissenting and off-the-cuff suggestions, including Faucci. His news conferences honestly should not be posted officially without serious editing, because he loves to go off on (I'm asssuming legit) tangents that are easily manipulated and turned into soundbites supporting the crazies. He literally said the vaccines could be dangerous the other day, when talking the early testing phases.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:06 PM on May 14, 2020 [6 favorites]


Then they should have said that from the beginning, and made, I don't know, an official youtube video or tv commercial about how to wear them as step #1 and made it real clear when the public should start buying masks.

With people who managed to clean themselves out of toilet paper through small amounts of additional buying? It's harder than it looks to get people to change their behaviour in a very nuanced way, and *just explaining it* isn't enough. For example, you also need to make sure there are as few practical barriers as possible to people getting it right. I can believe that the cost benefit analysis on face coverings is marginal enough (or was considered to be so earlier in the outbreak) that the additional public information campaigns and tweaks to the supply chain needed to get it right were not a good use of effort.

This is why we need a legit federal government handling messaging instead of a disparate collection of experts offering dissenting and off-the-cuff suggestions

We have this in the UK. It can still result in a hot mess if mistakes are made, although yes, when you get it right it's really effective. Our other challenges remain the same and we are still the second-worst performing nation.
posted by plonkee at 12:30 PM on May 14, 2020 [4 favorites]


Srboisvert - 100% agree on basketball, but it wasn't just (or even mostly) the NBA regular season games, but the cancellation of the NCAA playoffs, that made it sink in that institutions about which one cared were taking this seriously, and that substantial inconvenience would ensue.
posted by MattD at 12:46 PM on May 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


And closing trails and beaches will end up being a mistake if vitamin D ends up being a preventive factor. Getting outdoors in direct UV light is the safest way to rendezvous with family members who are isolated elsewhere, with no virus left behind on counters or sink handles.

Given the number of reported cases in South Florida, it's pretty clear Vitamin D, or at least time spent in the sun, is pretty meaningless in terms of population-level risk. Warm weather won't save us, either. It was pushing 90F down here by mid-March and has been mostly hot and sunny since.
posted by wierdo at 12:52 PM on May 14, 2020 [7 favorites]


I think most of the Asian Americans commenting on this thread are familiar enough with their own (that is, American) culture to intimately understand both A) our particular brand of exceptionalism and resistance to safety standards and B) the aversion many white Americans feel toward expressions (masks being a big one) of what they perceive as Asian foreignness, especially with regards to masculinity. White people by and large only have experience with A so there's actually no need to explain this to us, thanks
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:04 PM on May 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


Given the number of reported cases in South Florida, it's pretty clear Vitamin D, or at least time spent in the sun, is pretty meaningless in terms of population-level risk.

In fact, vitamin D and sunlight is in the recent news as potentially being helpful to resist corona virus. As for the fallacy of South Florida infection rates, lots of retirees live there too, a known high risk group, and tourists go there, and people live indoors just like any other place, hot or cold.

The original no mask recommendation was that they didn't want the lower risk general public competing with healthcare workers for PPE.

The notion that Fauci was saving the world by downplaying the efficacy of masks or face coverings assumes that supply chains for most medical products are available to consumers. Even assuming they are, ignoring the dismissal of DIY face coverings generally, whatever risk there was in diverting medical masks for consumers would have had a beneficial effect in reducing the need for them in the hospitals. It's a classic supply-side medical mentality of treating something rather than preventing it, and communicating these biases is less risky to one's authority than asking people to imagine they are fighting something unseen and before the fact.
posted by Brian B. at 1:35 PM on May 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


Voila! An example of the perfect being the enemy of the good in action.

Your beard may reduce the effectiveness of a mask's filtering somewhat but there is no reason to believe it completely negates it.


OSHA has a concept called the "hierarchy of hazard controls". Do you know where PPE is? It's at the very bottom because if you're relying on PPE you're either doing something dangerous deliberately for a good reason (i.e. essential work) or you've fucked up somewhere along the line (i.e. going to lunch at the cafe because a mask is present).

Given how expensive and in short supply things like masks are, using them on me for a near trivial amount of increase in protection for extremely low risk environments seems just a tad silly. If I'm driving to the drive-thru pharmacy where I won't come into direct contact with another person what exactly is the use in me using a mask? Don't touch my face, wash my hands, alea iacta est. Otherwise I'm in a controlled environment where nobody outside the people I'm socially bonded with for the quarantine will be.

Like I said, if I'm absolutely forced to be somewhere where I can't social distance, I'm going to wear a mask, but I'm under no illusions of the very poor safety it provides. If I've gotten myself into that situation I better have a damn good reason or I've fucked up somehow. Perfect isn't the enemy of the good if the good puts you in a more dangerous situation because good is "good enough". Everything I do outside my home is under the lens of "I have no protection" because any actual protection any PPE may give is marginal at best.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:10 PM on May 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


That's before getting into all the rigmarole of reusable/cloth masks. Respiratory masks on their own are sources of self-contamination with all the pathogens on the surface of them. Then I'm bringing that surface that may have pathogens on it into my secure space? In terms of mask discipline I'm an idiot and so is probably everyone else who uses irregularly. What if I get some droplets on my fingers when I'm throwing the load into the wash and I forget to wash my hands? So yeah, I'm sure the barrier itself provides some attenuation but all the ancillary stuff? I could just be bringing in a time bomb that I'll unknowingly blow myself up with.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:19 PM on May 14, 2020


