Social Distancing Day 10

Hello dear readers, we are now into the double digits of social distancing days, and at the point where I have to look up yesterday’s entry to figure out which day we’re on. A number of states have gone from social distancing to “shelter in place”, meaning that residents are not to leave their houses except for groceries (and other essentials) and medical necessities (and maybe short walks). Massachusetts will probably do the same within a few days. My roommates and I have been doing that voluntarily for this week, so it won’t be a big change for us, except our walks might become even more infrequent. But as I noted in yesterday’s post, though these measures are inconvenient and annoying, they are a sign that people are taking the threat seriously and reacting appropriately. Better late than never.

Some news from around the Coronavirus world: there seems to now be a test to detect antibodies to the coronavirus, which means that it would be possible to detect not only those who currently have it, but those who had it and have recovered. This means that even if you never had symptoms, you can find out if you had it. Having antibodies to the virus will render you immune to it, but it’s unknown for how long. There’s some evidence to believe that immunity will last for about a year. Here’s a detailed thread with lots of references and information on this aspect of things. And here’s an interesting video on why the hand washing instructions you may have seen are what they are (and different from how you’re used to washing your hands). Yesterday, I pointed to the Massachusetts site for tracking COVID-19 test, today I found The Atlantic’s tracker, which collects statistics across states. Finally, you may have seen some photos of nature “recovering” as a result of people staying at home. Unfortunately, they are probably not accurate.

On a different note, a few days ago I said that the plural of anecdote is not data. It turns out that I was wrong about that.

In other news, I was in two virtual town halls today, one for Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and one for the Computer Science department. Most of the questions and concerns were related to continuing education for our students, especially related to grading and evaluation. But there was also discussion of how we are continuing to support custodial and maintenance staff, which I found heartening. This is an unprecedented and trying time for us all, but it’s good to have some feeling of being part of a community that is trying to do right by its members.

I’m in the process of wrapping up reviews for PLDI, and hoping get back to doing research full time next week. I’ve made a certain amount of peace with our current situation, at least for now. There’s not much for me to do at the moment besides going about life as best as I can. I have some remote social activities planned over the next few days which I’m looking forward to. I’m allowing myself to feel excited about Apple’s new MacBook Airs. I’m focusing on staying sane, staying safe, doing the best with the time I have, while also keeping in mind what Heather Havrilesky said: We’re living through an unprecedented moment in global history. Give that the weight it deserves.

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