Tag Archives: coronavirus

The Show Must Go On: Coronavirus, Science, and Being in the Audience

Debbie says:fans milling about and queuing up to the bar in COVID-19 experiment

There is nothing good about the COVID-19 pandemic. Period. That being said, for science geeks, the experimental designs and hypotheses can be fascinating. Also, many if not most of us feel the pull to return to whatever indoor public spaces and large groups we love, whether those are sports events, movie theaters, conferences, or whatever. The ones I miss the most are live theater performances. So this detailed and complex German experiment in safe concert-going caught my eye. Nadine Schmidt and Amy Woodyatt report for CNN:

Researchers in the German city of Leipzig staged a 1,500-person experimental indoor concert on Saturday to better understand how Covid-19 spreads at big, busy events, and how to prevent it.

At the gig, which featured a live performance from musician Tim Bendzko, fans were given respiratory face masks, fluorescent hand gel and electronic “contact trackers” — small transmitters that determine the contact rates and contact distances of the individual experiment participants.

One thing that interests me is the experimental design in three formats:

Researchers directed volunteers to run three scenarios — one that simulated a concert pre-coronavirus, a second simulating a concert during the pandemic, with improved hygiene measures in place, and a third, with reduced participants. Scientists will gather the data, apply a mathematical model, and evaluate the hygiene interventions, with conclusions ready by the end of the year.

No one is denying that the participants–and the performers–were taking risks. However,

[Professor Michael] Gekle [professor of physiology and dean at University of Halle, and the lead researcher] told CNN that due to a low prevalence of the virus in the states of Saxony and Lower Saxony, participating in the study was low risk for volunteers, who underwent coronavirus testing 48 hours before participation, and were wearing masks during the show. “It’s safer than flying to Majorca,” he said.

No one can know either what this experiment will show, or how live indoor events in the future will pan out. Speculation is rife everywhere, of course, and so is the hunger for the old normal.

Elli Blesz, 20, from Leipzig told CNN: “The atmosphere was really great, we all enjoyed the music — it was nice to listen to live music after six months.”

And Kira Stuetz, a 26-year-old student who attended the concert with her husband, said: “It was a little crazy.” Recalling one of the pre-coronavirus simulations, where audience members sat together, she said that “at first it almost felt wrong all people came so close together. We thought this ‘is a dream’ because it’s not allowed to be sitting together so close! But then it was really cool. I could not believe it that we were at a real concert again!”

While I sit at home and occasionally watch my beloved theater on Zoom, I’ll be watching for the results of this experiment. As long as they are careful and thoughtful, I hope to see more trials like this in the near future.

Follow me on Twitter @SpicejarDebbie

How White Supremacy Consumes Indigenous People for Profit

Laurie and Debbie say:

The Empire of all Maladies by Nick Estes, published at The Baffler, lays bare yet another aspect of the history of America which has been shrouded in some toxic combination of myth and lies.  Estes is examining the story that Indigenous people died from inability to withstand European diseases, instead of the truth that the vast numbers of people who died were killed by a combination of intentional destruction and a willingness to reap the benefits of reckless disregard for their lives. And yet, Indigenous people were not destroyed. They are living here, today, in reservations that should be their autonomous lands — and yet, when Donald Trump wants to hold a rally on the rez, the people who get arrested are the ones who own the land and protest the rally, not the invading colonizers.

The eye-opening aspects of this story are historical more than they are current.

Debates about the epidemiological vulnerability of Indigenous people first came to prominence in the 1970s as historians backed away from narratives of European cultural superiority in search of more scientific explanations. This biological turn identified microbes as a primary culprit in the mass death of the Indigenous, suggesting that the depopulation of the Americas was an inevitable result of Native communities’ contact with diseases from the old world. In a 1976 essay, the historian Alfred W. Crosby put forth the “virgin-soil epidemics” thesis, which posited that Europeans brought diseases—in particular, smallpox and measles—that wiped out 70 percent or more of Native people in the Western Hemisphere because they lacked immunity. In what was framed as the most extreme demographic disaster in human history, the most affected regions experienced a 90 percent depopulation rate, including deaths related to disease, which is estimated to have reduced the population of the Americas from one hundred million to ten million.

Estes describes this thesis as having “wide traction.” Certainly, we both learned it in school.

Indigenous scholars have long contested this thesis—though few were paying attention to their rebuttals. Disease as a result of colonial policy and actions “was rarely called genocide until the rise of Indigenous movements in the mid-twentieth century,” writes historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. For the Lenape historian Jack D. Forbes, it was not so much the Indigenous who were suffering affliction, but the Europeans who had been infected with what he called wétiko, the Algonquin word for a mind-virus associated with cannibalism. The overriding characteristic of wétiko, as he recounted in his 1979 book Columbus and Other Cannibals, is that “he consumes other human beings” for profit. This concept is nearly synonymous with the European psychosis of domination and plunder.

The metaphor of capitalism as disease is not new, but the connection between the disease of capitalism, the virus that consumes other beings, and the diseases Indigenous people are believed to have succumbed to, is illuminating–at least for the non-Indigenous reader.

Estes goes on to thoroughly debunk the “virgin-soil” theory, citing data revealing when tribes were decimated, destruction of Native land, and the effects of diets enforced by the colonizers,

Shifting his attention to the present day, Estes calls out not just the extremely high rate of COVID-19 disease and death among Indigenous people, but also the readiness of the federal government to blame this disparity on “underlying health conditions,” the causes of which we have just been shown. And the Native people are responding:

Since late April, after statistics revealed that the virus had a greater impact on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, so-called anti-lockdown protests surged. Men armed with assault rifles and donning military-grade body armor stormed state capitol buildings, demanding haircuts and the reopening of beaches and ice cream parlors. That is why the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe have set up health checkpoints. “We will not apologize for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death,” Cheyenne River chairman Harold Frazier wrote to the governor of South Dakota, one of five states to issue no stay-at-home order in response to the pandemic.

After detailing the shameful and destructive failings of the government in responding to Indigenous needs during the pandemic, Estes widens his lens again to cover the willingness of colonialists to exterminate the people in their way by any means necessary.

Most historians have failed to draw what are obvious connections between heightened rates of infection and conditions of war, invasion, and colonialism. We need only look at the cholera outbreak in Yemen to see the relationship of disease to U.S. foreign policy. No one is disputing the fact that the infection of millions and the deaths of thousands there at the hands of this preventable disease are the result of a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war, which has destroyed Yemen’s health care infrastructure.

One of his illustrations for the blindness of contemporary U.S. policy is the “space program” Trump touts whenever he finds an opportunity, and the glaring discrepancy between that and the needs of the people the man is theoretically responsible for “governing.”

Yet a new world is coming into existence, even as fires burn in the Amazon or on the streets of Minneapolis. It has always been here. It was present at Standing Rock, in the chants of “water is life”; it could be heard among the Wet’suwet’en calls to “heal the people, heal the land”; and it resounded once again as hundreds of thousands took to the street to demand that “Black lives matter.”’

Read the whole article; it’s important.