YCPR, what cloth masks actually do is redirect your breath so that instead of projecting out in front of you it goes out the sides. There may be some filtration but the most direct thing it does is ensure that when you're talking to someone, you're not breathing on them. Do you have COVID-19? You don't know! So wear a fucking mask.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:29 PM on May 14, 2020 [17 favorites]


We still don't have any contact tracing apps here in Canada. I'm not sure how we can be thinking of opening things up again when we have no good quick way of finding out everyone an infected person came into contact with. If it takes time to develop a good one that better addresses privacy concerns, fine take that time, but in the meantime license whatever they've got in South Korea and localize it for English and French and make people use that. The numbers everywhere are still manageable, we're talking a fraction of a percent of the population being infected right now, so no country has failed yet, but there's no need to be dragging our feet on stuff either.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:30 PM on May 14, 2020


I figure that wearing a mask indicates I am willing to listen to people and do something that helps other people feel less stress about going out in public even if they are 6 feet away from me. Wearing a mask makes it so I am not directly breathing on people. Also, I feel that the pro social signaling to other people that I, as a white man, am NOT an asshole was worth shaving my face to make wearing a mask more comfortable and less claustrophobic. My hair will grow back and if I could do something that could stop someone from dying and I chose not to--well, I couldn't live with myself.
posted by apex_ at 2:37 PM on May 14, 2020 [27 favorites]


I wear a mask because people get upset when I don’t. (I’m also generally avoiding people entirely, so this situation doesn’t really come up all that often)

I am extremely concerned that masks are giving people a false sense of security, because the clinical evidence for their efficacy is nonexistent, and there appears to be a growing pile of evidence to the contrary. If mask-usage is the linchpin (or only component) of any re-opening plan, I’m staying the heck away from that place.

If anything, the correlation between COVID-19 cases and level of mask usage may be just that — a correlation. It certainly seems plausible that mask use is also correlated with other socially-conscientious and hygienic behaviors that may actually be the real cause.

So, when people say that there’s “no reason to believe” that a homemade/poorly-fitted mask won’t help, that isn’t entirely accurate. We have studied the efficacy of poorly-fitted and non-N95 masks, and the evidence against them is actually fairly overwhelming.

—-

Wearing masks and socially-distancing as a precautionary measure seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to have done, and I’m glad that we’ve done it. Taking extra precautions in light of uncertainty isn’t a bad thing!

As we come to learn more and more about how the virus spreads, we need to be comfortable learning that some of our previous precautions were unnecessary, and we should be using that information to guide our re-opening plan. (For instance, even right now, I can see there being a fairly good evidence-based rationale for reopening parks and other outdoor spaces).

That being said, there’s an awful lot we still don’t know. Even among Asian countries who have responded similarly to COVID-19, there seems to be an awful lot of discrepancy in terms of statistics. There are clearly variables at play that we do not yet understand. While it’s easy to rightfully criticize the US’s terrible response, I also find that the “East Good, West Bad” to be unhelpful, and lacking in both evidence and nuance.
posted by schmod at 3:11 PM on May 14, 2020 [5 favorites]


Contact tracing apps are not magic and will not solve everything, or even most things, and while I think they're worth pursuing, I feel lots of money would be better spent on training and recruiting what amounts to a specialised detective force.

The problems are not just about privacy, but about accuracy of location, who has a phone, whether it's on, whether they're carrying it, whether Bluetooth is on, whether people from minority communities and vulnerable groups want to install it.

Not to say apps won't be a useful tool, but they're neither necessary nor sufficient I reckon.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:26 PM on May 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


If people want their phones to help them they should make an app that alerts them to social distance from someone approaching who has come into contact with many different other phones in a short amount of time, thus indicating a high risk. No tracing needed. It's just the law of large numbers at work in real time.
posted by Brian B. at 3:38 PM on May 14, 2020 [5 favorites]


I hope I'm not continuing a derail about face masks, but the second paper that schmod posted has two items of interest, that I would no where near say is evidence against the masks. 1. 4 people is a laughably small trial. 2. You'll see the the viral load from coughers with the mask was significantly lower (it's in log scale) and anything to decrease the amount of covid just faffing around seems like a plus to me (I recognize the irony of decrying the study based on sample size then also looking at the data to draw conclusions. Bad researcher.)
posted by lizjohn at 3:47 PM on May 14, 2020 [14 favorites]



"I figure that wearing a mask indicates I am willing to listen to people and do something that helps other people feel less stress about going out in public even if they are 6 feet away from me"


"I wear a mask because people get upset when I don’t."

Just today I went to Walgreens (masked and distancing like all of my rare trips) and an older man was walking too close to me, so I stood to the side and gestured for him to go around. He looked so pissed off when I did that and said "Jesus Fucking Christ", then proceeded to continue to wander around the store. He wasn't wearing a mask. I think that it really has become something of a symbol in different, complicated ways.
posted by lizjohn at 3:53 PM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


No-fuss way to clean your mask without contaminating your laundry hamper:

1. Arrive home
2. Walk directly to sink
3. Turn on water
4. Carefully remove mask and soap up hands and mask
5. Work up a good lather while singing the song of your choice, squeezing and rubbing those suds through the mask
6. Rinse well
7. Hang mask in a sunny window to dry
8. Wash hands again for good measure

Soap kills the virus. Friction and flowing water wash the virus parts away. Masks are small enough to be easily cleaned in the sink. UV also kills the virus so hanging it in the sun to dry seems like a good idea. I have two homemade cloth masks so I can rotate through them.
posted by antinomia at 4:38 PM on May 14, 2020 [11 favorites]


You'll see the the viral load from coughers with the mask was significantly lower (it's in log scale) and anything to decrease the amount of covid just faffing around seems like a plus to me (I recognize the irony of decrying the study based on sample size then also looking at the data to draw conclusions. Bad researcher.)

Well it's quite reasonable that one can say we should throw this evidence out but even if we don't the measurement is 2-3 orders of magnitude of reduction of viral load. And it is quite reasonable that things that do not meet a cost benefit analysis at the individual level might rise to meet it at the population level, in the same way that a test with a symmetric accuracy of 95% is probably not sufficient to assure individuals of anything in particular will probably be super useful at the population level.
posted by PMdixon at 5:43 PM on May 14, 2020 [4 favorites]


re: Australia's handling of the coronavirus

Our federal government (especially the prime minister) had to be dragged kicking and screaming into action by our states and medical experts, and the general population whose behavioural changes were clearly a critical 7-10 days ahead of the fed's recommendations. The hard yards are still being done by the states.

Now the feds are demanding we open up again, before we are ready to do so. We could have achieved elimination, but the PM clearly believes in the herd immunity idiocy and supremacy of economics over lives.

The Australian feds and PM really don't deserve much credit for how well we are going. If anything they are about to undo all that hard initial work by others and leave us with a permanent smouldering endemic that will do far more long-term social and economic damage than by simply maintaining a hard lockdown for another 2-3 weeks and eliminating the damn thing within our borders. So close, and yet so far.

Australia really isn't the poster child for how to handle this properly.

–––––––

re: masks.

In the absence of a vaccine the key management tactic is to attempt to break the chain of transmission in as many places as possible. Neither masks, nor any other mechanism, is going to do that 100% on their own. But having several imperfect (i.e. probabilistic) breaks quickly add up to a very high probability of successfully breaking the chain of transmission.

It is and always has been a stats game. Even if a basic cloth mask only reduces transmission in the general population by say 20%, that is no small number, and fully justifies masks when out in public.
posted by Pouteria at 7:06 PM on May 14, 2020 [26 favorites]


He wasn't wearing a mask. I think that it really has become something of a symbol in different, complicated ways.

Oh, it absolutely is. There is a percentage of our population here in America whose self-identity is very much tied up in their political identity. As one put it during the impeachment hearings, he was all-in with Trump, win or lose, even if it could be proven that Trump was guilty. That was his team, his tribe, and his idea of what being an American meant.

These people have had it reinforced for decades that only conservatives tell the truth, with the volume of that greatly multiplied during Trump's term. That anything that mainstream networks or newspapers come out with is a grand conspiracy to destroy Trump and all things Republican. That it's been PROVEN [citation needed] that Trump has been exonerated entirely and CNN, MSNBC, WaPo et al. _and_ prominent Dems have all been caught in one lie after another.

And Trump's story keeps shifting, but it is always focused on denial. Either the virus will never get here, or it's no big deal if it does, or summer heat will kill it, or there will only be a handful of cases, or we have all the tests we need, or we don't need masks, or there's a secret wonder drug that's a magic cure, or Dems are keeping that cure from you because [citation needed], or Dem governors are locking down states and counties because [citation needed] they hate freedom and America.

So to go out and wear a mask in public... that's an acknowledgement that what Trump says isn't accurate. That the virus is a big deal and a major threat. That there are reasons justifying lockdowns and protections and thinking of other people. That maybe the government (at local/state levels, at least) is doing something right.

And if there's one thing that neither Trump nor his Trumpoids will ever do... it is to admit that they are ever wrong.
posted by delfin at 9:01 PM on May 14, 2020 [9 favorites]


Now, there are many levels to that state of denial. People who believe that the virus exists and is dangerous but that people are smart enough to police themselves -- people know when they're sick, right? -- and that the honor system should be sufficient. People who believe that it's dangerous but it's strictly a big city thing, something those New York City people get, and it'll never get out here in the sticks. People who believe that it's overblown by the mainstream simply because it's politically difficult for Trump. People who believe that their freedom, or their job, or their ability to get free refills of their iced tea at restaurants is more important than anything else.

There are also trance-babbling Q*berts who believe that 5G causes COVID, that it's a Chinese bioweapon let loose intentionally to devastate the West, that Dr. Fauci is a criminal involved in creating and spreading the virus so he can make billions selling vaccines, that Bill Gates will put tracking nanochips in vaccines for a disease that doesn't exist, that Plandemic is an actual documentary, and that somehow all of the above is true at once. These are the same people who believe Hillary Clinton harvests children beneath a pizza shop for their adrenochrome, so there's no reaching them.

But the difficulty is that as my above paragraph demonstrates, even somewhat more rational conservatives have a variety of rationales to latch onto to be denialists -- and they don't need much priming to fall in line, believing Trump over their own lying eyes.
posted by delfin at 9:11 PM on May 14, 2020 [6 favorites]


but the PM clearly believes in the herd immunity idiocy

The PM believes that him and his mates will be immune because god, and those who do get sick will be sick because of their sin.
posted by pompomtom at 10:52 PM on May 14, 2020 [5 favorites]


i know i haven't at all been talking up about my country about this (preferring instead to talk about food in other posts), but just to at least bring up another overlooked Asian country: Malaysia eradicated Nipah virus. Now it’s a leader in the battle against coronavirus

We managed to do it against an actual literal parliamentary coup (this current backdoor govt brought back the same crooks that allowed 1MDB to happen and brought you The Wolf of Wall Street, and this backdoor govt still haven't had a parliament session!), a reversion of hard fought democratic reforms, growing religious fundamentalism, AND a WHO-led directive on masks that was/is still very much against general population mask usage (which is mediated by an already present prevalent mask-wearing culture thanks to the seasonal haze, so ppl do mask up anyway). We did it without having passed an actual emergency bill (the big elephant in the room, what with not having an actual Parliament session) and resorting to Communist-era emergency movement control/sundown laws. I'm not at all saying the success is due to our authoritarian norms - there's been a fascinating thoroughline of democratic rebellion that's happening on the ground plus what remains of the bureacracy is still functioning that coupled with crooked leaders who seem to at least have enough sense to realise they're fucking stupid if they go about it on their own (with key exceptions for their favourite constituencies), have resulted in a combined institutional response that seem to be working.

So really, being a garbage fire shouldn't preclude an effective public health response. But maybe Asian garbage fires are just more effective at governing.
posted by cendawanita at 11:30 PM on May 14, 2020 [19 favorites]


Re: coup - I really should provide context: the last govt was successfully handling it up to the last week of February (where we were down to 2 or so active cases from 22ish and mostly foreign-imported), then the coup finally boiled over (long story), 10 long days of no Cabinet (and where we first began to see instead the Director-General of the Ministry of Health instead of the Minister delivering daily press briefings - a trend only interrupted for about a couple of days with the new Minister asserting his place, except he was... stupid and visibly so, and was so loudly clowned upon in public he was basically never heard of again to deliver this daily duty), and in that absence the Home Ministry allowed the mass religious assembly that was the cluster that exploded case count not only here but also Brunei and Indonesia and elsewhere worldwide, and only then the new Cabinet took shape, and even then had no idea what to do, if not for most of the bureaucracy. I can't stress enough that if institutions cannot save us in the midst of democratic erosion, institutions are enough in the short-term in crisis response, provided sufficient protocols are in place. That's where the Tories and Repubs have succeeded in ripping apart to shreds.
posted by cendawanita at 11:44 PM on May 14, 2020 [7 favorites]


the New Zealand and Australian government are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum

This is true in regard to pretty much everything except immigration. NZ Labour, partly because of their coalition with NZ First, have been almost as anti-immigration in recent years as the Australian centre-right parties. I don't think it's a stretch to say that in both countries, closing borders is aligned with "long-held convictions". However, neither country's politicians would ever choose to close borders to the tourist market and both are freaking out about the economic implications of this, so I'm not sure whether the alignment of anti-immigration sentiment and closing of borders is anything other than a convenient coincidence.
posted by lollusc at 12:01 AM on May 15, 2020 [4 favorites]


East Good, West Bad

Well, it's good that the title of the article is Fatal Exceptionalism and Lack of Humility, which is nuanced and helpful by pointing out an uncomfortable truth of western / 1st-world privilege. The tactic of framing the articles' ideas as extreme is itself a rhetorical move used to marginalize non-Western voices and ideas.
posted by polymodus at 12:27 AM on May 15, 2020 [16 favorites]


The PM believes that him and his mates will be immune because god, and those who do get sick will be sick because of their sin.
posted by pompomtom


Yep, he's horrible. :(

––––––

Kudos to Malaysia and Vietnam. In particular for proving that you don't need to be an island nation to do it. So there is no excuse for the likes of Australia and the UK.
posted by Pouteria at 1:05 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


Living in a petrochemical state like Louisiana, the masks have been so useful in the recent refinery explosions, at cutting down motor oil and sulphur odors, it s wild to me to think that I will ever go back to not wearing it carrying an n95 or n99 type mask regularly. I've now bought more specialized VOC respirators
for the twice a year events.

I'm retroactively more angry and disturbed at our governments for not telling us that I could have avoided weeks of sick days with PPE. Of course, it makes so much sense, Louisiana State Police, our hazard response agency, wears full on chemical warfare masks when they direct traffic during an event, but the news after every explosion is either "there s no environmental impact" or , rarely, "we re evacuating the area."

I'm kicking myself, because I've been caught in explosions before, I was the first driver on highway 23 to be stopped by LSP during the sundrop explosion years back, for the shelter in place order. The car in front of me was allowed to proceed, and LSP, in that military style canister respirator mask, stopped all traffic. I know that, for shelter-in-place in your car, you turn the air intake off. All my aunts told me that, as a kid in Louisiana.

The all- auntie public health bureau can t be sued by the chemical lobby.

I ve always thought masks were too inconvenient, now I see that attitude is an effect of a government obsessed with not disturbing the chemical lobby, to the point of sending oil spill response workers to their death by mandating that they not wear PPE in front of media.

It also makes too much sense, when and where prison workers are deployed into these events, and why LSP is the Hazardous materials response agency in the first place.

Can anyone in California or Jersey relate how their governments communicate the utility or not of mass use of PPE in chemical events?
posted by eustatic at 6:59 AM on May 15, 2020 [10 favorites]


But maybe Asian garbage fires are just more effective at governing.

it continues to amaze and (sometimes) terrify me how so many people still don't grasp just how incompetent Trump and his crowd are at the leadership thing. Venality, narcissism, mendacity, cynicism aside, it's their sheer dumb inability to get anything done that defines them. I remember thinking this was their one redeeming factor back 2017 or thereabouts -- that no matter how awful their intentions, they were akin to the drunk who couldn't get the key into the car's ignition, mostly harmless.

But then something happened that actually required leadership ... and here we are.

I did something stupid yesterday and started reading Youtube comments on a recent video interview with some populist libertarian type who was DEMANDING a quick return to normalcy (the economy etc, more people will die if we don't go back to work than the disease will get blah-blah-blah), and of course, I got sucked down a wormhole. Because it wasn't that everybody commenting was stupid, or even wrong with some of their critique of the Democrats, the left, Biden etc -- it was that none of them were taking on the elephant in the room, which is the current president's profound and apocalyptic incompetence.
posted by philip-random at 8:48 AM on May 15, 2020 [8 favorites]


Even if we had a Democratic president, house and senate, the Fox News crowd and their elected officials would still be having "end the lockdown" marches and anti-mask protests. The big difference would be that 1) the President would not be egging them on and 2) in all likelihood we would not have faced a PPE shortage from the get-go. We'd also have a liberal majority Supreme Court, of course. But the point is that people would still be flouting lockdown orders, and the US simply does not have the capability to enforce those orders with a heavy hand on a national scale. The scale of the outbreak maybe wouldn't be as massive, but who knows? Our fundamental disease as a country is hyperpartisanship, awful in the best of times, and which is presently preventing national solidarity and cohesion in this time of crisis.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:46 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]


... it's their sheer dumb inability to get anything done that defines them.

Look deeper. The Trump sideshow is a smokescreen for the dismantling of all government oversight of industry, for the installation of an all-right-wing judiciary, and for generally undoing all the progress made since the New Deal. They're getting things done, all right. Yes, they're incompetent at addressing the pandemic, but they don't really care about that.

People made the same "incompetent" judgement of GWB, and I pointed out then that the things his administration was bad at were things they didn't care about, and that they were effective at pushing their agenda. Trump's administration is even more effective at it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2020 [9 favorites]


The scale of the outbreak maybe wouldn't be as massive, but who knows?

I don't think it would be, because we would still have a properly staffed State Department in China and in other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries that would be sending cables back to Foggy Bottom in January or even earlier about this new virus that some other countries seem to be taking very seriously. US intelligence services would also be saying the same thing, and neither would have to face instant mistrust and doubt from an antagonistic White House that wants to dismantle the "Deep State".

Part of the reason the US got into this mess is because the diplomatic and intelligence services have been hollowed out. It's also because America First has reduced our standing and communication with other countries. And that's just externally facing agencies and departments before dealing with the internal ones like the CDC. But my point is the Trump administration deliberately weakened the US's own "immune system" before any of this started.
posted by FJT at 1:06 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


But it isn't just the USA. What is the UK's excuse? Canada's? Italy's? Spain's? A lot of countries sleepwalked into this and they had their own resources in place to tell them what was happening.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:56 PM on May 15, 2020


We are actually doing well here in Denmark, and as a result a lot of rich old white men are saying that our PM who is a youngish woman with a working class background overreached. If any government succeeds in this difficult challenge, its efforts will seem unnecessary and provoke accusations of totalitarianism. But at this point, I think about 80% of Danes support the PM. Most people understand that the threat is real. About 6 times as many people have died in neighboring Sweden, where the population isn't quite twice the size.

There is plenty of racism here, but not towards East Asian people, so it has not been a factor at any time. There are some fringe politicians who mimic US and UK politics, but is doesn't make any sense and they are increasingly marginalized. One of the reasons I personally haven't felt the lack of hand sanitizer during the initial shortage is that I still have plenty left over from the last avian flu, I'm also thinking that the good habits of hand washing were well installed in the wider population then. So I guess we listened without prejudice.
posted by mumimor at 3:35 PM on May 15, 2020 [7 favorites]


What African nations are teaching the West about fighting the Coronavirus:
Some experts point to the continent’s comparative youth: the median age in Africa is barely twenty, and studies (still) suggest that the disease is less severe in young people. Being young may help reduce mortality, but youth is a less satisfying explanation for the raw number of covid-19 cases, the majority of which have been occurring in people in their twenties and thirties. Finally, some experts speculate about the existence of a special African immunology, suggesting that diseases like malaria (or their treatments) act as biological talismans against the new disease. This coronavirus may be novel, but essentialist Western tropes about magical dark-skinned Africans date back centuries.

[...]

Much has also been made of how few things Africa has with which to fight the virus. Intensive-care and ventilator capacity, for example, are low, and retaining health-care workers has long been a challenge—in part because doctors and nurses can make more money by working in the West. These supply and personnel shortages are dire during a pandemic, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist in relationship with the demands of the West, which drained the continent of skilled medical workers and conditioned aid on a model that demanded users, many of them living in poverty, pay fees for health service. The requirement had the effect of privatizing much of health care and effectively starved many health systems of resources. “Years of neoliberalism has basically made it impossible for African countries to build a treatment infrastructure that would include I.C.U. beds and oxygen,” Mukherjee said.
posted by Ouverture at 5:52 PM on May 15, 2020 [10 favorites]


.
posted by dum spiro spero at 11:59 PM on May 15, 2020


From Ouverture's linked article:

Meanwhile, a rather obvious possibility stares us in the face: What if some African governments are doing a better job than our own of managing the coronavirus? “One reason why we may be seeing what we are seeing is that the continent of Africa reacted aggressively,” John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told me. “Countries were shutting down and declaring states of emergency when no or single cases were reported. We have evidence to show that that helped a lot.”

[...]

Uganda and Ethiopia also responded to their first cases with aggressive contact tracing and isolation, and they’ve put considerable resources into checking their work.

In early May, Uganda completed its first rapid-assessment survey, a randomized sampling of twenty thousand people; it uncovered only two new local cases.

Ethiopia completed a door-to-door survey of its capital, Addis Ababa, in just three weeks, documenting symptoms and travel history for its five million residents, and testing anyone who was found to be at risk for the disease or symptomatic.

South Africa, where health officials say early intervention staved off exponential transmission, sent thirty thousand community-health workers to survey roughly fifteen per cent of its population in less than a month; it uncovered only two positive cases for every thousand people.

The remarkably low number of cases uncovered by community surveys, experts told me, suggest that contact tracing and isolation are working the way they’re supposed to.

posted by Mrs Potato at 7:59 AM on May 16, 2020 [9 favorites]


They exist in relationship with the demands of the West, which drained the continent of skilled medical workers and conditioned aid on a model that demanded users, many of them living in poverty, pay fees for health service.


US plans 'Special Immigrant Green Card' for doctors on Covid-19 duty. Indians to benefit
posted by Mrs Potato at 8:01 AM on May 16, 2020 [2 favorites]


In the United States, green card linked employment means that you cannot leave your employer until the card comes - 5 years is the shortest period and over 10 years in many cases

indentured indian labour zindabad
posted by Mrs Potato at 8:03 AM on May 16, 2020 [5 favorites]


... it's their sheer dumb inability to get anything done that defines them.

Look deeper. The Trump sideshow is a smokescreen for the dismantling of all government oversight of industry, for the installation of an all-right-wing judiciary, and for generally undoing all the progress made since the New Deal. They're getting things done, all right. Yes, they're incompetent at addressing the pandemic, but they don't really care about that.


They are actually using the pandemic to try immunize employers against lawsuits for killing their employees. They are surprisingly competent at being evil.
posted by srboisvert at 8:53 AM on May 16, 2020 [7 favorites]


I really don’t remember this supposed misinformation about masks. In the US there was a shortage to the point where we were unable to buy even 1 mask in person or on the internet for like 2 months, and I remember a lot of “save the masks for health care workers” and the probably true statement that there’s much more value in an infected person or health care worker wearing a mask than in random Joe wearing one to try to not get sick. But I don’t remember a WHO or other message telling me that masks are bad, or that they were 100% sure there was no benefit in masks. In fact I remember watching the WHO videos about proper use of masks way back in March. And now most people I see have at least a cloth mask. Am I insane?
posted by freecellwizard at 9:42 AM on May 16, 2020 [7 favorites]


Like I remember going for a walk in April and seeing a person with a mask and thinking HOLY SHIT WHERE DID YOU FIND THAT???
posted by freecellwizard at 9:54 AM on May 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


I totally didn't wear a mask/make a mask because the things I was reading indicated that I shouldn't because it probably wouldn't make a difference.

Here's a quick example: Many in China Wear Them, but Do Masks Block Coronavirus? They may help, but experts say it’s more important to wash your hands.
posted by armacy at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


Surgeon General: "Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!...They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus."'

Also Surgeon General: "You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider." And, “'At this moment, there are no updates or anticipated changes to the guidance,' said Arleen Purcell, a spokeswoman for the CDC, who reiterated existing CDC guidelines that patients with symptoms should wear masks but that people who are well should not wear the masks to prevent contracting the virus."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2020 [3 favorites]


> I really don’t remember this supposed misinformation about masks. In the US there was a shortage to the point where we were unable to buy even 1 mask in person or on the internet for like 2 months, and I remember a lot of “save the masks for health care workers” and the probably true statement that there’s much more value in an infected person or health care worker wearing a mask than in random Joe wearing one to try to not get sick.

What's been happening is an effort by the usual right-wing suspects to ret-con in the "save them for the healthcare workers" message into a "masks ain't shit" message. This Fauci clip, taken out of context, is primarily what they've been leaning on, but the context at that time was the mask shortage, so Fauci was likely trying to avoid a giant run on masks and save them for those on the front lines.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2020 [3 favorites]


Also Surgeon General: "You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider."

Have you seen how not good the general public are at masks? I've been watching #epitwitter cringe for weeks watching them highlight it. Masks are one of those deceptively simple things that probably will increase your risk if you don't use them properly and why washing your hands is more effective (it helps to blunt the bad usage of masks).
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 11:06 AM on May 16, 2020


Yes, it's not always easy to fit a mask so all the air you breathe goes through, rather than around it, and it's not always easy to remember not to touch the front of it. Regardless, if it covers your mouth and nose, you're reducing the risk that you will infect other people.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:19 AM on May 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's not always easy to fit a mask so all the air you breathe goes through, rather than around it, and it's not always easy to remember not to touch the front of it. Regardless, if it covers your mouth and nose, you're reducing the risk that you will infect other people.

A point to remember is that if everyone wore masks, there would be much less risk from touching the front of your mask. The primary reason for wearing masks is to prevent spread from asymptomatic infectious people. If they aren't spreading, then you are less likely to inhale coronavirus on the front of your mask and touch it.
posted by JackFlash at 11:31 AM on May 16, 2020 [10 favorites]


I really don’t remember this supposed misinformation about masks.

Here is a typical news clip from the time period in question, with an expert saying that any masks will cause people to ignore social distancing, in an attempt to persuade people that they give a false sense of security.

Here is the best explanation of the Covid19 virus by any expert I have seen, in Korean and subtitled, which explains the size of droplets to prevent from spreading, and when and how it aerosolizes. He expresses dismay and doubts at the CDC's position on masks and labels it a cultural thing (~15-19 mins), which would seem to explain why Trump doesn't wear one and why his entourage refused them until reports of some of them getting the virus (because they were modeling the refusal for the rest of us as a policy). An interesting note on the South Korean response: anyone can get tested on demand, but the test is free if the test is positive.

Here is one physician's way to make a great mask out of HEPA filters for vacuums, which many people have in their storage closets.

Finally, here is a 2013 study which confirms that a face covering is better than nothing when spreading a virus.
posted by Brian B. at 12:15 PM on May 16, 2020 [4 favorites]


What's been happening is an effort by the usual right-wing suspects to ret-con in the "save them for the healthcare workers" message into a "masks ain't shit" message.

Masks are one of those deceptively simple things that probably will increase your risk if you don't use them properly and why washing your hands is more effective (it helps to blunt the bad usage of masks).
posted by PMdixon at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


Most masks were made in China at the time, so it made business-as-government sense to Trump to downplay them, even as homemade face coverings, until he could fill his own orders from friendly manufacturers domestically, such as Honeywell in Arizona.
posted by Brian B. at 12:46 PM on May 16, 2020


You can complain that people aren't wearing masks correctly, or you can do an education campaign to teach people to wear masks correctly and why it is important.

One of the reasons I'm not 100% with the Spanish government's answer to covid-19 is that they still haven't begun teaching the public about safe mask wearing. And they should have done that like weeks ago.
posted by sukeban at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


What's been happening is an effort by the usual right-wing suspects to ret-con in the "save them for the healthcare workers" message into a "masks ain't shit" message.

Masks are one of those deceptively simple things that probably will increase your risk if you don't use them properly and why washing your hands is more effective (it helps to blunt the bad usage of masks).


Yeah but my argument is coming from "people are doing riskier shit because they feel safer" not "masks are an affront to my civil liberties". Keep the whole fucking country locked down, flood money to people who need it, get essential workers every bit of safety they can, and get everyone else back fucking indoors instead of going out for a coffee because of a false sense of security.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:38 PM on May 16, 2020


the whole fucking country

Seeing as the OP is about differing cultural perspectives, is it fair to ask which whole fucking country?
posted by ambrosen at 2:38 PM on May 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


Like, I mentioned, it's not like Malaysia also publicly didn't maintain the same no-mask-for-general-population (based on WHO position) policy, and modelled by our politicians and front-facing bureaucrats eg our DG of Health, for very much the same reasons (managing resources and preventing a run on N95 masks especially, the mask of choice for many anyway after years of seasonal haze). But we also had other policies in play, even if at times inadequate (like, at least some semblance of a jobs guarantee policy like employee subsidy and the emphasis that no worker can be terminated during this period or be made to use their leave during lockdown, cash disbursement for those earning less than a set amount of money, the ability to mobilise security forces which I do have problems with since the police and the army essentially leaned on anti-communist insurgency protocols etc). It's only now that lockdown has moved to a conditional and semi-relaxed one we're seeing more masks being enforced through other parts of government (though visibly not exactly endorsed by the Health Ministry - and won't be until WHO changes their mind). But it also helps that free surgical masks are (supposed) to be distributed to every household and there's a price cap on them.

The American government is only but one govt who has failed their people, but you're also seeing the consequences to the culture itself having lost sight of what it means to be a society. Like I said, here's a garbage fire too, but ppl stepped up. We are having PPE shortages and unis and maker groups stepped up. The assistance disbursement has been spotty so ppl have been looking out for each other. Every time this govt tried to relax the rules after being lobbied hard by businesses, the wave of public anger at being made to leave the house made them u-turn. But charity and social work and public opinion without parliamentary representation can only go so far.
posted by cendawanita at 3:01 PM on May 16, 2020 [3 favorites]


Every time this govt tried to relax the rules after being lobbied hard by businesses, the wave of public anger at being made to leave the house made them u-turn.

And personally my most favourite hilarious example was when one of the early attempts to ease lockdown included hairdressing salons as essential businesses to be allowed to open. You know who said no thanks? The association of hairdressers. They're barely a union, just a professional association. (Which begs the question, which stakeholder did they consult other than the ministers' own sloppy edges?) And it didn't even take a full week and the unfortunately convenient news from other places of hairdressers dying and salons being vectors to get the govt to basically say, oops.
posted by cendawanita at 3:10 PM on May 16, 2020 [4 favorites]


All you need to know about the masks is there are many people who believe and studies that show their use will greatly reduce the spread of infection. Not a small amount. I've seen studies that say if 80% of Americans wear masks the infection spread will be reduced by a factor of 12. I've seen studies that say mask usage is more important to reducing infection than washing hands. One shouldn't need to know anything other than there's a good chance this is true to start wearing a mask.

A lot of the concerns I'm seeing here I suspect come from medical training. If you're trained to use a mask in a hospital you're told you need to wear it perfectly for it to work, and that you should never rely on it. You're told the mask will give you a false sense of protection that you must always be on guard against. Well, that's all true if you're suiting up to assist in an operation. It's not true at all if you're wearing a mask to decrease the spread of infection by decreasing the amount and distance of moisture coming from your mouth and nose. It's also not true, I don't think, that for most of the population wearing a mask masks them feel invulnerable. Rather, it heightens their awareness that they are in dangerous and new situation and to be careful.

Btw, did anyone ever hear that wearing a mask was not masculine until Trump suggested it? No? No jokes about doctors, firemen, construction workers, etc? No. Trump did this. He doesn't wear a mask because it's dangerous not to, and he doesn't want people to think they're in danger.
posted by xammerboy at 11:40 AM on May 17, 2020 [12 favorites]


you're also seeing the consequences to the culture itself having lost sight of what it means to be a society. Like I said, here's a garbage fire too, but ppl stepped up.

I saw this in action at the Muji in Helsinki today. There were no signs but the payments queue lined up with ample spacing by itself.
posted by Mrs Potato at 2:32 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]


Thanks, xammerboy - I think you nailed the challenge in this thread and so many other conversations that talk about masks, keeping clear on difference between medical professionals keeping themselves from getting infected in high-risk settings versus 'civilians' keeping others safe (and themselves) in less fraught situations. Here are two good articles by medical experts, with a summary of the science and politics of masking and experts urging governors to require public mask-wearing.
posted by PhineasGage at 4:08 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]


That last link is a tech-bro claiming to be a scientist, because he works as a data scientist at an AI startup. He has no experience in biology or epidemiology, but found some papers that aligned with something he already believed.

I’ll once again reiterate my longstanding concern about our sudden shift towards treating the effectiveness of masks as a science-backed truism. It’s something we might as well try, but there absolutely does not appear to be a solid scientific consensus.
posted by schmod at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2020


You are welcome to dismiss the second link, but the one above it is a summary of hard science by Bob Wachter, Chairman of the Deparent of Medicine at one of the world's leading medical schools, UCSF.

From his summary:
All respected public health bodies now recommend masks, particularly when distancing is impossible. You can review the CDC’s official guidance here; it’s representative of most public health guidance.
posted by PhineasGage at 6:03 PM on May 18, 2020 [8 favorites]


It’s something we might as well try, but there absolutely does not appear to be a solid scientific consensus.

as one of our local doctors recently put it. "Welcome to medical science in action. As new evidence becomes available, we adjust our methods and recommendations. Covid-19 is proving a crash-course in this for the entire world. Unfortunately, many people just aren't comfortable with such uncertainty."
posted by philip-random at 9:12 AM on May 19, 2020 [11 favorites]


You know what, fuck it. I'm sorry for my arguments. They're poor arguments and don't reflect the reality that come hell or high water, people are going to be selfish actors. Why? Because I've just spent the last week watching people (not here) be selfish actors about a fucking pandemic. Harm reduction probably is the order of the day at this point because there's nothing literally left to protect people from themselves.

My heart breaks watching the conduct of society because there are so many essential workers that have to put up with this shit. All these assholes venturing back out thinking they've got their mask (and some who just do it anyway) and just basically raising the danger level of said essential workers that are forced to be in public places. Not to mention the government unemployment agencies that are going to start throwing workers off unemployment who don't go back out there when they clearly shouldn't be going back out there.

This is all so shit. I don't even know how to help anymore besides tipping everyone who comes near this house ridiculous amounts of money for putting themselves out there instead of us.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:22 PM on May 19, 2020 [3 favorites]


If anyone thinks I was exaggerating when I accused the Trump administration of trying to dismantle all industry oversight, take note of this:
President Donald Trump signed an executive order today instructing federal agencies to waive, suspend and eliminate public protections, continue to cut back on enforcement, and review the hundreds of safeguards already temporarily suspended with the goal of making the suspensions permanent.
Fortunately, it appears that impeachment is not dead.
House Democrats tell Supreme Court they need Mueller grand jury materials to decide on new articles of impeachment
Impeach the motherfucker again, and keep doing it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:20 AM on May 20, 2020 [4 favorites]


King County, WA, where Coronavirus was first discovered in the U.S., has just issued a directive to wear face coverings. UW Environmental Health & Safety created a document that provides an overview of facemasks (pdf) including the differences and benefits of medical masks and homemade cloth coverings.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:56 AM on May 20, 2020


Finally matching the examples across Asia, Spain has now made face masks obligatory.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:29 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


Harm reduction probably is the order of the day at this point because there's nothing literally left to protect people from themselves.

That's all that can ever be the order of the day at population level for infectious diseases. People also are bad at wearing condoms, in multiple senses.
posted by PMdixon at 12:31 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


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